by Hannes Wessels

Many years ago, at the height of the Zimbabwe land invasions, I raised the issue of British responsibility for the ongoing tragedy with other concerned individuals and victims of the violence. I was mindful of the fact that in 1923 Southern Rhodesia Settlers (“SRS”), through their representative, the ‘Governor In Council’, were obliged to pay £2,000,000 to Her Majesty’s Government in order to acquire the ‘legal property and other rights in perpetuity’ pertaining to the ‘unalienated land’  stipulated in section 48 and 49 of the ‘1923 Letters Patent’ – Constitution.  The ‘unalienated land’ being the same land that was in the process of being ‘returned to its rightful owners’ by the Mugabe regime.

Slain Matabeleland farmer Martin Olds

At the time, this demand, a precondition that had to be met in return for self-governance, outraged the ‘settlers’ who correctly complained a parsimonious British government had contributed precisely nothing to the entire occupation and settlement process and were therefore not entitled to receive any payment at all. However the ‘settler’ political leadership of the day prevailed upon their constituents to accede to the demand in order to conclusively clear all real or invented liabilities so the greater goal of nation-building, unfettered by debt, could be engaged upon.

Thus it was, the Rhodesians grudgingly agreed, payment was made (ahead of the time demanded) and a contract of purchase and sale therefore took place.  It is on the basis of that contract that successive title was transferred leading up to the seizures starting in 2000.  The question that then arose was, was Mugabe correct, and did the British government of the day ‘sell’ the settlers something they did not own; technically ‘stolen property’? And if they did, were they not then liable for having fraudulently misrepresented themselves and obliged to compensate successive title holders accordingly? On the face of it, it certainly looked like the purchasers and their successors in title, were the losers in a sale where the vendors fraudulently misrepresented themselves.

When I raised the possibility of suing the British government for either fraudulent misrepresentation or breach of contract, it was pointed out to me the existence of the English legal maxim stating quite simply and bluntly that ‘The King is not a thief’ and therefore the Crown cannot be held liable.

As it turned out, while I was focused on challenging the British government, decisions were taken by representatives of the aggrieved parties to act closer to home and litigate against the government of Zimbabwe for breach of their property rights enshrined in the constitution. This ran into trouble with the forced removal of Chief Justice Gubbay and his replacement with a politically compliant jurist in the form of Godfrey Chidyausiku who heard the case and through following a twisted line of legal reasoning, concluded that the seizures were indeed legal. Other efforts to seek a fair hearing on related issues were summarily rebuffed.

With that option exhausted the dispossessed, represented by the late Mike Campbell and 76 other displaced farmers took their application to Windhoek where they approached the SADC Tribunal. This court was set up with the noble intention of acting as a last court of appeal for citizens of SADC countries who felt they were denied justice in their home countries with decisions of the court being binding on all member countries. The verdict was extremely encouraging.

  • By unanimity, the Tribunal ruled it had jurisdiction to entertain the application;
  • By unanimity, the Tribunal ruled, the Applicants had been denied access to the courts in Zimbabwe;
  • By a majority of four to one, the Applicants had been discriminated against on the ground of race, and
  • By unanimity, fair compensation was payable to the Applicants for their lands compulsorily acquired by the Respondent.

However, in the great African tradition, when the law gets in the way of the political will, simply dispense with it and be rid of the enforcers. Mugabe, energetically supported by SA President Jacob Zuma, simply disbanded the Tribunal and dismissed the troublesome judges. And that was the end of that.

While remedial action is still being sought in the SA courts, I recently linked up with Mr. Will Keys, a former BSAP Inspector, retired solicitor and officer of the Queensland Supreme Court now living in Brisbane. Together with him and with help from a small group of well informed and interested parties we revisited the possibility of launching an action based on the ‘1923 Letters Patent’. We sought to litigate a legal redress and secure the return of the £2,000,000 at 5% compound interest which would have amounted to a sum of over £200,000,000 which was to be placed in an International Rhodesian Trust and used to compensate the many who have suffered so terribly since 2000.  In this endeavour we engaged top Queensland QC, Mr. Nick Ferrett, to whom we are indebted, but it appears our hopes may have been dashed.

We are informed that, “The binding terms of the ‘Letters Patent’ in the 1923 Constitution were annulled by an arbitrary enactment in the British Parliament, which they termed the Southern Rhodesia Constitution of 1961.”  Unfortunately, the Southern Rhodesian voting citizenry, naively voted in a referendum, to accept the 1961 Constitution.  This appears to have sealed the fate for Rhodesians and exonerated Her Majesties Government  from responsibility and accountability.

While the British government routinely disburses hundreds of millions to support governments in Africa that are corrupt and destructive, they have not contributed a penny to alleviate the plight of the millions of victims who suffered so mightily at the hands of a man they groomed for power and joyfully anointed. There is no doubt in my mind the underlying reason for this callous disregard for the victims of this monstrous injustice is the perception, although utterly erroneous,  that the victims were white farmers from a colonial heritage and for that reason they are deserving of no compassion, let alone compensation.

For the little it’s worth, I say sod the maxim; I believe the ‘King is indeed a thief’ and crime sure as hell pays.

23 thoughts on “The King Is A Thief”
  1. Hi Alistair, thank you for your comment, you mention the Queens Christmas Day speech, this too is politically arranged by 10 Downiung Steet however, I don’t think we can resolve this so we will have to agree to disagree, but thank you for your comments, Kind regards, Norman.

