Zanu PF admits lingering land reform chaos

CHAOS continues to mar government’s land reform programme amid an admission by the ruling Zanu PF that it erred in its compulsory acquisition of farms from black Zimbabweans, as well as in failing to compensate white farmers and foreign investors protected by bilateral investment agreements.

The revelations, contained in the party’s central committee report presented to the party’s sixth congress held in Harare from December 2 to 7, fly in the face of previous claims by President Robert Mugabe and senior government officials that government had successfully conducted the land reform exercise which started in 2000.

The programme was launched with the avowed objective of redressing colonial imbalances which saw the minority white settler population gaining a lion’s share of the country’s fertile land while the majority blacks were overcrowded in barren areas of the country.

However, as the party now admits, government went on to dispossess even the blacks who were meant to be the beneficiaries.

“There are indigenous Zimbabweans who had their farms acquired and resettled,” reads part of the report, adding “the party strongly feels that such acquisition should not have been done as it is tantamount to taking land from an indigenous person to empower another. Hence, where practically possible, the indigenous person should be given back their farms and people resettled thereon relocated.”

The 6 214 dispossessed, mainly former white commercial farmers, are still to be compensated for their losses, with the party blaming Treasury for failing to release enough funds.

“While the Ministry of Lands has been requesting Treasury to provide funds to meet this obligation, the funds provided have been inadequate to the extent that up to 2014, only 210 out of 6 214 former farmers have been paid either fully or partially for improvements.”

Government has to date carried out valuations on just 1 250 of these farms.

The party and government have another headache in dealing with compensation issues for the 258 farms measuring a combined 977 650 5171 hectares acquired from foreigners who were supposed to be protected by the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas) from expropriation.

Government insists that Bippas do not preclude such acquisition, but merely bind it to pay compensation.

However, citing cash constraints, the report says: “A decision has been taken by Zanu PF and government that we avoid acquiring for now, Bippa protected farms to limit the country’s obligations.
“Those farms already acquired stand acquired and resettled farmers will remain thereon.”

In a further demonstration of the chaos surrounding the land issue, Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora has said government will soon evict thousands of people conveniently allowed by Zanu PF to invade farms across the country in the run-up to last year’s harmonised elections.

“Land Reform is one of the biggest forms of indigenisation and empowerment. In the process, however, there was no proper screening when the farms were acquired,” said Mombeshora. — Staff writer.