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S. African Farmers' Rights Group Seizes Zimbabwe Government Property

A farmers' rights group in South Africa Tuesday seized a residential property in Cape Town belonging to the Zimbabwe government. The group, Afriforum said it has taken the Zimbabwe government property as part of a "civil sanctions" campaign against President Robert Mugabe's government.

Afriforum, a South African farmers' rights group, said it has seized the government of Zimbabwe property to help the people of Zimbabwe. Afriform is acting on behalf of several Zimbabwean and South African farmers whose farms were seized in the Zimbabwe's chaotic and often violent land reform program.

South Africans who owned farms in Zimbabwe have previously brought cases before the South African courts to prevent them from signing agreements with the Zimbabwe government that could undermine their rights in Zimbabwe.

None of the South African farmers were compensated for the loss of businesses, homes, improvements and equipment on their farms in Zimbabwe.

Afriforum's lawyer, Willie Spies says the seizure of the property had its origins in the regional court of last resort, the Southern African Development Community's Tribunal. That court ruled nearly two years ago that Zimbabwe's white farmers had suffered racial discrimination.

It also ordered Mr. Mugabe and his government to stop taking any more white-owned farms and pay compensation to the thousands of farmers and their workers who had already been evicted.

Mr. Mugabe declared the SADC Tribunal's ruling irrelevant in Zimbabwe. Last year the Tribunal ruled Mr. Mugabe's administration guilty of contempt of court.

Recently Afriforum succeed in establishing the legality of the SADC Tribunal's ruling in South Africa's courts.

Afriforum located four Zimbabwe government properties in Cape Town which it said were not protected by diplomatic protocols. It decided Tuesday to only attach one of them which it said covered legal costs of the case.

Patrick Chinamasa, ZANU-PF justice minister in the 13-month-old unity government dismissed Afriforum's foray to the courts saying properties fell under diplomatic immunity. The courts earlier ruled that the properties did not fall within the protections of diplomatic immunity.

In Zimbabwe, the Commercial Farmers Union has also been busy. For the first time in ten years it has gone to court on behalf of thousands of its past and present members, most of whom had their farms taken.

The Union has asked the High Court to issue a moratorium on any new evictions of the few hundred remaining white farmers and to stop prosecuting them for trespassing.It has also asked the court to pay thousands of farmers compensation.

The Union also asked the court to order those involved in evicting white farmers to stop stealing their moveable assets.

Its second application was to the Supreme Court which also operates as a constitutional court.

The Union has told the Supreme Court that the intention of Mr. Mugabe's land reform program to redress the racial imbalance on agricultural land, had gone so far that white people were now excluded by the lower courts from participating in the farming sector.

The Union said the continued seizures of white-owned land violated Zimbabwe's constitution.