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Government restores land to Border Timbers

Government restores land to Border Timbers


Source: Government restores land to Border Timbers | The Financial Gazette October 5, 2017

Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Douglas Mombeshora

Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Douglas Mombeshora

THE government is evicting more than 60 resettled farmers from an 8 000 hectares piece of land expropriated from Border Timbers Limited (BTL), which it had acquired under the land reform programme.

The land is being returned to BTL, which had dragged government to an international land tribunal over a dispute involving expropriation of its estates in violation of a Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) signed between Zimbabwe and Germany.

In a statement issued last week, Land and Rural Resettlement Minister, Douglas Mombeshora, notified the beneficiaries of government’s intention to remove them from the three BTL plantations.
“Notice is hereby given to the beneficiaries listed below that the acquiring authority intends to withdraw their offer letters. The offer were issued on plantation farms covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement,” read the notice.

It gave the 64 beneficiaries 14 days to show cause why they should not be evicted.
Of those facing eviction are 33 beneficiaries that were occupying 2 205 hectares of Westward Hoo Plantation, nine occupying 1 945 hectares on Cambridge Plantation and 22 occupying 4 695 hectares on Tilbury Plantation.

Since President Robert Mugabe’s government embarked on its controversial land reform programme in 2000, more than 20 000 hectares of BTL’s land had been seized by the State and parcelled out to hundreds of landless blacks.
Thousands of others illegally resettled themselves on the company’s estates.
Most of these squatters have illegally harvested timber and caused veldfires that have destroyed prime forests.

Over the years, government has de-listed some of the land that it compulsorily acquired under pressure from lawsuits as well as from foreign governments with which it has signed BIPPAs.
BTL is majority-owned by Rift Valley Holdings whose main shareholder is Heinrich von Pezold, a German national and former chairman of BTL.

The firm lost, among others, lucrative estates such as Chitaka, Gwindingwi-Skyline, two lodges in the Hippo Valley Estates to illegal settlers and those settled by the government.
Other properties owned by the von Pezold family such as Makandi Tea and Coffee Estate, Border Timbers Estate and Forrester Estate, were also occupied by settlers.

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