PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has promised to compensate displaced white commercial farmers by September this year.
The move, which is aimed at facilitating the country’s international re-engagement efforts and boost investor confidence, will see the new administration coughing up close to $9 billion for the misdeeds of former president Robert Mugabe’s regime.
Mugabe’s government dispossessed at least 4 000 white farmers under his controversial land reforms programme that was aimed at distributing farms to “landless blacks”, but led to a massive slump in agricultural production. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said government is working on a cocktail of measures to compensate the commercial farmers in the next four months.
“The new dispensation has taken the decision to finalise, by September 2018, compensation to all former farmers affected by the land reform programme, in accordance with the country’s Constitution,” he told investors at the World Bank spring meetings in Washington recently.
Early this year government said it was conducting valuations to come up with the total bill, although they are indications that the tab — to pay most of the white farmers who left Zimbabwe for Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa and Nigeria — could come up to $9 billion.
Chinamasa said given the southern African country’s fragile economy, which is currently battling cash shortages, high import bill, power and electricity shortages, and high production costs among other challenges, it had no capacity to fully compensate the farmers from its own meagre coffers.
“Cognisant of the reality that a large number of farmers are still to be compensated, given the limited annual budget capacity, government continues to engage bilateral partners over assistance to mobilise the requisite resources in order to finalise the compensation process,” he said.
In March, Commercial Farmers Union director Ben Giplin said Britain — Zimbabwe’s coloniser for 90 years — could not afford to ignore paying compensation to farmers in line with the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement.
“The Lancaster House Agreement seems to be short on details and that has always been an issue,” he said.
“Britain cannot simply ignore any responsibility, but how they will deal with this is up to the re-engagement process (between Harare and London). We will do our best to assist in this process.
“Zimbabwe will need international assistance in the broadest possible way to ensure the country recovers from the economic difficulties it has been going through. We sincerely believe that compensation can be a part of that process and in this regard are aware of a willingness of international partners, including Britain, to be involved,” Giplin added.
Government will pay compensation according to Section 295 of the Constitution, which reads: “(1) Any indigenous Zimbabwean whose agricultural land was acquired by the State . . . is entitled to compensation from the State for the land and any improvements that were made on the land when it was acquired.
“(2) Any person whose agricultural land was acquired by the State . . . and whose property rights at that time were guaranteed or protected by an agreement concluded by the Government of Zimbabwe with the government of another country, is entitled to compensation from the State for the land and any improvements in accordance with that agreement.
“(3) Any person, other than a person referred to in subsection (1) or (2), whose agricultural land was acquired by the State . . . is entitled to compensation from the State only for improvements that were on the land when it was acquired.
“(4) Compensation payable under subsections (1), (2) and (3) must be assessed and paid in terms of an Act of Parliament.”