Farmers celebrate compensation from Zimbabwean government

Three white Zimbabwean commercial farmers are celebrating as one of the attached Zimbabwean-government-owned properties in Cape Town will finally be auctioned off and some of the proceeds used to partly compensate farmers for legal costs incurred fighting their country’s internationally condemned land reform programme.

The auction date has yet to be set.Over the past decade, thousands of white Zimbabwean farmers have been forcibly dispossessed of their farms and other assets through President Robert Mugabe’s unrelenting, and often violent, land seizures. In issuing the attachment order, the South African justice system was enforcing a ruling issued by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal that ordered the Zimbabwean government to desist from forcing that country’s white farmers off their land, and to compensate them for their losses.

But Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party have refused to adhere to the Tribunal’s instructions even though Zimbabwe is a signatory to the SADC Treaty. In a statement following the ruling, South African civil rights organisation AfriForum, which supported Louis Fick, Mike Campbell and Richard Etheredge in their legal action, explained that the farmers would have to share the proceeds of the property auction with Germany’s KfW Bank Gruppe.

AfriForum’s legal representative, Willie Spies, said that KfW was owed more than 40 million euros (about R380 million) by the Zimbabwean government and the bank had therefore also sought an attachment order against Zimbabwean government-owned properties in South Africa. According to reports, the property to go under the hammer is estimated to be worth between R1 million and R3 million.

Louis Fick, who is also vice president of Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers’ Union, said he and his fellow farmers were very excited about the order. “While it’s more of a win as a legal precedent than as a financial one, we still consider it a huge victory, because it absolutely opens the doorway for other Zimbabwean farmers to do the same thing,” he explained.

“But now we must use the legal system to get compensation for losing our land. We’ve been waiting for 10 years to get compensation from the Zimbabwean government.” Fick said there were around 600 South African nationals currently living in Zimbabwe who had been evicted from their farms there, and most were now totally destitute.

“The situation for these people is very desperate. They have absolutely nothing,” he said. About 50% of them are over 55, and of these, half are over 70. “They’ve lost all the savings and investments that they were hoping to retire on. It’s heartbreaking to see. We’d be really grateful if the South African media could highlight this situation and encourage South Africans to help in whatever ways they can.”

Fick said members of the South African embassy in Zimbabwe had recently met with some of these South Africans in Zimbabwe. However, it was now a matter of waiting to find out what, if any, assistance the South African government would be offering.In the meantime, he urged any South Africans who might be able to help to contact him on 00263 773 434 924 or e-mail [email protected]