via ‘Further land grabs could dampen investor sentiment’ – DailyNews Live 17 August 2015 by Ndakaziva Majaka
HARARE – Government last week announced it was going to repossess land owned by wines and spirits maker African Distillers (Afdis) and 22 other white-owned farms, a move analysts have condemned as ill-informed and likely to affect investment.
Economists who spoke to the businessdaily yesterday said the move was also a contradiction of President Robert Mugabe’s recent claims that the country was going to respect property rights.
“This move is very unfortunate and goes on to show that as a country we are still very far from respecting property rights and investor sentiment.
“No one is going to want to come and have their properties yanked from them in the way that was announced. It does not even make sense at all, blatantly, it is an indication of the lack of regard government has for the rule of law,” said Harare-based independent economist, John Robertson.
He also said government just had to put it in black and white that foreigners are not to own properties in the country unlike “ambushing people randomly”.
Another economist, Issis Mwale, said the announcement by government to seize the white-owned commercial farms in a confiscation drive was “typical Zanu PF”
“Look here; there really is nothing new here. The President says one thing and the complete opposite happens, we all know this is how the country functions.
“But with the current wave of job losses and economic meltdown, we need investment desperately. This decision is just very ill-informed and will repel investment, which is sad because the investment figures were starting to look good,” she said.
According to the latest United National Conference on Trade and Development United Nations (UNCTAD) report, Foreign Direct Investment into the country surged 36 percent to $545 million in 2014 from $400 million registered in 2013, statistics analysts have warned will diminish if the land grabs are implemented.
Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora in the announcement last week listed the identities of the farms earmarked for seizure.
“It is hereby notified that the minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement acquires for and on behalf of the State, the land identified and described in the schedule for purposes of agriculture settlement under Section 72 (2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” the notice said.
“Further take notice that the ownership of the acquired land with full title therein vested in the State is with effect from the date of publication of this notice in the Government Gazette,” the announcement read.
According to officials close to the development, the land seizure deadline would allow new black owners enough time to prepare and plant for the new crop season, which should start in October, amid indications that white farmers defying the order to leave their land face up to two years in jail.
Last year, government acquired 29 000 hectares of sugar cane plantations in the Lowveld from South Africa-based Tongaat Hulett.
In 2012, Mugabe’s government, through the Mines ministry, ordered the repossession of the land belonging to Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats)’s Zimbabwean unit Zimplats, a move it said was part of efforts to maximise benefits from the country’s mineral resources.
Interfresh Holdings, which has since delisted from the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, also had a taste of Mugabe’s antics as its operations were left under threat by the continued seizure of land at its Mazoe Citrus Estate (MCE) by Mugabe’s wife, Grace who helped herself to 1 600 hectares of land representing about 46 percent of the total arable land at the Estates.
A move that forced the company to write off about $6 million in immovable assets (biological and property as well as plant and equipment) related to MCE.
In its 2013 annual report, the company also said the First Lady’s actions had resulted in the breakdown of negotiations with partners aimed at helping recapitalise the group.