Government has reiterated that the Land Reform Programme was irreversible and there would be no major disruptions to agriculture as only a few indigenous farmers were likely to be affected by reallocations, while a mere 37 farms covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAS) would be offered back to farmers who were dispossessed.
Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Anxious Masuka yesterday said only indigenous farmers who were dispossessed of their properties during the Land Reform Programme and those covered under BIPPAs, would have the opportunity to get their land back.
The Government classifies indigenous farmers as people of Zimbabwean origin who were previously marginalised before 1980 and had acquired land either through direct purchase or through Government commercial farm schemes before the land revolution.
These farmers would either get their land back or get full compensation for the agricultural land acquired and improvements that were done on the farms.
Section 295 (1) subsection 2 of the Constitution also provides for the full compensation of persons whose agricultural land was acquired, yet it was protected.
“There is no confusion because the Constitution of Zimbabwe is very clear, Section 295 subsection 1 and subsection 2 that we have an obligation to compensate for land and improvements for indigenous Zimbabweans who constitute only 1,3 percent of the 18 600 farmers that were allocated land.
“We also have an obligation under the Constitution, to consider the BIPPAS and Bilateral Investment Treaty and those constitute just under one percent of the 18 600 beneficiaries. Those fall in the category that the SI 62 of 2020 clearly explains.
“When an application is lodged with the minister, there is consideration whether in the public interest and security of the country there is merit in doing so. Where it is no longer possible then compensation is offered,” he said.
Minister Masuka said former owners, who are still on the farms but had not regularised, should immediately approach the relevant Government offices around the country to lodge their applications.
“This indicates that the land reform programme is irreversible. So those that are there ought to follow the law because the land is vested in the State and that category of farmers is 294 and again about one percent of the 18 600. Altogether the numbers that we are looking at addressing, redressing for the clarity we gave on Monday affects a mere 3,2 percent of the beneficiaries. You will not notice because it’s a minute proportion of the beneficiaries,” he said.
He said the ministry would explain the process in vernacular to ensure everyone understood that land reform was irreversible.
“The Global Compensation Deed clearly articulates that and there is acceptance by both parties that we now want to move to a second stage which is ensuring that we increase agricultural productivity, we increase production and profitability; agriculture becomes a business and this country is way up in into food security territory from now into the future.
“Government is genuine and has done the best under the circumstances and provision of the Constitution which we overwhelmingly adopted in 2013,” he said.
This position was also reaffirmed in Parliament yesterday by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi after queries from the opposition on the import of the new Government policy which has been misinterpreted in many circles.
Responding to questions from MDC Alliance Harare East legislator Mr Tendai Biti, Minister Ziyambi said the pronouncement on compensation for white former commercial farmers was not a reversal of the Land Reform Programme.
“What we are doing now is to bring closure to the Land Reform Programme so that we move forward and focus on production,” he said.
He shot down suggestions that Parliament should have been involved in discussing the compensation deal.
“That is the role of the Executive and we will only bring it to Parliament for approval. If there is need to use taxpayers’ money, the Appropriation Bill for that will come to Parliament,” Minister Ziyambi added.
In an earlier interview with The Herald , Minister Ziyambi allayed fears of a reversal of the land revolution, saying Government would only offer land back to two categories of farmers who were dispossessed under land reform, namely black indigenous farmers and white farmers who were protected by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs) signed between Zimbabwe and their countries.
There have been misinterpretations of Statutory Instrument 62 with some people speculating that the Government was reversing the land reform programme.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF acting secretary for Information and Publicity Cde Patrick Chinamasa yesterday said land reform was something that the revolutionary party guarded jealously.
Speaking at the ruling party’s weekly press conference, Cde Chinamasa said: “The issues pertaining to the land question where settled in a referendum in 2013 giving rise to our current Constitution. Section 295 of the Constitution as read with subsections 7 and 8 of section 72 of the Constitution clearly spell out the issues pertaining to compensation for land under three categories: land compulsorily acquired which was owned by indigenous black Zimbabweans, land compulsorily acquired which was owned by citizens of other countries who enjoyed protection under Bilateral Protection Agreements (BIPPAs) and land and falling outside of these two categories
Cde Chinamasa said that land which fell under BIPPAs and
compulsorily acquired would not constitute 1 percent of the total hectarage compulsorily acquired.
He warned the MDC-A and the former colonisers to stop lecturing the Government on the land redistribution exercise.
“The MDC and its allies who resisted the land reform process, and begged sanctions for our people to be punished for taking back the land cannot lecture or school us about land reform,” said Cde Chinamasa.
The revolutionary land redistribution programme embarked upon by the Zanu PF Government from 2000 to date has been a most powerful and effective tool of empowering the previously disadvantaged black population of Zimbabwe and had made the Zimbabwean population, post-colonialism, one of the most empowered populations regionally and continentally.
In order to render the land redistribution programme irreversible in practical terms and to bring finality to the land question, it was incumbent on Government to expedite the issuance of permits to the more than 350 000 households who benefited under the A1 scheme and granting of 99-year leases to the more than 19 000 beneficiaries under the A2 scheme.