Blessing Zulu / Augustine Mukaro
THE government and former commercial farmers are headed for another showdown, this time over the issue of compensation, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt. And there is wide
disagreement over the verdict of the Utete report that 1 323 white farmers remain on the land.
Agriculture minister Joseph Made last month said farmers should come and collect their compensation money. He accused them of sabotaging agriculture by refusing to collect their compensation so that they could demonise the government. Made said those farmers who delayed collecting their money risked losing it as government would use the money to buy inputs for this agricultural season.
However, Justice for Agriculture spokesperson Ben Freeth said the minister was playing to the gallery.
“The minister is playing media politics,” said Ben Freeth. “The ministry is not following the laid down procedure. They are just coming up with figures.
This is done arbitrarily without consulting the farmer,” he said.
Freeth said not a single member of his organisation had been consulted by the government on the possible value of his property.
Commercial Farmers Union vice-president Stoff Hawgood said the money farmers were being offered was a pittance.
“The farmers who went to the ministry said the figures they were offered were not realistic,” Hawgood said.
According to the CFU’s information brochure, compensation had been paid out in only 134 cases where farms have been ceded to government.
“No other compensation has been forthcoming. A provision of $4,5 billion has been included in the 2003 government budget for compensation for acquired properties. At the current property valuations, this amount is sufficient to cover the purchase price of roughly 30 farms,” the CFU said.
Freeth said the supplementary budget announced on August 21 was silent on the issue of compensation.
Commercial farmers also pointed out that the money set aside for agriculture development and compensation demonstrated government’s lack of commitment. Commercial farmers lost close to $50 billion in movable assets and property when they were forced off their farms during the fast track land reform exercise.
Meanwhile commercial farmers’ organisations have dismissed claims in the Utete Land Audit Report that 1 323 white farmers were still on the land.
JAG said the situation on the ground indicated that between 500 to 600 farmers were still on their properties while less than 200 of them were still involved in production.
“Though it is very difficult to ascertain the exact number of farmers on the farms, an estimated 500 to 600 white commercial farmers are understood to be either involved in production or still hanging on at the farms,” JAG said.
JAG said evictions were still going on so that surveys to establish the number and activities of the farmers were changing on a daily basis.