ZIMBABWE’S delay in compensating former white farmers displaced by the land reform in 2000 has left most of them destitute.
The farmers are now living in extreme hardship while others have since died without being paid any compensation. Of the 737 farmers who registered for compensation, most are now above retirement age.
“Many of them are pretty old and well into their 70s and 80s and have not been working and are not able to work.
“They are in a desperate state. They have been expecting government to honour its pledge,” Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) director Ben Gilpin said.
Last year the government agreed to pay an interim relief of $55 000 to each farmer who lost land, but several of them are yet to be paid while those that did received peanuts.
“We started getting the interim relief in June last year and around 100 are still waiting for payment since May and when the payments did happen, the money was devalued to around US$2 000. We need a separate deal from the usual small budgetary allocations accessed by few people who end up getting 25 percent of the value.
“We have a dialogue going on with the ministry (of Agriculture) on the valuation of improvements on farms. We know there are the stipulations of the Constitution but we are hoping that farmers will also be paid for the raw land because most farmers have deeds showing that they purchased the land.
“We need to find a solution to that. However, we are in support of government to find a way to assist raise funds needed for the compensation,” Gilpin said.
A working group comprising government officials and representatives of the former farm owners, has been working towards providing a Consensus-Based Compensation Framework for evaluating obligations to the former farmers.
Although the two parties are still negotiating over payments, the CFU has put the compensation figure at US$10 billion while government’s figure is US$3 billion.
The government however maintains it will only pay compensation for infrastructure and improvements on farms and not for the land, and has been in communication with former colonial master Britain and international financiers to raise the money for farmers.
“Government has allocated $380 million for disbursements as part of the interim compensation. More than 700 former farm owners have consented to the interim payment scheme with over 500 farmers having been paid to date,” said Clive Mphambela, the chief director-communications and advocacy in the Finance ministry.
Since 2009, the Zimbabwean government says it has paid US$64,4 million to 93 white former commercial farmers for the improvements they made on their farms.
In 2016, then Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the government had paid US$42,7 million to 43 farmers. In 2018 alone, US$12 million was paid to 29 farmers while $53 million was committed by government in 2019.
Government has also directed that all remaining white commercial farmers be issued with 99-year leases, a marked policy shift from the previous five-year leases.