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SA to push for agreement to protect assets in Zimbabwe

Sunday Independent (SA)

SA to push for agreement to protect assets in Zimbabwe

5 June 2005

By Christelle Terreblanche

South Africa is set to push once more for the signing of an investment protection agreement with Zimbabwe as President Robert Mugabe starts implementing threats to abolish private ownership of land. Zimbabwe this week announced the early opening of parliament to railroad through constitutional changes that, among others, would simplify the nationalisation of land.

Mandisi Mpahlwa, the trade and industry minister, said that a provisional date was set for the signing of the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) between South Africa and Zimbabwe, which would give surety to private land and business owners in Zimbabwe. South Africa has maintained over three years that the only hold-up with signing had been the inability to find a mutually suitable date with Zimbabwe.

This week Mpahlwa said he would prefer not to comment yet on whether the signing of the agreement was more urgent in the wake of the latest threats. The provisional date of June 15 for the signing of the agreement was however not confirmed yet, Jerry Ndou, South Africa’s ambassador in Harare, said through the foreign affairs department.

The agreement deals with investment promotion and reciprocal protection of investment between the two countries. It would, among other things, protect the land rights of South African farmers who own land in Zimbabwe. Some of the estimated 200 South African-owned farms in Zimbabwe have already been seized in the land grab since 2000.

Zimbabwe has BIPPA agreements with about 17 countries, but has breached a number of those with European countries by expropriating the land and business ventures of its nationals. The government has come in for severe criticism by opposition parties for not finalising the BIPPA.

In February, the Democratic Alliance accused the government of lacking "the necessary political will to protect the interests of its nationals".