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Zimbabwe: Government move on Bippas rekindles hope

Zimbabwe Independent, Harare

Zimbabwe: Government Move On Bippas Rekindles Hope

11 August 2006

By Augustine Mukaro

Government has finished Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas) negotiations with France, Italy and Indonesia, a move analysts say gives a glimmer of hope to other countries whose nationals lost their agro-ventures during the land reform programme.

Sources said government had resolved Bippas queries with France, Italy and Indonesia and was looking into others on a case-by-case basis.

An Italian embassy official who refused to be named confirmed that government had made an undertaking to resolve the matter.

"We have assurance from the highest office that the Zimbabwean government resolved our case in line with the obligations of the agreement," the official said.

"We have agreed in principle and are waiting for the final communiqué."

The official said government had agreed to either compensate, bring back the farmers or revoke notices of acquisitions depending on the case.

"We are however worried that our nationals on the ground still face problems with people coming to claim land," he said. "Even where there are court orders, they are often not respected."

Italy has a Bippa signed in 1996, protecting up to 30 farmers and a host of other investments in different fields.

"Of the 30 farmers, only 14 still remain on the land with the rest having been forced out," the official said.

Analysts said the move to redress violations of Bippas, if extended to other countries, was likely to be met with resistance by Zanu PF members including cabinet ministers who occupy most of the properties.

Members occupying Bippa-protected farms include Higher Education minister Stan Mudenge. Mudenge moved into Chikore Farm in Masvingo protected under a Dutch Bippa, displacing the Buchan family.

President Robert Mugabe ratified the Dutch agreement in 1996.

Zanu PF MP for Mudzi West, Joseph Christopher Musa, invaded a multi-trillion dollar Danish-operated Zengea Farm, housing Red Dane Dairy.

Zengea Farm is protected from acquisition under a Bippa between the government of Zimbabwe and Denmark signed in 1996.