10 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Admits Millions Owed to Displaced Farmers

ZANU PF has admitted that it does have an obligation to pay compensation to farmers forced off their properties in the land grab campaign, also admitting it illegally seized many farms.

This was revealed in a Central Committee report tabled before the ZANU PF Annual Conference over the weekend. The report said that farms covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs) were seized, in contravention of those agreements. These include properties belonging to citizens from Denmark, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The report detailed that out of 153 BIPPA protected farms, 116 were taken over under the land grab.

"The agreements require that Government pays fair compensation in currency of former owner's choice for both land and improvements for acquired BIPPA farms. In this regard, Government has an outstanding payment of 16 million Euros awarded to Dutch farmers," the report states.

The Dutch compensation claim was filed by farmers who lost land in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2002. The group of farmers took their case to the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which ruled in their favour in 2009 and ordered Zimbabwe to pay them 8.8 million euros compensation, with an additional 10% interest for every year since the farms were seized.

The Central Committee report meanwhile said there was no money to pay compensation.

"The Dutch farmers who took the country to the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes and won have not been paid. In addition, a German family, the Von Pezolds, has also taken us to the ISCID for their farm which we acquired and partly resettled. We are framing our defence with the Attorney General's Office. The Von Pezolds claim is in the region of US$600 million."

The takeover of farms has also continued unabated with the ZANU PF report saying that more than 200 farmers are being prosecuted for "refusing" to give up their land.

Former commercial farmer Ben Freeth said the campaign will not end while there is no outcry from key sectors of Zimbabwean society, namely the MDC parties in government. He warned that ZANU PF is carrying out "ethnic cleansing."

"This is racist. This is apartheid. Zimbabwe will remain hungry and remain poor so long as this backwards, feudal system is able to persist and no one does anything about it," Freeth said.

Meanwhile ZANU PF has finally taken over the farm that used to belong to Ian Smith, with the Land Ministry handing the property to a college. The remaining portion of Gwenoro farm was the final part of the property not to be taken over in over a decade of land seizures.

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