ZIMBABWE – While the United Kingdom is hosting Chinese President Xi Jinpin and ignoring human rights concerns regarding China, President Xi’s allay, the Mugabe government in Zimbabwe, is still laying siege to a white farmer whose farm is coveted by a British relative of Mugabe’s wife.
In fact Mugabe has been awared China’s equivalement of the Nobel Prize and his wife has been invited to China by the president of the All-China Women’s Federation, Shen Yueyue, and was seen off at Harare International Airport by the Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping and his wife Zhang only yesterday.
Domestic critics of the new relationship between China and the UK say that it compromises the UK’s national security. It also compromises any efforts to hold China in check over her violations of human rights in China and her support for world dictators which has included vetoing the UN Security Council‘s efforts to sanction them.
As we reported last week a white farmer in Zimbabwe was under seige by a group of farm invaders representing a relative of Grace Mugabe, one Dr Nyatsuro who now has British Citizenship and who wants to take over the farm which currently has a $200 000 tobacco crop.
The farmer remains under seige and Dr Nyatsuro has engaged British lawyers who have issued a statement on his behalf claiming that his take-over of the farm is legal under Zimbabwe’s law, thus throwing Zimbabwe’s land-reform laws back into international focus.
When the Mugabe government passed the law making compulsory acquisition of white-owned farms legal, Zimbabwe was a member of the SADC Tribunal, a regional tribunal which was the ultimate court of appeal for human rights cases when national appeals processes had been exhausted.
White farmers appealed to the SADC Tribunal and won their case, but the Zimbabwean government ignored the judgement and instigated a disbanding of the SADC Tribunal. Dr Nyatsuro’s lawyers are arguing that the take-over of the farm is legal, but this has not been tested in court.
Meanwhile farmer Philip Rankin, is still under siege in his farmhouse with Zimbabwean Police doing nothing to remove the invaders and him fearing that if he leaves the farmhouse, that will be the end of his if his case or even his life, as has been the case for other farmers in lawless Zimbabwe.
SADC Tribunal Rights Watch (Zimbabwe) spokesperson Ben Freeth, has issued a statement saying that Dr Nyatsuro’s lawyers, Freeths (no connection to him) LLP Solicitors’ claim that Dr Nyatsuro’s take-over of the farm is legal is “extraordinary.”
Below is his Press Release which argues the case, but at the end of the day, without international pressure on the repressive Zanu (PF) regime, there is little chance for Mr Ranking nor many others whose human rights are being violated in Zimbabwe, including by state-sanctioned murder, to receive any justice.
David Cameron and his conservative government, by going to bed with China, in consideration of China’s financial power, may have imperilled not just the UK’s security but millions of oppressed people around the world who placed their hope on the international community, particularly he democratic West, to place a check on the dictators who oppress them. Editor
Zimbabwean farmer remains under siege from British doctor’s invaders.
A Zimbabwean farmer and his wife, Phillip and Anita Rankin, remain under siege from thugs who have surrounded their farmhouse at the instigation of a British citizen, Dr Sylvester Nyatsuro (45) from Nottingham, who is attempting to take over the farm and its US$360,000 tobacco crop.
In defending the actions of Dr Nyatsuro, who was originally born in Zimbabwe, his law firm in the UK, Freeths LLP Solicitors, told the Nottingham Post that Dr Nyatsuro was taking possession of the Rankins’ farm lawfully.
According to the Nottingham Post’s article of October 21, 2015, the statement released by the solicitors reads: “Dr Nyatsuro became eligible to take possession of a farm in Zimbabwe in a lawful manner in full accordance with the requirements of the Government’s Minister of Land and Rural Settlement.”
The statement continues: “This means that he had to wait several years before becoming eligible to take the area of land in question. There is no question of Dr Nyatsuro being given undue preference.”
The latter point refers to media reports which suggest that Dr Nyatsuro and his wife, Veronica, have links to President Mugabe’s powerful wife, Grace Mugabe who has herself taken over a number of commercial farms from their lawful owners, forcing both the farmers and their workers off the land.
The solicitors correctly denied that Dr Nyatsuro, who owns a weight-loss clinic in Nottingham, had visited the farm on October 9, but confirmed that other family members had gone to the property.
Their statement reads: “In fact, he (Dr Nyatsuro) was in the UK on that date. Whilst other members of his family attended, accompanied by a lands officer and two police officers, there was no ‘gang’ present, no violence or intimidation of any sort occurred on that date, and the police were on hand to ensure that there was no inappropriate behaviour.”
Clearly, the solicitors are not aware that the Nyatsuro invasion had many witnesses. The reality is that invaders forced their way onto the property against Rankin’s will.
They were indeed supplied with a police escort onto the farm, but it is well known that President Mugabe’s partisan police have been party to innumerable invasions since 2000 and that they are instructed not to follow the law in cases like this, or even court orders.
The Zimbabwean police have in fact been at the forefront of the break-down of the rule of law in the country.
If they fail to obey orders, they face disciplinary action, demotion or dismissal, which is unthinkable in this once thriving country where unemployment now exceeds 90 percent as a direct result of the rule of law breakdown.
A week after the farm stand-off began, Rankin’s son reported that his parents were under siege and struggling to get food onto the farm as they were unable to leave. Rankin also suffers from high blood pressure and heart problems are prevalent in his family.
