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Border, government dispute rages on

Ngoni Chanakira

THE tiff between Border Timbers Ltd (Border) and government over acquisition of its 20 000 hectares for the controversial fast track land resettlement programme seems to be raging on.

Government however remains tight-lipped on the issue despite written requests.

The land reform programme has riled the international community, especially Australia, the European Union and the United States of America – the world’s most powerful groupings – who allege it was done haphazardly, is inconsistent and benefited a few government cronies.

However President Robert Mugabe and his government insist the land programme is fair and has benefited thousands of landless peasants.

Last year the Minister of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Joseph Made listed 20 000 hectares of Border land for resettlement.

Border, with a market capitalisation of $21,5 billion on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, is a subsidiary of Radar Holdings Ltd previously led by controversial business tycoon Chris Schofield.

Border managing director John Gahadzikwa in his statement accompanying his June 30 2002 financial results told shareholders that several shacks had been erected on the company’s land in areas that had been harvested mainly in the Chimanimani Estates.

Gahadzikwa insisted that all incidents were reported to the police, who merely recorded them, but “then did nothing further”.

Border handed the matter over to its lawyers who immediately made objections and appeals to the Administrative Court of Zimbabwe.

Subsequent to year 2002, the Attorney General’s Office withdrew all Section 7 orders to which the objections had been lodged in the administrative court, conceding that the properties were protected by the German-Zimbabwean Investment Protection Agreement.

Germany is Zimbabwe’s fifth largest trading partner but relations have soured since the land acquisitions began in earnest two years ago.

“Your company now awaits official notification from the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement delisting all Border properties that were originally listed for designation for purposes of resettlement,” Gahadzikwa said.

“In the meantime, your company will employ all avenues open to it to restore full and unrestricted ownership. The estates that have been invaded by settlers are Tilbury and Charter, while the areas that have been listed comprise the majority of Charter, Tilbury, Sheba, Imbeza and Sawerombe.”

Company chairman Phillip Chipudhla in his report for the year ended June 30 2002 said for the past three years people in all sectors of society had been saying the situation in Zimbabwe could not continue for long.

He said: “The deterioration in the economy in general continues, and the prospects for individuals and companies look more and more terminal,” he said.

“We, in the business circles, can only continue to highlight shortcomings in the system and advise the country’s leadership on how we think the economy needs to be managed – with the hope that someone will take heed of our advice. The future of your land at the estates remains unclear notwithstanding that the relevant authorities have, repeatedly, stated in public, that forest land and plantations, among other agro-industries, will not be affected by land designations.”

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