Lloyd Gumbo Herald Reporter
GOVERNMENT will not acquire more farms that fall under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) until it has compensated the ones already taken for resettlement, parliamentarians heard recently. Appearing before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Lands, Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation, director of Land Acquisition, Valuations and Estate Management in the
Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Mr Marius Dzinoreva said Government was in the process of compensating white former farmers.
Mbire legislator Cde David Butau chairs the committee.
Mr Dzinoreva said Government could acquire properties under BIPPA as long as it could compensate for it.
He was responding to questions from legislators who wanted to know whether Government would acquire underutilised farms that fall under BIPPA.
“There is a Supreme Court ruling regarding BIPPA farms and this one is a ruling that guides us all the way,” said Mr Dzinoreva who was standing in for permanent secretary in the ministry Mrs Sophia Tsvakwi.
“This ruling simply says the Government of Zimbabwe is not precluded from acquiring BIPPA farms. We can actually acquire them for resettlement. But there is a provision that then you must pay compensation.
“I remember the ministry looked at this matter to say how do we move? We appreciate the need for land. We appreciate that some BIPPA farms are there and I think a decision was then taken to say as of now let’s not move in that direction.
“Let’s clear the backlog that we have. We don’t want to create problems for ourselves as a country. We have to clear what we have taken and then when we have done that we can say this farm we now want it too. So the possibility is there.”
Mr Dzinoreva said 197 out of 258 farms measuring 977 000 hectares under BIPPA were acquired for resettlement under both A1 and A2.
He said some former owners of farms that were under BIPPA have taken the Government to the International Court for the Settlement of
International Investment Disputes. It is understood that Government is saddled with a US$25 million debt owed to 40 Dutch farmers.
The farmers successfully sued at the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
“Some farmers took us to court some three years ago and of late a German family has also taken us to court. The permanent secretary (Mrs Sophia Tsvakwi) and the minister (Dr Douglas Mombeshora) were in the US recently defending our situation because they (German family) claimed we had taken their land in Forester in Mashonaland Central and some plantation trees in Border Timbers in Manicaland.
“These are issues regarding BIPPA because the policy is that once you have acquired a farm, pay prompt compensation in the currency of the former owner’s choice.
“Generally, compensating all our former farm owners has been problematic. We are moving slowly paying bits and pieces but the majority of farms acquired still haven’t been compensated,” said Mr Dzinoreva.
Some of the countries covered by BIPPA include Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Malaysia and Switzerland.
The State last year revoked offer letters for 55 A1 farmers allocated pieces of land at Tavydale Farm in Mazowe district. That was after a white farmer at the farm, Mr Peep Mattison destroyed 70 hectares of crops belonging to the same farmers. The farm falls under BIPPA.
Mr Dzinoreva said out of the 15,5 million hectares of large scale commercial farming areas that were previously owned by white commercial farmers, Government acquired 14, 5 million hectares.