www.businessday.co.za on 2010-04-01"color:#ffffff" href="http://www.businessday.co.za/" target="_blank"> www.businessday.co.za on 2010-04-01" />
Seizure of Zimbabwean Property 'Drop in the Ocean'

Johannesburg — A Zimbabwean property valued at R2,5m in Cape Town was seized yesterday to cover the legal costs of obtaining an order against President Robert Mugabe for illegally confiscating property from 79 Zimbabwe farmers.

The attachment of the property comes after two years of Mugabe thumbing his nose at rulings of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Tribunal that the land grab was both racist and unlawful. The process has been driven by local civil rights group AfriForum, which succeeded in getting an order of the North Gauteng High Court to attach Zimbabwean property.

The saga began in 2008 when 79 of Zimbabwe's farmers took the Zimbabwean government to the Sadc tribunal where they won a ruling that the land grab was unlawful. This was described by Mugabe as nonsense, and of no consequence. He continued with the confiscation of the remaining farms . The tribunal followed its earlier ruling with a ruling that Mugabe was in contempt - this he also ignored.

AfriForum then persuaded the High Court in Pretoria to register the tribunal's rulings and allow the attachment of properties in SA owned by the Zimbabwe government. Zimbabwean Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa also thumbed his nose at this ruling, calling it "political grandstanding". He said the properties were protected by diplomatic immunity.

AfriForum attorney Willie Spies said they had been asked by Zimbabwean farmers to help in the case.

"What happened today is the attachment of a property situated in Kenilworth. It is being leased to a third-party tenant. The fact that it is being leased makes it a commercial property, which makes it liable for attachment as a result of the court order," he said.

Ben Freeth, of the Sadc Tribunal Rights Watch, said: "The attachment of these properties is something that is hugely symbolic. After 10 years of the annihilation of property rights in Zimbabwe where no one has been compensated, the long arm of the law is finally reaching out to make itself felt.

"Of course the attachment of four Zimbabwe government properties is a drop in the ocean compared to the attachment of the thousands of once-productive agricultural properties in Zimbabwe that were the homes and livelihoods of more than 2-million people. But this is a huge symbolic step in the quest for global justice through the international courts."

Collen Makumbirofa, of the Zimbabwean Foundation for Reason and Justice, said: "The attachment of properties belonging to the Zimbabwe government by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria is an act of last resort by AfriForum, acting on behalf of Zimbabwe farmers, who have exhausted all available channels of engaging the Zimbabwe government to reach a mutually amicable solution to the land saga.

"It is an indictment on a government that has lost its constitutional place in the progressive family of nations. That the Mugabe regime regards the Sadc ruling as 'nonsense and of no consequence' demonstrates the extent to which the Zanu (PF) government pays scant regard to the rule of law."

With Sapa