THE government plans to start compensating mainly white farmers who lost their land and livelihoods during state-backed farm invasions that began in 2000 and triggered a near decade-long recession.
The development reverses claims by President Robert Mugabe that no money would be paid.
According to a Finance Ministry circular distributed to lawmakers, farmers may be compensated for “both land and improvements,” as well as for equipment acquired by the state during the often violent seizure of properties.
The government said previously it would pay only for improvements such as dams, roads and buildings on seized farms.
The latest announcement comes as President Mugabe’s government is seeking to restore relations with the International Monetary Fund and western donors and kick start growth in an economy that’s half the size it was in 2000.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said the country is ready to pay lenders such as the IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank about $1.8 billion in debt and hopes the Washington-based fund will resume lending to the southern African nation this year.
The announcement signals a retreat from President Mugabe’s earlier claims that farmers would not be compensated because the land had been stolen from the black majority during colonial rule.
The invasions decimated production of tobacco, once Zimbabwe’s biggest export, and caused famines in a country that was once Africa’s second-biggest corn exporter.
They also came at a time when Mugabe was facing his biggest ever challenge from political opposition and the seizures bolstered his support in rural areas.
During colonial rule black subsistence farmers were forced onto infertile areas while the best land was reserved for white farmers, of which there were about 4,000 in 2000.
The Lands Compensation Fund will be financed by rents and levies charged to the new occupants of the former large-scale farms, “development partners” and donations, the Finance Ministry said.
It didn’t say how compensation would be calculated or what former farm owners might expect to be paid.
- New Zimbabwe