Zim, Malaysia fight over banana farm

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The Matanuska-Chimonyo banana row has taken a complex political twist that has sparked a potentially explosive diplomatic tiff between Malaysia and Zimbabwe.

NewsDay discovered yesterday that Vice-President John Nkomo had assured the Malaysian investors, Rainbow Century SDN BHD, shareholders in Matanuska that he would use his office to ensure they regain control of the banana plantation, occupied by Edzai Chimonyo, a retired major general.

Chimonyo is also Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Tanzania.

Nkomo met the investors after they wrote a strongly-worded letter complaining about the invasion of Fangundu Farm, south east of Mutare over the festive season by Chimonyo.

The letter, addressed to the Malaysian Embassy in Harare was copied to top Zimbabwean government officials including Nkomo, Joice Mujuru, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his deputy Arthur Mutambara, Chief Secretary of Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda and several cabinet ministers.

The directors of Rainbow Century complained the Zimbabwean government had failed to protect their investment, which falls under a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa).

This week senior diplomats from the Malaysian embassy in Zimbabwe accompanied a delegation from Rainbow Century to Nkomo’s offices where they reportedly had a no-holds barred meeting.

A senior diplomat from the embassy Mohamad Nizan Mohamad, told journalists that Nkomo promised to take the matter to President Robert Mugabe.

“The issue of our existing investments and how they have been affected was raised and the response was positive and encouraging,” Mohamad said after the meeting with Nkomo.

“We were assured by the Vice President that our matter would be taken to the President.”

The meeting with Nkomo was prompted by the letter from Rainbow Century.

“We made our initial investments in Zimbabwe at a time the country was actively soliciting investment from Asia under its Look East mantra.

“Our confidence was under-pinned by the signed and ratified Bilateral Investment Promotional and Protection Agreement (Bippa) between the Governments of Zimbabwe (represented by His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe – RG Mugabe) and the government of Malaysia (represented by our then Minister of International Trade and Industry, Rafidah Aziz) as well as on the basis of the mutually supportive relations that exist between the two countries,” said Hamid Ghows, the company’s director, in the letter.

Ghow said despite all this, they have spent six years defending their rights to title from “a few individuals who have repeatedly sought to undermine both the spirit as well and the letter of the Malaysian/Zimbabwe Bippa.