A property belonging to the Zimbabwean government was auctioned in Cape Town, South Africa, on Monday to pay for legal costs incurred by white farmers in their bid to get compensation for their farms that were forcibly taken by the government during the land reform program that began in 2000.
AfriForum, a South African-based human rights group, said the sale is a result of the organisation’s success in assisting dispossessed Zimbabwean commercial farmers to enforce a 2008 ruling by the Southern African Development Tribunal, which found that the appropriation of the farmers’ land without compensation was unlawful, racist and in contravention of international law.
After a number of expressions of interest from some buyers, Deputy Sheriff of the Wyberg North Court, Morne van der Vyver, brought the hammer down and sold the house to Arthur Tsimitakopoulos for just over R3.7 million.
Afriforum said the Zimbabwean government had tried to stop the auction by offering to pay the legal costs incurred by the farmers in taking this case to different courts. However, the sale went on when Zimbabwe failed to make the payment.
This is perhaps the first time in the history of Africa that a country’s property has been sold to compensate those affected by its alleged human rights abuses.
Afriforum legal representative, Advocate Willie Spies, said the sale of the Zimbabwean property at number 28 Salisbury Road, Kenilworth, Cape Town, was a strong warning to other countries allegedly perpetrating human rights abuses that they could still be prosecuted using the courts of neighbouring countries.
“What we have now is an international human rights ruling that’s being enforced against the perpetrator, which is quite a strong message to send out and a strong way of exposing that things are not right in Zimbabwe, things need to be corrected and that what has happened so far was illegal and had to be rectified,” said Spies.
In 2008, white farmers whose farms where expropriated without compensation during land invasions in Zimbabwe, approached the SADC Tribunal to seek recourse. The Tribunal ruled that Zimbabwe’s land reform program was illegal, racist and violated international law. It ordered that the farmers be compensated.