Zim govt unlikely to get Cape Town properties back

THE  Zimbabwean government will have a tough time trying to recover a property it owned in Cape Town which was sold by public auction this Monday as the  courts had given it six months to settle the legal bills of a group of evicted white farmers, the money from Harare apparently arrived only after the sale had been concluded.

The human rights group, Afriforum, which represented the farmers in the case, said it did receive the cash but only several hours after a auctioneer had knocked the property down for R3.7 million. And the transfer of the property in Salisbury Road, Kenilworth went ahead this week.

Willie Spies, for Afriforum, representing 78 white farmers evicted from their farms in Zimbabwe after 2 000, said on Friday the money from the Zimbabwe government to settle the farmers’ legal bills turned up in his account at 5pm on Monday, hours after the property had been sold.

“The Zimbabwe government could have paid this any time from February when final bills were drawn up,” Spies said.

“I have a paper trail of this.”

The Southern African region’s court of last resort, the Southern African Development Community’ (SADC) Tribunal, based in Namibia, ruled in 2008 that the 78 white farmers had been discriminated against by race as only whites had been evicted from their farms by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The Tribunal also said they should be paid compensation for their losses, though it did not say how much.

When the farmers tried to enforce the SADC ruling in Harare, Zimbabwe said the Tribunal’s judgment was null and void as it had no jurisdiction in Zimbabwe.

So the farmers turned to South Africa to seek compensation for their legal costs.

Represented by Afriforum, they found a building in Cape Town which belonged to the Zimbabwean government.

They said it was rented out on a commercial basis and so was not protected by diplomatic immunity.

After a long court battle with the Zimbabwean government, the farmers won the right to sell the building to recover their legal costs, both in the Tribunal and those incurred since then in the South African courts.

Zimbabwe ambassador Isaac Moyo was furious when the building was sold this week: “Our Consular General in Cape Town was there when they were auctioning it. They auctioned it from the street, they did not go inside. It was a street auction.”

He said the government would go back to court to get its building back.

But Spies said: “The transfer of the property will go through as the buyer has already paid the deposit and that process has started as the building was sold.”

The sale of the building fully covered all the farmers’ legal bills, excluding the cost of the auction, Spies said. The rest would be shared out proportionately between a German bank owed money by Zimbabwe and a group of Dutch farmers who won a claim at an international court for compensation from Zimbabwe after they were also evicted from their farms.

The Zimbabwe government had a bilateral investment agreement with The Netherlands at the time, which should have protected their farms from seizure. – ANA