By Alex Bell
Another victory has been won in the ongoing fight for justice for the unlawful land grab campaign, after the Zimbabwe government last week caved in to legal pressure to accept accountability.
The government on Friday made a last minute decision to abide by a punitive cost order from 2009, made after the regional SADC Tribunal ruled in 2008 that the land grab was unlawful.
The costs order was handed down by the Tribunal after the Zim government refused to acknowledge its ruling. That SADC ruling and all the subsequent orders made by the regional court were all ignored by the government, and in 2010 the Tribunal was suspended by SADC leaders.
This forced Zimbabwean commercial farmers and South African citizens Louis Fick, Mike Campbell and Richard Etheredge to seek legal recourse in South Africa, because Zimbabwe had refused to compensate them for the loss of their land.
The South African High Court in 2010 ruled in favour of the farmers, enforcing the Tribunal ruling and recognising the court’s jurisdiction. The Court also ruled that a Cape Town property owned by the Zim government should be ‘attached’ for auction, to cover the government’s debt to the farmers.
That auction was set for Monday, after numerous appeals by the Zim government against the court decision were dismissed. But the auction was cancelled after the Zim government last Friday made the decision to pay the punitive costs order.
A sum of R200,000 was paid to the legal group representing the farmers.
Lawyer Willie Spies told SW Radio Africa that the case is an important victory, “but it is just a drop in the ocean.” He explained that an important precedent has been set for Zimbabwe’s farmers.
“The payment of the punitive cost order is a breakthrough for justice in the region. This is but the first step in our struggle for justice for Zimbabwean farmers. That struggle will continue,” Spies said.
John Worsley-Worswick from the Zimbabwean Justice for Agriculture (JAG) pressure group also welcomed the development. He told SW Radio Africa that “the pressure is continuing.”
“The pressure is not just confined to the legal arena. At the end of the day, the agriculture question in Zimbabwe has to be dealt with and compensation for farmers is part of that. So the pressure will keep on,” Worsley-Worswick said. SW Radio Africa