HARARE: The government may issue treasury bills, along with imposing a land levy, to raise money to compensate evicted white farmers but the process will take a long time to settle, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Thursday.
President Robert Mugabe early this month agreed to major reforms, including compensation for white farmers, as part of measures to end Zimbabwe’s isolation by the West.
Chinamasa told a meeting of farmers, Western ambassadors to Harare and government officials that the government would work with former white farmers to evaluate farms in order to reach an agreement on how much to pay in compensation.
The government had no money now to pay the farmers and would look to taxing black farmers who benefited from the seizures to contribute towards a compensation fund, he said.
“And of course it means that, in that respect, we have to start talking about treasury bills as well,” Chinamasa said.
Compensation would be paid to aged white farmers first while younger ones would be paid over time, he said, and Thursday’s meeting was part of efforts to mend relations with the West.
He declined to comment further on the issue.
New farm occupants working the land, many of whom had few farming skills when they were resettled, say they can barely make ends meet, let alone pay an extra levy.
The land seizures, along with allegations of vote-rigging and human rights abuses – all denied by Mugabe – led to Harare being targeted with sanctions by Western donors.
“Addressing compensation issues is a necessary condition to create a more favourable business climate and increase the level of confidence of foreign and domestic investors in the agriculture sector,” said Philippe Van Damme, the European Union ambassador to Harare.
Zimbabwe paid compensation to 240 farmers before 2008 out of the 6,214 farms that it has seized since 2000.
The country is now in the grip of a devastating drought that has left up to 4 million people facing hunger.