German investor in Zimbabwe vows to press case against land seizure

A German investor who has taken the Zimbabwe government to the Paris-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) after Harare seized his properties under its reform programme is vowing to stay put until the case is settled.\r\n

In an interview at one of his properties north of Harare, Heinrich von Pezold, 58, said he went to the ICSID after Harare refused to deal with his complaints.

He said that his three investments are covered by a bilateral investment protection treaty that Berlin and Harare signed in 1995.

"A lot of damage has been caused on my assets by settlers on my properties," he said. "Over the years I have tried to engage the government of Zimbabwe."

Von Pezold called Zimbabwe "a place to do productive investment, which is why we continue to invest here."

He hopes for a chance to meet the government and find a solution under the bilateral investment protection accord.

"But for now we want the arbitration centre to settle this matter," von Pezold said, declining to disclose how much compensation he was claiming.

Zimbabwe Attorney General Johannes Tomana confirmed that Harare was being summoned by the ICSID. "We have received the papers and we are looking at them," he said.

Von Pezold, one of the few white commercial farmers left in Zimbabwe, said he was confident that one day Zimbabwe will honour its international obligations. He vowed that he will not leave his investments until justice has prevailed.

"We have no dispute with Zimbabwe. We have dispute with some policies. Many countries go through times of difficulty," he said, and added he believed Zimbabwe’s current problems will be resolved.

But it was important for investors stand up for their rights, von Pezold said.

"Only if people have faith in the future will they risk their savings to build a future Zimbabwe," he said, while gazing out at his tobacco fields.

Von Pezold has three estates in Zimbabwe, which he said he bought in 1988 from a commercial farmer. "I have invested millions of dollars in Zimbabwe and just can’t let that investment go," he said.

Von Pezold last year was the focus of controversy between Berlin and Harare, after he refused to vacate his seized coffee plantation which the government wanted to confiscate for resettlement.

The German embassy in Zimbabwe protested to Zimbabwe’s Foreign Ministry to help cool the dispute down.  -Sapa-dpa