Zimbabwe government forced to compensate white farmers

A group of 10 dispossessed white former farmers have won a €16m (£14m) compensation award against the Zimbabwean government, in return for being kicked off their farms under Robert Mugabe’s “land grab”.

The farmers in question are also Dutch nationals and took the case to an international tribunal (ICSID), claiming the Zimbabwean government had broken the terms of an “investor protection agreement” with the Dutch government.

Proceedings started in April 2005, with a full court hearing in Paris in October 2007. Last week the tribunal confirmed that compensation was due and must be paid within three months.

Under the terms of the investor protection agreement, should the compensation not be forthcoming, the farmers would be entitled to seize assets of the Zimbabwean government up to an equivalent value.

A statement issued by the Dutch farmers’ lawyers this week said the award was “fair, measured and decisive”. “The Dutch claim serves to show the government of Zimbabwe that the rule of law must be respected and the issue of redress to all farmers, regardless of nationality, must be resolved.”

UK-based AgricAfrica, which has been supporting the case, says it plans to bring forward a further 50 claims to the ICSID tribunal in respect of former white farmers with Dutch, Danish, Swiss and German nationality.

It is estimated that over 4000 white farmers were kicked off their farms between 2000 and 2003, and just a few hundred remain. These still face extreme harassment from Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party henchmen.

Recent calculations by Zimbabwean economist Eddie Cross suggest that, since the land reforms kicked off in 2000, the country’s agricultural output has dropped from 4.3m tonnes, worth $3.3bn, to just 1.3m tonnes, worth $1bn.