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Zimbabwe halts farm grabs

Jan 03 2013 14:30 Sapa-AFP

Farm (Shuttertstock)

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Harare - Zimbabwe has ceased grabbing foreign-owned farms protected by bilateral investment agreement after a group of 40 Dutch farmers won a lawsuit for the loss of their properties, the lands minister said on Thursday.

Herbert Murerwa said government has decided to steer clear of farms falling under the so-called Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA), because previous ventures into those farmlands have proved costly.

"All farms under BIPPA will not be acquired under the land reform programme. That's the position we have taken for now," the minister told AFP.

"This is in view of the ongoing litigation in the ICSID (International Court for the Settlement of Investment Disputes)."

The tribunal, which is a branch of the World Bank, in 2009 ruled in favour of the Dutch farmers who had sought compensation for land expropriated by Zimbabwe.

It ordered the government to pay the farmers €8.8m ($11.5m) in compensation and slapped on a 10% interest for every six months from the date the farms were seized until full payment of the amounts.

Murerwa said the government owed the farmers $25m following their victory at the Washington-based tribunal.

The farms were covered under a deal compelling Zimbabwe to protect investments from countries that penned the pact.

"Government will abide by the provision of the agreements and at the same time we do not want to increase our liability," Murerwa said.

Countries covered by the investment protection agreement include Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Malaysia and Switzerland.

President Robert Mugabe launched a controversial land reform programme in 2000 which saw the often-times violent seizure of more than 3 000 white-owned farms by militant supporters of his Zanu-PF party.

It was argued the land reforms were needed to correct colonial-era imbalances which favoured white farmers.

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zimbabwe  |  land grabs  |  farms
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