Should former white farmers in Zimbabwe be compensated for their losses caused by the land reform program?
The chaotic, haphazard, populist and disastrous fast-track land reform program by the ruling party in Zimbabwe, ZANU-PF, saw white farmers having their farms taken away from them, without compensation. The consequences were deadly – as Zimbabwe plunged into a deep economic crisis from which it is still trying to extricate itself from.
In the aftermath of such a government policy to redistribute land, many former white farmers were left with nothing. And now, they say the compensation plans in place fall short as they are not enough. They do not think that the government is actually in a position to substantiate these compensation plans.
Zimbabwe’s government is cash-strapped, and is dealing with a forever ailing economy that does not exude any iota of confidence and hope. Haru Mutasa, a reporter with Al Jazeera, caught up with one of the former white farmers, Ben Freeth, who lost everything to the land reform program and he expressed a lot of skepticism about the government’s readiness to meet the compensation plan.
He doubts Zimbabwe will meet a total of $9 billion, which is needed to fully compensate around 4,000 white farmers who lost out to the land reform program. He believes Zimbabwe is only making these plans so that they just get international support. The proposed plan of providing $53 million is not just enough.
The Agriculture minister, Perence Shiri, said that the government would do everything it can so that the white farmers are “rightfully” compensated.
The issue of land reform is a very contentious, and in this context, although it carried a sense of being justifiable, it was used by former president Robert Mugabe for his populist purposes, noticing that his support was waning.
And to give compensation to white farmers would ruffle many feathers. Does it mean the Zimbabwean government is admitting the land reform program was very much wrong and unnecessary?