The process of compensating white commercial farmers displaced during the country’s land reform has begun in Zimbabwe, and the government has set aside $53 million for that purpose. However, some farmers are unhappy with the amount, saying it would not go far while others just want to return to their farmlands.
Commercial Farmers’ Union director, Ben Gilpin who is happy about the compensation also has some reservations. “Generally, the amounts that people get are a fraction of what their properties are worth and the amounts are spread, payments that take up a number of years to complete. I think the budget acknowledges that there is a bigger problem, and the government needs to work to try and find a way around that,” he stated
Land reform in Zimbabwe officially began in 1980 as an effort to balance off land ownership between black subsistence farmers and white Zimbabweans of European ancestry, who had enjoyed a superior political and economic status.
During that period, about 690,000 hectares of farmland owned by over 4,500 farmers were forcefully taken over. 20 years later, the tired, weak and old evicted farmers want a solution; given that the process has gone on for too long and the majority are in need of pension support, either through compensation or by returning their lands.
Assuming the $53 million is to be shared among 4,500 farmers, each farmer would go home with $1,117; an amount farmers could have made in a few months from sales of their agricultural produce. Besides, it is far less than the worth of the land 20 years after it was taken.
Although Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance, Mthuli Ncube, says the $53 million is a stopgap measure pending when a figure is reached on how much is owed to all evicted farmers. The $53 million benchmark is too small, considering the land has appreciated and the amount these farmers would have realized from their farmlands if they were still in possession of them, would be greater than any compensatory amount.