Germany threatens to cut off aid to Zimbabwe over attempts to seize German-owned farm

By Angus Shaw, AP
Friday, July 2, 2010

Protests at seizure of German-owned Zimbabwe farm

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Germany’s government said Friday it will cut off aid to Zimbabwe unless illegal and violent occupiers are removed from a farm owned by a German national.

In a Friday protest note to the Zimbabwe foreign ministry, Germany noted the occupation of the eastern Zimbabwe property owned by German investor Heinrich von Pezold violates 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 $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 $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 endeavor 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 $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 honor investment agreements.

Farmers’ organizations also protested the arrest Thursday of South African national Mike Odendaal for allegedly not vacating his farm in southeastern Zimbabwe under an eviction notice.

Odendaal was released by police and was leaving his land at Chipinge, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Harare, on Friday, headed for South Africa.

On June 26, he had won a High Court ruling that struck down the eviction, allowed him to stay on the farm and ordered authorities to remove illegal occupiers.

Deon Theron, head of the Commercial Farmers Union in Zimbabwe, said Odendaal had “had enough” after months of threats and legal wrangling.

“This again shows a total disrespect for the law,” Theron told The Associated Press.

The South African support group AfriForum said South African officials in Zimbabwe and in South Africa ignored pleas from Odendaal and other South Africans forced from land protected by bilateral trade and investment deals.

“It leaves a bitter taste in the mouth when one sees that the South African government turns its back on its own citizens who are subject to human rights violations in Zimbabwe,” the group said in a statement.

Often violent land seizures began in 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy. Some 300 white farmers remain on their land and more than half of them are facing eviction orders.

About 4,000 have been forced from their farms since 2000 under a program President Robert Mugabe insisted was to correct colonial era imbalances in land ownership. Many prime farms were allocated to Mugabe cronies and still lie idle.

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