As Zimbabwe prepares to compensate white commercial farmers, who were evicted from their land under President Robert Mugabe’s controversial agrarian reforms, some beneficiaries maintain that the program was designed to economically empower indigenous blacks.
Critics, on the other hand, believe that the land reforms were a political game played by Mr. Mugabe’s government, which needed to shore up support before an election featuring the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
President Mugabe’s government, which is looking for funding from international finance institutions, is now admitting that the land reforms that started in 2000 targeting almost 4,000 white commercial farmers, were wrong.
Lands, Rural and Resettlement Minister Douglas Mombeshora is quoted by the Mail and Guardian newspaper as saying as a result, efforts are now being made by the state to compensate the white farmers.
Mombeshora did not give specific details on how much money the government needs to fully compensate the disempowered white farmers.
Zimbabwe is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and similar institutions to implement recently agreed measures before it accesses fresh loans. The country stopped receiving such loans about 20 years ago due to various reasons, including the controversial land reforms.
Despite the government’s admission that the land reforms were not conducted properly, some beneficiaries commend President Mugabe for spearheading the land reforms.
One of the beneficiaries is Clifford Khupeko of Mashonaland West province.
Another land owner, Jeremiah Ngwerume, of Mhangura, says land defines one's freedom and doesn't regret the taking over a commercial farm, which was once owned by a white person.
Former Mashonaland West Zanu PF chairman Temba Mliswa, who was expelled from
the party for allegedly teaming with other senior officials to allegedly topple the president at an elective congress, praises Mr. Mugabe for embarking on the land reform.
He claims that some attempts were made by the ruling party to take back the land from him when he was dumped by Zanu PF.
At least 300 white commercial farmers out of an estimated 3,500 remain on productive land in Zimbabwe, which contributed a lot to the country’s Gross Domestic Product before the farm seizures.
Indications are that the invasions slashed export income from crops and fueled political conflicts local and with Western nations that criticized Mr. Mugabe from forcibly taking over land owned by white commercial farmers.
In terms of production on some of the farms, which are lying idle, Khupeko, says that has to be left for the next generation.
But Tinashe Karemba of Makonde, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Tsvangirai, says he refused to take over one of the farms on the basis of his political affiliation.
He says the land reforms were needed but done wrongly by the Zanu PF government.
The IMF and the World Bank are engaging Zimbabwe on releasing fresh loans for the southern African nation, which needs it for revamping its ailing economy. Conditions for releasing the funds include the compensation of white commercial farmers and payment of loan arrears of almost $2 billion.
Zimbabwe owes multilateral institutions more than $8 billion.