'Symbolic victory' against Mugabe as government property in South Africa auctioned

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A residential property in Cape Town owned by the Zimbabwean government was auctioned for 3.76 million rand ($281,500) on Monday, in a symbolic victory against the land grab policies of President Robert Mugabe, lawyers said. In 2008, a tribunal set up by the South African Development Community bloc ruled that Zimbabwe had wrongly taken land from a group of white farmers. Harare rejected the ruling but a South African court ordered that it could be applied in the country and that the property could be sold. "It is a significant symbolic victory to any person that has lost everything to see that at least in neighboring countries justice does prevail," said Willie Spies, a lawyer acting on behalf of the white Zimbabwean farmers. Spies also said the auction meant future losses proven in other international tribunals could be enforced in South Africa. The money raised from the auction will be used to pay legal costs as well other creditors, he said. At the height of the land grabs, led by veterans of the 1970s liberation war and encouraged by the state, Mugabe said it was immoral for white farmers to occupy 70 percent of the best farmland while majority blacks were crowded on to barren plots. Around two dozen people attended the auction, conducted in the road outside the property, which comes with a swimming pool and electric fence round its perimeter, after access to the house was denied by its Zimbabwean tenant. "We have nothing to say to the journalists," a Zimbabwean official at the house who declined to give his name said. Government officials in Harare declined to comment. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Ed Cropley)