Property breaches: Germany threatens aid withdrawal

THE formation of the inclusive government has eased relations between Germany and Zimbabwe, but continued breaches of property rights threaten future support, a top diplomat has said.

Matthias Schumacher, Germany’s acting ambassador to Zimbabwe, on Wednesday said President Robert Mugabe’s previous government lacked legitimacy and had isolated the country from the international community.

“We are of the opinion that the former government did not really represent the will of the people, therefore, our hands were tied as far as our support was concerned,” Schumacher told the Zimbabwe Independent after he had handed over information and communication technology equipment worth US$80 000 to Zimbabwe’s struggling public examinations body, Zimsec.

“Things have changed with the new government. We consider it being an entity which more justly represents the will of the people of Zimbabwe. We are very happy and open to help Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabwe has steadily been rebuilding ties with Europe and North America following a decade of icy relations caused by allegations of human rights abuses, invasion of white-owned farms by Mugabe’s supporters and electoral fraud.

Schumacher, however, said while relations had improved, issues relating to property rights and the respect for international agreements could retard progress.

He spoke as Zimbabwe and the European Union opened re-engagements talks whose success is threatened by Harare’s continued takeover of commercial farms, including those protected by bilateral investment agreements.

The invasion of three farms owned by a German national last month caused uneasiness between Harare and Berlin.

The three farms, Makandi Tea Estate and Coffee (Pvt) Ltd, Border Timbers Ltd and Forrester Estate (Pvt) Ltd, are protected by a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between Zimbabwe and Germany that came into force in 2000.

Despite two protest letters from the German Embassy, one threatening to cut aid, the Zimbabwe government was yet to respond to the diplomatic notes, Schumacher said, noting, however, that the invaders had inexplicably since left the farms.

“We were protesting against the farm invasions. Officially, the government has not responded to our protest. At the moment they (invaders) have withdrawn and now the farm is up and running again,” he said. “We don’t want this to somehow influence negatively our relationship with Zimbabwe. The farmers are okay, but there is of course some damage, you know because there was two weeks in which the farmers could not operate and some of the coffee which had dried could not be processed. For the time being, it’s just good now that they are continuing to work.”

Wongai Zhangazha

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