Protests over German-owned farm seizure

zim_farmerHARARE Germany's government said last week that it would cut off aid to Zimbabwe unless illegal and violent occupiers were removed from a farm owned by a German national.

A protest note to the Zimbabwe foreign ministry stated that the occupation of the eastern Zimbabwe property owned by German investor Heinrich von Pezold violated a decade-old investment agreement between the two countries.

Germany said the farm seizure and looting on the property could imperil aid. Last year, Germany gave US$50 million to the southern African country.

The note said Germany “will not be in a position to support a government which tolerates the blunt theft” of the land where houses, equipment and US$120,000 worth of corn, the staple food, had been looted.

An armed and alcohol-drinking mob stormed the estate June 18 and held two farm managers hostage in their homes, the note issued by the German Embassy said.

Police arrived later but “did not endeavour to end the hostage taking. Property rights should be dealt with in court and not by applying raw violence,” it said.

The German government called on authorities to end the occupation, and noted that the situation had created large financial losses in food crops, timber and tea and coffee operations for von Pezold, the largest German investor in Zimbabwe.

Ripened coffee worth US$500,000 was rotting on the bushes, the note said.

Germany’s government also said the occupation violated international law and demonstrated a lack of commitment from senior Zimbabwean officials to honour investment agreements.

In Berlin, the German foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday the European nation ceased giving development aid to Zimbabwe in 2002, but continued to provide humanitarian aid through non-government and civil society organizations.

Humanitarian charities in Zimbabwe say their foreign aid goes toward food supplies to the needy and improving health, education and other government services that collapsed in the country’s economic meltdown in years of political and economic turmoil.

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