Indigenisation stalls BIPPA negotiations

INDIGENISATION and property rights issues have become the centre of Zimbabwe and Botswana’s Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) negotiations that are supposed to result in a deal by year-end.

Diplomatic sources in Harare told the Zimbabwe Independent that the Botswana government and investors were seeking clarity on the controversial indigenisation regulations that compel foreign owned companies valued at US$500 000 or more to cede majority stake to black Zimbabweans.

Negotiations between the two countries stalled seven years ago following concern over Zimbabwe’s land reform programme, under which thousands of white farmers were evicted, often violently, from their farms unlawfully and without compensation.

Botswana has interests in property development, tourism, food processing and joint venture projects with manufacturing companies.

“The two governments are expected to sign the agreement by year end,” said the source. “The negotiations were on hold since 2003 over a number of issues that included the upholding of property rights. We expect the investment relations between the two countries to improve after the signing.”

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Desire Sibanda was in Botswana last week as part of the negotiations, according to sources. Sibanda and his minister Elton Mangoma could not be reached for comment. The Botswana embassy did not return questions to them on Wednesday.

Botswana early this year pledged a US$70 million line of credit to help Zimbabwe’s recovery on condition that the transitional government fully implemented the Global Political Agreement.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Obert Sibanda said yesterday that the deal was expected to strengthen ties between the two governments. ZNCC and its Botswana counterpart last year signed a memorandum of agreement seeking to improve trade relations between the two governments.

Bernard Mpofu

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