“We are now going to set up a Compensation Fund which will help pay the commercial farmers who had their farms taken away for resettlement purposes,” Herbert Murerwa, Minister of Lands, told Radio VOP in an exclusive interview.
“We are currently coming up with the total package and will release the finer details later after some meetings with Cabinet. We are, however, saying we will not compensate for the land but money will be provided for compensation to genuine cases soon. We are working on this with international consultants such as Professor Mandivamba Rukuni to help us come up with a way forward and a figure to give the farmers some of whom are now destitute.”
This could be the first time that government has back-tracked on the land grab issue after refusing to pay compensation to commercial farmers in the past.
President Robert Mugabe has always maintained that Britain should repay the farmers because they were from there. He has also pointed out that Zimbabwe would not pay for land that had been grabbed from blacks in the past in the first place.
However, London says Zimbabwe should pay its own farmers because it does not have anything to do with land that is not in its territory.
Some white commercial farmers have already taken the Zimbabwe Government to court in South Africa after it refused to pay them compensation for their farms in Zimbabwe.
The South African Court ruled that Zimbabwean farmers could successfully attach property belonging to Zimbabwe in South Africa.
“We are now working on something,” Minister Murerwa said. “It might take some time but we will solve this land issue soon.”
There are currently only 200 white commercial farmers out of at least 4 500 white commercial farmers who used to farm in Zimbabwe immediately after Independence in 1980.
Zimbabwe was then known as “the bread basket of Southern Africa” scooping numerous agricultural awards including the prestigious international US$100 000 Prize For Sustainable Hunger which went to President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe was then the world’s third largest tobacco grower producing more than 290 million kg of tobacco and able to feed itself as well as export maize regionally.
“There are only 200 white commercial farmers left in the country right now and the agricultural situation is very bleak,” a senior Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) official told Radio VOP in an interview.
“I can safely tell you that from that figure at least 115 are in courts for various offenses including refusing to vacate their farms. The situation is worrying and shocking but they are still leaving because they are not being compensated. Some of them are now very old and cannot continue farming at a loss because their most lucrative farms were grabbed by government for resettlement.”
He said several farmers were now destitute because they did not have any income because they earned their living from proceeds generated on their commercial farms.
“Some farmers are more than 50 years old and you cannot continue farming profitably when you get that old,” the CFU official said. “Age plays a very important factor in farming.”