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Constitutional Court rules against Zimbabwe on land grabs

June 27, 2013 deur afriministrator

The Constitutional Court today dismissed an appeal by die Zimbabwean Government against an earlier ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein in favour of the late Mr Mike Campbell and 77 other Zimbabwean farmers regarding Robert Mugabe’s illegal and racist land reform plan. The court also ordered the Zimbabwean Government to pay the farmers’ costs. The farmers were supported in this endeavour by the civil rights organisation AfriForum.

In the judgement of the Constitutional Court, delivered by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, common law was developed to give recognition to the registration and enforcement of the rulings on human rights by international courts. The matter was initially heard on 28 February by the Constitutional Court. Today’s ruling was unanimous, with only one difference of emphasis regarding a legal point in the reasons for the ruling by Judge Zondo.

Last year the Supreme Court of Appeal also dismissed with costs the appeal of the Zimbabwean Government against an earlier ruling of the Pretoria High Court confirming the registration and enforcement of the judgement of the SADC Tribunal in favour of the Zimbabwean farmers.

The process started when a Zimbabwean farmer, Mr Mike Campbell succeeded in 2008 with an action against the Zimbabwean Government before the SADC Tribunal in Windhoek. The Tribunal, which consisted of five judges from various Southern African states, ruled in November 2008 that the Zimbabwean land reform process was illegal and racist, and that Mr Campbell and the other 77 farmers who became involved in the process should either be left alone or be compensated for the expropriation of their assets.

The elderly Mr Mike Campbell, his wife, Angela, and his son-in-law, Ben Freeth, were brutally assaulted and intimidated by war veterans in the run-up to the hearing in an effort to discourage them from appearing before the Tribunal. The case did proceed and Campbell eventually succeeded, but the severity of his injuries caused his health to deteriorate and he died in April 2011.

AfriForum supported the Zimbabwean farmers in a legal process which led to the registration of the ruling by the Tribunal in a South African court and the confiscation of a property in Kenilworth, Cape Town belonging to the Zimbabwean Government in order to offset the punitive cost order handed down by the Tribunal.

The dismissal of the appeal by the Zimbabwean Government means that, for the first time in international legal history, it will be possible to proceed with the legal sale of a property belonging to a state found guilty of gross human rights violations.