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'Less than 37 white farmers qualify for Zimbabwe land restoration'

03 Sep 2020 at 06:10hrs | Views
On Monday, the Government announced that it will offer land back to two categories of farmers who were dispossessed under the land reform, namely black indigenous farmers and white farmers who were protected by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs), signed between Zimbabwe and their countries.

Our Political Editor Fungi Kwaramba (FK) sat down with the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi (ZZ) to talk about the effects of the move. Below are excerpts of the interview.

FK: There are people who are saying the Government is giving land back to white former farmers, what is the correct position?

ZZ: That assertion is very false. What Government is doing is; we are moving towards a scenario where we improve productivity and ensure certainty in the agricultural sector. So we looked in the provisions of the law, and what we want to do so as to bring finality to the issue of land reform so that it is done away with and what we need now is to tide it up and close it.

FK: What does the law say on land acquisition?

ZZ: The Constitution has two sections that deal with agricultural land, that is Section 72 and Section 295. Section 72 clearly states that agricultural land belongs to the State. The procedure of acquiring the land states that subject to Section 295, we don't pay any compensation and it goes on to say for the land the former colonial master pays for the land and we only pay for improvements. Then Section 295 clearly lists two categories that qualify for compensation. There was an admission that there was a revolution that took place in 2000, and when that revolution happened there were certain categories whose land was not supposed to be taken. The first category were indigenous Zimbabweans who bought the land, and the second ones are those that the Government of Zimbabwe after independence entered into Bilateral Agreements with their respective countries for them to come and invest here. Those categories were supposed to be excluded from compulsory acquisition of land and what we are now doing is to give effect to the provisions in the Constitution.

FK: This programme, won't it disturb the agricultural season?

ZZ: We are mindful of that (and) we don't want to disturb farms that are very productive and at the same time where we can give them land, because they are indigenous people, we will give them land, the same with BIPPA farms. If it is possible we can give them back land because it was not supposed to be taken in the first place and the BIPPA farms are less than 37. The black owned farms are also not many. This is where we are saying where it is possible, we will give them back their land because they bought it, where it is not possible we won't do that.

FK: So white farmers are not getting back farms as has been said in some circles?

ZZ: It is our detractors who are spinning this around, saying we are reversing the land reform, no, there is no reversal of the land reform. It is completed and we are not going to go back.

Some would argue why are you not paying full compensation to everyone. Our argument is that, a black person who is getting back his farm is having what is rightly his. The white farmers got stolen property, if you buy a stolen phone and the rightful owner is found, you will lose it, because there is no transfer of rights, even those who have title, they got it from thieves who were their forefathers and therefore you cannot have a right from a person who didn't have that right in the first place. Blacks had their land taken away, so we are saying they get their farms back, because he was not supposed to buy in the first place since it was his land. That is what we are correcting. We are saying where that farmer, our definition of farmer is those two categories, those desirous to go back can go to the Ministry of Agriculture and apply, and if it is practical then we can give them the land.

FK: Some would say such an arrangement favours foreign whites at the expense of local ones?

ZZ: The foreign white farmer got it from the legitimate Government of Zimbabwe, who are the real title holders, the rest got the farmers from somebody who had stolen it, so those with whom we signed bilateral agreements, we will have to honour them.

We have lost some cases, the Attorney General has been going to defend some of these cases, I remember a case involving a white former farmer in Manicaland, where we lost and were made to pay US$500 million as compensation. So we said to ourselves it is better that these people get the land and continue farming as per the bilateral agreement.

FK: Some are arguing that there is no Act of Parliament to give effect to this process?

ZZ: The Act of Parliament is there in the Land Acquisition Act, which clearly states what has to be done. What that Act allows us to do is to have regulations, which is a Statutory Instrument, on how we are going to do it, people saying such things are not telling the truth. That Act of Parliament is the primary piece of legislation that we are using to enact the Statutory Instruments.

FK: What is the message to the new farmers who have been misinformed that they are going to lose their land?

ZZ: Our farmers should not be afraid. The President has said it time and again that the Land Reform is over. What we are simply doing is to clean it up so as to ensure that everyone is secure. Those who are supposed to have their land, we discuss with them, we either give them back the land or we give them alternative land or compensation.

Those that we agreed in the Constitution, that we compensate for improvements, we sat down with them and signed the Global Compensation Agreement, the Minister of Finance is going to go on a drive to raise those funds, we want to make sure that as much as is possible we will not use the fiscus to finance the compensation. We want to reach a finality. This is a process we are saying let's just finish this land reform and focus on productivity. As we move towards our Vision 2030, to be an upper middle income, we want to be a net exporter of food, we want to go back to be the breadbasket of Africa, that is our thrust.

FK: Why then are we having so many views on this issue, particularly from the opposition?

ZZ: Of course, those in the opposition want to spin this around and bastardise it and label it as an evil thing, yet it is constitutional. We are following our laws and we will not deviate from our laws. The vice president of the MDC Alliance Tendai Biti, at one point was very vocal saying we could not take the land without paying compensation for both the land and improvements. He said what we were doing was against property rights and evil. We then signed the Global Compensation Agreement with the white farmers and now that we are giving blacks back their land, there are at the forefront claiming we are reversing the land reform, a programme they never subscribed to in the first place. You can clearly see that they are opposing for the sake of opposing. It is expected of them because they were taken off guard and never expected that we would do this.  They never expected that we would in such a short space of time move to restore confidence in the farming sector. We even went further to say when we embarked on the land reform, they were certain white farmers whose land was acquired, but they remained on the farm without any title and they have been neglected for a long time, some of these farmers are very patriotic. They have been farming without any security whatsoever and we are saying they should come forward and apply for land and they be given an offer letter, maybe a 99-Year Lease. We have broadened it now to say, whether you are a white farmer or black, as long as you are still there, this programme is now reaching its finality come forward and regularise your stay where you are.

Source - the herald
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