Government will complete land valuations in two weeks, a move which will pave way for the long-awaited compensation of white commercial farmers who lost large vast tracts of land during the land reform programme, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube revealed.
Nearly 4500 farmers were evicted at the turn of the millennium when government embarked on the exercise to correct colonial legacies. Analysts said compensation of ex-farmers would restore relations with international lenders and western countries. The move is expected to repair Zimbabwe’s frail economy.
Ncube indicated that announcements will be made within the next two weeks.
“We have made tremendous progress in terms of valuation. We are reaching finality. We are making announcements in the next few weeks, in fact not more than two weeks,” Ncube said.
Ncube is hopeful, an agreement with the ex-farmers would be signed soon.
According to the Finance minister government officials, to date, close to 1 000 farmers have signed up for the proposed compensation. The disposed white farmers have since tabled a ZWL$10 billion compensation claim before President Emmerson Mnangagwa for assets expropriated during the land redistribution programme as they seek redress from the new government.
The compensation figure includes land, which the farmers valued using regional rates, as well as fixed assets. The compensation bill for fixed assets under the claim is understood to be about ZWL$5,5 billion. Most assets don’t exist anymore as they were burnt down during the violent land distribution programme.
This puts the value of land at ZWL$4,5 billion. Government, under former ruler, Robert Mugabe embarked on a hasty land reforms in 2000 that was meant to expropriate white-owned farms without compensation. Critics blame government for the violent nature of the exercise and delays in compensating the evicted farmers.
So emotive has been the land question that resettled farmers are yet to get title deeds from the land. The State-backed farm invasions triggered sanctions from the Western countries, a development which compounded Zimbabwe’s economic woes.
This resulted in international financial institutions such as the international Monetary Fund, which many international lenders take a cue from, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to freeze financing after the country defaulted on debt repayments.
Now, under increasing pressure to woo back international lenders and donors, government has begun the process to compensate former white commercial farmers. Some of the evicted white farmers are now farming in Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Nigeria while others migrated to Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
According to Section 16 (a) and (b) of the country’s Land Acquisition Act, which was last amended in 2006, government is required to pay fair compensation to any person who suffered loss or deprivation of rights as a result of expropriation of land within a reasonable time.
All expropriated farmland in Zimbabwe is now owned by the State, meaning that present occupants have no legal claim on farms. None of them have any form of title, meaning the land cannot be used as collateral. This has made banks reluctant to extend loans to the new farmers to buy inputs, leaving the country struggling to feed itself.
In the absence of tittle deeds, government has struggled to transfer ownership of the land to the new settlers, a situation that has frustrated its plans to make 99-year leases that are tradable and bankable.
Farmers are struggling to access funding as they cannot use the 99-year leases on farmland as collateral because banks are not accepting them. They said they are not bankable instruments, a situation which has undermining efforts to resuscitate the ailing agriculture sector.
Failure to get loans has significantly contributed to the country’s failure to be self-sufficient in terms of food production.