It’s pay back time for Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe.
A group of white commercial farmers who watched in despair as Mugabe regime grabbed their farms are now also “grabbing” properties owned by Zimbabwe government in South Africa.
AfriForum a civil rights group that brought the application on behalf of the farmers, on Tuesday seized a luxury property in Cape Town belonging to the Zimbabwe government, in what they say is a significant step towards compensation for embattled dispossessed Zimbabwean farmers who lost their land in Mugabe’s unlawful land reform programme. The property is worth R2.5 million ( about 250,000 euros).
“It’s a symbolic measure,” Willie Spies, AfriForum’s lawyer said. “It shows the Zimbabwean government that there are certain consequences to their abuse of human rights.”
A South African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal ruling in November, 2008 deemed the land seizures racist and unlawful. But Mugabe disregarded the ruling, calling it “nonsense and of no consequence” to Zimbabwe.
The tribunal followed up its ruling with a contempt ruling and costs order, a financial penalty levied against the Zimbabwe government, in June 2009. On 26 February, the High Court in Pretoria registered these rulings in South Africa, making the cost order an executable judgment.
Four Cape Town properties have, so far, been identified in the suburbs of Zonnebloem, Kenilworth and Wynberg.
Reports from South Africa said deeds records show that the properties are registered under the name of the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe.
The properties are non-diplomatic and are therefore not protected by any immunity from legal action.
The Pretoria High Court judgment however does not affect properties that are being used by the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa as they are protected by diplomatic immunity.
“If the Zimbabwe government does not respond within the next two months, the property, bought sixteen years ago for R500 000, will be auctioned off to cover the R150 000 cost order” said AfriForum.
Spies says the attachment was not to compensate the farmers for land lost in the violent land grabs. Instead, he said, “it shows it’s possible to enforce the [SADC] law, and it also demonstrates that the ruling is a real ruling and it is enforceable.”
Zimbabwe government has not responded to the latest move. But the attachment is still a sign of hope to farmers who have suffered at the hands of Mugabe’s henchmen.