Zimbabwe government actions prove costly

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JOHANESBURG — In the turbulent history of post-colonial Zimbabwe and its bitterly divisive land reform programme, an unremarkable house at 28 Salisbury Avenue, Kenilworth, Cape Town, has earned a surprising footnote.

Report by Mail & Guardian

The residence close to South Africa’s western tip is in fact Zimbabwean government property, but was set to be auctioned off as the result of legal action brought by 78 white farmers who had been forced from the land in Zimbabwe’s “lost decade”.

Before it could be sold, however, Zimbabwe stepped in with a cheque for R200 000, giving the dispossessed farmers if not the last laugh, then a rare moment of schadenfreude at the expense of President Robert Mugabe. They now intend to pursue full compensation or the return of their properties.

When about 6 000 white people controlled almost half of Zimbabwe’s land, only diehards could dispute that reform was needed.

However, the brutal methods employed by “war veterans” in seizing the farms and evicting owners and their employees devastated the economy. Many holdings ended up in the hands of Mugabe cronies and loyalists with little agricultural know-how.

Among those who lost everything was Mike Campbell, who bought a 3 000-acre farm in Chegutu district in 1974.

After challenging Mugabe in court, he and his family were abducted and beaten up amid the election violence of 2008. Campbell, in his 70s, was finally evicted and his home burned a year later.

He took his case and that of 77 other farmers to an independent southern African tribunal and won.

Its judges ruled that the land reform programme was discriminatory and against the rule of law and issued a 200 000 rand punitive costs order against the Zimbabwean government, as well as compensation for an unspecified amount.

But Mugabe ignored it, the tribunal was dissolved and Campbell‚ whose story was told in the award-winning documentary Mugabe and the White African‚ died in 2011.
AfriForum, a lobby group in neighbouring South Africa, went to court there in a bid to force Zimbabwe to comply with the tribunal ruling.

After a four-year legal battle, the constitutional court ruled in its favour, allowing the Cape Town house to be attached to cover the “debt to the farmers”.

The property was occupied by tenants paying rent to the Zimbabwean government, which effectively meant that it was not protected by diplomatic immunity.

It was set to be auctioned last week — in a case said to be the first in which the assets of a country found guilty of human rights violations would be auctioned in a neighbouring State — but the Zimbabwean government “hastily” acceded to the punitive cost order, AfriForum said.

“While the punitive cost order is, but a drop in the bucket of the losses inflicted on white farmers in Zimbabwe by president Robert Mugabe’s land grab programme, this outcome proves that the law does indeed provide a remedy,” the group said.

“The door has now been opened for further legal action to force Zimbabwe to compensate farmers for loss of property rights to their farms,” it added.

AfriForum argues that the Zimbabwean government is also liable for the farmers’ legal costs, estimated at between R2,5million and R3million.

AfriForum lawyer Willie Spies said: “The payment of the punitive cost order is a breakthrough for justice in the region. This is, but the first step in our struggle for justice for Zimbabwean farmers. That struggle will continue.”

Another potential target for the legal action was the Zimbabwean consulate in central Cape Town, which at one point was reportedly abandoned and taken over by squatters living in filthy conditions without electricity or running water before being renovated.

But Spies said this is no longer necessary.

A spokesperson for the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa denied knowledge of the auction or settlement. “We are not aware of that, you are giving us news,” he said before hanging up.

6 COMMENTS

  1. It ie unbelievable that your paper continues to describe LAND REFORM as land grab. Shame on you the writer and the reporter of this article. You must be foreigners bent on causing despondency and mischief.

    • Imagine a Zimbabweans film about C10s taking out some frail elderly whites responsible for evil deeds against blacks in the past. The film will carry essentially the same narrative as all mossad-revenge mission inspired blockbusters but I can bet you that ‘world reaction’ will be very different. For some reason, our justice is questioned and deemed undeserved because we are black.

  2. the problem was that the whites had almost 25 years to be part of a land distribution exercise but they continously stalled the provcess with britian going back on their promise to compensate for land, some where not evenn using the land they had so it was inevitable. unfortunately zanu ppf did not do a good job of the whole process, letting it happen in a haphazard way

  3. I hear you all. However, my thinking which i see as brighter than those of the old president is that land reform was to be done yes but I was going to just demarcate the farms and allocate to the landless. We needed enough laws for that to happen like that the maximum land size for every farmer shall be, say 300ha. This chaotic act by the old man created some problems which will require another land reform. Lets start with the 90 year old president, he has 8 farms. what for? asiyanei nevaakatorera.

    • We have time and the political will to get it right, I think that is a good place to start. ZANU PF as a party is not at all perfect but the direction they are taking us is the best so far. It is only when an opposition with nationalistic policies and a genuine desire to empower the poor emerges that Zimbabwe will take giant strides. Opposition is healthy so long as it is not counter productive. Tsvangirai not only offered zero ideas to Zimbabwe’s problems but he made the mistake of making everything personal to the point of mouthing off every national, regional and continental organisaton/institution that would have make for a good ally had he won; instead he took the position of a mouthpiece to Western governments who make terrible allies unless they are using you. He should have offered a better method to empower and nationalize instead of opposing the policies altogether. In principle, what ZANU PF promotes can not be faulted. However, some of the methods are not the best. If an opposition emerges and attacks ZANU PF on methods but agrees with the principle then there may be a chance for ‘change.’ Ukaona mwana wako achirohwa you defend the child or attack the enemy first to defend what is yours. You never side with the enemy. Once your child is safe then unozomurova wega kana waona kuti anga atadza, kwete kutobatsira kurova mwana wako.

  4. In case you are not aware of it, Tsvangirai never ruled Zimbabwe. It is idiotic to think a party that failed Zimbabwe for 33 years can all of a sudden take us in the right direction. Scotv, using Tsvangirai as a scapegoat is a tired old governement. Mugabe has harmed Zimbabwe more than anyone ever will through his surrendering of national resources to China. The environmental degradation caused by Chinese around the country is beyond description. The Chinese are even allowed to build on our wetlands and you have the audacity to say Zanu p.f. is taking us in the right direction. You need to wake up and start doing some real thinking.

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