AfriForum Seeks Action On Land Grabs

According to Business Day, a letter from Afriforum’s lawyers to the Department of Trade and Industry demanded the urgent intervention of the government to protect the lives and property of South African citizens in that country.

Just last month, Zimbabwe ratified the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with SA, which it claimed gave prospective investors confidence that their investments would be secure, and “removed fears of possible nationalisation or any such effects that may harm them”.

But the latest violence, and land grabs involving Zimbabwean and South African farmers, had dampened hopes that the agreement would make Zimbabwe a more attractive investment destination .

Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, reminded Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies that the agreement was formalised through a court order by the North Gauteng High Court in November last year , in which the government undertook to maintain the rights and legal remedies of victims of Zimbabwe’s illegal land expropriation programme.

“The state has not taken any steps to assist citizens, even after it had come to light that South Africans are now subject to a renewed onslaught,” Mr Kriel said.

The department was not available for comment.

However, in November last year Davies said the aim of the agreement was to provide security for any South African investor in any sector, including agriculture.

SA had secured a deal with South African farmer unions opposed to a treaty that excluded land investments. The farmers had sought a court order blocking the signing of the pact.

However, Davies had assured them that although the agreement did not include farms seized from South African citizens under land reforms, “there will be recourse to a whole range of mechanisms in the event of a dispute” in the future.

According to Kriel, the home of Mike Odendaal on the farm Wolwedraai at Chipinge had been vandalised and his employees had been driven from the farm.

Farm workers were also intimidated and cattle moved at the farm of Mr P Hapelt in Grasslands at Somabhula, which has been taken over by invaders.

Zimbabwe’s Commercial Farmers Union said it was gravely concerned about the continued failure of Zimbabwe’s police to render appropriate assistance and protect farmers from invaders, in spite of high court orders in favour of farmers remaining in occupation.

This suggested there was complicity by security authorities when they were supposed to protect farmers against illegal invasion, the union said.

“This is happening in Zimbabwe at a time when all eyes are focused on southern Africa for the Soccer World Cup ,” the union noted.

Neither farmers in Zimbabwe nor the office of the Commercial Farmers Union had received any support from police stations in affected areas when people took “the law into their own hands to evict farmers without due process”.

“This will further erode both local and foreign investor confidence and jeopardise economic recovery,” the union said. Business Day