MUTARE, March 10 (The Source) – Border Timbers Limited (BTL) has dragged government to an international land tribunal over a dispute involving several of its estates that were invaded by illegal settlers, an official has said.
BTL lost its lucrative estates such as Chitaka, Gwindingwi-Skyline, two lodges in the Hippo Valley Estates among others to illegal settlers and accuses government of being complicit in the matter.
Its owners have since mounted a legal case against government for breaching the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) signed between Zimbabwe and Germany meant to protect business properties of German citizens.
BTL is owned by Rift Valley Holdings whose main shareholder is Heinrich von Pezold, a German national and a former chairman of Border Timbers.
The bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement (BIPPA) between Zimbabwe and Germany was signed in 1995 but came into force in 2000.
“Border Timbers has taken its case against the Zimbabwean government to the international court, which involves the illegal invasion of its estates several years ago. The case is now under the land tribunal,” said Chipinge district administrator Edgar Seenza.
“BTL feels that the government has failed to intervene with haste to rescue its estates. The timber firms also argues that by doing so the government has breached BIPPA signed between Germany and Zimbabwe. The agreements give protection to properties of German investors here, which was not the case with BTL,” he added without giving details.
Other properties owned by the von Pezold family – Makandi Tea and Coffee Estate, Border Timbers Estate and Forester Estate were also occupied by settlers.
Land minister, Douglas Mombeshora said he was “busy” to respond to questions.
Zimbabwe signed BIPPAs with several countries including Germany, Malaysia, and Switzerland. BIPPA stipulates that for every piece of land the government seizes, it must pay compensation to the satisfaction of the farmer.
But in a similar case involving a farm in Mvurwi owned by a German family and covered under the BIPPA, the Supreme Court last June ruled that government had the right to acquire such land without compensation.