OPINION:There is no reversal of Zimbabwe’s land reform program

PUBLISHED: Tue, 01 Sep 2020 18:04:17 GMT
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By Kudzai Mutisi
The government of Zimbabwe issued a statement on 31 August 2020 addressing
several issues pertaining to the land reform program. The statement presented the
government’s position on the compensation of indigenous (black) Zimbabweans who
lost their land during the land reform program and the compensation of former farm
owners whose land was covered by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion
Agreements (BIPPAs).

Tractors from Belarus arrive in Zimbabwe as part of a training programme for farmers.

ocals and foreigners seem confused by the government’s statement particularly the
issue of returning land to certain former farm owners as compensation. Many have
misconstrued this as the reversal of the land reform program by President
Mnangagwa’s government.
The compensation of former farm owners is covered in section 295 of the constitution
of Zimbabwe. There are three categories of farm owners eligible for compensation in
different forms. Section 295 (1) provides that indigenous Zimbabweans who lost their
land must be compensated for the land and developments thereon. Section 295 (2)
stipulates that those whose land was covered by BIPPAs and BITs are entitled to
compensation for the land and developments thereon. Section 295 (3) compels the
government to compensate those not covered in subsection 1 and 2 for improvements
on the land and nothing else.


In line with the constitution of Zimbabwe, President Mnangagwa’s government has
put measures to provide compensation to all three categories of former farm owners.
The recent statement provides options for the compensation of farmers under
subsection 1 or 2 of section 295. In fact, these former farm owners were not included
in the Global Compensation Deed signed recently. It is only these two categories of
former farmer owners who have the option to get back their land or to be allocated
alternative land elsewhere.


The farmers that fall under section 295 (3) will be compensated only for improvements
on their farms in accordance with the Global Compensation Deed recently signed by
the government and former white farmers. These former white farmers owned more
than 98 percent of the land expropriated by the government during the land reform
program. They have no option of getting back that land.
It is worth noting that the number of farms covered by BIPPAs and BITs are fewer than 37.

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Some of the farmers in this category already received compensation for their land
during the Mugabe era. According to the recent government statement, the
compensation of these farmers will be governed by Statutory Instrument 62 of 2020.
President Mnangagwa is not reversing the land reform program, he is simply
implementing the country’s constitution. By committing to the full compensation of
farmers covered by BIPPAs and BITs, the government of Zimbabwe is respecting and
restoring property rights. Moreover, the new black farmers currently occupying the
land covered by BIPPAs will not be left landless, they will be resettled elsewhere by the
government. This is a positive move that should be applauded by locals and foreigners
alike.


The government’s statement also emphasised that illegal occupation of productive
farms will not be tolerated anymore. In addition, the government will not downsize
productive farms. This is a complete departure from the past where the government
allowed the disruption of production on white owned farms.


The criticism being levelled against President Mnangagwa’s government is driven by
sheer ignorance of the country’s constitution and political propaganda. If anything, the
recent moves by the government seek to correct the mistakes made during the land
reform program and to bring sanity to the agricultural sector. There is no reversal of
Zimbabwe’s land reform program. In fact, the government is effectively finalising the
land reform program.