Zimbabwe: President Ties Up Land Reform Loose Ends

7 August 2020

The conclusion of the historic Global Compensation Deed (GCD) that was signed between Government and white former commercial farmers last week reflects the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa's respect for the rule of law and its desire to conclude the Land Reform Programme, Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube said.

In a communiqué on the agreement between the Government and white former farm owners that was issued yesterday, Prof Ncube said payment of the former farmers would be done in accordance to the Zimbabwean Constitution, specifically Section 72(3) which "provides for the payment of compensation for improvements only on compulsorily acquired agricultural land".

Section 295 of the Constitution "provides for the payment of compensation for compulsory acquisition of agricultural land and any person, other than a person referred to in subsection (1) or (2) of that section, whose agricultural land was acquired by the State before 22 August 2013 is entitled to compensation from the State only for improvements that were on the land when it was acquired".

"The conclusion of the Global Compensation Deed (GCD) which was signed in Harare on Wednesday 29th July 2020 is in compliance with the Constitution and Government's respect for the rule of law. It is also a reflection of the Second Republic's political commitment to the successful conclusion of the land redistribution process in a dignified manner that restores the integrity and dignity of all the people of Zimbabwe who were affected by the necessary land reforms," Prof Ncube said.

Upon assuming office in 2017, President Mnangagwa initiated processes that culminated in the signing of the historic GCD, an agreement that will see the Government and the former white farmers working together to fund-raise the US$3.5 billion which is only for improvements on land and not for the land itself.

"Funds for this exercise will be raised largely in the international capital markets through the United States dollar denominated long term debt instruments as well as other suitable non debt-instruments and financing structures," said the Minister.

Already President Mnangagwa has set up a Joint Resource Mobilisation Committee, which is chaired by Prof Ncube and will also include within its ranks former white commercial farmers.

The committee, that shall subsist for five years or until the full amount has been paid, will among other things "draw a Roadmap, in conjunction with the relevant external partners, for the implementation of the Agreement".

"Work with resource mobilisation advisors appointed by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to advise resource mobilisation exercise and participate in roadshows to potential financiers who should be approved by Government," read the communique in part.

The conclusion of the deed, that the former farmers described as a milestone and an indicator that Zimbabwe is Open for Business, fulfils one of President Mnangagwa's assurance, when he became the President in 2017 when he said "My Government is committed to compensating those farmers whom land was taken, in terms of the laws of the land".

Key terms of the Agreement include a compensation figure of US$3.5 billion with a 50 percent down payment within 12 months of signing of the agreement and the balance to be paid over a period of 48 months after.

"The parties are proceeding to jointly develop and implement a roadmap for the implementation of the Agreement.

This will include the formulation and implementation of measures and reforms necessary to ensure that the country develops sufficient capacity from productively working the land to repay without distress such additional national debt as may be contracted. "Government will continue providing for the interim relief payment in the National Budget until sufficient funds for the global compensation amount have been raised," said Prof Ncube.

The President has made it clear that compensation is for infrastructural improvements that the farmers did on farms and not the land. Land was at the heart of the country's liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s, but the Lancaster House constitution "entailed that land could not be compulsorily acquired during the first 10 years of independence".

With hands tied by constitutional requirements contained in the Lancaster House constitution, the Government adopted a willing buyer willing seller principle after independence in 1980, but because few wished to sell, success was limited.

The legality of the major land reform thrust of the early 2000s was confirmed in 2013 when an overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans approved in a referendum the present Constitution which incorporates the irreversibility of the land reform but makes it clear that the holders of the appropriated land were entitled to full compensation for their improvements.

Land was not included, and has not been included, in the constitutional provisions or yesterday's agreements.

The land had been seized by the British South Africa Company with backing from the British Colonial Office in the early 1890s through fraudulent land concessions in the east of the country and open war in the west.

Through the Land Apportionment and Land Tenure Acts the settler governments physically removed the original inhabitants. This was the injustice that land reform addressed, along with practical requirements of breaking up large estates.

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