Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi says the recent Global Compensation Agreement between the government of Zimbabwe and former white commercial farmers is a final nail towards resolution of the land reform program.
On Monday, the government announced that white farmers whose land was seized during the 2000 land reforms exercise can re-apply to get their land back and will be offered land elsewhere if restitution proves impractical.
Last month, Zimbabwe agreed to pay $3.5 Billion in compensation to local white farmers whose land was forcibly taken by the government for resettlement, moving a step closer to resolving one the most divisive policies of the former President Robert Mugabe era.
However, Ziyambi noted that there is a need, as constitutionally required, to put closure to the land issue.
Under Section 295 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, farmers under the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) and indigenous farmers, must be compensated for land taken over for resettlement.
The issue has caused furore in recent days due to skepticism that the government could be reversing the land reform program.
“We want closure on the issue, we had court cases because of BIPPA farms that were taken and at one time we lost and we were ordered to pay huge sums of money which we may not have.
“That is why we are saying let us close this issue and where can give them back their land, we will. If it is possible, we will talk to both parties and say you are occupying this farm but it was owned by a black person and is it possible that we move you to that particular area. If it is not possible we are not saying we will insist, it is not cast in stone,” Ziyambi said during a radio program Tuesday evening.
Ziyambi however, said there was no regret over the 2000s land seizures but reiterated that government was moving to correct mistakes made due to the chaotic nature of the program.
Constitutional law expert, Professor Lovemore Madhuku who was also part of the program said the constitution was vague on who an indigenous farmer is but reiterated that: “It is quite clear that it means a black Zimbabwean, someone who is really an African. If there is any racial discrimination, it was out in place by the people when they accepted this constitution,” Madhuku noted
He further stated that although the issue has turned political, Zimbabweans had to take responsibility for the constitution which they voted for in 2013.
“You cannot say we Zimbabweans voted yes and somewhat you ignore…” he noted.
Political analyst Alex Magaisa cited skepticism due to the vague nature of the whole process.
“Zimbabweans are skeptical because of past experiences where politicians and their associates have unfairly benefited from publicly-funded schemes. The lists of beneficiaries have been kept secret. The worry is that unscrupulous politicians and their associates may be among the list of beneficiaries of the land compensation agreement,” he wrote on his blog, The Big Saturday Read.
He further stated that some farmers were referred to as “indigenous Zimbabweans” under section 295(1) of the Constitution.
These indigenous farmers, Magaisa said, are entitled to compensation for both land and improvements if the State compulsorily acquired their land during the land reform exercise.
“It is founded on the assumption that all indigenous farmers owned their land lawfully and legitimately which entitles them to compensation, while all non-indigenous farmers in the first category were odious beneficiaries of a racially-driven colonial land distribution system.
“No allowance was made for those non-indigenous farmers who may have bought their farms after independence just like their indigenous counterparts,” he added.
A joint Press conference by Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka and Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube on Monday said the government would revoke the offer letters of resettled farmers currently occupying pieces of land in question and offer them an alternative elsewhere.
“Where the situation presently obtaining on the ground makes it impractical to restore land in this category to its former owners, the government will offer the former farm owners alternative land elsewhere as restitution where such land is available,” the statement said.
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told a Post Cabinet Briefing Tuesday that the government’s intention was to ensure food security in the country.