Zimbabwe’s Evicted White Farmers Seek World Bank Backed Bonds

via Zimbabwe’s Evicted White Farmers Seek World Bank Backed Bonds – Businessweek 23 July 2014 by Brian Latham

Commercial farmers in Zimbabwe whose holdings were seized in land invasions backed by President Robert Mugabe’s administration say the World Bank is considering underwriting the settlement of their claims with government bonds.

The World Bank is advising the government on improving land reform and compensation bonds have been used in other countries, the office of its country manager in Zimbabwe, Camille Nuamah, said in a July 18 response to questions. Zimbabwean Agriculture Minister Joseph Made wasn’t available to discuss compensation, an aide who declined to be identified said when his office was called.

About 3,000 mainly white farmers were dispossessed of their properties in a land reform program that began ahead of elections in 2000 and led to the collapse of exports ranging from tobacco to corn, causing famines and an almost decade-long recession. At least 18 farmers and farm workers were killed in the invasions in 2000 and 2001, while about 300,000 farm workers have lost their jobs, according to the Harare-based Commercial Farmers Union.

“The bonds should be issued by the government of Zimbabwe but underwritten by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency under the World Bank,” Ben Gilpin, an executive at the CFU, said in an interview on June 9.

The government has yet to respond to the proposal, said Gilpin, who heads the union’s Land Evaluation Committee, which represents almost all of the dispossessed farmers. The CFU wants the bonds to be based on the value of individual farms.

Repair Relations

“The quality of land administration is only one of a wide range of policy issues that are considered” before the World Bank decides on funding for the government, the lender said in the e-mail. “Compensation bonds is only one of a variety of methods that have been used in other countries which have experienced large scale land reforms.”

Zimbabwe is trying to repair relations with global lenders and the International Monetary Fund will re-open its country office in the capital, Harare, this year after closing it in 2004. The southern African nation has total debts of about $10 billion and is in arrears to the World Bank for about $828 million, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament July 3.

The country is trying to stoke growth in a stalling economy threatened by deflation and liquidity constraints that have left government struggling to pay civil servants.

Mugabe, who has led the country since independence in 1980, justified the seizures by saying the U.K, its former colonial power, failed to honor a 1979 agreement that would have compelled Britain to fund land reform.

Legal Failure

Black Zimbabweans were disenfranchised of land after white settlers began claiming farms in the country, formerly known as Rhodesia, in 1890. The Land Tenure Act of 1969 gave whites, who made up less than two percent of the population, 39.1 percent of the country’s area while blacks were confined to 43.8 percent of mostly crowded land, maps in the CFU headquarters show. Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands says whites owned 45 percent of the country’s land in 1980.

Attempts by farmers to challenge evictions through Zimbabwe’s courts failed after the government issued notices to acquire individual farms beginning in 2000.

A subsequent attempt to challenge Zimbabwe through the regional Southern African Development Community Tribunal, while partially successful, was ignored by the government.

The evaluation committee has used satellite imagery to calculate the value of about 85 percent of all farms seized by the government, Gilpin said.

‘Some Dignity’

“The process is designed to make it affordable for government to pay compensation and bring closure to the issue for once and for all,” said Gilpin. “It’d be a way for government to facilitate re-engagement with the world and bring some dignity to the now elderly farmers who lost everything.”

The proposal has the support of the World Bank and some donor nations, he said.

About 20 former farmers have received “some” compensation from Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement, Gilpin said.

“It’s a protracted process taking up to five years, and farmers must prove that they paid retrenchment packages to their labor and then hand over their title deeds before anything can progress,” he said. He wouldn’t comment on amounts.

When the seizures began Zimbabwe was the world’s second-biggest tobacco exporter, Africa’s second-largest corn exporter and had thriving horticulture, paprika and rose export industries.

While tobacco production is recovering the country now regularly imports corn and its other agricultural industries have mostly been decimated with some farmers moving elsewhere in Africa or to Australia and New Zealand.



  • comment-avatar
    Swagman 9 years ago

    Viva la Zimdesia!

  • comment-avatar
    Clive Sutherland 9 years ago

    Amazing that in 1890 these farms were already there up and running for the taking!

  • comment-avatar
    Johann 9 years ago

    Bonds issued by the same ones who didn’t honour the nations own title deeds in the first place, The same ones who selfishly used the money that was provided by the UK for purchasing land!!?
    Yeah right, get real CFU.

  • comment-avatar
    Nimrod Mupanesengende 9 years ago

    Compensation must be holistic. It must take care of the Africans whose land was forcibly taken from them in 1890. That means the Government must claim 85% of whatever the commercial farmers are claiming and make sure that all retrenchment packages to former farm labourors are paid before the commercial farmer is paid 15% of what he claims on the farm. To ignore compensation for the Africans would be to endorse the notion that only white people are entitled to human rights and that Africans have no human rights. Government should seek grants from Britain to pay the commercial farmers and must never tax its people to pay those who stole land and never paid anything for it.

  • comment-avatar
    William Doctor 9 years ago

    About time. If not successful – just keep on fighting. Zimbabwe is so weak that they can’t fight for much longer.

  • comment-avatar
    Daniel 9 years ago

    Nimrod,its people like you who are the cause of the mess in Zim.You just see the whole sorry situation as an oportunity to get a freeby thruogh theft.Get off your butt and do something constructive without relying on others to finance and subsidise your life.

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    moyokumusha 9 years ago

    So Nimrod, are we going to pay them for all the development like roads, hospitals, cities etc. that would far exceed what we stole from them. Get real, these guys need to be compensated and those that want to return should be welcome to do so.

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    former farmer 9 years ago

    I am not so sure these bonds would be a good thing. How long would they be for and what interest rate would be paid ( I would expect 20 years and 4% per annum). They would have very little collateral value and as “whites are not allowed to own anything” in Zimbabwe none of the money would be invested locally, so all we going to do is pile more debt on the nation on a never, never basis.

    Knowing Zimbabwe politics nothing is guaranteed.

    Interest may be at a paltry 4% per annum which would be nothing meaningful and then would most probably attract a tax which would diminish the value even more so the government gets the title deeds and the farmers remain disposed and in poverty. Sorry CFU, think again on this.

    I propose a quick solution would be US$1 million one off payment for each farmer and an assurance that it would be tax free. US$4 billion and the land issue is sorted and then you would find US$2 billion would be re-invested in Zimbabwe giving the economy the stimulation it needs thereby creating the ability for the GOZ to repay the loan after a grace period of say 5 years.

    An alternative would be to restore the land owners rights and compensate him US$500 000 for losses and damages and regain ( and enjoy) the agricultural status we enjoyed pre 2000.

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    former farmer 9 years ago

    Omitted to say my understanding is from court cases won the compensation package as it presently stands is over US15 Billion and growing with interest charges, which is totally unaffordable to the nation and putting compensation way out of reach. No lender is going to loan the country that money with its present record and agricultural output.

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    Zim Patriot 9 years ago

    Dimrod, after independence farms were only bought on a Certificate from government of no present interest…Zimbabwean Government in other words gave permission for farmers to BUY with Zimbabwean DOLLARS farms for sale…..get with the programme and don’t be dim!!!!whether you steal a loaf of bread, a farm or a business it is still theft and GOD does NOT condone theft…..READ MICAH 2 V 1-7 in The Lords Word and see what He says about stealing someone else’s field and house, it says sorrow awaits you…..