Pretoria – The North Gauteng Court in Pretoria on Monday rejected an application by the Zimbabwean government to prevent its assets being sold to compensate farmers who suffered land grabs.
The three farmers – Louis Fick, Richard Etheredge and the late Mike Campbell – last year seized Zimbabwean government assets in Cape Town. They had lost their farms in Zimbabwe’s controversial land seizures.
A statement released by AfriForum, which was assisting the three farmers, said the court’s rejection of the Zimbabwean government’s application to prevent the seizure paved the way for the properties to be sold. The tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) ruled in November 2008 that Zimbabwe’s land reform processes were racist and illegal, and that farmers ought to have been compensated for their farms.
The tribunbal’s ruling allowed for the registration and enforcement of the tribunal’s orders in Sadc member countries. AfriForum assisted the three farmers to have the tribunal’s orders registered at the North Gauteng High Court and three Zimbabwean properties no longer used for diplomatic purposes were seized.
The Zimbabwean government opposed the seizure.
“The ruling is of historic significance. For probably the first time in international legal history, a court ruled that the assets of a country guilty of human rights violations must be sold at public auction,” said AfriForum’s lawyer Willie Spies, who represented the farmers. He said arrangements were being made to sell the properties at a public auction as soon as possible. All three farmers were violently expelled from their farms. Campbell, who was severely beaten up by farm invaders, died in April 2011.