Zimbabwe says white farmers can apply to get seized land back

Two decades ago, the Zimbabwean government seized lands owned and worked by white farmers, claiming it was making amends for colonial-era landgrabs

The Zimbabwean government says white farmers whose lands were taken away from them forcibly in the 2000s can apply to get their property back.

A statement by the government said that foreign farmers who lost their farms will be offered land elsewhere if restitution proves impractical.

Many white commercial farmers had their lands seized during Robert Mugabe’s tenure as president of Zimbabwe.

He justified the action by claiming that the seizures were aimed at ensuring redress for colonial-era landgrabs. The lands were subsequently offered to black families for resettlement but land repossession is regarded as one of the most divisive policies of the Mugabe era.

Offer other lands 

The Southern African country’s laws stipulate that foreig,n white farmers protected by treaties between their governments and Zimbabwe should be compensated for both land and other assets.

White farmers were directed by the finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, and the lands and agriculture minister, Anxious Masukato, to apply for the lands they lost.

In a joint statement, the two ministers noted that it could prove practically and politically difficult to remove black beneficiaries from the lands. In such instances, they said, the white farmers would be compensated with alternative lands. 

“Where the situation presently obtaining on the ground makes it impractical to restore land in this category to its former owners, the government will offer the former farm owners alternative land elsewhere as restitution where such land is available,” the statement said. 

$3.5 billion for compensation

In August, the Zimbabwean government promised to compensate white farmers with US$3.5 billion for the seized assets.

However, the agreement signed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa stated clearly that the white farmers will be compensated for infrastructure on the farms and not the land itself.

The concession came only after the United States made the compensation a condition for lifting its decade-long economic sanctions on the country.

However, the payment is yet to be made because of a lack of cash. Zimbabwe has been forced to resort to issuing long-term bonds and approaching international donors to raise the money.

In 2000 and 2001, the Mugabe government presided over the seizure and redistribution of lands owned by 4,500 white farmers to approximately 300,000 black Zimbabweans.

E A Alanore

Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.

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