  2. Norman, sorry to say it but the queen is part of the whole rotten British hierarchy in my opinion and has been for decades. I watch her delivering her “Christmas Message” every year with all its gushing moral platitudes and I find I cannot watch it to the end. What she says and what she does are polar opposites. By no stretch of the imagination can she be exonerated for rewarding and entertaining despots, and she seems particularly predisposed to African ones. You say “the queen is a high intelligent person.” If that is so, and she is a woman of moral integrity and has a conscience then why does she not step down rather than continually participate in the political chicanery of Perfidious Albion?

  3. thank you for your response, I must say I have to agree with almost all the things you say However, it still does not follow that The Queen would Knight a maniac knowing just how much damage he was inflicting upon the nation of Zimbabwe, unless she was “told” to administer this horror honour on this despicable character. The Queen is a high intelligent person, but defers to her ministers, who all have their political agendas, and apply them ruthlessly.
    I regret that we cannot agree on this however, I must stick to my original position that the Queen is not as independent as many people believe. Kind regards……….

  4. Hi Norman, the idea of the queen being ‘a figurative head of state but has no political power’ simply does not wash I am afraid. This cannot possibly be so, not after her involvement in persuading British politicians of the day to not recognise the Muzorewa government in 1979 and definitely not after bestowing a knighthood on Mugabe after the atrocities he committed in Matabeleland in the early 1980’s. Those who disagree say, ‘she has to do what the politicians of the day tell her to do.’ This makes absolutely no sense at all. Is the queen not supposed to be an individual of sound mind and in control of all her faculties including a conscience? Are we supposed to believe she had no idea what Mugabe got up to? She also holds the position of ‘Defender of the Faith’ and ‘Head of The Church of England’, yet she knights a genocidal maniac! Is it not logical that she would make it her business to thoroughly research the deeds of the person that politicians have recommended receive a knighthood? Politicians and Prime Ministers come and go while the queen retains her position in the monarchy until she decides to retire due to bad health (or other) or dies, yet we are supposed to believe ‘she has no political power whatsoever’ and ‘has to do what the politicians tell her to do!’ I don’t think so.

    1. Alistair – I have tried to answer your comment but was unable to send it, I am not sure why but I was informed that is was similar to the original comment about the Queen ? I agree with you comments but still insist that The Queen has no power to make politicaldecisions ! Kind regards…………

  5. Nothing but the truth and the devious twinkle toed lilly livered british still send MILLIONS OF POUNDS in so called Aid to Zimbabwe and yet will still not honour their side of the Lancaster House Agreement and after SEVENTEEN YEARS, we still haven’t recieved our Govt Pensions from Zimbabwe.
    Bloody dusgraceful

  6. Excellent Hannes. I have tried to follow up here in the UK on all the issues you have raised by suggesting that the Brit Govt should offer to purchase, on a willing buyer willing seller basis, the title deeds of all those disposed farmers . The UK Govt could then negotiate the terms of returning the deeds to the Zim Govt. The problem is that this Pom Govt (no matter whether Tory or Labour) are petrified of opening cans of worms and exposing themselves to litigation across the entire Commonwealth !! We also have to remember that there is nothing more devious and dishonest than a British politician .

  7. Just another example of British treachery. Indeed your comment at the end Hannes has a GREAT deal to do with our demise as a Country and our heritage as white Colonial Pioneers or Settlers. It is a known fact that a good 99.9% of left wing Breeetish politicians literally hated what we stood for, what we achieved, and the white man of Rhodesia in general. And am sure included the recent Royal Family. Two faced and trecherous they were. They can all go to Hell as far as I’m concerned. Once again an excellent article Hanness.

    1. Thanks Geoff, no doubt about that. The Foreign Office was stuffed with lefties who loathed us with a passion and were determined to destroy us no matter the consequences. What further enraged the British ‘establishment’ was Ian Smith’s dismissive response when repeatedly reminded we were going to be excluded from all Royal and related ceremonial occasions. This normally gets heads of state buckling but Smith was unfazed. He told them we were happy at home and they loathed him for it.

      1. Lefties , righties, conservatives, mostly, controlled oppositions, shaking hands with each other behind the scenes. Commenting on each others theatrics. Our information sources are very limited, controlled by very few. Most of us realise social media is monitored and censored.
        On the monarchy, great insight is written by John Coleman, in his book “Committee of 300” Gone through many museum for info, many archives untouched for centuries. Will lay bare many of the negatives the world has experienced. I used to be a monarchist.

  8. I remember this all too well, and painfully so. when I relocated to the UK, I contacted my local MP and asked why the British Government was still sending so called aid to Zimbabwe, and was told that they must support the Zimbabwean people, they still do not understand where their aid money goes, and yes they still send money to this murderous regime to this day ?

    1. hi Phil, I think that comment is a little unkind, The Queen, as you probably know is a figurative head of state but has no political power ? Kind regards,…..

  9. Thank you, another eye opener. I think the way things are set up , by the lawyers ,there is perpetual work for them for present and future.! What about the Lancaster House agreement, willing seller willing buyer and the money paid by Britain and the US.? Surely they can by pass the the corrupt Gvt. and pay the effected people eg farmers and others directly ?

  10. Thank you Hannes for this fascinating insight into your and others noble efforts to seek compensation. Most admirable.

    As always, so well written.

  11. When will a well meaning Z man of high moral standing, unmoved by greed for monetary gain, take the stand and win office. Until that day, the country Is doomed.

  12. Absolutely right, Hannes.
    The King is indeed a thief, and a right bastard to boot!

    I used to be proud to be English (up until the age of about 16) – now I only admit to being a Rhodesian.

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