ANC accused of failing SA investors

Cape Town --- South Africa s opposition Democratic Alliance party last Thursday accused the ruling ANC party of failure to ensure that the recently signed Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) offered sufficient protection to South African investments in Zimbabwe.

DA shadow Minister of Trade and Industry Kobus Marais said in a statement to Parliament that the trade pact has done little to improve the situation for South Africa investors who include farmers who have had farms seized under President Robert Mugabes controversial land reform programme.

Marais said: (The BIPPA) in its current form offers South African investors an apparent semblance of protection, while actually leaving them cruelly exposed to the whims of Zimbabwe’s octogenarian ruler and his party’s undemocratic policies.

The opposition politician accused the ANC of rushing to sign the BIPPA without consulting all stakeholders in South Africa which he said had led to a weak agreement that does not give South African investors the protection they require.

The lack of consultation and robust debate which has characterized the passage of the BIPPA through government is of grave concern. Parliament must be empowered to fulfill its constitutionally mandated role of oversight of the executive – not be undermined by the Zuma administration’s attempts to use it merely as a legislative “rubber-stamp” for furthering its own political agenda, he said.

The BIPA signed by Zimbabwe and South Africa last November provides protection only to investments made after its signing excluding farms and other property that South African investors may have lost to the Harare government before the trade pact came into existence.

Marais said what made the BIPPA less effective was a provision in the agreement for South African investors who lose property to the Harare government to seek help from international bodies but which the Zimbabwean authorities have disobeyed in the past.

He said, should South African investments in Zimbabwe be expropriated, the BIPPA makes provision for investors to use international channels, such as the International Court of Justice, to defend their interests.

This is problematic for two reasons. Firstly, the Zimbabwean government has failed to respect a SADC tribunal ruling concerning the rights of Zimbabwean farmers whose land was subject to government expropriation.

The South African government should have ensured that the BIPPA offered guaranteed protection to its citizens- and did not leave them exposed to the whims of a government which has shown little regard for the rights of its own citizens, or the rulings of international bodies.

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