S.African court rules for sale of Zimbabwean property

22nd November 2010, Comments 0 comments

A South African court on Monday ordered that a Cape Town property owned by Zimbabwe's government can be auctioned to pay Harare's debtors, including compensation to forcibly removed white farmers.

The Johannesburg-based High Court ruled that the commercial property worth around 2.5 million rands (357,000 dollars, 262,000 euros) may be legally seized and auctioned, but that three others have diplomatic protection.

"The significance of today's judgment is in the fact that once the Kenilworth property has been auctioned, a proportional part of the proceeds will go to the Zimbabwean farmers," said lawyer Willie Spies.

The four properties were attached in March by three Zimbabwean farmers after a South African court ruled that a regional court decision in the farmers' favour was enforceable locally.

That ruling, reached in 2008 by a tribunal of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), found that Zimbabwe had wrongly taken land from nearly 80 farmers, saying they had been targeted due to their race.

The tribunal ruled that farmers who lost land under the controversial reforms must be compensated.

Zimbabwe rejected the verdict, but a South African court in February ruled that it could be applied locally.

German banking group KFW Bank Gruppe, which Spies said is owed more than 40 million euros by President Robert Mugabe's government, also legally seized the four properties and arranged an auction for the end of July.

The Zimbabwean government then brought an urgent application against KFW Bank Gruppe as well as the three farmers, said Spies, the lawyer for Afriforum, a mostly white interest group in South Africa.

The payout to the Zimbabwean farmers would be proportional and nominal, he said.

"For them, it's more a matter of principle," he said.

© 2010 AFP

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