On the Compensation of former White Farmers - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Thursday, September 3, 2020

On the Compensation of former White Farmers

 Zimbabwe Government To Pay $3.5Bn To White Farmers

By Dr Tapiwa Mashakada

In 2000, about 4500 white farmers were chased away from their farms when government compulsorily acquired the Land under the chaotic land reform program. In 2000, Veterans of the 1970s guerilla war invaded farms owned by white farmers. Out of Zimbabwe's 39 million hectares white farmers owned 12 million hectares mostly of rich arable land, plantations and conservancies. 

Land had always been an unfinished business of the liberation struggle. The Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 had a willing buyer willing seller clause which stopped compulsory acquisition for the next ten years after independence (1980-1990). Land  reform was slow because the State had to buy the land and resettle the landless peasants. After 1990, government  enacted the Land Acquisition Act of 1992 in order to acquire land compulsorily and without compensation. However, white farmers approached the Supreme Court which ruled the compulsory acquisitions without compensation unconstitutional. The then Supreme Court was a white  bench. This frustrated the Zanu PF government given the fact that the British  had reneged on their Lancaster House Agreement pledge to provide money for compensation. 

But this is not the reason why gvt failed to redistribute land after 1990. Government was just lethargical and in no hurry to take the land. Come the year 1999, a new opposition party,the MDC was formed. In Its manifesto the MDC said, " land to the people". This shocked the Zanu PF and awakened it from its deep slumber. White farmers and farm workers  supported the MDC and mobilized resources to campaign against the 2000 Constitution. A No vote carried the day. Soon after the February 2000 referendum, war veterans invaded white farms and police did not act. The issue became political and the gvt took land as its key campaign message in the elections of 2000 which was marred by political violence.

The MDC opposed the land reform program and sided with white farmers. Our position was that compulsory acquisition without compensation violated the Constitution and International Law. Some of the farms compulsorily acquired were covered by International Treaties called Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs). I remember some of the farms belonged to South African nationals, Swiss nationals, German Nationals, Italians, Malaysians and other States. For example German farmers occupied vast tracts of land in the Save Conservancy area. One of the German nationals is my good old friend Wilfred Papst. 

We must remember that acquisition without compensation by the gvt infuriated Western Countries who were not happy with the act of acquiring the land including BIPPA farms without compensation. However, gvt acknowledged the need for compensation of developments only not the land itself. The Land Reform issue coupled with political violence and human rights abuses, invited the imposition of Sanctions by the European Union and America in 2002. The stand off affected the economy which    moved fast into meltdown between 2000 and 2008. Confidence dropped to its lowest levels and there was capital flight. Foreign direct investment (FDI) dropped from usd$3billion per annum in 1998 to usd$300 million by 2007. Many state owned companies and Zanu PF officials were put under Sanctions. 

Over the years, the targeted Sanctions on individuals have been gradually removed. In fact by 2017 only Mugabe and his wife remained on the Sanctions list. Most senior Zanu PF officials and securocrats had been freed from targeted Sanctions. It is surprising that Tagwireyi has been put under the Sanctions list when almost everyone has been removed. Could this be a new round of Sanctions?

Fast forward, on 29th July 2020, the gvt of Zimbabwe signed the Global Compensation Deed to the tune of usd$3.5 billion. This agreement was reached with representatives of former white farmers and gvt. The agreement was underwritten by multilateral agencies. 

It is clear that gvt is financially hamstrung . So inorder to reduce the financial burden gvt has come up with a program to compensate white farmers in cash or kind as follows:

  •   Paying cash for improvements
  •   Allocating new land to white farmers who want to go back on the land
  •   Reversing the acquisition of BIPPA farms and giving them back to foreign nationals.

Is this a reversal of the land reform program? The answer is an emphatic No. The principle of compensation is what both the MDC, civil society, white farmers, the EU and America have been calling for since 2000. In fact in all our Manifestos, we as the opposition have been calling for compensation in order to bring a closure to the land question. By compensating white farmers, Zanu PF has simply done what was expected by everybody. In my view, the land reform program is now irreversible. The 2013 Constitution is very clear on the irreversibility of the land reform program. It is therefore cheap politicking to suggest that the gvt is now reversing the land reform program. What gvt is simply doing is cleaning up the mess it created during the chaotic land reform program. 

Compensation of White Farmers must however be followed by a proper Agrarian reform program which is based on the following pillars:

  •   A secure land tenure system that turns land into a productive asset and not dead capital
  •   Sustainable Agricultural Finance for A2 and smallholder farmers
  •   Climate resilient agriculture
  •   A viable agricultural commodity pricing model
  •   Livestock support
  •   Macro-economic stability especially relating to the payment of cotton and tobacco farmers in foreign currency
  •   Maximum farm sizes and elimination of multiple farm ownership
  •   Revival of Agricultural marketing institutions
  •   Technical support services
  •   Food security and nutrition.

The above measures will restore Zimbabwe's bread basket status. South Africa and other Sadc countries must learn from Zimbabwe's mistakes which were made while trying to redress the historical imbalances. The people must have their land and use it productively.  Compensation is a key tenet in the land reform process. It is a fundamental issue governing property rights which are also a human rights issue.Zikomo


Thank you 



* Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada is the Founder and Executive Director of the Maji-Marefu Institute

* The Maji-Marefu Institute is an independent Pan-African Think Tank on International Relations, Economic Affairs and Security Studies.

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