Zimbabwe pays $200m to ex-commercial farmers

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Government has so far paid $200 million as compensation to former commercial farmers whose land it acquired for resettlement, but was protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas).

The payment of the compensation is part of efforts to send a positive message to foreign investors over private property rights.

It comes at a time when government is intensifying its re-engagement process with the Western world as key ingredients to attracting foreign investment.

A majority of the affected farmers rejected previous compensation offers by government–limited to just investments — and were holding out for full payment encompassing land and improvements.

Only those facing extreme financial hardships or medical problems accepted the offers, which were between 10 and 15 percent of professional valuation of their properties.

It is believed former commercial white farmers who had tabled a $9 billion compensation claim before President Emmerson Mnangagwa in January this year for assets expropriated during land redistribution programme are now willing to weigh down their compensation claims to fast-track the processes.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya told Business Times that government was finalising the evaluation of eight agricultural provinces with five having already been evaluated as the authorities move to spruce up its image in respect of property rights.

He said this is part of efforts to bring finality to land reform programme to give space for production on farms.

“Though there are some processes like evaluations and negotiations taking place between the government and the ex-commercial white farmers, the compensation process is going on as scheduled.

“To date around $200 million has been paid to ex-white commercial farmers as the country steps up the reengagement processes with the Western powers and more payments will be made once the agreements are made.

“There’s need to bring finality to the land reform programme and focus more on production on the farms to grow more exports for the country,” Mangudya said.

In its quest to resolve what went wrong in the past, rebuild agriculture and the economy, government has already indicated it will also issue 99 year leases to interested farmers, including white commercial farmers.

So far around 3100 out of 6000 farms, which translates to around 11 million hectares (50 percent of the country’s productive land), have already been evaluated for compensation to former owners for their loss.

He said the exercise was being carried out in line with Section 295 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

The Finance and Economic Planning Ministry has been engaging the Farmers Association representative, John Laurie and others for the past four years.

Government has finished Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Matabeleland North and South respectively as they need to come up with a round figure with respect to compensation.

Evaluations are half way through in Mashonaland East Province and they are preparing to start other remaining provinces like Manicaland.

Most whites have heeded President Mnangagwa’s call for equality to land for all despite race and are willing to come back to the country for Zimbabwe has the best climate conditions and soils.

Government has provided resources also to do surveys for new boundaries which will be done using the cadastre or the GPS system.

The system will help fix new boundaries because one cannot have the 99 year leases unless there is a survey map, given the more advanced technology now, the process can be done faster than before.

Zimbabwe has already started normalising relations with United Kingdom, US, Commonwealth and all other western countries it differed with in the past.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union president Wonder Chabikwa said: “We are happy with government’s progress on the compensation as it will bring finality to the land reform programme and increase production.

Production will increase due to the commercialisation of agriculture which will ensure the sector is run as the real business.”

Commercial Farmers Union (CFU)’s Ben Jilping said very few farmers had been compensated to date and dialogue is still ongoing. “There is still a dialogue going on between the Government and former white commercial farmers as far as compensation is concerned. We don’t know what the dialogue will yield. “Since 2009 only a few number farmers were compensated. Only 300 have been giving some pay outs,” Jilping said.

Business Times