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29 Jul, 2020 13:43

Zimbabwe seals compensation deal with dispossessed white farmers, two decades after violent land grabs of Mugabe era

Zimbabwe seals compensation deal with dispossessed white farmers, two decades after violent land grabs of Mugabe era

A $3.5 billion deal has been signed by Zimbabwe’s government to compensate the country’s white commercial farmers who were evicted from their land two decades ago.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said “This momentous event is historic,” as “it brings closure and a new beginning.”

Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said a committee had been formed by the government, farmers and donors to raise funding for the compensation. The compensation agreement is for improvements and assets on the more than 4,000 farms that were seized. It doesn’t pertain to the land itself, according to Ben Gilpin, a director of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents the white farmers.

CFU President Andrew Pascoe said at the signing ceremony on Wednesday that “today marks a huge milestone,” adding: “As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue.”

The agreement comes as the southern African nation’s economy is struggling with falling food production and export income, as well as sanctions from the US and the European Union.

Zimbabwe is battling inflation of more than 700 percent, besides dealing with shortages of currency, fuel and food, while over 90 percent of the population is out of formal employment.

READ MORE: 'Icon of liberation' v 'dictator': Zimbabwe's ex-leader Robert Mugabe dies at 95

Food production dropped after the country’s government authorized the purge of white farmers in 1999-2000 under then-president Robert Mugabe. Whites comprised a tiny percentage of Zimbabwe’s population upon independence, but they owned the vast majority of fertile land. In an effort to change the situation, Mugabe’s government promised to redistribute the land among black farmers. 

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However, some have accused Mugabe of using the land reform to reward his allies rather than ordinary Zimbabweans. The president and his supporters reportedly owned about 40 percent of the land seized from white farmers, who received no compensation after being evicted. The country’s rulers maintained that the land was taken forcibly during colonial times and needed to be returned to black residents.

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