Two judgments over the past week, from opposite ends of the earth, show how expensive it can be to do business in the middle of an unresolved political dispute. First, the high court in Port Elizabeth finalised a case that broke on these pages last year when the NM Cherry Blossom, carrying phosphate for farmers in New Zealand, was held after stopping in that port to refuel. The phosphate had been mined by a Moroccan company operating in Africa’s last colony, Western Sahara. Following an urgent court application by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and the Polisario Front, the ship, with its cargo, has been moored in the port ever since. Now the high court has issued two significant orders. One, that Morocco’s state phosphate-mining company never owned the cargo and could not sell it to the New Zealand buyers. The other stipulates that the cargo is to be sold by closed tender, with the proceeds divided between the SADR’s attorneys and the ship’s charterer. The second judgme...

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