Zimbabwean union happy white farmers to be paid

14 April 2019 - 00:08 By RAY NDLOVU

The Zimbabwe government's plans to pay compensation to white former commercial farmers for improvements done on land they previously owned have been welcomed by the country's Federation of Farmers' Unions, which hopes that the payments will end "all contestations" on land and "result in the opening of foreign markets".
The federation has a membership of 60,000 mostly black farmers. Its president, Shadreck Makombe, said on Thursday that the payment for improvements on land was the right thing to do and the farming community welcomed it.
"We certainly hope that it will put to an end all the contestations that have been there on land. By accepting compensation on improvements, it means there is no dispute on the land which is owned by the government," he said.
Unable to access foreign markets
Makombe said as a result of disputes over the land, newly resettled black farmers had been unable to access foreign markets, which had adopted an unofficial policy of red-flagging any products from farms whose ownership had been contested by the previous owners.
"We have had some instances where some of the produce from our members has been returned.
"Some of the foreign investors have said that they were unable to do business because it would be a violation [of] the position of their governments," he said.
In the first phase of payment, the government will pay $17m (about RTGS53m in the local currency) to 500 white former commercial farmers after it completes its tally of establishing how many of them were affected by the violent land seizures of 2000.
The criterion set to be used for making the payment is that the most distressed among these farmers will be prioritised.The Commercial Farmers' Union (CFU) estimates that at least 4,676 farmers had been forcibly removed by war veterans at the time."This is a huge step by government in acknowledging that compensation is owed by them, that the delay caused hardship and that they are now in a hurry to deal with this, not only with this interim payment, but also to agree on a global figure for improvements," the CFU said in a statement.Independent economic estimates put the compensation bill at $10bn (about R140bn) split between $3.5bn for land and $6.5bn for improvements.President Emmerson Mnangagwa at his inauguration ceremony in November 2017 first made the pledge to compensate farmers for the improvements done on the land.On Thursday, Mnangagwa said his government was only paying for improvements and not for the land.There has been some disquiet in political and economic circles that the government may be copping out on its land programme - a cornerstone of former ruler Robert Mugabe's administration."We cannot pay for land - no-one brought land to this country. Land reform is irreversible. We will never ever pay compensation for land," said Mnangagwa.Under Section 295 of the constitution, Zimbabwe must pay for land if it is protected by a bilateral act. Other farmers are only entitled to compensation for improvements.Meanwhile, 25 Zimbabwean farmers and farming businesses on Tuesday issued a summons for almost R2bn to the South African government and President Cyril Ramaphosa.The farmers said they had suffered damages because of the government's complicity in the dissolving of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc)tribunal a few years ago.Racist mannerThe tribunal found in November 2008 that the Zimbabwean government had acted unlawfully and in a racist manner by confiscating white farmers' land without compensation. It also found that the farmers were entitled to fair compensation for the damages they had suffered as a result of the confiscation of their properties.Last year the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that former president Jacob Zuma had acted unlawfully and unconstitutional by participating in the process to dissolve the tribunal.Ben Freeth, a white former commercial farmer in Zimbabwe, said in a statement that he was delighted to be part of "the ongoing struggle for justice in Zimbabwe after everyone has suffered so much".ndlovur@tisoblackstar.co.za

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