WAR veterans have thrown their weight behind President Mnangagwa over the move to compensate white farmers for improvements they had made on farms they lost during the land reform programme and returning farms that were protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs).
In July, the Government signed a US$3.5 billion compensation agreement with former white commercial farmers. The Government added that farms that were protected under BIPPAs will be returned to the owners while those indigenous people who were resettled at the farms will be resettled on alternative land. Farms protected under BIPPAs are 37, according to the Government.
Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa told Sunday News on the sidelines of the Zanu-PF Provincial Coordination Committee in Gweru yesterday that it was time to mend relations and regularise some of the problems that resulted from the land reform.
“We strongly support the initiative because we are doing it for goodwill. We have been viewed as being cruel to former white farmers by expropriating land without compensation. We also lost foreign direct investment. So, we are hoping that once we have established good relations, we will get foreign direct investment. We have also been given sanctions based on the issue of land. So, America and other countries that had imposed sanctions on us based on the land issue will not have any reason for continuing to impose the sanctions on us.”
Earlier on while addressing the meeting, Mutsvangwa said the liberation struggle was waged against a colonial system not against the white race. Mutsvangwa said the freedom fighters fought a non-racial war and therefore there should not be any racial discrimination in the country. He also implored freedom fighters and the people at large to respect the Constitution.
“We fought a non-racial war against a racial system. It’s been 40 years after independence. The white people who remained in Zimbabwe are now Zimbabweans. We should not stigmatise them and do racial discrimination in the country. President Mnangagwa wants a united nation regardless of race, creed, religion and gender. We did not fight a racial war. We were supported by the some whites people during the war. Let us not recycle racism in the country,” he said.
Addressing the same meeting, Speaker of Parliament Advocate Jacob Mudenda said the re-allocation of the 37 farms to former farm owners was a constitutional provision.
“The issuing of tenure documents and 99-year leases as well as compensation of former owners are entitled by the Constitution. There are companies and individuals who were given land by Government to come and farm in Zimbabwe. In terms of our constitution and international law, President Mnangagwa said let us allow these 37 farms to be given back. There is no excuse now that the international community would have to say we do not respect our own constitution,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zanu-PF Secretary for Legal Affairs Paul Mangwana said according to the party’s estimates, less than one percent of resettled farmers will be affected by the possible return of foreign white farmers whose properties were covered under BIPPAs.
“There are very few farmers that are going to be affected by BIPPAs but those that are affected will be given alternative farms. From our own calculations, it will affect less than one percent of the people that were resettled so it’s a very a small group that will be affected,” he told a Zanu-PF Matabeleland South Provincial Co-ordinating Committee meeting in Gwanda yesterday.
Mangwana added that alternative farms would be found for those that would be affected.
“During land reform sometimes, we were not discriminating on which farms were protected by BIPPAs and which ones were not. So, a few of the farms that people took over and were resettled there, were protected by BIPPAs. It is those few farms that Government is saying we will take two approaches. If we resettled a lot of people on one farm, we will pay full compensation to that farmer. For such a farmer we pay for both the land and for the improvements as a Government. But where it is possible to relocate our own people to another farm, so that we are seen internationally as people who respect agreements, we can return that farm to the former owner whose property was protected by BIPPAs,” he said.
In addition, the responsibility to compensate former white farmers who Government recently undertook to compensate for improvements made on farms will be met by the Government and not individual farmers.
“Government is going to look for resources to pay for the improvements made on those farms. Government has said, it is not going to say, for example, Mr Ncube we gave you a farm where there are boreholes, please pay for the boreholes. No, Government has said we are going to look for resources to compensate the former white farmers because they had taken us to the international court to say that the Government of Zimbabwe is not complying with provisions of its own constitution,” he said.
Mangwana said the Government was only complying with measures of the Zimbabwe’s constitution, proving to potential investors that it respected the rule of law and therefore the country was an ideal investment destination.
“People can come and invest in our country if we are also complying with our own laws. No one can invest in a country where the government does not obey its own laws. So, Government is saying we are going to look for money to compensate for the houses we found on the farms, for the boreholes we found on the farms and for the fencing on the farms. Let it be clear and unequivocal, we are not paying for our farms (land),” he said. – Sunday News