Zim-Botswana Bippa talks stall again

GOVERNMENT plans to reach a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) with Botswana by year-end have reportedly hit a brickwall after sharp differences erupted on the timeline of the trade pact.

Negotiations between the two countries resumed this year after being stalled seven years ago following concern about Zimbabwe’s land reform programme that saw thousands of white farmers being evicted from their farms without compensation.
Highly placed sources said negotiations on the investment deal with the neighbouring country stalled after Harare and Gaborone failed to agree on when the agreement would be effected.
Botswana, the sources said, wanted Zimbabwe to sign a deal that is in retrospect of investment deals made before the signing while Zimbabwean foreign affairs officials felt the investment should be effective from the signing day.
The sources said the inclusive government also stands to lose out on financial aid from Botswana which at the formation of the coalition pledged to extend US$70 million credit on condition that the coalition fully implements a power-sharing pact signed in 2008.
Implementation of the pact recently reached a deadlock after principals –– President Robert Mugabe and his long-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai –– clashed over appointments of senior government officials.
This revelation comes barely three months after Zimbabwe’s legislators ratified a Bippa with South Africa, the country’s major trading partner.
“The deal has not been as smooth sailing as the permanent secretary (of the Ministry of Economic Planning) Desire Sibanda anticipated,” the source said.
“Although we are unaware of any major investment in farming by our Botswana counterparts, our government is cautious of undertaking any deal in retrospect. It defies logic. My understanding is that the Dutch, South Africans and Australians are some of the investors whose property rights could have been violated under the controversial land reform exercise so I do not see them demanding the reversal of our so-called gains made during the land reform exercise.”
Botswana has interests in property development, tourism, food processing and joint venture projects with manufacturing companies.
Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister Tapiwa Mashakada could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press as his was not reachable on his mobile phone.
Lack of clarity on indigenisation regulations and property rights issues, the source said, also became the centre of the Bippa negotiations.
Diplomatic sources in Harare told businessdigest 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 “dispose” of controlling stakes to black Zimbabweans over the next five
years.
Zimbabwe has signed and ratified Bippas with China, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, the Swiss Federation, South Africa and Yugoslavia. The Southern-African country has not ratified bilateral agreements with Egypt, France, Iran, Italy, Singapore, Sweden, United Kingdom and the US.

 

Bernard Mpofu

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