Zimbabwe likely to return some land to white farmers

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By Business Day

HARARE: The Zimbabwean government is likely to give back some land to white farmers, after a land audit is set to be completed in March.

The audit, which is being carried out across the country, seeks to flush out multiple farm owners and correct some of the wrongs from the country’s chaotic fast-track land reform exercise that began in 2000.

Speaking in parliament last week, Douglas Karoro, the deputy minister of lands, agriculture, rural resettlement, water and climate, said white farmers would be considered during the land restructuring programme.

“Government wants to see a situation whereby there is fairness in land ownership. There is a land audit that is currently under way and we expect the exercise to be finalised by the end of March.

“The redistribution is not going to look at the colour of the farmer, whether black or white. It is not going to look at the political inclination of an individual, neither is it going to look at the religious affiliation of the farmer.

“A farmer is going to be looked at as a farmer, who has capacity and competence. The essence is that we want to produce enough food for everybody as a country and surplus for export.

“In short, government is looking at ways that are non-discriminatory in terms of allocating land to those people who want land,” he said.

Zimbabwe was once the bread basket of Southern Africa but after the land seizures, food production plummeted and the country now imports basic foodstuffs because of dire shortages of wheat, soya beans and other crops.

The land audit has various aims, including seeking to identify under-utilised land and redistribute it to productive farmers as agriculture accounts for 15% of Zimbabwe’s GDP and provides about 70% of its formal employment. 

Zimbabwe’s land reform resulted in the displacement of 6,000 white farmers, with about 300,000 black families benefiting but the programme has been abused by top Zanu-PF officials.

Former president Robert Mugabe reportedly owns at least 21 farms, which is against the government’s one-person-one-farm policy. His wife and children are also said to have benefited from the programme.

An informal audit by authorities exposed irregularities in the allocation of farms, with children as young as 10 reportedly getting land.

In 2018, Perrance Shiri, the lands, agriculture, rural resettlement, water and climate minister, said his country regretted some of the injustices of its land reform programme and was taking corrective measures, including compensating white farmers and working with them.