RESERVE Bank governor Gideon Gono has implored government to respect Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas) which have been cast aside as prop
erties protected by interstate pacts have been expropriated.
In his monetary policy statement on Wednesday Gono said there was need to honour and respect bilateral agreements, as well as multilateral international investment protection agreements for the revival of the economy.
He said Zimbabwe should respect property rights in order to attract investments.
“It is for this reason that as monetary authorities,” Gono said, “we welcome government’s decision during 2004 to form an inter-ministerial Taskforce on Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements, charged with ensuring that the sacrosanct nature of private property and property rights is observed across all sectors of the economy in conformity with best standards and international agreements we enter with our international business partners.”
He added: “We are aware that some of the Bippas were caught up in the fast track phase of the Land Reform Programme and are heartened by government’s plans to examine individual cases of Bippa violations with a view to redressing anomalies found.
Gono’s call to redress violations of Bippas is likely to be met with stiff resistance as many of the properties were seized by Zanu PF chefs including cabinet ministers.
Foreign minister Stan Mudenge is occupying the Dutch Bippa-protected Chikore Farm in Masvingo.
Since the inception of the land reform programme government has been ignoring violations of Bippa agreements. It has ignored calls by European Union diplomats and the Commercial Farmers Union to urgently delist Bippa-protected properties critical for the survival of the economy.
Government has also ignored a report by Special Affairs Minister for Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement John Nkomo, urging the state to avoid seizing land protected by international accords when big German-linked timber company as well as sugar and citrus estates were listed.
Zimbabwe has Bippa agreements with several EU countries, four of them ratified by President Robert Mugabe. The trade pacts require government to protect the investments and properties of other countries from arbitrary expropriation.
Government’s disregard for the pacts has led to investors shunning Zimbabwe.
The worst-affected country is South Africa which had over 200 farmers situated across the country. The farmers have made numerous representations to their government without success.
Expropriation of properties owned by South Africans is still continuing in the south-eastern Lowveld where sugar estates are under threat.
An estimated 70 Dutch farmers in the country have lost their properties in the ongoing land reform programme despite the Netherlands/Zimbabwe Bippa which came into force in 1996.
The Dutch farmers were growing flowers for export.
Government also allowed the seizure of Border Timbers in violation of an agreement between Zimbabwe and Germany. The Germany/Zimbabwe Bippa signed in 1995 by representatives of both governments was put in place to protect Border Timbers’ properties and assets from expropriation by the Zimbabwe government.
In terms of the agreement, Zimbabwe gave assurances to Germany that Border Timbers’ land would not be targeted for seizure.
In addition to the timber plantations, the government has also taken over Aberfoyle Estates, a major tea exporter and Eastern Highlands Plantations, one of Zimbabwe’s few producers of washed Arabic coffee.