TWENTY years after Zimbabwe started seizing commercial farms owned by white farmers, the government has started to give some of the land back.
While Government officials say Statutory Instrument 62 of 2020 which was recently gazetted has brought “misconceptions and misinterpretations” that Government was giving land back to the white former commercial farmers, that was far from the case.
But Zimbabweans, particularly legislators, are not convinced.
The partial reversal of the late former President Robert Mugabe’s policy covers land that should have been covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA) with other nations, including the UK, South Africa and Germany, as well as hundreds of “indigenous” land owners.
About 450 landowners will be entitled to apply for the return of title deeds or compensation, most of them local black farmers and about 150 whose nationalities were covered by bilateral agreements and treaties.
More than 3,500 white farmers, many of them now elderly and still waiting for a settlement, will continue to remain in limbo.
Last week Tuesday, there were murmurs in Parliament when the issue of land came up for discussion.
“Varume ava vatengesa nyika (our leaders are sellouts),” Members of Parliament were recorded in the Parliamentary Hansard murmuring during the debate, as Deputy Agriculture Minister Vangelis Haritatos (pictured) struggled to explain what government intended to achieve by reversing the land grabs.
Fearless independent legislator for Norton, Temba Mliswa, was particularly scathing in his remarks.
“Whose interests are you serving to reverse the land reform? Tell us, who is the government trying to please?” Mliswa demanded Haritatos to explain.
Clarifying the Statutory Instrument (SI) in land at his Ngungunyana offices last week, Agriculture, Lands, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri said the land reform was irreversible.
“The Land Reform Programme is final and irreversible. Any sentiments to the contrary are false and are to be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.
“It is false to say that there is an intention to return land to the previous white commercial farmers and reverse the gains of the land reform. It is equally false to state that the SI is designed to evade paying compensation to indigenous farmers, rather it creates an avenue for these farmers to exercise that option to acquire title and continue with farming activities or opt for compensation.
“The development of the Statutory Instrument in question was guided by constitutional provisions:
“Section 72 which provides for the rights to agricultural land and the vesting of all agriculture land in the State, section 289 which provides the guiding policy on agricultural land, section 290 which provides for the continued vesting of agricultural land in the State, section 293 which provides for the alienation of land by state including the alienation for value, transfer of ownership and lease of agricultural land and section 295 which provides for the compensation of indigenous Zimbabweans whose agricultural land was acquired and person whose agricultural land was protected by a Government to Government agreement at the time of acquisition,” he said.
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