Land reform beneficiaries must compensate ex-farmers

EDITORIAL COMMENT

GOVERNMENT’S US$3,5 billion compensation offer to former commercial farmers dispossessed of land during the land reform programme has raised a lot of anxiety within and outside the country’s borders, especially regarding the source of funding for this seemingly grandiose project.

Clearly, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been arm-twisted given that he really wants to shore up the economy through compensating white former commercial farmers. Indeed this process was kick-started by the late former President Robert Mugabe, but Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, who has British accent, has made Mnangagwa think that this is a panacea to our economic problems.

We believe it is the former colonial masters Britain who should have compensated our citizens for centuries of plunder of our resources.

While some believe that the agreement will help bring finality to the prolonged compensation saga, others believe that it is nothing short of political grandstanding given that government currently has no capacity to mobilise such a package as it faces several headwinds among them a severe food deficit, acute fuel and foreign currency shortages.

Our major concern though is on who will foot this “monstrous” bill.

Although government believes that with the help of white farmers, it will source funding from donors and long-term bonds, its chequered history in fulfilling promises raises doubts over its ability to live up to this commitment.

The recent spike in human rights violations has worsened relations with most Western capitals, which under normal circumstances could have gladly donated a few dimes towards this cause. It is to these capitals that Mthuli will want to go cap in hand begging for the funds to compensate farmers.

Given that he has been rebuffed by international funders over a recent request for a bailout package to ameliorate the adverse economic impact of COVID-19 because of government’s poor repayment record as well as human rights deficit, chances are that the country’s overburdened taxpayer could end up carrying another government bill. This will not be the first time it has happened. The taxpayer is already footing the US$1,4 billion debt for the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe farm mechanisation programme which benefited mostly Zanu PF politicians, their families and acolytes.

Economists and even Ncube himself have previously castigated the practice of foisting national debts on the already suffering and over-burdened taxpayer.

Government should not punish its citizens for the haphazard and chaotic manner in which the necessary land reform programme was carried out. We believe that this time around, government should let beneficiaries of the land reform programme carry their own cross since they are the ones enjoying the benefits of the programme.

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