HARARE – White former farmers accepted that the Government cannot pay them for land, but will only pay for improvements they made during their term of occupation after dispossessing the black majority.
The farmers, 94 percent of whom acquiesced in a referendum that the land reform programme was carried out to redress colonial imbalances, welcomed the Second Republic’s decision to compensate them for developments on the farms.
However, local organisation advocating the rights of farmers disposed of their land during government’s land reform process has dismissed as unfair, a recent US$3,5 billion compensation fund offered to former landowners.
In a statement, SADC Tribunal Rights Watch said the Global Compensation Agreement signed by government with two farming organisations “raises serious concerns”.
The organisation’s spokesperson, Ben Freeth said it was also concerned by Patrick Chinamasa’s active involvement on publicity matters or otherwise, on the agreement, having been Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister who initiated a 2012 challenge for the disbandment of the SADC Tribunal.
This was after Zimbabwe’s dispossessed commercial farmers had successfully sued the government through the regional court over discrimination and failure to obtain justice within local courts.
Announcing the new agreement, Chinamasa who is acting Zanu PF spokesperson, emphasised that by agreeing on the amount of compensation for improvements, the time frame for payment and the modalities for raising the resources, Zanu PF wished it to be known that it no longer considered the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU) and the Southern African Commercial Farmers’ Alliance- Zimbabwe (SACFA-Z) to be anti the land redistribution programme.
President Mnangagwa a fortnight ago fulfilled a pledge he made in 2017 when he came to power to compensate the white former farmers, in accordance with the provisions of the country’s Constitution.
Former commercial farmers’ representatives, Mr Harry Orphanides said before the former commercial farmers and Government came to an agreement over the compensation figure, there were several discussions which led to a referendum where the majority voted in support of the Government’s offer.
“The $US3,5 billion was an offer the Government put on the table. The global position agreed to between ourselves and Government value agents was $US5,2 billion.
“At first we did not agree on the figure as they had excluded biological assets. We later went into the negotiation period of the compensation and at the end of the day the Government put on the table a figure of US$3,5 billion and we took it to our members. Some 3 000 farmers voted in the referendum and about 94 percent accepted. We have a majority of farmers accepting that proposal,” he said.
Speaking about the 6 percent that voted against the compensation deal, Mr Orphanides said they will also benefit from the programme.
“As long as they are on the database, they still have the opportunity of partaking in the compensation. Government is obliged to pay for the assets and not the land. We have no say on that matter, it’s a constitutional issue and we have to abide by that,” he said.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Zimbabwe resident representative, Mr Georges van Montfort said the European Union (EU) and UNDP were working with the Government on a successive project that would focus on implementing a comprehensive land governance and administration programme that expected to unleash the potential in land.
“We will start with two districts piloting. Basically, looking at one stop shop. We recognise the compensation issue is that one issue. On a day to day, a farmer deals with challenges in having secure access to his or her land in getting collateral to use that land.
“There are a number of elements we need to put in place if we can unleash the potential in land for economic development. So we are convinced that dealing with land leases, land banks or land markets, and the use of land for collateral all depends on a well-functioning rights based land administration,” said Mr von Montfort.
He said although UNDP facilitated dialogue between the Government and former commercial farmers, the land compensation agreement had nothing to do with the organisation.
“When we look at the agreement I do not think it should be seen in light of the UNDP or any organisation meeting its mandate. It’s for Zimbabweans,” he said.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube said now that land compensation had been signed, the Government was looking at issuing a 30-year bond instrument or debt instrument.
“We are also looking at other structures that may be linked to land itself, not necessarily farming land; it could be commercial land that the Government owns. We are also looking at other Government assets which could be offloaded for the purposes of supporting the liabilities of payment,” he said.
Minister Ncube said after payment of the compensation the assets on the farms will automatically belong to the Government.
“Technically that’s what it means. It’s a recognition that they belonged to someone else before now they belong to the State just like the land itself,” he said.