Farmers, business welcome decision

Source: Farmers, business welcome decision | The Herald April 12, 2019

Farmers, business welcome decisionBen Gilpin

Golden Sibanda Senior Reporter
White former commercial farmers have described Government’s decision to start compensating them for improvements on farms taken to resettle landless people as a welcome gesture that should bring finality to the land question.

In a joint statement, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), the Compensation Steering Committee and The Valuation Consortium said they had to accept the advanced interim payments as some farmers were now in financial distress.

The three representative bodies said the interim payment is a “huge step by Government to acknowledging that compensation is owed by them and that the delay has caused hardship and that they are now in a hurry to deal with this”.

Speaking on Capitalk FM, CFU director Mr Ben Gilpin, said the move will have a positive impact on both the agricultural sector and the general economy as well as relations with the outside world. He said the move is welcome as it closes one of the burdening issues that slows progress.

“At this time, we appreciate the move taken by the Government to try and bring some kind of closure so that we can move on positively,” said Mr Gilpin.

The $53 million compensation is part of a series of Government efforts to re-engage with the international community to effect a reclamation of the economic growth trend that had long been interrupted by sour relations.

The Second Republic Government seeks to recalibrate relations with the minority white former farmers who identified perceived injustices in the land redistribution programme.

The compensation reflects the new dispensation’s validation of dialogue as a tool for progress.

What is significant is that this process is coming out of dialogue and we believe that dialogue is the way forward. We feel positive although taking into context $53 million is pretty small in terms of the size of the problem.

“We hope that this dialogue will be one that embraces national healing and giving opportunity to get skills back into agriculture in a way that help build the country up in the future,” said Mr Gilpin.

“At the moment, it can be a very little amount but it can be significant in terms of a signal and we must consider the value of that sign,” said Mr Gilpin.

The quantum figure is expected to propagate progressive relations despite both parties (resettled black farmers and white farmers) feeling robbed of opportunities in one way or the other owing to historical injustices.

“There is a desire to see relations with Zimbabwe improve. From a Government’s point of view, they are sticking pretty much to the law that is there. From the perspective of farmers, this is difficult particularly when you look at the context that a good chunk of this land that was acquired was transferred post-independence and a lot of it with notices of certificates of no present interest by the Government,” said Mr Gilpin.

The registration and the list of farmers is expected to be completed by the end of April 2019 with finalisation of the quantum compensation figure to be done in May 2019. The new development reflects further the Government’s obligations to uphold property rights for prosperity purposes.

Commentator Mr Langton Mabhanga said it is important to understand the context and what Government is compensating for.

“Government is not compensating for land, for land belongs to the State, it belongs to Zimbabweans. The compensation is for the equipment and infrastructure development that the former farm owners made.

“Farmers who inherited these farms and equipment, should also pay the compensation. Why should it be burdened on every tax payer yet the new farm owners are in business and producing on them?” he said.