Zimbabwe: President Mnangagwa Wooing Industrial West with Return of Seized Land to White Farmers
Zimbabweans, including war veterans have accused President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government of reversing the Land Reform Programme enacted under late President Robert Mugabe, by pledging to compensate white farmers.
On Monday, August 31, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube announced that the government was returning land to foreign White farmers through the Global Compensation Deed. Under this arrangement only farms protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) and owned by nationals of the US, UK, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, and South Africa will be compensated.
In July, the government said they would need USD3.5 billion to compensate White former farmers for improvements they made on the land. Around the year 2000 Zimbabwe embarked on an infamous land grab programme in which over 400,000 landless blacks got pieces of land.
However, the land redistribution process, though noble was marred by violence and chaos. The late President Mugabe had keeled over to pressure by war veterans to give them land and went on a violent spree which became infamous for the killing of innocent people and inhuman treatment of the White Farmers.
When Emmerson Mnangagwa took over in 2017, he promised to resolve the matter amicably: “My government is committed to compensating those farmers from whom land was taken, in terms of the laws of the land. As we go into the future, complex issues of land tenure will have to be addressed both urgently and definitely, in order to ensure finality and closure”.
But Zimbabweans, mostly former freedom fighters are bitter with some already threatening to seek redress in law courts. The War veterans pressure group through their lawyers, Kanoti and partners said if this is not reversed, they would go to the High Court to force the government to renege on the agreement.
“We demand that within 48hrs there should be a response to us and a public statement admitting that the recent compensation claim agreement was discriminatory," the War Veterans said in a letter addressed to the Lands and Finance ministers.
The group said they were ‘shocked” the government had acted in the manner it did.
“This agreement is a sellout understanding,” they fumed.
However, government has said the agreement was not a reversal of the Land Reform Programme. Responding to questions on a public social media platform, the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi said the move was in line with constitutional dictates.
He said contrary to the widespread belief that it was only White farmers, Ziyambi said there were some black Zimbabweans who bought farms, and these were acquired by government without full compensation.
“These are not covered by the global compensation agreement. These are the ones if it is possible to give them back the farms. Then we also have those who had farms under bilateral agreements they are treated as if they are black farmers. Then we have very productive White farmers whose farms were acquired but are still on the land. These we are saying subject to them applying they can be given land.”
Meanwhile the government has a one-year deadline to raise at least USD$1.75 billion for the exercise with reports that plans are already underway to engage financial advisors who will assist in mobilizing the funding.