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Zimbabwe Halts Some Farm Seizures After $600 Million Lawsuit

Zimbabwe has stopped seizing farms protected by foreign investment accords, said the minister of land reform, Herbert Murerwa.

A German commercial farmer is suing the government for $600 million in compensation for his eviction under President Robert Mugabe’s land-seizure program, while Dutch farmers have lodged a case at the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

The Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement that Zimbabwe signed with countries such as Belgium, Botswana, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, and South Africa stipulate that compensation must be paid for any assets seized.

“It’s a position we have taken for now that all farms under BIPPA agreements will not be acquired under the land reform program,” Murerwa said today by phone from the capital, Harare. People will “not be settled on those farms that are under BIPPA agreements. We will respect the agreements we have.”

Several white farmers have sought the return of their properties in court since Mugabe’s administration began seizing commercial farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans in 2000. The campaign forced more than 3,000 farmers off their land and displaced 1 million workers and their dependents, according to a 2008 estimate by the United Nations Development Programme.

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