A landmark ruling by South Africa’s Supreme Court has opened the door for 200 dispossessed Zimbabwean white farmers to sue the South African government for compensation currently estimated at US$170 million. The claim could eventually run into billions of US dollars.

The Bloemfontein Court of Appeal has found that the SA government was wrong in endorsing the disbandment of the Sadc Tribunal,a regional court which had declared Zimbabwe’s land expropriation programme illegal.

The tribunal was disbanded after a furious late former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe denounced it.

The ex-Zimbabwean farmers, who say they have been plunged into poverty by what they see as an unlawful property grab, are arguing that the South African government was wrong in supporting the dismantling of the Sadc Tribunal and must therefore compensate them.

In the early 2000s Zim white farmers had their farms forcefully seized.

Over 21 years later, Zimbabwe’s white farmers are still seeking compensation and now they are suing South Africa for helping Mugabe suppress their case.

Meanwhile, after failing to get assistance from the Zimbabwean courts, the farmers resorted to the judicial arm of the regional body, Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The SADC court ordered the Zimbabwean Government to return the confiscated lands and other properties back to the farmers.

However, 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.

Apparently, President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa recently expressed his willingness to compensate the farmers.

It remains to be seen if he will honour his pledge.

Zwnews/ Newshawks