Home African News Mnangagwa Undo Robert Mugabe’s Land Reform Policy,The land seizures were one of...

Mnangagwa Undo Robert Mugabe’s Land Reform Policy,The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies

289
0
The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

Zimbabwe agreed on Wednesday to pay $3.5 billion in compensation to white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the Robert Mugabe era.

But the southern African nation does not have the money and will issue long term bonds and jointly approach international donors with the farmers to raise funding, according to the compensation agreement.

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 colonial land imbalances.

The agreement signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s State House offices in Harare showed white farmers would be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself, as per the national constitution.

Details of how much money each farmer, or their descendants, given the time elapsed since the farms were seized, was likely to get were not yet clear, but the government has said it would prioritise the elderly when making the settlements.

Farmers would receive 50% of the compensation after a year and the balance within five years.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and acting Agriculture Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri signed on behalf of the government, while farmers unions and a foreign consortium that undertook valuations also penned the agreement.

“As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue,” said Andrew Pascoe, head of the Commercial Farmers Union representing white farmers.

The land seizures were one of Mugabe’s signature policies that soured ties with the West. Mugabe, who was ousted in a coup in 2017 and died last year, accused the West of imposing sanctions on his government as punishment.

The programme still divides public opinion in Zimbabwe as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. But its supporters say it has empowered landless Black people.

Mnangagwa said the land reform could not be reversed but paying of compensation was key to mending ties with the West.

 

Ailing economy

Economists agree that the Zimbabwean government, cash strapped after years of hyper-inflation and allegations of mismanagement, cannot afford to make the compensation.
In a statement, the Finance Ministry said that they will be issuing long term bonds and that the parties will approach international donors to try and raise the funds.
The agreement does not compensate farmers for the value of the land, but rather the infrastructure that was lost by the owners.
“The government of Zimbabwe does not have any obligation for compensation for acquired land. Our entering into the agreement does not create any liability whatsoever in this regard,” said Mnangagwa.
John Robertson, an independent economist, says Zimbabwe’s land issue is far from over as the cash-strapped government still has to source the money for compensation.
“Are our priorities skewed? In the midst of a pandemic with no doctors or nurses in hospitals. Now we jump to farmers? Yes there is an obligation to pay. Where is the money? We may sign many agreements, but this one for now looks like just an admission of intention to pay,” said Robertson, a well-known critic of Zimbabwe’s government.
Health workers in Zimbabwe’s hospitals are at loggerheads with the government over salaries. The nurses union protested last month asking the government to increases their wages.
Wednesday’s agreement with the farmers marks another symbolic departure for Mnangagwa from his predecessor Mugabe, who he helped oust in 2017.
Mnangagwa has made several steps toward reconciling with white commercial farmers since taking office — in part to help revive the ailing economy.