By Lindsay Watling | London Evening Standard |
A Londoner forced off her 3,600 acre farm in Zimbabwe told today of her battle to get justice from Robert Mugabe’s regime. Timolene Tibbett, 56, was thrown out of their home with her late husband Rolf and their three children by war veterans in 2001.
The Kensington-born former equestrian competitor was promised compensation by a court but has never received a penny. She has now been reduced to living in a small flat in Harlow in Essex and says the stress of the ordeal led to her husband’s premature death.
“It’s extremely difficult. I have no friends and very few family here. I have a couple of relatives, but my children are not here with me. They are scattered all over. Life has changed drastically, dramatically for me,” she said.
Determined not to give up, however, now Mrs Tibbett is leading a campaign called Justice Zimbabwe to force Mugabe to pay the money she and 10 other farmer families are owed.
They have sent a 2,500-signature petition to foreign secretary William Hague protesting EU plans to lift sanctions currently imposed on the southern African nation. They have also suggested previously-seized Zimbabwean assets held by the UK treasury are used to cover the money owed.
“I can promise the Zimbabwean government we are not going away,” said Mrs Tibbett.
“We are going to be on their toes until we see that justice is done and we get paid – we have a good case. I’m sure we will win.”
Describing the build-up to her family’s eviction, she told the Standard: “There had been lots of intimidation of our workers and a neighbour of ours who was an opposition supporter was murdered.
“The War Veterans came to the farm, they got near the house and demanded certain things. There was chanting, shouting and screaming. We stuck it out for about three weeks, watching and listening to them.
“Finally, my husband said he could not stand to watch the family’s livelihood and that of all our workers being allowed to die – it was very frightening.”
After being forced to leave their land in the Macheke district, which Mr Tibbett had worked since 1986, the penniless family fled to Harare to try to set up a business, but times were hard.
Mr Tibbett later travelled to Nigeria for work, coming home every couple of months to see his wife, but the stress became too much and in 2008 he died from a perforated ulcer, aged just 50. After a brief spell in South Africa, Mrs Tibbett returned to the UK last year.
In 2009 A Zimbabwean court awarded more than 17 million euros to her and 10 other victims, a figure that has since risen to 23 million due to interest. At the time, the Zimbabwean Government agreed to settle the debts, but three years on the money remains outstanding.