Shiri promises to stop land evictions

Shiri promises to stop land evictions
Published: 22 June 2018
GOVERNMENT will be stopping all land evictions, especially the appropriation of indigenously owned farms and those farms protected under Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs).

Government is currently saddled with a $32 million debt owed to 13 Dutch farmers led by Bernardus Henricus Funnekotter, including a $240 million arbitral award to a family of Swiss-German investors, the von Pezold family. Their company, Border Timbers, also won twin awards against the Zimbabwean government at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in 2015.

"The law is very clear. Where indigenously owned or BIPPA farms or any other farm has been acquired by government, government is obliged to compensate the previous owners. The nature of compensation may vary. For BIPPAs government will compensate for both the land and improvements. This also applies to the indigenous farmers. The other category of farmers will be compensated for improvements only," Agriculture, Land and Rural Development Minister Perrance Shiri said.

Shiri was responding to a question on the issue of land evictions, especially farms protected under BIPPAs. PUM, a Netherlands business support organisation, resident representative Nigel Chanakira posed the question at the Horticulture/Livestock Seminar organised and hosted by BancABC and its partners the Netherlands African Business Council (NABC) and the Southern African Netherlands Chamber of Commerce. The seminar was meant to promote trade between Zimbabwe and the Netherlands.

"Compensation is being paid, though a limited amount. It is only that we have a limited capacity as government. As resources become available and the farmers become more productive on the land, we hope to be able to pay meaningful amounts," he said and further assured the traders that going forward government would not tamper with indigenously owned farms and BIPPA farms.

"Land belonging to Dutch farmers, if they are still on the land we are not going to touch that land, but the land were resettlement has taken place, it possesses some challenges because there are people there and finding a new place for them will be difficult in that it entails having to identify a place where we have to relocate them, so government may be forced to compensate the Dutch business people who lost their land," Shiri said.

Also responding to a question on the country's land policy from former PUM representative Prosper Matondi, the Minister said government focus was now on production and productivity and not evictions.

"There are current engagements going on right now to try and raise funds for compensation and it's in that context that BIPPA farms lost through the land reform shall be compensated."

"Our focus will be on production and addressing issues to do with productivity. If we are to fully utilise the land that we have acquired so far, in terms of maize, if we start producing seven tonnes per hectare upwards, you will suddenly discover that some people may be forced of the land because only the efficient farmers can sustain their stay on the farms," Shiri said.

The lack of redress, aand the on-going contestation over ownership of land, has caused uncertainty, affecting economic growth and investment.

Resolving the compensation question remains vital for seeking a way forward for Zimbabwe's agricultural sector.

Shiri also took the opportunity to explain to the Dutch traders that Command Agriculture was not about a command economy.

"It is more like the Marshall Plan where government, having identified the teething challenges associated with food security, especially the fact that the country had to import maize, the staple food on a yearly basis, the government had to invite the private sector to partner government to ensure that the country produces enough grain," he said.

In his inaugural address the new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, made a commitment to compensate farmers who were forced off their land during the 2000 fast track land reform programme.

Zimbabwe has Bilateral Investment Treaties also referred to as BIPPAs with a number of countries. Among them are Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and The Netherlands.
- fingaz
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