Kuda Bwititi, Harare Bureau
THE Commercial Farmers’ Union, largely composed of white ex-farmers, says the British government should play a leading role in compensating them for losses incurred as a result of Zimbabwe’s Fast-Track Land Reform Programme.
This comes as Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement Minister Chief Air Marshal (Retired) Perrance Shiri has said authorities in Harare are working around the clock behind the scenes to bring closure to the emotive chapter.
Zimbabwe in 2000 embarked on expedited land reforms after the British government reneged on its obligations to compensate white farmers who were historical beneficiaries of racially skewed tenure policies.
More than 250 000 black families benefited from land previously held by around 6 000 white farmers.
Government has pledged — and created legal provisions to back this — to compensate white ex-farmers for developments they had made on repossessed land. Thus far, Government is conducting valuations to come up with the total bill.
In an interview with our Harare Bureau last week, Rtd Chief Air Marshal Shiri said: “We are doing a lot of work and there have been a lot of engagements that we have made regarding compensation of the settler farmers. I am sure that in the coming days and weeks, we will give a definitive position of how we will be going forward and the progress we have made.”
And CFU director Mr Ben Giplin last week said Britain could not afford to ignore paying compensation to farmers in line with the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement.
“The Lancaster House Agreement seems to be short on details and that has always been an issue,” he said. “Britain cannot simply ignore any responsibility, but how they will deal with this is up to the re-engagement process (between Harare and London). We will do our best to assist in this process.
“Zimbabwe will need international assistance in the broadest possible way to ensure the country recovers from the economic difficulties it has been going through. We sincerely believe that compensation can be a part of that process and in this regard are aware of a willingness of international partners, including Britain, to be involved.”
Mr Giplin said there had been progress in talks with Government but some were yet to be resolved.
“The proposals contained within the recently released Government Investment Guidelines and Opportunities in Zimbabwe Section 1.9(a) outline renewed commitment to deal with the matter ‘based on international good practices to determine, amongst others, the value of compensation payable and the modalities for payment’.
“This is currently subject of high-level engagement with Government and we are hopeful that a consensus on the way forward can be achieved.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Mr Boris Johnson is on record saying his country betrayed Zimbabwe by failing to honour the Lancaster House Agreement provisions on ex-farmer compensation.
Government will pay compensation according to Section 295 of the Constitution, which reads: “(1) Any indigenous Zimbabwean whose agricultural land was acquired by the State . . . is entitled to compensation from the State for the land and any improvements that were made on the land when it was acquired.
“(2) Any person whose agricultural land was acquired by the State . . . and whose property rights at that time were guaranteed or protected by an agreement concluded by the Government of Zimbabwe with the government of another country, is entitled to compensation from the State for the land and any improvements in accordance with that agreement.
“(3) Any person, other than a person referred to in subsection (1) or (2), whose agricultural land was acquired by the State . . . is entitled to compensation from the State only for improvements that were on the land when it was acquired.
“(4) Compensation payable under subsections (1), (2) and (3) must be assessed and paid in terms of an Act of Parliament.”