Zim to pay farmers' court costs

2010-08-11 18:36

Pretoria - AfriForum is pleased that the Zimbabwean government will have to pay the costs of an erroneous court application to prevent an auction of some of its properties in South Africa, spokesman Willie Spies said on Wednesday.

"The victory once again provides the farmers with the moral oxygen and energy to continue their struggle for justice in Zimbabwe," said Spies.

This came after three farmers in Zimbabwe obtained a costs order against the Zimbabwean government after twice being dragged to court by mistake as that government tried to prevent the auctions in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Louis Fick, Richard Etheredge and Michael Campbell, who farmed in Zimbabwe, had wanted to have the properties sold so that they could recoup the legal costs they incurred in the run-up to a landmark ruling by a Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal in Namibia that Zimbabwe's land reform programme was racist and that farmers who lost land be compensated.

German banking group, KfW Bankengruppe, also had the properties attached in its own efforts to recoup some of an unpaid multi-million dollar loan to Zimbabwe's Iron and Steel Corporation.

Spies said although the farmers were the first to seize the properties, it was the banking group who had arranged the auction, so the court application to stop the auctions should not have been made against the farmers.

The farmers were being assisted by civil rights organisation AfriForum.

The Zimbabwean government enrolled its urgent application against the farmers in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on two separate occasions.

It however removed the application from the roll after realising its error.

Its application against KfW was postponed in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg until September 7 after the bank undertook not to go ahead with two planned auctions to sell the Zimbabwe government-owned properties until the outcome of that application.

The government maintains the properties are protected by diplomatic immunity and that the writs, which give the go-ahead for the auctions, should never have been granted.

The farmers obtained an order in the North Gauteng High Court to register the SADC tribunal ruling.

This paved the way for the farmers to attach Zimbabwe government-owned properties in South Africa to pay for the costs associated with the SADC tribunal matter, as ordered by the tribunal.

The Zimbabwe government in turn maintained the farmers had agreed the matter would be heard together with the application against the German bank next month and that that court should determine the issue of costs.

Acting judge Johan Kruger said it was clear that the alleged agreement relied on by the Zimbabwean government never came into being.

He ordered the government to pay the wasted legal costs for both enrolments and their appearance in court last week to argue costs.

Spies said that if the auctions do go ahead, the farmers and the banking group would split the proceeds proportionally.