Zim Sanctions: Know More About ZIDERA Act

ZIDERA (Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act) was first enacted in 2001, after violent land takeovers and elections in Zimbabwe, as well as the country’s involvement in the DRC war.

The law has now been amended to reflect updated demands for free elections, but broadly still retains its key requirements. ZIDERA makes several demands, many of which are targeted at democratic and economic reforms.

In summary, the law demanded that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission be replaced by a new commission chosen by all parties in Parliament, that the military play no role in election campaigns, equal access to State media for all participating parties, and that ZEC release both the provisional and the final voters’ rolls ahead of the poll.

ZIDERA also demanded that the Zimbabwe Government apologise for the Gukurahundi atrocities, that Zimbabwe invites international observers for the polls, and that there be economic reforms, key being on the currency and changes at central bank.
Marchers Enjoy Free Lunch in Harare 

A lot of these demands resonate broadly with many in Zimbabwe, who live under the weight of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s economic mismanagement and political repression.

All about the land?
While much of the demands under ZIDERA, such as democratic and economic reforms, easily fit with the demands of many ordinary Zimbabweans, at the core of the law is a more controversial issue – land reform.

After meeting President Emmerson Mnangagwa, new US ambassador Brian Nichols mentioned “land tenure” as one of the areas on which the Americans want to change. Land has been at the base of the law since 2001.

A central demand of the updated ZIDERA is that Zimbabwe must enforce the rulings of the SADC tribunal on land reform.

Some background on that ruling is needed. In 2007, a group of white farmers represented by Mike Campbell and Ben Freeth, approached the regional court to appeal against their eviction under the fast-track land reform programme.

They went to the region because Zimbabwean courts, after a controversial purge of dissenting judges, had ruled the land reform exercise legal.

The SADC tribunal made several important rulings in favour of the white farmers, which the US senators behind the new amended ZIDERA now want enforced as a precondition for re-engagement with the US.

According to the 2018 amended ZIDERA: “It is the sense of Congress that the Government of 25 Zimbabwe and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should enforce the SADC tribunal rulings from 2007 to 2010, including 18 disputes involving employment, commercial, and human rights cases surrounding dispossessed Zimbabwean commercial farmers and agricultural companies.”

What are these rulings?
Most crucially, the tribunal ruled that white farmers be compensated for the land lost.

However, Zimbabwe made sure its Constitution, under Section 295, only allowed compensation to “indigenous Zimbabweans” and those under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs).

White farmers are only “entitled to compensation from the State only for improvements that were on the land when it was acquired”.

Enforcing the SADC tribunal ruling, as demanded by ZIDERA, would mean Zimbabwe paying for the land itself. According to farmers’ unions, they estimate their compensation bill at as high as $30 billion for the land and assets on the land.

Instead, the Zimbabwean Government has promised only to compensate for farm improvements, for which farmers have previously tabled a $9 billion bill.

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