Evicted Zimbabwe white farmers in 'symbolic South Africa win'

A property owned by Zimbabwe’s government in South Africa has been sold to compensate white farmers evicted from their land in Zimbabwe.

The auction followed a five-year battle to force the government to pay legal costs, after it lost a court challenge against its controversial land reforms.
The farmers’ lawyer said it was a “symbolic victory” and vowed to target other Zimbabwe-owned properties.
Zimbabwe launched several court bids in a failed attempt to contest the ruling.
Property speculator Arthur Tsimatakopoulos bought the house for about $282,000, reports the BBC’s Mohammed Allie in Cape Town.
But most of the cash will go on legal costs, the farmers’ lawyer Willie Spies said.
“This is a symbolic victory and we will pursue other commercial properties owned by Zimbabwe,” said Mr Spies, who represented the farmers through AfriForum, a mainly white civil rights group in South Africa.
The case began when a group of nearly 80 white farmers launched a case at a tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), saying they had been targeted because of their race.
President Robert Mugabe’s land reforms, launched in 2000 and accompanied byviolent evictions of thousands of white farmers, were aimed at redistributing farms to landless black Zimbabweans.
Critics say the reforms mostly benefitted Mr Mugabe’s associates, led to a drop in agricultural production and damaged the economy. Earlier this year, Mr Mugabe admitted the process had been flawed.
The SADC tribunal, which was later disbanded, ruled that the farmers should be compensated.
Zimbabwe rejected the verdict, but a South African court ruled that it could be applied locally as South Africa was a member of SADC.
Three other Zimbabwean properties targeted by AfriForum were declared to be covered by diplomatic immunity, but the Cape Town house had been rented out commercially and could therefore be seized, Mr Spies said.
In a statement, AfriForum said it was campaigning against human rights abuses and the “destruction of land ownership” in Zimbabwe.
German bank group KFW Bank Gruppe, which joined the legal action and is believed to be owed millions of dollars by the Mugabe government, would take most of the money left over after legal fees were paid, Mr Spies added.
credit: BBC

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