The Zimbabwean government has dismissed as “empty”, threats by a group of White former farmers who say they want to seize Zimbabwe’s assets in the United Kingdom as compensation for farms acquired for redistribution to landless Black Zimbabweans. The group said it had already approached British foreign secretary William Hague over the matter.
The former commercial farmers argued that they believed UK’s treasury was holding Zimbabwe assets seized after sanctions were imposed on the country a decade ago.
However, Foreign Affairs secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha said it was impossible to seize the properties.
He said Government properties in foreign lands were protected under diplomatic immunity.
Ambassador Bimha said the only property that Government had in the UK was the ambassador’s residence and embassy offices.
“That is not possible and I do not know how the UK government can allow that. Those properties are protected under diplomatic immunity.
“If they are using the British law to push for their agenda they are sadly mistaken because Zimbabwe is not bound by British laws,” he said.
Ambassador Bimha said Zimbabwe is a sovereign state with its own laws. The eleven families that are pushing for the seizure of Zimbabwe’s properties claimed to have sent a 2 500-signature petition to Mr Hague’s office.
They claimed to have protested European Union plans to lift the sanctions at its next review of the measures.
One of the farmers, Mrs Timolene Tibbett was quoted telling the London Evening Standard that: “I can promise the Zimbabwean Government we are not going away.
“We are going to be on their toes until we see that justice is done and we get paid – we have a good case. I’m sure we will win.”
She said a court in the UK awarded them more than US$22 million compensation in 2009 adding the figure has since risen to US$30 million due to interest.
However, judgments made by British courts do not have a bearing on Zimbabwe. Mrs Tibbett lamented that she had been reduced to live in a small flat in London, after he palacial farm in Zimbabwe was taken away.
She said she left her farm in Macheke after the introduction of the land reform programme and she tried to set up a business, but it was difficult.
Mrs Tibbett said her husband later travelled to Nigeria for work, coming home every couple of months to see her. After a brief spell in South Africa, Timolene returned to the UK last year.
Analysts said threats to seize Zimbabwe’s property in the UK were influenced by a recent judgment by the South African Supreme Court.
The South African Supreme Court in September ruled that a White former commercial farmer could seize a property belonging to the Government of Zimbabwe to compensate loss of his farm.
However, Government sources said the South African property was not protected under diplomatic immunity, but it had since appealed against the judgment.
The former commercial farmers once petitioned the now disbanded Sadc Tribunal in a bid to reverse the land reform programme. However, Sadc Justice ministers acknowledged that the Tribunal was improperly constituted and its decisions were null and void.
This followed concerns raised by Zimbabwe querying the legitimacy of the tribunal’s rulings. The Tribunal courted controversy when it passed judgments that contravened Zimbabwe’s constitutional position on land reform.
Government made it clear it was not bound by the rulings, as the tribunal’s constituting treaty had not been ratified by two-thirds of Sadc members as required.
By; Tendai Mugabe