By Alex Bell
01 November 2012
Zimbabwe’s government is being criticised for selectively honouring trade and investment agreements with other countries, with warnings that this practice is scaring off any further investment.
The comments were made Thursday by the President of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), Charles Taffs, who urged the government to honour all trade agreements.
Taffs was reacting to statements by Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi who said this week that the investments of South African citizens in Zimbabwe will be protected.
“There is no doubt regarding this country’s economic interests in Zimbabwe. They are and will remain protected,” Mumbengegwi told reporters after talks with his South African counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Tuesday.
Mumbengegwi was understood to be in South Africa as part of on-going attempts to secure a multi million dollar loan from the neighbouring ANC government. The main opposition party in South Africa has urged the government not to extend the US$100 million loan to Zimbabwe, fearing the money may be diverted by ZANU PF for use in a terror campaign against any opposition ahead of elections. Observers have now said that these latest ‘commitments’ to South African investment being voiced by Zimbabwe are purely linked to attempts to secure this loan.
The CFU’s Taffs meanwhile said any commitment to protecting foreign investment is welcome, but only if the commitments are not “selective”. He said that dozens of South African citizens have lost land and property as part of the land grab campaign, with no interference from government.
Most recently, South African born Dirk Visagie and his wife Heidi were forced to pack up their belongings and leave their Chegutu farm last month after Dirk was found guilty of remaining on the property. The ruling ended a decade long fight to remain on his farm that he bought from a government parastatal in 2001. Back then he received a ‘certificate of no interest’ from the Lands Ministry because the property was considered ‘peri-urban’ and not one Gazetted under the Lands Act for seizure under the land grab campaign.
But about a month later a local official called Timothy Madavanhu, the chairman of the rural district council, arrived to claim Visagie’s property as part of the land grab. Madavanhu initiated a campaign of harassment and intimidation that included moving hired thugs onto the property, breaking into the Visagie family home and lighting raging veld fires. A prolonged court battle followed, ending last month with the Visagies being evicted from their home.
There has been no word form the South African authorities about the campaign against the Visagies, despite the bilateral investment protection agreement between the two countries.
“If you’re going to respect investment then you need to respect all investment or else you’re simply not going to get any new investors. External investors will not feel secure about coming to Zimbabwe if there is selective application of the protection agreements,” Taffs said.
The South African farmers are not the only foreign citizens who have suffered from Zimbabwe’s refusal to honour trade agreements. Farmers from the Netherlands and Germany and other countries have all lost their properties as part of the land grab, despite investment agreement that existed between the two countries.