About 3.2% of black Zimbabweans are set to lose land they acquired during the fast track land reform as the government consummates a compensation agreement with white former commercial farmers who lost vast tracts of land during the exercise, Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka has said.
Last month, the government agreed to pay the ex-farmers US$3.5bn compensation for value of improvements, biological assets and land clearing costs for the land which was compulsorily acquired for resettlement.
Government’s failure to compensate former commercial white farmers had been cited as a breach of property rights tearing into shreds President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s commitment to protect investments under his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra.
Masuka said the recent Global Compensation Deed between the government and former commercial white farmers deals with constitutionally-required compensation for improvements made by the previous owners.
“We have an obligation to compensate for land and improvements for indigenous Zimbabweans who constitute only 1.3% of the 18,600 farmers that were allocated.
We also have an obligation under the constitution to consider the BIPPAS and BIT and those constitute just less than 1% of the 18,600.
“Those that are there ought to follow because the land is vested in the state and that category of farmers is only 294 and again about 1%.
Altogether the number that we are looking at affects a mere 3.2% of the beneficiaries,” Masuka said.
He said the security of tenure for former farm owners still on the land, indigenous farmers and those that farms covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and were affected during the Land Reform programme that redressed colonial land imbalances will also benefit from the programme.
Former farm owners on compulsorily acquired land should urgently regularise their tenure through designated government institutions before consideration could be made for the issuance of 99-year leases, Masuka said.
“As we do these processes many of you will never notice it because it is such a very minute proportion of the beneficiaries so that is the clarity that we are couching to ensure that everyone understands that the position of government is irreversible and that the Global Compensation Deeds clearly articulates that there is acceptance by both parties that we now need to move to a second phase that we need to increase agriculture productivity, production and profitability so that agriculture becomes a business,” he said.
The compensation of improvements on the farms was provided for in the Constitution which was endorsed in 2013 and all Government was doing was implementing the provisions.