11 January 2013

Zimbabwe: 'Govt Has Right Over BIPPA Land'

GOVERNMENT has a Constitutional right to compulsorily acquire any land including those covered under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said agreements signed under BIPPA acknowledged the right conferred upon Government but provides that the State should pay full and fair compensation.

The Minister was responding to concerns raised by German ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Hans Gnodtke who accused Government of violating investment agreements on farms and Save Valley Conservancy covered under BIPPA. Mr Gnodtke appealed to Government to protect investors in the Save Valley Conservancy. The operators are covered by BIPPA between Zimbabwe and Germany.

"I am talking of investors who came here after independence," he said. He was addressing journalists in Harare on Wednesday.

"Many officials from the Government went to Germany asking them (investors) to come and invest in Zimbabwe. We agreed to ensure that agreements under BIPPA will be respected." However, Minister Chinamasa said the only legitimate concern from property owners should be on compensation.

"BIPPA agreements do not preclude Government from compulsorily acquiring farms. We have a Constitutional and legal right to do so.

"We can acquire them compulsorily but in terms of the agreement, we are required to pay full compensation.

"Any complaint that we have no right is not legitimate, even the BIPPA agreements say we can acquire," he said. He said complaints on delays to pay compensation were valid.

"We have not been able to pay compensation because of resource constraints arising from illegal sanctions imposed by the European Union that include Germany."

The Ambassador said Germany was still considering the extent Berlin would participate in this year's United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly.

Zimbabwe and Zambia will in August this year co-host the UNWTO general assembly in Victoria Falls. However, Environment and Natural Resources Management Minister Francis Nhema dismissed threats by Germany to boycott the UNWTO.

He said the threat was part of the Germans' plan to further perpetuate the sanctions they imposed on the country together with Britain and the United States.

"We have given them the hunting permits and what they are saying is not true.

"Government has even set up a committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Professor Arthur Mutambara to look at the goings-on at Save Valley Conservancy.

"That is enough to demonstrate our commitment to honour our part of the BIPPA agreement which they claim we are not doing," he said.

There were some disturbances at the Save Conservancy after 25 hunting permits were issued to locals who were allocated lots at the wildlife sanctuary.

Berlin, the biggest investors in the wildlife reserve, felt the move violated the investment protection accord between Harare and Berlin.

Ambassador Gnodtke said Zimbabwe's credibility to host an international meeting on tourism would be questioned if the Government does not move to restore order at the conservancy.

"Let there also be no doubt we have not yet made our decision if and at what level to participate at that conference," said.

Last week, Lands, Land Reform and Rural Resettlement Minister Herbert Murerwa said Government had stopped acquiring farms protected by foreign investment accords.

He said the decision was in respect of the agreement while managing State liability.

Minister Murerwa said Government was saddled with a US$25 million debt owed to 40 Dutch farmers.

The farmers were awarded the damages at the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

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