Victory for evicted farmers as Zim government property gets auctioned off

A lawyer for evicted white Zimbabwean farmers has described the auctioning off of a Zimbabwe government-owned property in South Africa this week as a “symbolic victory”.

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A court ruled the property could be sold to pay compensation to white farmers evicted from their land in Zimbabwe, the BBC reported. It stated that the auction followed a five-year battle to force the government to pay legal costs, after it lost a court challenge against its controversial land reforms.

"This is a symbolic victory and we will pursue other commercial properties owned by Zimbabwe,” said Willie Spies, who represented the farmers through AfriForum.

Zimbabwe reportedly launched several court bids in a failed attempt to contest the ruling.

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The Zimbabwean government also recently drafted a new law that will empower it to repossess farms from farmers who defaulted on payment of land rentals.

According to the new Finance Bill gazetted on 28 August, defaulters would be blacklisted from accessing government funding for their farms.

Farmers who were allocated commercial farms under the A2 model during the land redistribution exercise, which started in July 2000, would pay annual rent of US$3/ha (R40,37/ ha) and a US$2 (R26,90) developmental levy.

Those who were resettled under the villagised phase (A1 model) would pay US$10 (R134,57) per annum, regardless of the size of the property and a US$5 (R67,29) developmental levy annually.

The government expected to raise US$100 million (R1,37 billion) through the tax. Part of the money would be used to compensate white farmers whose land was seized, while some would be spent on roads and farm infrastructure.

According to official statistics, 10,8 million hectares of land had been taken away from white farmers and re-allocated to 370 000 black farmers since July 2000. Out of 6 214 farmers who lost their farms, only 210 had been compensated.

The bulk of the dispossessed were fighting for compensation through foreign courts as local laws did not allow compensation claims for compulsorily acquired land.

*Read the full story in the 2 October issue of Farmer’s Weekly.