By Nomalanga Moyo
A ZANU PF minister says there will be no more seizures of foreign-owned properties as the effects of the party’s ruinous land grab policy continue to bite.
Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said this at an event to mark $17.7 million worth of funding for the country, from the European Union (EU) on Monday.
The money is meant for to support community-based environmental groups, online news agency NewZimbabwe.com reported.
Addressing western diplomats at the event, Kasukuwere said properties and farms protected under bilateral agreements will be safe from invasions.
The minister sought to reassure the diplomats that, “all the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAS) such as Savé Valley Conservancies will also be protected.”
“I want to assure you that the Zimbabwean government welcomes all the investments that have been made by the EU in our conservancies,” he said.
Investors from Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Denmark and some locals used to own and run successful safari ventures on the conservancy which was founded in 1991 as one of the world’s largest wildlife sanctuaries.
Two years ago however, top ZANU PF officials invaded the conservancy, allocated themselves safari landholdings, and plundered the wildlife there.
This included the 35% of businesses on the conservancy which belonged to foreign nationals whose countries had signed protection agreements with Zimbabwe.
Recently ZANU PF said it had ordered its officials off the conservancy, citing multiple farm ownership as the reason for their eviction. The officials have however dismissed the order to leave, saying the directive had not been officially communicated to them.
In reference to this, Kasukuwere said they had moved swiftly to deal with the issue of Save Valley Conservancy and details of the implementation process will follow.
Kasukuwere’s reassurances to the western community contradict recent remarks by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa who said Zimbabwe is not obliged to honour the protection agreements it signed with other countries.
Last week the Supreme Court appeared to endorse Chinamasa’s view when it ruled against German investors, the Von Pezold family, whose farm was seized in 2007 despite being covered by the bilateral investment agreement.
Last month villagers invaded the Hippo Valley Estates, which is owned by South African agro-processing group Tongaat Hullet, demanding plots on the plantation.
Some of the invaders, who numbered about 600, had government offer letters promising them land on the Tongaat-owned property.
The South African investment also falls under BIPPA but has been facing land security challenges under the government’s indigenisation policy which has seen Tongaat losing a significant chunk of its land.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya told SW Radio Africa Kasukuwere’s promise to the EU cannot be taken seriously until the government gave back what it had seized or paid adequate compensation.
“Kasukuwere is saying this just a week after army generals who invaded Save Valley have refused, point blank, to leave the conservancy.
“This is just rhetoric as ZANU PF never does what it says it will do. The issue of respecting investment agreements was even discussed with former SA President Thabo Mbeki’s as part of negotiations for Zimbabwe’s unity government, but the ruling party never implemented it.
“There is nothing to convince anyone that private property invasions will stop now as Kasukuwere claims they will,” Ngwenya said.
Ngwenya said lack of respect for private property “has had a devastating effect on the economy” and until ZANU PF corrected this, no foreigner will invest in the country.
“Right now Zimbabwe is the southern African country that is calibrating its foreign direct investment in millions and not billions as others are doing. The government should restore property rights, and return title deeds to those it dispossessed if it is to revive this economy,” Ngwenya added. SW Radio Africa