As South Africa moves towards more stringent laws to allow expropriation of property without compensation, cases in other parts of the region show the pitfalls of expropriation even where compensation is paid. A new case from Zambia’s apex court concerns land expropriated from a farmer, ostensibly for development in the public interest. It turned out, however, that fraud was involved and that after a long period in which nothing was done with the land, it was sold off – at one stage for the development of a luxury hotel and golf course.
This is an extraordinary case in many ways. The contested expropriation took place 33 years ago. And this judgment represents the sixth time a court has considered related issues - despite the relevant law saying that once an appeal court has decided the matter it can go no further. At 136 pages, the judgment is also extraordinarily long.