Zimbabwe to start paying white farmers compensation after April

Prof Ncube

Prof Ncube

Zimbabwe next month will start paying partial compensation to white commercial farmers whose properties were seized almost 20 years ago under Robert Mugabe's land reforms, the government said Monday.

The government, which is trying to put and end to the issue, is to start paying back farmers who lost their lands under the land reform nearly two decades ago.

Two decades ago Mugabe's government carried out at times violent evictions of 4 500 white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300 000 black families, arguing it was redressing imbalances from the colonial era.

The land reform was brought in by Mugabe in 2000 in a move that was criticised around the world. But now President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government will pay the farmers back after putting aside £13.5 million as compensation.

The Finance and Agriculture Department released a statement today, saying they would go ahead with the plans: 'The government is committed to finalising compensation to all former farm owners who were affected by the Land Reform Programme, ' they wrote.

"We have a final and binding judgment from the SADC Tribunal in 2008 which held that fair compensation should be paid by the Zimbabwe government for land it had taken and the government is in contempt of it", said Freeth.

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Under the proposal, £101 million is to be drawn down immediately to allow restructuring, which will include store closures and rent reductions.

Government said the interim advance payments will be paid directly to former farm owners by the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Settlement.

Ben Freeth, spokesperson for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal Rights Watch, Zimbabwe, said in a press statement: "Dispossessed Zimbabwean commercial farmers have launched a new worldwide legal initiative to seek justice and compensation for the loss of their farms and livelihoods, and to stop the ongoing farm seizures which are ravaging the economy".

In a statement the Commercial Farmers Union said they had to accept the advanced interim payment as some farmers were in financial distress.

The process should end next month. "This will pave the way for both parties to reach an agreement on the Compensation Quantum figure for farm improvements by end of May 2019", said the cabinet ministers.

The total bill could run into billions and the Zimbabwean government is working with global financial institutions on how best to fund the compensation.

Colonialists seized some of the best agricultural land and much of it remained in the hands of white farmers after independence in 1980, while many blacks were landless.

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