Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

***The views expressed in the articles published on this website DO NOT necessarily express the views of the Commercial Farmers' Union.***

Compensation for land

Compensation for land

In an important piece in the on-going Sokwanele debate on land entitled “The 
significance of land compensation for rehabilitation of Zimbabwe’s land 
sector”, Professor Mandi Rukuni, former chair of the Zimbabwe Land Tenure 
Commission and professor of agricultural economics at UZ, offers his 
thoughts on the compensation issue. As ever it is a measured, pragmatic 
stance and one with much merit. He makes a number of key points and


He points out that existing legislation (from 2000) allows for compensation 
for ‘improvements’ only. This has been confirmed in the still-disputed draft 
Constitution, suggesting at least that the MDC agrees with this formula, 
although the Constitution allows for full compensation including for land 
for those farms governed by investment treaties. Around 125 farmers settled 
on this basis in the early 2000s before hyperinflation kicked in. Now others 
are contemplating this, among the former owners of the 1250 farms that have 
been surveyed and valued. Thus since the Fast Track programme, 210 farmers 
have been compensated for improvements. Compensation values which have been 
paid out vary from about $200,000 to $1.2 million, according to Rukuni.

But what would the total cost? In order for the agricultural economy to move 
forward and for investment to flow, with confidence once again being 
restored, dealing with the compensation issue is a priority. Under the 
existing law, compensation and so ‘quittance’ must precede the issuing of 
any new lease. Without compensation then, especially for the larger A2 
farms, lease arrangements are impossible, resulting in continued insecurity 
for existing farmers.

According to government, the total settlement bill on this current basis 
would be US$1.5-2 billion. However, the Commercial Farmers’ Union disputes 
the legislation, arguing that compensation values should include land, 
improvements, interest and consequential damage. They estimate the total 
would come to between $6 and $10 billion. Clearly there is a big gap between 
the estimates. What then is a pragmatic solution? The fact that the 
government is serious about compensation is clear from the budget 
allocations up to 2014, over which period some $30 million has been 
earmarked for compensation. This is clearly not enough, and other support, 
including from the international community will be required, to resolve 
this. So, what else needs to be done?

Rukuni identifies two things for immediate action. First, valuations must be 
speeded up. Currently over 5000 properties still need to be properly valued, 
and if valuations are disputed, they must be dealt with in the 
Administrative Court. Second, a Land Acquisition Compensation Fund needs to 
be set up to allow swift and complete payment of all compensation. The fund 
would be made up of contributions from the national budget, contributions 
from international donors and development banks, and from transfer fees and 
ground rents from A2 farmers once leases were issued.

Above all, Rukuni argues for a pragmatic and flexible process. While there 
are some who will stick out for a full settlement and will continue to 
pursue this in any court that will hear them, there are many others – 
perhaps the majority – who want an end to the uncertainty. For many the 
economic collapse, as well as the loss of their farm assets, has resulted in 
severe hardships, very often in a vulnerable period of retirement, given the 
age profile of most former white farmers.

Rukuni comments, showing his frustration with all sides: “…frankly the 
country needs a more proactive leadership from both government and organized 
farmers on this matter. It is better for government and farmers to face 
donors with a negotiated position than the current huge gulf in positions”. 
In other words, he suggests, until there is a sense of joint movement on 
this donors, whose budgets are being squeezed in any case are unlikely to 
touch the politically charged prospect of compensating a few thousand white 
former farmers, prioritizing them above other perhaps more pressing 
humanitarian and development needs in the country.

Yet for the country to move forward some compensation deal, at least for the 
majority, is essential. This must emerge from a national consensus, driven 
jointly by former farmers and the inclusive government. This must represent 
a reasonable, not a maximum, claim, more likely in the ballpark of the 
government’s estimate. My personal view, expressed in an earlier blog, is 
that, rather than expecting the constrained national budget and aid budgets 
to bankroll this, any compensation settlement must be wrapped up in a deal 
around national debt. Yet sadly on this too, there remains little consensus. 
So, while the administrative and legal mechanisms for resolution exist, the 
political commitment from key players must be there too. Sadly, this may 
still be something that has to wait until a new political settlement is 
reached, hopefully in the next year, with a new agreed Constitution being 
the basis for moving forward on this thorny consequence of the land reform. 


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