Border Timbers invaded by ZANU-PF “settlers”

Zimbabwe’s leading timber producer, Border Timbers, is reportedly struggling to cope with ongoing invasions by groups of “settlers” who are not only destroying the soil but are ignoring bilateral investment protection agreements, intended to protect the German owners.

The police have made no arrests and management is afraid to anger the illegal settlers, who are alleged to be mostly ZANU PF supporters. SW Radio Africa spoke to managing director Doug Dell who denied reports of recent invasions. “We have no idea how that got into the press. There have been no new invasions,” Dell insisted.

But a villager in the Chimanimani area said there are new invaders “nearly every week”. Speaking in Shona he said manager Dell fears for his life and his job, and is trying to maintain good relations with the settlers.

The villager also described how the settlers are planting crops, especially maize, on very steep land in the mountainous terrain. “Unoto rime wakamira, wakatarisa gomo,” (you actually till the land standing up, facing the hill.)

Environmentalists have warned how dangerous this is because the soil washes away when it rains since it is loosened. Soil has been washed away in many parts of Zimbabwe where trees have been cut for firewood, killing any hope of food production for future generations. Once soil has gone, it never comes back.

On their website Border Timbers claim that in all their operations they are guided by an “Environmental Management Policy” that ensures minimal damage to the environment, a practice that is clearly now beyond their ability to enforce.

Border Timbers is owned by the German von Pezold family, who initiated two legal cases against the Zimbabwean government back in 2010, after gangs of ZANU-PF invaded and occupied their land for three weeks.

The armed gangs looted over $1 million worth of crops and the government only ordered them to leave after Germany threatened to withhold aid to Zimbabwe. The two countries signed a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement (BIPPA) which is supposed to protect property owned by German citizens.

Last month two lodges on the Hippo Valley Estates in the Lowveld were illegally invaded by war vets and ZANU PF supporters have occupied council owned buildings in Harare and other urban areas.

The few remaining white commercial farmers are under constant threat and this all characterises the ongoing lawlessness that the coalition government has failed to bring to an end. – SW Radio Africa

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