Diplomat secures farmers release

jailedJOHANNESBURG - Diplomatic intervention by SA's ambassador in Zimbabwe, Prof Mlungisi Makalima, has helped secure the release of a South African farmer jailed in Zimbabwe.

Mike Odendaal, “wrongfully” arrested by the Zimbabwean police last week, was released on Friday, civil rights organisation AfriForum said yesterday.

AfriForum, which has become a thorn in the administration of President Jacob Zuma, who has taken over the facilitation in Zimbabwe’s political stalemate, is putting pressure on SA to use diplomatic channels to force the Zimbabwean government to halt new illegal land seizures without compensation.

Kallie Kriel, AfriForum CEO, said Odendaal had been released unharmed on Friday after Prof Makalima’s intervention. He said the South African embassy in Zimbabwe had also ensured the illegal occupants on his farm, Wolvedraai, were removed.

Attempts to get a response from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation were unsuccessful. Odendaal was granted an order by the Zimbabwean High Court on June 26 that his family could stay on the farm. But local police ignored the order and refused to help him remove farm invaders.

“While we appreciate the ambassador’s assistance in this regard, we are disappointed that not every reported case of invasion of farms owned by South Africans in Zimbabwe … is treated with similar urgency,” said Kriel.

He said the event was distressing as Odendaal had been appealing to the South African embassy in Zimbabwe for urgent assistance for three weeks.

“It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when one sees that the South African government turns its back on its own citizens who are subject to human rights violations in Zimbabwe, while (it) rolls out the red carpet for (President) Robert Mugabe at the Soccer World Cup.”

Kriel said AfriForum was going ahead with its court action, expected to be filed soon, to hold the government to account for its failure to protect the lives and property of South Africans in Zimbabwe.

“Our senior legal team is finalising court documents to ask the high court to order the South African government to indicate which steps it will be taking to intercede on behalf of South Africans in Zimbabwe.”

In terms of a settlement reached between AfriForum and the South African government regarding the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, formalised as a court order in November, SA undertook to maintain the rights and remedies of South African victims of Zimbabwe’s illegal land redistribution.

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