BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
THE MDC Alliance has said compensation of white former commercial farmers is a must as debate on the issue rages after government said it would to pay the farmers for losses suffered during the land reform exercise.
Government last Friday pledged to start paying compensation from next month to white farmers who lost land under former President Robert Mugabe’s land reform nearly 20 years ago.
The development has sparked debate with South African Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema dismissing government’s decision to pay the farmers whose land was taken as a “sell-out position”.
MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume told Southern Eye that the party supported the decision to pay farmers compensation and that there was nothing amiss about it.
“Compensation is a given. It should be given. The problem with Zimbabwe is that we create our own normal. In the rest of the world it is abnormal to grab someone’s farm and then discuss about issues to do with compensation later. There must be no discussion about this,” Mafume said in a telephone interview.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube set aside $53 million in the 2019 budget for compensating the farmers.
The farmers have been waiting for compensation since 2000.
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“These are discussions that tend to be secular and create an impression that we are unruly. We have to, as a nation, begin to operate through norms and standards that the rest of the international community operates under. We need to stop creating unnecessary debate on issues that are normal because how do you even discuss what is supposed to be normal.
“We have to own up to our obligations as a country, where we have the money we compensate, and where we don’t we find ways of dealing with it (compensation). At the end of the day, we cannot behave like an 18th century army that grabs people’s property, pensions, and so forth and behave as if it’s normal,” Mafume added.
According to Malema, the white farmers “don’t deserve any compensation, and, therefore, anyone who compensates them for stolen land is a sell-out. So President Emmerson) Mnangagwa is a sell-out.”
The Commercial Farmers Union has, meanwhile, put government in a tight corner after demanding compensation to include loss of land as well as farm improvements, arguing that land was their primary asset.
But government intends to only pay for farm improvements.