Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Mutharika forced to quit Zim land trial

Mutharika forced to quit Zim land trial

Malawian lawyer Peter Mutharika has been forced to resign from the 
arbitration panel in two international court cases in which groups of 
foreign investors are suing the Zimbabwean government for breaches of 
bilateral investment treaties following objections about his impartiality by 
some of the claimants.
by Vusimusi Bhebhe

Mutharika was one of a three-member arbitration tribunal appointed by the 
International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in December last 
year to consider the request by a German family that is contesting the 
seizure of its farms by the Zimbabwean government.

The von Pezold family sought assistance of the Paris-based ICSID in July 
2010 after its three farms –Makandi Tea and Coffee Estate, Border Timbers 
Estate and Forester Estate in Manicaland – were invaded by members of 
President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) in June.

The German investors, however, protested to the ICSID, questioning whether 
Mutharika was the right person to arbitrate in the matter, given his 
indirect links to the Mugabe regime.

Mutharika is the young brother of Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, a 
close ally of Mugabe. The younger Mutharika is the current Malawian 
Education Minister.

“Following the resignation of arbitrator A. Peter Mutharika, the Centre 
notifies the parties of the vacancy on the Tribunal; the proceeding is 
suspended,” the ICSID said.

Mutharika’s resignation has also affected proceedings in another case before 
the ICSID in which Border Timbers is suing the government for damages caused 
by illegal land invaders on the company’s properties.

The same three-member panel was due to arbitrate in both cases. The 
remaining members of the arbitration panel are Canadian lawyer Yves Fortier 
and New Zealand’s David Williams.

In case number ARB/10/15, Bernhard von Pezold and others are suing the 
Government of Zimbabwe for loss of income during the three-week stand-off in 
June last year between the German investors and marauding gangs from Mugabe’s 

The case was registered on the roll of the Paris-based tribunal on 8 July 
2010, a few days after the Harare regime bowed to pressure from the Germany 
embassy to order the illegal land occupiers off the investor’s properties.

The German investors are accusing the Zimbabwean government of failing to 
act against the illegal occupants who claimed they were allocated the 
properties under Mugabe’s controversial land reform programme.

Harare only ordered the armed and alcoholic mob off the farms after the 
Germany government threatened to withhold aid to Zimbabwe.

The illegal land occupiers are believed to have looted maize and other crops 
valued at more than $1 million since moving onto the farms on June 18.

The properties are covered by a bilateral investment promotion and 
protection agreement (BIPPA) between Zimbabwe and Germany in 1995 but which 
came into force in 2000.

The agreement precludes any farms owned by Germans from expropriation under 
Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform programme.


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