Zim, South Africa to sign Bippa

ZIMBABWE will this month sign a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) with South Africa, amid a farm ownership dispute between deputy Reserve Bank governor Edward Mashiringwana and a South African farmer, Louis Fick.

Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister Elton Mangoma this week told journalists that Harare and Pretoria would sign the long-awaited deal on November 27.

Delays in inking the agreement with the neighbouring country had been triggered by disagreements over a clause that deals with the land reform exercise.

“To improve the investment environment, government negotiated several Bippas with potential investor countries as well as those in which we sought to invest,” Mangoma said. “In this regard we will sign the Bippa with South Africa on November 27 and details of the agreement will be made public thereafter.”

Government is seeking US$50 million in lines of credit from South Africa, the country’s major trading partner.

The trade deal is expected to pave way for the resumption of a 20-year US$330 million loan facility suspended by the South African government last year due to Zimbabwe’s poor credit rating.

The signing ceremony would take place at a time when Fick had sought the intervention of South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mlungisi Makalima, to ask government to stop Mashiringwana from taking over his Karoi farm.

Fick, the vice-president of the Commercial Farmers Union, was part of the over 70 white farmers who successfully sued government at the Sadc Tribunal, which ruled that the expropriation of their farms was illegal.

However, government ignored the tribunal’s ruling and has since pulled out of the Windhoek-headquartered regional court.

The fight for Friedwill Farm between Fick and Mashiringwana recently turned nasty when five labourers were shot and wounded in skirmishes at the piggery.

The Zimbabwe-South Africa bilateral agreement would, according to official documents, be the third to be signed by Zimbabwe in the Sadc region. Signing of similar deals with other member states are still pending.
Government has since the start of the 2000 land reform arbitrarily acquired land covered by Bippas, further dampening investor confidence.

Mangoma said there was “nothing contentious” in the Zimbabwe-South Africa proposed agreement despite recent remarks made by Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa that government would not sign any agreement that “reverses” the controversial land exercise.

Zimbabwe has only signed and ratified Bippas with China, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, the Swiss Federation and Yugoslavia. The country has not ratified the bilateral agreements it made with Egypt, France, Iran, Italy, Singapore, Sweden, United Kingdom and the US.

 

Bernard Mpofu

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