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Africa

Zimbabwe stops farm acquisitions

Zimbabwean government to stop acquiring farms under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) as it fears more lawsuits from foreign farmers.

Zimbabwe's Lands, Land Reforms and Resettlement Minister Herbert Murerwa announced that the country will stop acquiring farms under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA). The Lands, Land Reforms minister's decision came as a result of court lawsuits from foreign farm owners.

Zimbabwe had signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with several countries including Germany, Malaysia, and Switzerland. BIPPA stipulates that for every piece of land the government seizes, it must pay compensation to the satisfaction of the farmer.

Zimbabwean debts

Failing to meet the agreement led 40 Dutch farmers to sue the Zimbabwean government at the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes at a fee of 19 million euros (US$25 million).

Minister Murerwa told DW that his "government has taken the decision not to settle persons on farms covered by BIPPA for now.” But how the government intends to settle its debts with the Dutch farmers is yet unknown.

Black farmers in Zimbabwe find maintaining newly acclaimed farm lands difficult. Foto: Columbus S. Mavhunga, DW, Januar 2012 Titel: Farm workers Zimbabwe Mgutu Farm Aufnahmeort: Mgutu Farm, Mazowe, Simbabwe

Black farmers in Zimbabwe find maintaining newly acclaimed farm lands difficult.

Further litigation threats

More white farmers are threatening to file lawsuits if Harare does not change its land reforms program. Robert Mugabe's government is facing further litigations from white farmers whose lands were seized and not properly compensated.

A German farmer, Heinrich von Pezold, has a pending case against the government at the Washington DC based investment dispute court after Harare interrupted operations at his farm. It remains unclear however, whether this new move will be convincing enough to make von Pezold to withdraw his case.

No surprises

Pedzisai Ruhanya is a media and democracy doctorate student at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom. He says it is only a matter of time before Zimbabwean government gives in to international pressure and abolishes its controversial land reforms program. Harare "needs to have talks and negotiations with the international community, the European Union, and even with Washington," he said.

Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy took a plunge in early 2,000 when President Robert Mugabe's government embarked on a chaotic and violent land reform exercise targeting white commercial farmers.

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