Zimbabwe white farmers sue South Africa

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Zimbabwe white farmers sue South Africa

Deutsche Welle

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Ben Freeth is one of the farmers who lost everything during the land evictions in the early 2000s. “It was chaos all around and there was tremendous fear in the land. We were abducted and tortured and sadly my father-in-law was very badly beaten in the process and never recovered and later died.” He says memories of those brutal events are still fresh in his mind.

Freeth became one of the most prominent activists among Zimbabwe’s white farmers. Many at the time were scared to act against the government, he remembers. But he, his family, and a small group of other farmers decided to sue the Zimbabwean government.

When this failed, they turned to the judicial arm of the regional body, Southern African Development Community (SADC). The body’s regional court ordered Zimbabwe to return the confiscated lands and other properties back to the farmers. In response, Zimbabwe withdrew from the court and SADC immediately dissolved its judicial arm — a move that was attributed to the influence of former long-time ruler Robert Mugabe. The Zimbabwean farmers, however, think they still have a chance at making their claims. On behalf of 25 farmers, AfriForum, a South African non-governmental organization, which fights for the rights of the Afrikaans speaking community, has filed a lawsuit requesting compensation at the Pretoria High Court in South Africa.

In December 2018, the South African Constitutional Court ruled that South Africa’s participation in dissolving the SADC Tribunal, under former President Jacob Zuma, was unlawful and unconstitutional. Lawyer Willie Spies says this is their basis for demanding compensation from South Africa.

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