Zimbabwean commercial farmer Ben Gilpin is among many landowners who have been offered government compensation for being evicted from their land and farms two decades ago and have found the plan to be insufficient.
Gilpin, who was expelled from his 1,000-hectare farm during a land reform campaign led by former president Robert Mugabe, is one of many mostly white farmers seeking redress from the government after years of court action and delays.
The government’s $3.5 billion compensation package has been criticized by some farmers for being financially inadequate and for paying scant regard to land restitution or restoring property rights. “The offer of bonds represents a very significant reduction in value with a prolonged redemption period. This is unacceptable and bears no relation to the original offer,” Gilpin said.
Compensating farmers is central to a government strategy under discussion with a key creditor, the African Development Bank (AfDB), to clear historic arrears of some $17 billion.
The plan was agreed upon by the Commercial Farmers Union in July 2020 and subsequently revised without adequate consultation.
Zimbabwe now intends to pay farmers over a decade, instead of the 20 years announced three years ago, with money raised via treasury bills. However, Harare has already defaulted twice on the payments, in June 2021 and June 2022.
“We want to reject this government compensation deed because it is not a proper compensation deal,” said Ben Freeth, whose father-in-law challenged Mugabe’s eviction policies at the now-disbanded SADC Tribunal and won in a 2008 judgement.
The government is continuing discussions with farmers over appropriate payment methods and time frames, said finance minister Mthuli Ncube. “I am certain that we will converge pretty soon in terms of the appropriate instruments,” he told journalists on Friday.
AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina, who is championing Zimbabwe’s debt clearance efforts, said paying farmers over a decade was a long time, given the age of most claimants.
“I think a front-loading farmer compensation approach is worth consideration. The process will require careful negotiations and the implementation of strategic reforms,” he said.
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