A group of farmers who had their land seized in Zimbabwe are launching a campaign today to protest against a proposed lifting of sanctions against Robert Mugabe’s regime by the European Union.
The 11 farmers and their families have won successive court cases over the takeover including one through the legal channels of the World Bank and another presided over by an officially sanctioned judge in Harare. They were awarded compensations totalling £ 17.5 million, but no money has been forthcoming for over three years and now there is fear that the Zimbabwe authorities will have no incentive left to pay up if the EU move goes through.
A delegation from JusticeZimbabwe, along with MPs supporting their cause, will meet diplomats from the Foreign Office, including William Hague’s Zimbabawe advisors . Meanwhile an online petition launched this morning, it is claimed, is expected to gather 3000 signatures by weekend.
The farmers say that they had agreed with a Zimbawean request not to publicise the legal actions with the promise that the money they were due would be paid up in return. The Harare government, they now believe, have been playing for time and the sanction lifting will encourage them to renege altogether on their deal.
EU ministers have stated that most of the punitive measures against Zimbabwe would be lifted once it held a credible referendum towards a new constitution. The move would mark an “important milestone” towards a democratic future for the country, they said in a recent statement.
More than100 key individuals have been covered under an EU travel ban and assets freeze imposed in 2002. The online petition by the campaign group states: “In 2000, the world looked on in horror as the Zimbabwe state and thugs acting for President Mugabe destroyed property, attacked farm employees and in some cases, tortured and murdered Zimbabwe’s own farmers. In response to this, the UK Government led efforts to implement sanctions against the ruling elite of Zimbabwe.
“(Now) the international community and EU High Representative Baroness Ashton are preparing to abandon them and their hopes for justice, if plans to lift targeted sanctions progress. Despite Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Government refusing to pay these farmers, the UK Government will soon unfreeze money from stolen assets, lift travel bans allowing Mugabe’s thugs to visit London and Paris and allow UK aid money to flow directly into Mugabe’s Government coffers.”
Campaign organisers point out that that the World Bank’s process in the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) which found in favour of 11 British and Dutch farmers against the Zimbabwean government is voluntarily accepted by both creditors and debtors.
Timolene Tibbett, part of the delegation to the Foreign Office spoke of what the she and others have had to endure. Her husband, Rolf, died at the age of 50 due to stress related illness. Altogether “Six members of our farming community in Macheke have died since the land invasions” she recounted.
“One murdered, three stress related, one car accident in another country, one stress and age related. How many of our employees have passed on, I have sadly no idea.”
Pippa van Rechteren who lost her farm north of Harare 12 years ago insisted that the facts irrefutable: “As part of a group of ex Zimbabwean farmers, my husband and I fought and won a landmark legal ruling entitling us to compensation for the loss of our land, property and livelihoods. The court ruling of 2009 remains unsettled and we are asking the UK Government, EU and others to do all they can to ensure the Government of Zimbabwe end our ordeal and our battle for justice.“
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