The Sunday Mail
Government has opened negotiations with British authorities as it seeks to raise over US$3 billion required to compensate white former commercial farmers whose land was appropriated during the fast track Land Reform Programme, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has said.
Under the Lancaster House agreement, the British Government pledged technical and financial assistance for land redistribution, an obligation that was later reneged on by a different Government.
In an exclusive interview with The Sunday Mail at State House yesterday, the President said payment of compensation for developments on expropriated land was a constitutional obligation which Government was determined to fulfil.
Government is registering white former commercial farmers affected by the agrarian reform to pave way for compensation using $53 million provided in the 2019 National Budget.
Said President Mnangagwa: “There are two principles here; the first one is that we must be seen to be respectful of our own Constitution.
“And our Constitution bids us to pay compensation on improvements on land; we do not pay compensation for land because no one brought land to Zimbabwe; land was found here by those who came here.
“So, there is no compensation with regard to land, but improvements on land; we agreed as a country through the Constitution.So it must be understood that we only pay when we have got resources to do so.
“And currently it is estimated that the compensation may run to something like $3 billion.We are looking at the old white farmers, as we make payment; we don’t pay compensation to those who are fit.
“When we feel we do not have resources no one compels us to do anything. But fortunately, now we are having discussions; the commercial farmers and Government on one side, we are now having discussions with the British side also for them to contribute to this compensation.
“In that regard I think we are moving in the correct direction, but what is critically important is that land cannot be compensated, what we are compensating are improvements on land.”
The President gave a historical background behind the Land Reform Programme.
He said the Government had to choose between being booted out of the Commonwealth or prosecuting the land redistribution programme.
“We had a choice between moving ahead with our land reform or desist from implementing our land reform in order to be accepted in the Commonwealth, but because, as you realise, our war of liberation was based on the principal grievance of land; so we had to address the imbalances relating to land.
“We had ten years’ experience where land had to change hands on a willing buyer willing seller and nothing significant ever happened.
“So, we chose to get what belonged to us, the Commonwealth does not belong to us, but the actual land belonged to the people of Zimbabwe; so we said for us to be in the Commonwealth and fully independent let us get our land.”