Zuma jets in for tough talks

bob_matibiliPresident Robert Mugabes continued refusal to respect property rights has heightened tension between Harare and Pretoria and is expected to be on the agenda during South Aafrican President Jacob Zumas two-day visit this week. Zuma will officially open this years Harare Aagricultural Show. (PIctured: Robert Mugabe)

The signing of a bilateral investment agreement. was abandoned at the last minute in March after Mugabe vehemently objected to a clause about guarantees for protection of property rights for South investors. The SA government understandably wants assurances from the Zimbabwe government that its citizens and entrepreneurs who have invested in land and other natural resources to be protected from marauding Zanu (PF) thugs and acquisitive cabinet ministers masquerading as landless peasants.We are scoring own goals, serious own goals, said a frustrated finance minister, Tendai Biti, in reference to the stalled agreement.

The delays are straining relations between the two countries. The South government is trying to help us, but we are refusing to help ourselves.Biti, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirais chief negotiator in the Global Political Aagreement (GPA) with Mugabe brokered by SAs former president, Thabo Mbeki, recently held trade discussions with minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, and minister of trade and industry, Rob Davies, on bilateral issues.

In our discussions, it was evident that the delays (in agreeing to respect land ownership) are affecting our relations. But it is we who are suffering as a country because we are losing out on credit lines and other business and trade opportunities, Biti said. The Zanu (PF) government has a history of disregarding international property rights agreements, resulting in lengthy litigation. Dutch, South and some Zimbabwean commercial farmers have won their cases, but the Zimbabwe government has ignored court rulings to return the land or pay compensation. Eleven Dutch farmers are now threatening further action in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Biti also revealed that Harare was presently negotiating for $50million in lines of credit from South Africa on behalf of its tottering businesses and industries.

It was also pursuing the restoration of a R2.65-billion facility made available to Zimbabwe for 20 years, but discontinued last year because of the political and economic mayhem in the country. apart from bilateral issues, Zuma is expected to hold discussions with Mugabe, Tsvangirai and deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara on outstanding issues threatening the six-month-old coalition government. Tsvangirai recently wrote to Zuma in his capacity as SADC chairman, complaining bitterly about Mugabes continued violations of the GPA.

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