Treaty to protect SA investors in Zimbabwe

A BILATERAL investment treaty signed recently between South Africa and Zimbabwe will protect future investors where expropriation and compensation are involved, a law firm said on Wednesday.

"The treaty offers South Africans with investments in Zimbabwe the best protection yet," Werksmans Attorneys director Roger Wakefield said.

"There is no doubt that this provision gives SA investors much more clout to protect their assets in Zimbabwe."

The treaty protected investors affected by expropriation after November 27, 2009, the date on which the agreement was signed.

"Though it does not assist South Africans who have lost investments in Zimbabwe, the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement does at least provide protection (in future)."

According to the treaty investments may not be nationalised or expropriated, except for public purposes, under due process of the law, on a non-discriminatory basis and for prompt, adequate and effective compensation.

"Secondly, any investor affected by expropriation will have the right to state their case in a court of law or other independent and impartial forum."

It also gives investors the right to settle disputes with the government of the host country by turning to the Washington-based International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

On Friday the Johannesburg high court ordered the SA government to compensate Free State farmer Crawford von Abo for property seized from him in Zimbabwe.

Local authorities had failed to provide diplomatic protection when Mugabe's government seized 11 of Von Abo's farms in Zimbabwe.

Tthough damages had yet to be calculated, they could amount to R500million. Von Abo, who began farming in Zimbabwe 50 years ago, was arrested for "trespassing" on his farm in 1997.

He spent time in a Zimbabwean jail as ruling party Zanu-PF cracked down on white farmers and expropriated their land. - Sapa