SOUTH Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on President Thabo Mbeki to defend SA investments in Zimbabwe following plans by government to expropriate sugar plantations owned b
y mining giant Anglo American Corporation and JSE-listed flower exporter, Conafex Holdings SA.
All three sugar plantations, tucked away in Zimbabwe’s south eastern Lowveld – Mkwasine, Hippo Valley and Triangle – have been served with notices of compulsory acquisition despite Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippa) between the two countries. The trade pact compels the Zimbabwe government to protect the investments and properties of other countries from arbitrary expropriation.
The government has advised Conafex’s Zimbabwean subsidiary, Zimcor Ltd, that all its agricultural estates are being compulsorily acquired with immediate effect.
“The implications of this action and the matter of compensation are not yet clear,” Conafex said in a statement last week.
This is the second expropriation attempt on the Zimbabwean assets of an SA-listed company, following a notice served on Anglo American for the expropriation of the company’s Hippo Valley sugar estates.Mkwasine Estate, which is jointly owned by South Africa’s Anglo American Corporation and Tongaat Hullet, was issued with a Section 8 order on July 23. The 11 500-hectare sugar estate’s notice expires in two weeks time. The order gives management and staff 90 days to wind up operations and vacate the property.
Anglo owns a stake in Mkwasine through its Zimbabwean subsidiary, Hippo Valley Estates, while Tongaat is represented through its local subsidiary, Triangle Ltd. Hippo Valley, which also grows sugar, is already under a Section 5 order, a formal notice of intention by government to acquire a property under the land redistribution programme. The company was served the notice in January.
The DA spokesperson on agriculture, Kraai van Niekerk, warned that the proposed expropriation of Conafex and the sugar plantations by the Zimbabwe government was yet another “red light for South African investors in Zimbabwe”.
He said this would damage South Africans’ confi-dence in pursuing ventures in other African countries.
“If the ANC government, and indeed President Thabo Mbeki, is not prepared to defend the investments made by South African companies in Zimbabwe and other African countries, then it will betray the development ideals laid out for Africa by Nepad,” Van Niekerk told SA’s Business Day last week.
But Nana Zenani, a spokesperson for the Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza, said there was nothing the South African government could do because the land seizures were happening in another country.
“We cannot dictate to them what they should do,” said Zenani.