By Alois Vinga
FINANCE Minister Mthuli Ncube says Treasury has made progress in its attempts to compensate white former land owners what they spent towards improvements on tracts of land which were expropriated by government under the land reform programme.
Ncube was speaking to the media on the sidelines the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Monetary Policy Statement review briefing in Harare on Friday.
“We have made progress in compensating the white farmers and the farmers themselves have also managed to come up with a figure on what they want to be compensated.
“On our side as government, we have done our evaluations using the white farmers’ methodology for nine provinces on the value of improvements,” he said.
In his 2019 budget last year, Ncube set aside US$53 million towards compensation for the commercial farmers.
The treasury chief said all provinces other than Mashonaland East have had evaluations conducted on their land.
He said 70 percent of the process was now complete as he went on to put a March deadline for the completion of the entire exercise.
Top economist John Robertson, who also attended the event, pointed out that the country was now spending millions of dollars in scarce foreign currency to import goods which were produced locally when land use was at its productive peak.
“We disabled ourselves and we can still choose to correct our situation because without reviving agricultural activity, the country cannot easily eradicate the huge import bill,” he said.
At least 4 000 white farmers lost their land since the onset of the controversial land reform process in 2000.
It is estimated that government needs at least US$9 billion to compensate the farmers for their losses.
Agriculture Minister Perrance Shiri told parliament last year that government was going to raise the compensation from the land beneficiaries.
“The policy is that the new farmer pays for the improvement on the farm and that money is used to compensate the white farmer…that is government’s position.
“If there is shortage of money, then government may chip in, but the new farmer has to contribute, including the $3 per hectare per year in levies that farmers are already paying,” Shiri said.