Zimbabwe’s government will offer land as compensation for 800 farms it seized under its land acquisition policy since 2000, according to regulations published this week.
Under former President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe took some 5 000 farms, mostly from white farmers, saying the policy was meant to address colonial imbalances. The land seizures triggered economic collapse.
The southern African country’s new Constitution, agreed with the opposition in 2013, provides for compensation of farmers whose land was seized by the state. Zimbabwe’s economic woes mean it has struggled to pay them.
It set aside US$17.5 million in its 2019 budget and a further 380 million Zimbabwe dollars (£16.6 million) for the same purpose this year. The former farmers demand US$7 billion in compensation, according to a committee representing them in negotiations with government.
In a change of approach, the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who replaced Mugabe after a coup in 2017, is offering some dispossessed farmers land as compensation, according to the regulations.
Dispossessed farmers covered in the land compensation scheme are citizens of countries with bilateral investment agreements with Zimbabwe, as well as black Zimbabwean commercial farmers who lost their farms.
The countries include former colonial ruler Britain, South Africa, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland, all of which had significant numbers of farmers in Zimbabwe.
It is not yet known whether the farmers will accept the offer.
In 2015, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, part of the World Bank group, ordered Zimbabwe to pay US$196 million compensation to a Swiss-German family whose farm was seized by government.
Zimbabwe lost a bid to have the compensation award annulled in 2018.
Zimbabwe’s government is in talks with white Zimbabwean farmers on compensation for the loss of farms.