CFU sticks to US$3,5bn Zim deal…as expelled farmers lose in South African court

The funding is with regard to compensation of white farmers who lost their farms during  Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform programme in the early 2000s.

THE Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) this week indicated it was ready to see a compensation deal agreed with government about four years ago brought to finality, even as Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped administration remains constrained to mobilise the US$3,5 billion package required.

The funding is with regard to compensation of white farmers who lost their farms during  Zimbabwe’s chaotic land reform programme in the early 2000s.

This comes after a group of the affected farmers and firms this week lost a claim of R2 billion (about US$108 million) in damages after their case filed at the Constitutional Court in South Africa was dismissed.

The aggrieved farmers, leveraging on the existence of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) tribunal, lodged their demands in South Africa for compensation over loss of land and improvements made on their repossessed farms.

Before the tribunal was disbanded in 2011, Zimbabwe and South Africa were signatories of the regional treaty that established it.

However, in a judgement that dealt the farmers a massive blow, the South African court adjudged that the matter had “prescribed” (run out of time).

CFU president Phillip Liam told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday the only viable route to get compensation was to adhere to the US$3,5 billion Global Compensation Deed (GCD) agreement, which Zimbabwe’s government inked with affected farmers in 2020.

The agreement, among other reforms, was perceived as a landmark stride by the southern African country to normalise fractured relations with the West and International Financial Institutions. 

However, he acknowledged that the government was broke to mobilise the substantial amount.

“As CFU we are committed to working with the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) in an endeavour to find an acceptable solution to the commitments made under the historic Global Compensation Deed signed between GOZ, CFU, SACFA (Southern African Commercial Farmers Alliance) and Valcon (valuation consortium),” he said.

“As the CFU we committed to the GCD and strongly believe that a ‘holistic agriculture recovery plan’ which touches on all aspects of agriculture and encompasses compensation is the solution.

“We recognise the state does not have the resources to honour the commitments made under the Global Compensation Deed. It is also important to point out that many of the farmers, who have been waiting 24 years for their constitutional right to compensation for improvements are in an increasingly desperate situation,” Liam added.

The Treasury, which until 2020 was disbursing piecemeal payments to the expelled farmers as compensation, he said, had stopped disbursements, further worsening their plight.

Finance minister Mthuli Ncube in this year’s budget allocated US$55 million to compensate farmers for improvements they made on their properties.

The CFU leader added: “The interim relief payments that previously provided for the elderly were halted by the Treasury last year which has put untold pressure on the vulnerable who relied on those payments to survive.

“The majority of the surviving farmers are well into their 80s and have significant medical expenses.”

Liam indicated that Treasury had offered a grouping of farmers known as Profca a 10-year bond deal as it moves towards finding a lasting solution to the compensation question.

“The Ministry of Finance, at the beginning of this year launched a separate initiative outside of the Global Compensation Deed, with a group called Profca, representing a minority group of farmers, who were prepared to accept a 10-year treasury bond deal as payment for compensation for their improvements,” Liam said.

“The CFU is not affiliated to the Profca group and cannot comment on the progress being made.”

He could not disclose the value of the deal offered to Profca.

In the long term, Liam said, the government, under the global compensation framework, should focus on setting the agriculture sector on a firm recovery and growth trajectory.

“The plan must focus on unlocking the huge potential of agriculture for the next generation of farmers by funding sustainable growth through innovation and rural industrialisation,” he said.

“If we can work together to achieve this with support from international financial institutions and development partners, the plan will realise tremendous economic prosperity for all Zimbabweans.”

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