There is renewed pressure on the European Union (EU) not to lift targeted restrictive sanctions against Robert Mugabe and other Zimbabweans, because of the government’s refusal to compensate White farmers who lost their stolen land.
A group of White farmers who all had land seized as part of the ZANU PF land redistribution campaign, and who are now seeking “justice” under the group Justice Zimbabwe, are calling for the sanctions to remain. This is ahead of meetings they are set to have with the UK Foreign Office, where they will call on British Foreign Secretary William Hague to block the proposed EU lifting of sanctions against Mugabe’s closest allies.
The farmers, from European countries like the Netherlands and the UK, claimed that they bought Zimbabwean land the seventies from the Zimbabwean government and were given certificates of ‘no current interest’. But they were then brutally removed from their homes between 2000 and 2002, as part of the countrywide land redistribution. The farmers, who were also meant to be protected by bilateral investment protection agreements with their countries and Zimbabwe claim they faced serious violence, intimidation and death threats.
they claim that thousands of farm workers on these properties were also brutally beaten by land invaders, who destroyed the workers homes and denied them an income.
They claim that the “illegal seizure” of the farms forced them to take their case to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which ruled in their favour in 2009. The court ordered the Zim government to pay the farmers 8.8 million euros compensation, with an additional 10% interest for every year since the farms were seized. The Netherlands has since been pressuring Zimbabwe to make a payment plan and earlier this year Finance Minister Tendai Biti promised to submit a proposal. But he has failed to do so.
The UK government meanwhile has indicated it will support the EU’s plans to lift the targeted sanctions on the government, despite the Zimbabwe government ignoring international law.
Timolene Tibbett, who lost her farm in 2001 and is now leading the campaign for the ex-farmers, told newsmen that the UK and the EU should be pressing Zimbabwe to respect the rule of law.
“If they (the Zimbabwe government) are not prepared to pay, how is any further investor going to be interested in putting money into a country that does not hold up to an international court of law?” Tibbett asked.
She added: “If the EU and UK don’t stand up for us, who is going to? We are all British or EU nationals and we are wanting basically for them (the Zim government) to agree to respect the rule of law and to pay. But nothing has been done, that was three years ago and nothing has been forthcoming since.”
Justice Zimbabwe has now started an online petition targeting UK Minister Hague and the EU’s foreign policy chief Baroness Catherine Ashton, which urges them to stand for justice and not lift the sanctions against the Zimbabwean government.
Part of the petition reads: “Lifting of sanction will allow the resumption of many millions of pounds in UK taxpayer monies to flow in direct aid payments to the Zimbabwe Government. It may become very tempting for Zimbabwe to ignore the relatively small legal ICSID claim when the World Bank, USA, EU and UK Governments have multibillion-dollar aid and investment operations in Zimbabwe, with ambitions to expand them exponentially.”
Justice Zimbabwe’s Tibbett grunted: “I would like to see Baroness Ashton, via William Hague, being requested to not lift any sanctions. If they were to lift any form of sanctions, it would mean they are playing into Zimbabwe’s hands…it would say to them ‘it doesn’t matter so we don’t need to pay these people’.”
Tibbett meanwhile added that their campaign is not just about ensuring that the compensation they are due is paid out, but also about making a positive impact back in Zimbabwe.
“What we are wanting is that the whole of Zimbabwe would benefit from people understanding and knowing that the rule of law is being respected and that investors are free to invest in Zimbabwe. It is a wonderful place and Zimbabwe people need to benefit from this too. If there is money coming in from investors then it would encourage new jobs and it is a very important issue for us.”