Zimbabwe unlikely to get Cape house back

Harare – Zimbabwe will have a tough time trying to recover a property it owned in Cape Town which was sold by public auction on Monday.\r\nhouse\r\n\r\nAlthough the courts had given Zimbabwe six months to settle the legal bills of a group of evicted white farmers, the money from Harare apparently arrived only after the sale had been concluded.\r\n\r\nAfriforum, which represented the farmers in the case, said it did receive the cash but only several hours after a auctioneer had knocked the property down for R3.7 million. And the transfer of the property in Salisbury Road, Kenilworth went ahead this week.\r\n\r\nWillie Spies, representing 78 white farmers evicted from their farms in Zimbabwe after 2000, said on Friday that the money from the Zimbabwe government to settle the farmers’ legal bills turned up in his account at 5pm on Monday, hours after the property had been sold.\r\n\r\n“The Zimbabwe government could have paid this any time from February when final bills were drawn up,” Spies said.\r\n\r\n“I have a paper trail of this.”\r\nThe Southern African Development Community Tribunal ruled in 2008 that the 78 white farmers had been discriminated against by race as only whites had been evicted from their farms by President Robert Mugabe’s government.\r\n\r\nThe tribunal also said they should be paid compensation for their losses, though it did not say how much.\r\n\r\nWhen the farmers tried to enforce the SADC ruling in Harare, Zimbabwe said the tribunal’s judgment was null and void as it had no jurisdiction in Zimbabwe.\r\n\r\nSo the farmers turned to South Africa to seek compensation for their legal costs.\r\n\r\nRepresented by Afriforum, they found a building in Cape Town which belonged to the Zimbabwean government.\r\n\r\nThey said it was rented out on a commercial basis and so was not protected by diplomatic immunity.\r\n\r\nAfter a long court battle with the Zimbabwean government, the farmers won the right to sell the building to recover their legal costs, both in the tribunal and those incurred since then in the SA courts.\r\n\r\nZimbabwe ambassador Isaac Moyo was furious when the building was sold this week: “Our Consular General in Cape Town was there when they were auctioning it. They auctioned it from the street, they did not go inside. It was a street auction.”\r\nHe said the government would go back to court to get its building back.\r\n\r\nBut Spies said: “The transfer of the property will go through as the buyer has already paid the deposit and that process has started as the building was sold.”\r\nThe sale of the building fully covered all the farmers’ legal bills, excluding the cost of the auction, Spies said. The rest would be shared out proportionately between a German bank owed money by Zimbabwe and a group of Dutch farmers who won a claim at an international court for compensation from Zimbabwe after they were also evicted from their farms.\r\n\r\nThe Zimbabwe government had a bilateral investment agreement with The Netherlands at the time, which should have protected their farms from seizure.