Zimbabwe sets aside $380 million to compensate white farmers

Zimbabwean commercial farmer Rob Smart inspects irrigation pipes for a potato crop at Lesbury Estates farm in Headlands east of the capital Harare on February 1, 2018 days after Smart was allowed to return to his land. When the riot police arrived, Zimbabwean farmworker Mary Mhuriyengwe saw her life fall apart as her job and home disappeared in the ruthless land seizures that defined Robert Mugabe's rule. Mhuriyengwe, 35, watched as police carrying AK47 rifles released teargas to force white farmer Robert Smart off his land in June 2017 -- perhaps the last of 18 years of evictions that helped to trigger the country's economic collapse. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube on Thursday set aside $380 million in his budget to compensate mainly white former commercial farmers who lost their land during late president Robert Mugabe’s chaotic Land Reform Programme in the early 2000s.

The move is part of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s undertaking to appease angry white farmers who lay claim to the land that was expropriated by the State under the land reform programme.

In his budget presentation in Parliament, Ncube said over 500 farmers had already received compensation.

“Government is concluding the valuation exercise to facilitate the compensation of former commercial farmers.

“To date approximately 768 former farm owners consented to the interim payment scheme with over 500 farmers having been paid already,” said Ncube.

“In 2019 a total of $68 million was availed towards former farm owners and the 2020 budget is also targeting to set aside $380 million for interim compensation in line with the constitution.”

Mnangagwa’s predecessor Robert Mugabe while agreeing to the country’s law indicating that former white commercial farmers would be compensated for developments on land, never set aside any funds for the purpose.

Government according to Ncube is luring international institutions to finance the compensation programme.

“Consultations with international financial institutions for sustainable mobilisation of compensation resources are being expeditiously explored,” he added.

Meant to address issues around multiple farm ownership and an unbalanced and racial, land ownership structure, the land reform programme, dubbed Third Chimurenga at its peak, has failed dismally with government accepting some political bigwigs own as many as 16 farms.

Previously described as the bread basket of Sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe is now struggling to feed its population of around 16 million.

Poor and opaque investments in agriculture under various schemes since the land reform plus a droughts have worsened the situation.