JOHANNESBURG South Africas main opposition party, the Democratic Alliances (DA) is concerned that a bilateral trade agreement with Zimbabwe continues to be violated.
A DA representative, Industry and trade shadow minister, Kobus Marais, said the ANC government had failed to safeguard South African interests in the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) signed with Zimbabwe last year.
The DA had again last month raised similar concerns and called for amendments to BIPPA after President Robert Mugabes supporters invaded two farms belonging to South African-born farmer, Ian Furguson.
Marais said last week in South Africa Parliament: The worst of both worlds appears to prevail in the BIPPA in its current form. It offers South African investors an apparent semblance of protection, while actually leaving them cruelly exposed to the whims of Zimbabwes octogenarian ruler and his partys undemocratic policies.
Among a number of concerns raised by the DA with regards to the BIPPA is Article 11, which defines the scope of the treaty.
Marais said that no protection in terms of the agreement would be offered to South African investments expropriated up until the treaty has been ratified.
The Deputy Director General of the Department of Trade and Industry informed the portfolio committee that this was a precondition for Zimbabwes signing of the agreement. If the Zimbabwean government, notorious for its devastating policy of land expropriation, has failed to act in the spirit of the agreement up until this point, it is unclear how the South African government feels it can offer its citizens any assurance that the Zimbabwean government will respect the provisions of this treaty and that South Africans rights to future investments will be protected, added the DA MP.
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. Such conduct sets a dangerous precedent.
Secondly, 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.
The DA also challenged Rob Davies, South Africas Minister of Trade and Industry, to explain why the ANC government pandered to the demands of President Robert Mugabes government in signing an essentially toothless piece of legislation and, in so doing, placed the interests of his countrys own investors at risk.
What makes this decision all the more confounding is that our neighbour Zimbabwe is so directly reliant on South African direct investment, yet we seem to meekly accept such apparently prejudicial trade terms.
The lack of consultation and robust debate which has characterised the passage of the BIPPA through government is of grave concern. Parliament must be empowered to fulfil its constitutionally mandated role of oversight of the executive,- not be undermined by the (SA President Jacob) Zuma administrations attempts to use it merely as a legislative rubber-stamp for furthering its own political agenda.Post published in: Uncategorized