EU demands seized land back

July 1, 2022

LIVINGSTONE MARUFU

The European Union (EU) is pushing President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to return expropriated land, which was protected under Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs).

Business Times can report that out of 153 farms which were protected by BIPPAs treaties, 116 were forcibly taken by the government during the fast land reform programme which began in 2000.

EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, said the bloc was more interested in the BIPPAs which they had with Zimbabwe.

“The country (Zimbabwe) has to honour these agreements to show that the Southern African country is serious in respecting the property rights, rule of law and Constitution,” Olkkonen said.

He said this was an “issue that is linked to ownership and security of tenure of land”.

“I hope that the government will come up with a satisfactory conclusion on this because that will be conducive for investment if the issues of compensation and other issues are resolved,” the diplomat said.

He said the government should act quickly to honour BIPPAs agreements to attract investment into the country.

In 2020, Zimbabwe agreed to pay US$3.5bn in compensation to former commercial white farmers whose land was taken by the government to resettle black farmers.

But the farmers under BIPPAs  were not included in the compensation deal for the ex-farmers signed in July last year.

Some critics say the government woefully lacks credibility and goodwill, and one whose voter base is on resettled land after occupying land for years. Many will resist eviction.

“Those A2 farmers have been there for the past 20 years and it is going to be difficult to remove them with some even burying their loved ones there,” a farmer organisation group said.

Zimbabwe has lost several lawsuits brought against it at international tribunals.

In 2012, the government revoked offer letters for 55 resettled farmers allocated land at Tavydale Farm in Mazowe district. Farmers who had occupied 70 hectares were evicted.

In 2013, Herbert Murerwa, then lands minister, said the government had to revoke offer letters given to resettled farmers on BIPPA land because the lawsuits were a huge burden on the country.

“Government will abide by the provisions of the agreement and at the same time we do not want to increase our liability,” he said then.

About 40 Dutch farmers, whose properties were protected under BIPPA, were awarded a total of US$25m by an international tribunal in April 2009.

In September 2017, the government withdrew 64 offer letters covering nearly 10 000 hectares of plantation land, all under BIPPAs, in Manicaland. Resettled farmers, among them senior Zanu PF officials, had to vacate land they had occupied in the Lowveld in 2016.

The government withdrew offer letters for land owned by Tongaat Hulett, protected under BIPPA.

There were similar evictions in 2014 from conservancies in the Save Valley, where senior Zanu PF officials had helped themselves to 25-year leases on BIPPA-protected properties.

 

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