On Wednesday October 21, 2015, two weeks after the initial invasion, the threatening farm invaders who were brought out to the property by Mrs Nyatsuro are still there.
“If a group of thugs forced their way onto a property in the UK and had the owners under siege for weeks on end, a British law firm would never defend such criminal activity,” said Ben Freeth, the Harare-based spokesperson for legal watchdog SADC Tribunal Rights Watch. (Freeth has no connection with Freeths LLP Solicitors.)
“It is a matter of grave concern that a UK law firm is prepared to defend actions which blatantly violate human rights and which would never be acceptable in Britain,” continued Freeth.
“It is also concerning that the solicitors have not researched the situation with regard to the 15-year-long, brutal farm invasions and the illegality of President Mugabe’s land nationalisation programme,” he said.
SADC Tribunal human rights court rulings
SADC Tribunal Rights Watch recommends that Dr Nyatsuro’s lawyers read the judgment handed down in the landmark Campbell case in the Southern African Development Community’s SADC Tribunal human rights court, the region’s highest court, in November 2008.
Ruling 1: With respect to the legality of white-owned commercial farms being taken over without compensation being paid by the Zimbabwe government, the Tribunal ruled that that this was illegal.
“Taking something without paying for it cannot be legal in any jurisdiction. Such an action is commonly known as ‘theft’. A firm of solicitors cannot condone or justify theft, wherever it is taking place,”said Freeth.
Freeth also pointed out that Dr Nyatsuro and his British lawyers will be well aware that the Zimbabwe Government will not pay for the farm and that Rankin and his workers will be left destitute.
The Zimbabwe government has not budgeted any funds for compensation for the thousands of farms it has taken over during the past 15 years, thus destroying the lives and livelihoods of thousands of commercial farmers and hundreds of thousands of farm workers.
In fact, the economy is in such a state of crisis that President Mugabe is even struggling to pay his secret police, the feared Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), which has played a critical role in ensuring that his increasingly unpopular regime retains power.
As beneficiaries of President Mugabe’s complex patronage system, CIO operatives, together with senior ranking army, air force and police personnel, have frequently been among the many the high profile recipients of productive white-owned commercial farms.
Those who claim that Zimbabwe’s commercial farms, with their sophisticated infrastructure and world-class yields, have been taken from white commercial farmers to give to “landless blacks” would do well to inspect the lists of high profile beneficiaries that have been published in the media.
Ruling 2: The SADC Tribunal also ruled that the ouster clause added to the Zimbabwean Constitution, which allows the Zimbabwe Government to take a farm at a stroke of a pen without any legal recourse for the owner, was not legal or according to the rule of law.
“No country in the world has a constitution with such a draconian ‘anti-property rights’ clause,” said Freeth.
“Further to this clause in our constitution, if the farm owner does not vacate his land within a stipulated period, he can be arrested and given a two-year jail term for committing the crime of living in his home and farming in a country that is starving. I fail to see how Dr Nyatsuro’s legal firm can condone this as a ‘legal process’,” commented Freeth.
Ruling 3: The SADC Tribunal also ruled that the racist nature of the land grab was illegal.
In Zimbabwe, the sole characteristic for the identification of land to be taken over is based on race. Rankin therefore, even though he is a Zimbabwean and bought his farm three years after independence with the approval of the Mugabe government, has his home and livelihood under threat for the simple reason that he is white.
Rankin’s farm is being confiscated by the Zimbabwe Government and offered to Dr Nyatsuro because Rankin is white and Nyatsuro is black. However, Dr Nyatsuro is British, is permanently resident in Britain, and is not a farmer. Dr Nyatsuro’s law firm cannot condone the racism which, on the scale of the brutal and prolonged farm grab, essentially amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Zimbabwe government in contempt of court
When the Zimbabwe government refused to abide by the SADC Tribunal rulings, the Tribunal found the government to be contempt of court.
In response, in an unprecedented and illegal move, the Mugabe Government was instrumental in getting the entire court closed down – with the support of the SADC heads of state – so that no further cases could be heard.
Virtually all of the cases heard by the Tribunal involved the violation of human rights democracy and the rule of law, and were brought against the Mugabe government.
Not surprisingly, the government lost every single case, including a high profile torture case, known as the Gondo case, in which black Zimbabweans were the victims of the regime’s brutality.
“Despite the highly contested closure of southern Africa’s highest court – as Dr Nyatsuro’s law firm will understand – this does not nullify its judgments in anyway,” said Freeth.
“Indeed, a costs award against the Zimbabwe government resulting from the registration of the SADC Tribunal’s 2008 judgment in South Africa led to one of the Mugabe government’s houses in Cape Town being auctioned off on September 21 this year in order to settle the outstanding award,” Freeth said.
SADC Tribunal Rights Watch condemns the continued invasion of the Rankins’ farm by Dr Nyatsuro and recommends that Dr Nyatsuro immediately pays off and removes the thugs who continue to surround the Rankins’ house.
Furthermore, we recommend that Dr Nyatsuro advises those who have authorised his attempted take-over of the farm that he is withdrawing from this illegal take-over, and that Rankin must be allowed to continue farming in peace for the benefit his family, his workers and the cash-strapped country.