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Dutch Farmers Pressing Zimbabwe to Pay For Lost Land

Pressure is mounting on Harare yet again as another group of former commercial farmers who lost their land during the chaotic agrarian reforms that started in 2000, are demanding compensation amounting to $30 million.

The group of Dutch farmers has urged the European Union to maintain targeted sanctions imposed on President Robert Mugabe and his inncer circle until they have been fully compensated.

The farmers, who initially won their landmark case against the government at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes in 2009, told Radio Netherlands they did not receive any compensation when they were forcibly moved from their commercial farms.

They said this was a violation of a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement which the Netherlands signed with Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean government was initially ordered to pay $11,3 million which was to be increased by 10 percent for each year since the land grab until it was paid in full. It has increased over the years to $30 million.

Radio Netherlands quotes the group’s chairman Lion Benjamins as saying Finance Minister Tendai Biti had “promised to put forward a payment proposal but so far has not honored this promise.”

Biti and the farmers were not immediately available for comment.

The former commercial farmers are also lobbying the British government to release President Mugabe’s frozen assets in order to pay the compensation.

The British government has never announced the amount of money and assets, if any, belonging to Mr. Mugabe it has seized.

Ben Freeth, one of the 77 farmers who recently won a similar lawsuit against the Zimbabwean government in the South African courts, told VOA Zimbabwe needs to get serious about protecting investments for the good of the country.

“It needs to realize that at some stage international law will prevail and what is wrong will remain wrong until it is put right,” Freeth said.
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Former Zimbabwean diplomat to Ethiopia Clifford Mashiri said the farmers are justified in seeking E.U. intervention.
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