The first allocation of funds availed by the Zimbabwe government to compensate some of the commercial white farmers displaced during the 2000 land invasions, may be in the accounts of many, by the end of May, said Ben Gilpin, director of the Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe (CFU).
“We anticipate within the next week, certainly before the end of the month,” said Gilpin.
About 860-white farmers have applied for compensation, but only a handful of those considered to be in “financial distress,” will get first preference of the annual RTGS$53-million, the local Zimbabwe currency, allocated for compensation.
The government of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced last month that it had started the registration process for the displaced white farmers, to compensate them for the improvements made to the land, but not the land itself. Gilpin applauded the government for keeping its word.
“Certainly we are grateful that the dialogue has been positive and certainly the movement with regard this interim relief is certainly positive and well received, but it’s a very small part of a bigger picture,” said Gilpin. “Government itself has made a commitment to going back to when the president was inaugurated first, and secondly when he was re-inaugurated, he made a commitment to get this done quickly,” he added.
The government said it was following through on its commitment to compensate white farmers in adherence to the country’s constitution, but also in response to pressure from western governments as a condition to normalize relations, that could include the lifting of sanctions.
The issue of compensation has however been controversial, and has drawn criticism from some Zimbabweans who argue that compensation is a reversal on government’s commitment to empower blacks.
While many of the estimated 4,000 white farmers who were forced off their land left the country and started new lives elsewhere, of those who remained, many still want to farm, and Gilpin said if land was made available, many would return to farming and help rebuild the economy.
“Certainly there’s a lot of underutilized land in the country and it would make a lot of sense if there’s an aim of getting the country back, functional and getting the economy going, that those that are interested, regardless of race, and have got skills, should be able to get access to land and use it productively,” Gilpin.
Though some of the farmers welcome the opportunity to return to farming, reports of fresh invasions on various white owned farms, have revived fears of the violence that occurred during 2000 land invasions.