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Zim defiant on Bippas

Augustine Mukaro

ZIMBABWE is not going to change its stance on Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas) that were violated under the country&#82

17;s controversial land reform programme, a position that could further strain diplomatic relations with affected nations.

Lands minister Didymus Mutasa recently told farmers in Chiredzi that there was no going back on the expropriated sugarcane estates, most of which were protected under Bippas signed with South Africa.

Farmers in Chiredzi said the June 22 meeting, held at Hippo Valley country club and attended by new and dispossessed farmers, failed to resolve land ownership disputes that have badly affected sugarcane production since the launch of the land reform programme in 2000.

“The farmers were seeking clarification as to whether government would honour compensation specifications as spelt out in the Bippa agreements or prospects of any of them coming back to resume farming,” one farmer said.

The farmers said Mutasa became abusive accusing foreign investors of stripping Zimbabwe of its wealth, saying “if it was up to me I would never have signed a single bilateral agreement because foreign investors just come and take Zimbabwe’s assets, giving the country nothing in return”.

Mutasa told the evicted farmers they should “accept the offered compensation and leave the country”, another farmer said. “In all cases, government is offering not more than 20% of the actual value of the property.”

Under the agreements, government had promised to pay full compensation to foreign nationals in the event of a dispute arising out of an investment in Zimbabwe. Compensation would be determined in an agreed way and paid in the currency and into the account of the investor’s choice.

Mutasa’s remarks are a direct assault on government’s National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP), and its “Look East” policy. The most pronounced elements of NEDPP are the promotion, motivation and solicitation of foreign investment under which government has dispatched investment missions to China, South Korea, Russia and the Middle East.

Zimbabwe signed bilateral trade agreements with several European Union countries, four of them ratified by President Robert Mugabe.

Diplomatic sources said government’s failure to observe the agreements has strained relations to a point where displaced farmers are now seeking recourse to international courts after diplomatic intervention failed to protect their investments.

The worst affected country is South Africa, which had over 500 farmers throughout the country.

Farmers who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent said government had completely ignored the agreements prompting the concerned nationals to appeal for diplomatic interventions. These have all failed.

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