Peter Mutharika forced to quit Zimbabwe land trial

By Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times

Malawi  lawyer Professor Peter Mutharika has been forced to resign from a three-member tribunal set up to hear the case  in which groups of foreign investors are contesting alleged seizure of its land by the government of President Robert Mugabe, it has been reported.

The Paris-based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in December last year appointed Mutharika to the three-member arbitration tribunal.

But The Zimbabweanonline news reported on Saturday that Mutharika, jurist of international repute who once taught law at American universities in the United States, has been forced to resign after the investors questioned “whether Mutharika was the right person to arbitrate in the matter, given his indirect links to the Mugabe regime.”

Mutharika: Forced out

Peter Mutharika is younger brother to Malawi’s president Bingu wa Mutharika, a close friend of Mugabe, He is also a nominated presidential candidate of Malawi’s ruling DPP in 2014 elections.

But German investors Bernhard von Pezold and family who sought assistance of 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 Mugabe’s Zanu-PF in June, feel Mutharika will not be fair.

“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, according to  The Zimbabwean.

The news website also reported that 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.

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