Expelled white farmers reject govt’s TBs compensation deal

CFU president Andrew Pascoe

A UNION representing thousands of white former commercial farmers pushed out of swathes of the country’s prime estates at the turn of the century has turned down a government offer to compensate them through Treasury Bills (TBs), the Zimbabwe Independent can exclusively reveal.

Following years of deadlocks over who, between former colonial power Britain and Zimbabwe’s government, should compensate around 3 500 farmers, Harare capitulated about three years ago.

Government at the time undertook to shell out US$3,5 billion for the programme.

But the rejection marks a major turning point for authorities, who have been under pressure to conclude the process.

The deal, known as the Global Compensation Deed (GCD), was inked between government and the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (CFU) in July 2020.

It presented a glimmer of hope for a country that was trying to reform from a controversial past highlighted by compensation battles, which at one point spilled into regional courts.

But the late former strongman, president Robert Mugabe, ignored all legal threats.

The pay-outs would be deployed into compensating all improvements made on farms other than the land itself.

But Harare’s plan was to turn to TBs to fund the payments.

At the end of last year, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said cabinet had agreed to pay 10% of the funds — which now forms part of Zimbabwe’s US$17,5 billion debt - in cash.

The Independent can report that the farmers were this week still pushing for a viable deal.

But instead of pushing back, they were working with development partners to see how the payments could be made, the Independent understands.

The details were contained in a CFU letter to its council obtained by this newspaper on Monday. In the letter, CFU president Andrew Pascoe said the farmers were unlikely to back down.

The letter revealed that in the past few weeks, the CFU was holding crucial discussions with influential diplomats in Harare to thrash out a deal that leaves all parties happy.

Another letter spelling out the CFU’s position was delivered to Ncube this week, according to the CFU president.

“Since May 4, we have met with the European Union (EU) ambassador, the Swiss ambassador (who is also the co-chair of the land pillar in the three pillars process), the German ambassador, and senior officials in the South African embassy,” the CFU boss wrote.

“We are due to meet former Mozambican President (Joaquim) Chissano on Monday (this week) and the AfDB (African Development Bank) and Americans on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

“In all these meetings we have conveyed the message that the farmers have rejected the government of Zimbabwe’s latest offer for payment of compensation.

“We will continue to encourage them to assist us in getting a better deal that will be supported by the majority of title deed holders. We have also been involved in two meetings of the land pillar and the third pillar coming up on Monday (this week) at which President Emmerson Mnangagwa will be present.

“Our letter to the Minister of Finance has been finalised and will be delivered on Monday,” Pascoe said, noting that farmers were not in favour of pursuing Zimbabwe’s latest payment proposal.

TBs carries the risk of payment delays on maturity, should the government fail to raise funding.

Pascoe noted that as signatories, the CFU would not proceed to draft and sign an addendum to the GCD unless the government presents an improved offer. He said during a meeting convened by Ncube on May 3, the Treasury chief inquired about results of the CFU’s survey on the compensation issue.

Ncube was advised that the results were preliminary, but farmers were unlikely to change.

“Based on this, we would not be able to proceed to the drafting and signing of an addendum to the Global Compensation Deed. I hope this brings some clarity to you all,” he added.

During the latest round of Zimbabwe’s debt resolution conference held on Monday in Victoria Falls, AfDB revealed that it was working on a financial instrument to fund the US$3,5 billion for the compensation, which is crucial in bringing finality to a 23 year long standoff.

“Hope delayed makes the heart go weary,” AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina told delegates.

“Further delays in paying the compensation could erode trust and confidence. So, timing counts, responsiveness counts, and financial sustainability counts. We need a greater sense of urgency on this issue.”

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