SA-Zim deal 'bad for farmers'

2009-11-25 21:04
Pretoria - A bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement between South Africa and Zimbabwe is unconstitutional and will be challenged in court, AfriForum said on Wednesday.

"It excludes people [farmers] historically deprived of property as a result of a compulsory acquisition, of land expropriation," the organisation's legal representative Willie Spies told a press briefing in Pretoria.

He said the signing of the agreement, scheduled for Friday, would be challenged in the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday.

"The agreement contains a so-called exclusion clause. It's discrimination, it's unlawful."

Improper consultation

AgriSA president Johannes Moller said the agreement would not take into account historical ownership of land or agricultural investment up to the date of its signing. Only future investment would be protected, he said.

"It's unacceptable, the state of current investments will not be protected under this agreement."

Moller said AgriSA was not against an investment deal, but said there had not been proper consultation about it.

Deon Theron from Zimbabwe's Commercial Farmers Union said it was a "huge mistake" to sign the agreement.

"This agreement cannot be signed because it has flaws, serious flaws."

Louis Fick, also from the CFU, said farmers in the neighbouring country had for about eight years asked for government's involvement.

"Unfortunately we never got that support from the [South African] embassy."

Farmer could be imprisoned

Fick is also facing possible imprisonment in Zimbabwe after he refused to leave his farm.

Spies said if the agreement was signed, it would leave no legal protection for Fick as it would safeguard him against his rights of ownership.

Earlier during the AgriSA conference with frustrated farmers who had lost their farms or faced that possibility, one farmer said he felt betrayed by the Zimbabwean government.

'Betrayed by SA govt'

"We were asked [by President Robert Mugabe] to please stay. For 20 to 30 years government was happy to take our taxes. We didn't change, the government changed.

"It's 30 years after Robert Mugabe's words. We believe there must be compensation. Your pension was your farm.

"I feel genuinely betrayed and I also feel the same about the South African government," the elderly farmer said.

Bennie Fourie, a Zimbabwean national who also lost his farm to expropriation, said: "I've farmed for 24 years, it's total discrimination.

"I am a white Zimbabwean farmer with three generations of workers on the farm. They've suffered just like me," said Fourie.
 

- SAPA
Read more on:    afriforum  |  agri sa  |  zimbabwe
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