Analysisin Southern AfricaOpinionZimbabwe

Unpacking the myths and realities of the Zimbabwean Land Question

HARARE – I have been inundated with calls and messages over the current kerfuffle over the recent rectification of BIPPAs or BITs agreements by the government of Zimbabwe. Resultantly, I have resolved to burn the midnight oil seeking better understanding of the highly emotive issue.

When the land reform started in the early 2000s we had, in my opinion, two classes of white farmers. First were the farmers who pillaged and violently took over our land and cattle with no respect for any natural rights for us as a people. Second were whites who were invited post 1980 to invest in farming and other industries. The recent announcement deals with the second group.

From the early 1980s to date gvt has signed BIPPAs or BITs with 36 countries and we have 10 ratified and in force with; Russia, Iran, Serbia, Germany, SA, Netherlands, Switzerland, Kuwait, Denmark and China. These agreements are not carry overs from the colonial era but agreements we entered into of our own volition as we invited FDI. I will come back to this point…

By definition BITs are:
Agreements between 2 countries regarding promotion and protection of investments made by investors from respective countries in each others territories. Furthermore, Dr A Rohan Perera (2000), stated that BITs inter alia:
•guarantee full protection and security for foreign investment.
•prohibit against nationalization and expropriation of foreign investment except on limited grounds of a, “public purpose”, and against payment of a, “prompt, adequate and effective”, compensation.
•bind countries to international dispute settlement procedures.

Almost all FDI nowadays comes in the form of BITs. A country which does not uphold the terms of BITs it has entered into becomes a bad investment choice. Reliability and legality require that flouted BITs agreements be restituted to encourage investor confidence.

Onto the emotive issue of land:
Farms being restituted and compensated as referred to in the letters are not farms born of violent colonial land grabs, but are farms offered by an independent majority government of Zimbabwe to foreigners with stipulated agreements and assurances.

We have not gone backwards on land reform. That is a claim caused by either ignorance or at the worst mischief. No investment will come in earnest unless we show our zest to correct the flouting of BITs which occurred at the height of the Land Reform when emotions were running high.

This step to honour BITs stipulations in my humble opinion, is a master stroke towards inviting FDI because we have to show earnestness and professionalism in upholding agreements we enter into. We cannot speak of the rule of law if we fail to honour our pledges as a nation. And verily, such failure will keep investment a distant mirage.

Farai Marapira is a Zimbabwean based Political Analyst with The Southern African Times.

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