About 900 white commercial farmers who lost their land in the government’s land reform programme which reportedly affected more than 4 000 commercial farmers have registered for compensation and will know their fate by Friday next week.
Commercial Farmers Union director Ben Gilpin says his union is working with the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture to verify the applications and those who have registered will know the outcome by 10 May.
Zimbabwe’s land reform programme has largely been blamed for the country’s economic collapse but supporters of the programme argue that there was no way the Zimbabwean government could have done the exercise otherwise.
The programme has been described as one of the largest land redistribution programmes ever in the world.
Although agricultural production plummeted it has since recovered with production of tobacco reaching record levels.
The country currently has enough maize from last season to last another five months.
The land reform exercise made former President Robert Mugabe one of the most hated political leaders in the world with British writer George Monbiot arguing that, according to the West, Mugabe had become the third most hated leader in the world after Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
“There is no doubt that Mugabe is a ruthless man, or that his policies are contributing to the further impoverishment of the Zimbabweans. But to suggest that his land seizures are largely responsible for the nation’s hunger is fanciful. Though the 4 500 white farmers there own two-thirds of the best land, many of them grow not food but tobacco. Seventy per cent of the nation’s maize — its primary staple crop — is grown by black peasant farmers hacking a living from the marginal lands they were left by the whites,” Monbiot wrote way back in August 2002.
“The seizure of the white farms is both brutal and illegal. But it is merely one small scene in the tragedy now playing all over the world. Every year, some tens of millions of peasant farmers are forced to leave their land, with devastating consequences for food security. For them there are no tear-stained descriptions of a last visit to the graves of their children. If they are mentioned at all, they are dismissed by most of the press as the necessary casualties of development.”
Monbiot said thousands of people were displaced each year by Western governments or companies to make way for “development” but the media was silent because: “These are dark-skinned people being expelled by whites, rather than whites being expelled by black people. They are, as such, assuming their rightful place, as invisible obstacles to the rich world’s projects. Mugabe is a monster because he has usurped the natural order.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has come under intense criticism for compensating white farmers when colonialists grabbed the land from its traditional owners without any compensation.
The administration, however, argues that it is merely abiding by the country’s constitution which is the highest law in the land.
The government set aside $53 million for compensation, which the farmers say is too little as they say compensation should be about $10 billion.
The government says it is compensating farmers for improvements only and no the land.