ZIMBABWE’S white former commercial farmers, who lost their property under the land reform programme, have welcomed government’s move to compensate them, but said they remained sceptical of the offer given the poor state of the economy coupled with this year’s ravaging drought.
BY NUNURAI JENA
Speaking to NewsDay in separate interviews in Chinhoyi over the weekend, the farmers said they looked forward to direct engagement with Cabinet ministers to finalise the compensation issue.
Commercial Farmers’ Union chief executive officer Hendrik Oliver said most members of his organisation were pessimistic of the offer because government had not shown any commitment to compensate them in the last 16 years.
“We haven’t seen any significant move by government on compensation matters for the past 16 years, so we are possibly a little bit pessimistic at this stage over government sincerity,” Oliver said.
“But, I think this time around with senior Cabinet ministers coming out and saying government acknowledges compensation, I think it’s positive, but we need to see some action taking place. It is a step in the right direction, but we are still very far from settling the matter. It’s still talk at the moment and we need to see some action taking place. We need to see the Minister of Finance (Patrick Chinamasa), the Minister of Lands (Douglas Mombeshora), ourselves and the players involved start deliberating, start negotiating for what the government compensation package should be.”
African Farming Solutions’ Charles Taffs said land could only be fully utilised in the near future if farmers were able to access bank loans using land as collateral security.
“When it comes to agriculture, specifically you never get long-term agriculture investment unless you can securitise the land on which you want to invest. That is your security,” Taffs said.
He added that it was unfortunate that only 7,2 million hectares out of 39 million hectares of land was under conflict and holding the whole nation to ransom.
But another white former commercial farmer, Johnny Rodriguez, said the government was “too broke” to pay any kind of compensation to the evicted farmers.
Rodriguez said it would be difficult to come up with the agreed compensation figures.
“Where is the money going to come from to pay for this compensation? The money is not going to grow from the ground and nobody is going to help. We can talk for years, but nothing is going to be solved. For example, what about the property rights, lease agreements?” Rodriguez asked.
At least 3 500 farmers lost their land under Zimbabwe’s controversial land reforms which started in 2000.