ED, war vets cross swords over land compensation

President Mnangagwa

By Everson Mushava

WAR veterans have written to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government demanding that he shelves his US$3,5 billion compensation pact with white former commercial farmers, describing the move as highly discriminatory, degrading and akin to selling out the liberation struggle.

Mnangagwa last month signed the global compensation agreement with white former farmers displaced during the country’s 2000 land reform programme.

Under the deal, government pledged to cough out US$3,5 billion compensation for infrastructural developments on the seized farms.

The deal followed the commitment by government to return seized farms to black farmers as well as farms protected under Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs).

The latest agreement, announced in a joint statement by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and newly-appointed Lands minister Anxious Masuka on Monday, has, however, triggered varying reactions with some viewing it as a reversal of the land reform programme.

But the little-known War Veterans Pressure Group wrote to
Mnangagwa through their lawyers, Kanoti and Partners, ordering the Lands ministry to issue a public statement withdrawing the compensation offer.

“We act at the instance of our clients, War Veterans Pressure Group, an informal political grouping of veterans of the national liberation struggle. Please note our interest,” part of the letter, dated August 28 to Masuka, read.

“Clients are shocked government acted in the manner it did and view the agreement as a sell-out understanding.”

“Clients instruct that we demand on their behalf, as we hereby do, that you, within 48 hours of receipt of this letter, issue a response to ourselves, together with a public statement admitting that the recent July 2020 compensation for claimed farms improvements agreements between government and the former settler white race progeny citizenry was discriminatory on the grounds of race and constituted cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment upon the indigenous black race, citizens of this nation, coming as the agreement did ahead of or for having prioritised settler white race concerns as against the local black race’s own long outstanding precolonial and also post-colonial sufferances under the mechanisation of the occupying settler white race and, therefore, that government is withdrawing from or suspending performance.”

The war veterans, who form the bulk of beneficiaries of the land reform programme, said the compensation should be suspended, and interests of the indigenous farmers be catered for first.

Yesterday, various stakeholders blasted Mnangagwa’s offer to compensate black farmers and for seized land under BIPPA.

Under the new order, complying with section 295 of the Constitution, indigenous farmers and farmers protected under BIPPA will be compensated for land and developments made on the farms. White former commercial farmers, who form the majority, are covered under the compensation agreement of July 20.

The two categories can be given money or may apply to go back to their farms, and the resettled farmers displaced to alternative farms.

About 116 farms under BIPPA were seized and new farmers resettled, while over 400 indigenous farmers were displaced after their farms were compulsorily acquired.

Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) challenged government to come clean on land ownership, saying the new order signalled the reversal of the land reform programme.

Tendai Biti, the MDC Alliance vice-president said the new law by government was a policy U-turn.

Biti said anything to do with land compensation needed an Act of Parliament.

But exiled former Local Government minister and ex-Zanu PF commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere said: “This is going backwards. Yes, the Constitution recognises land compensation, but this should be done through an Act of Parliament. The minister should table the Bill before Parliament.

“People suffered to have restoration of land ownership, and now, two ministers without knowledge of the history of the land reform come to make this announcement without consulting critical stakeholders.”