- A High Court in Pretoria was told that the Zimbabwean government has the right to nationalise its properties without the interference of South Africa.
Judge Bill Prinsloo was presiding over an application by a South African farmer, Crawford von Abo, demanding compensation from the government for losing millions after his Zimbabwean farms were seized. Abo sued the South African government for failing to honour his several requests for diplomatic protection.
The Free State farmer also wanted the court to order the goverment to ratify the International Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). This would allow him to advance a compensation claim against the Zimbabwean government through international arbitration.
Abo wants more than R80 million as compensation for the losses if the government fails to honour his demands.
The state lawyer, Patric Mtshaulane SC, asked the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the confiscated properties belonged to Zimbabwean entities without diplomatic protection claim from the South African government.
Mtshaulane said it was the prerogative of the executive to conclude international agreements. He said that the court could not force South Africa to endorse ICSID, especially when it could be resolved through other means such as the Bilateral Investment Treaty.
He said Abo would not rest if South Africa was forced to become a member of ICSID, as he would have to obtain Zimbabwe's consent to the arbitration. Counsel Ptshaulane described such a court order as "an academic exercise."
He said the government had not ignored Abo's request for protection. But he admitted that the steps did not yield the desired results.
"The applicant was arrested, charged and imprisoned in Zimbabwe. In respect of these wrongs, The Republic of SA acted promptly. The applicant cannot seek diplomatic protection in order to pursue a damages claim," Counsel Mtshaulane said.
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