ZIMBABWE will ask South Africa’s ruling African National Congress to take a “political decision” to stop displaced white farmers from seizing its properties, a minister said on Thursday.
South Africa’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Zimbabwe against a decision of the Johannesburg High Court to register and enforce a 2008 judgement of the SADC Tribunal which ruled that the land reform programme was “racist and illegal” – clearing the way for white farmers to press for compensation.
The 77 white farmers had gone on to attach a Cape Town property owned by Zimbabwe – which was not covered by diplomatic immunity – with the intention of selling it.
Zimbabwe has always said it did not recognise the SADC Tribunal’s rulings because it did not ratify its founding treaty. The Tribunal has since been abolished.
Presidential Affairs Minister Didymus Mutasa said: “What they (farmers) are fighting is not about land, but to trouble the government of Zimbabwe.
“After this judgment, which is legal, we should let it go and we speak to the ANC [African National Congress] and take a political decision. I hope that is possible.”
Advocate Martin Dinha, who was part of Zimbabwe’s legal team, said suggested the decision of the South African Supreme Court was racist.
“South Africa’s judiciary is not yet liberated from apartheid; it has cosmetic liberation. South Africa remains a colony of white Rhodesians and apartheid,” charged Dinha, who is also the Mashonaland Central governor.
He added: “Notwithstanding attempts by elements of the Rhodesian Front to derail the land reform programme, the programme is totally irreversible.
“No country has jurisdiction over another. Zimbabwe is a sovereign state.”
He said Zimbabwe fully expected South Africa to take political steps to stop any further seizures of Zimbabwean properties.
“South Africa must be careful. They must respect the sovereignty of Zimbabwe. They have properties here and given that there are unspeakable abuses that were committed during colonialism and property was damaged, nothing stops us from seeking compensatory damages here and attaching those properties.”
Willie Spies, a lawyer for the white farmers, called unanimous decision by the Supreme Court a “a great success ... a symbolic victory that makes it possible for the government of Zimbabwe to be effectively punished.”
Spies, attorney for South African rights group AfriForum and for many Zimbabwean farmers, said the dismissal will bring solace “to the many Zimbabweans who affected by the atrocities.”
He added: “I think it’s probably the first time in legal history internationally that a judicial failure in execution of property will go on after a country is found to be in contravention of certain human rights laws. We’re making legal history.”