Zim govt property in Cape Town sold for R3.7m

2015-09-21 15:26
The Kenilworth house that was sold on auction. (Willie Spies, Facebook)

The Kenilworth house that was sold on auction. (Willie Spies, Facebook)

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Cape Town - A property in Cape Town that belonged to the Zimbabwean government was auctioned off for R3.76 million on Monday to cover a legal costs order it owed AfriForum over that country's land reform programme.

"This was the first time in history that a decision of a human rights tribunal in Africa led to the sale of a property of the country that has been guilty of human rights abuses," The South African lobby group said.

AfriForum lawyer, Advocate Willie Spies, told News24 the Zimbabwean embassy tried to stop the 10:00 auction with a promise that it was paying the amount of just under R1 million it owed.

"But we hadn't received anything in our trust," said Spies.

The auction of the three-bedroom, three bathroom, yellow painted house near the famous Kenilworth racecourse went ahead on the sidewalk of 28 Salisbury avenue, with a crowd watching the spectacle.

Deputy sheriff of the Wynberg North court Morne van der Vyver brought down the hammer at R3 760 000.

Money to be split

It was sold to a private individual, Arthur Tsimitakopoulos, and once he has paid the full amount, the money will be split between AfriForum and German Bank KfW.

The bank is owed millions for money borrowed by the Zimbabwe government to bail out the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company.

"It was exciting. This whole battle took more than five years. It even ended up in the Constitutional Court.  Finally we have been vindicated," Spies said.

But they would only feel closer to closure once all Zimbabwe farmers who had their land taken away in President Robert Mugabe's controversial land reform programme were compensated, or their land given back.

In the early 2000s Mugabe's policy to take back land from white farmers without compensation was stepped up a notch with "war veterans" descending on properties and forcing owners out, often violently.

AfriForum stepped in and helped a group of dispossessed Zimbabwean commercial farmers to enforce a 2008 ruling by the SA Development Community’s regional court, the SADC Tribunal, in South Africa.

The tribunal ruled that the way the reforms were carried out was unlawful, racist and in contravention of applicable international law.

South Africa's Constitutional Court confirmed that the tribunal's ruling was enforceable in South Africa as a member of SADC, and the auction followed when the Zimbabwean government failed to honor cost orders of South Africa’s courts.

Mike Campbell and his son-in-law Ben Freeth (Mike Campbell Foundation)

Mike Campbell, the man who started the challenge, which eventually included another 77 commercial farmers, died in 2011 as a result of serious injuries he sustained in the process of being attacked and removed from his farm, Mount Carmel, in Chegutu in northern Zimbabwe.

According to the Mike Campbell Foundation, on 29 June 2008, Campbell, his wife Angela and son-in-law, Ben Freeth, were abducted, brutally assaulted and forced at gunpoint to sign a piece of paper stating they would withdraw from the main SADC Tribunal court case due to be argued the following month. 

Campbell was not well enough to attend so Freeth went instead after surgery for his own injuries.

Next year AfriForum launches a separate lawsuit against President Jacob Zuma and his ministers of justice and international relations.

It says this case is in response to the South African government's alleged complicity in a process that led to the suspension of the SADC Tribunal's power to adjudicate on human rights abuses against citizens of member states.

Read more on:    afriforum  |  cape town  |  zimbabwe  |  land  |  zimbabwe land reforms

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