SA-Zim investment-protection accord to be signed soon

A crucial investment-protection agreement between South Africa and Zimbabwe should be signed by the end of this month, Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti said on Friday.

Speaking during a session of the World Economic Forum on Africa on Friday, Biti explained that the agreement, which was supposed to have been signed in April at Polokwane, failed the last hurdle because of anxieties over the ownership of land taken under Zimbabwe’s land-reform process.

However, he had met South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies on Thursday and there was now “an understanding” on the wording of the clause.

“The principle, basically, that was at play, was what is the application of the [agreement] in respect of land that was acquired in terms of the [Zimbabwe] land-reform programme.

“I think the South Africans were generous to accept that the land reform has happened. But actualising that into a legal phrase was the problem.

“I’m quite sure that that agreement should be signed before the end of June 2009,” Biti said.

The lack of an agreement was blocking capital and leverage.

He said the South African private sector was ready to provide lines of credit worth R2,75-billion to Zimbabwe, but this would not happen without the agreement.

Similarly, companies, including First National Bank and Netcare, would only move in once it was signed, Biti said.

Earlier, Zimbabwe Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara told the same session that Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government was “on a very positive trajectory” and should be given “a fighting chance”.

He said the administration was redefining the role of government to be an enabler and facilitator, leaving the private sector to be the “doers”.

“We must partner with the private sector,” he said.

The government acknowledged it could not provide infrastructure, such as roads, telecommunications and electricity, on its own.

The parastatals that it owned were in a dire state, or under-performing badly.

“We are saying, as a government, we are no longer keen on owning 100% of a rat. It’s better to own 10% of an elephant.

“We are prepared to partner with the private sector in Zimbabwe, partner with the private sector in South Africa, the region, and globally,” he said.—Sapa


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