Zimbabwe to fight 'baseless' sale of property in SA

Harare – Zimbabwe says it will fight the sale of its property in Cape Town after it was auctioned on Monday to compensate white farmers evicted from their land.

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.
The property - a three-bedroom, three-bathroom, yellow-painted house near the Kenilworth Racecourse - was auctioned for R3.76m.

President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party launched the land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.

Mugabe said the reforms were meant to correct colonial land-ownership imbalances.

At least 4 000 white commercial farmers were evicted from their farms.

'Bad faith'

The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation struggle.

Zimbabwe’s ambassador in South Africa Isaac Moyo dismissed the sale of the property as "baseless", claiming the lawyers representing the farmers acted in "bad faith" as the country paid about R840 000 it owed AfriForum at the weekend.

Moyo told the state-owned Chronicle newspaper that the money was paid on Saturday and the lawyers were supplied with the proof of bank documentation which showed that payment had been made.

Moyo said there was an "element of deceit" in the lawyers' actions.

"I can vouch that we paid. The auctioning of the property was baseless. They acted in bad faith. I think there was an element of deceit that led them to disregard that we paid," Moyo was quoted as saying.

Symbolic victory

AfriForum lawyer Advocate Willie Spies told News24 on Monday that the Zimbabwean embassy tried to stop the auction with a promise that it was paying the amount of just under R1m it owed.
"But we hadn't received anything in our trust," said Spies.

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

"This is a symbolic victory and we will pursue other commercial properties owned by Zimbabwe," Spies was quoted as saying.

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

At least 80 white farmers launched a case at a tribunal of the Southern African Development Community, claiming they had been targeted because of their race.

The SADC tribunal, which was later disbanded, ruled that the farmers should be compensated.

AfriForum stepped in to help the group to enforce a 2008 ruling in South Africa.

Source http://www.news24.com/Africa/Zimbabwe/Zim-to-fight-baseless-sale-of-prop...