Zimbabwe farmers a step closer to compensation

Farmers Weekly Interactive (UK) | 08/11/2007

Zimbabwe farmers a step closer to compensation

A group of Dutch farmers is one step closer to gaining compensation for land and farms lost to the government of Zimbabwe, after a recent hearing in Paris.

The tribunal, at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, heard evidence from 10 dispossessed white farmers, represented by the Dutch Farmers Association. Each made the case for Robert Mugabe’s ZANU (PF) government to accept liability for a breach of the Netherlands-Zimbabwe bilateral investment treaty and pay compensation.

Victory at this level could benefit more than 4000 dispossessed farmers who lost their land in the period of so-called land reform, said Bob Fernandes, chairman of AgricAfrica, which is jointly funding the tribunal.

In a series of briefs and counter briefs, the tribunal heard that the Zimbabwean government acknowledged certain "deprivations" had taken place without the payment of compensation. But compensation would only be payable, the government insisted, when the country was able to do so.

The group of farmers, who now live outside Zimbabwe, could now be only three months away from receiving some degree of compensation, according to Mr Fernandez. "It remains unclear what valuation compensation will be paid, as the Zimbabwean government only recognises formal expropriation in a constitutional amendment made in 2005." With interest, a figure suggested is close to h25m.

Worldwide Arbitration and Dispute Resolution Group lawyer Mathew Coleman, who represented the Dutch farmers, said: "The tribunal heard from claimants that the process of land reform had proceeded in a haphazard, illegal and ultimately disastrous manner. In response, Zimbabwe insisted that the process had served an essential public interest, giving land to the landless peasants of its country."

A large percentage of this repossessed land now lies derelict and unproductive, and many farms are now occupied, not by the people the campaign proclaimed to provide for, but by ruling party cronies.

The final ruling is expected early next year.

by Emily Padfield

source: FWI