Why compensate white farmers?

By Ndafadza Madanha

SEVENTEEN years ago the government undertook the land reform exercise that reconfigured decade long structure in the agricultural sector.

The structure had always favored the minority white settlers who disposed blacks from their land when they invaded the country under the Pioneer Column.

Through various pieces of legislation prior to independence the settler regime consolidated power and restricted Africans to semi arable and infertile land.

Some of the legislation used by the settlers to legalize the theft and displacement of our forefathers include The Land Commission of 1925, the Land Apportionment Act 30 of 1930 and the Land Tenure Act 55 of 1969.

Throughout the expropriation and displacement from their land our fore fathers did not receive a single cent as compensation from the settlers.

Hence my surprise and dismay when I hear of government talking of setting up compensation fund to be resourced through taxing the newly resettled farmers.

Some experts put the figure required to compensate the former commercial farmers at US$30 billion.

We are told the compensation is for improvements the white commercial farmers did on the land such as building dams, irrigation systems, silos and many other structures.

Even with that explanation I don’t understand why white farmers should be compensated when every Tom, Dick, Teurai Ropa, Mabhunu Muchapera and Tichatonga knows the whites did not buy the land in the first instance.

Improvements on the farms we talk of were made possible through cheap labor provided by our forefathers on the commercial farms, mines and factories that enabled successive settler governments to subsidize commercial agriculture at the expense of our fathers in the communal areas.

Any improvements the white commercial farmers made were at their own risk as the true owners never voluntarily gave up their rights

However, more importantly the thousands of Zimbabwe who lost their lives in fighting the first and second Chimurenga did so in order to restore their ancestral land to its rightful owners.

So to ask the taxpayer and newly resettled farmers to pay for the pieces of land in order to compensate white commercial farmers is showing the middle finger to the gallant sons and daughters who paid the ultimate price in pursuance of our liberation.

The compensation fund government is mooting should simply be used to further enhance and rehabilitate infrastructure for the newly resettled farmers.

Compensating white farmers is crediting the pioneer column for their diabolical slaughter of our heroes and heroines which was perpetuated by their descendants for a century.

I rest my case with an extensive quote from a ruling made by retired Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku, who in 1994 as a high court judge presided over the case of  Davies & Ors v Minister of Lands, Agriculture & Water Development 1994 (2) ZLR 294 (H).

“Once upon a time all the land in Zimbabwe belonged to the African people of this country. By some means foul or fair, depending on whom you are in Zimbabwe, about half that land ended up in the hands of a very small minority of Zimbabweans of European descent. The other half remained in the hands of the large majority, who were Africans. The perception of the majority of Africans was that the one half in the hands of the minority was by far the better and more fertile land, while the other half, which they occupied, was poor and semi­-arable. It is also common knowledge that, when the Africans lost half their land to the Europeans, they were paid nothing by way of compensation.

Successive enactments on the land entrenched the inequity of the land distribution in this country. The Land Commission of 1925, the Land Apportionment Act 30 of 1930 and the Land Tenure Act 55 of 1969 ensured that the Africans in Zimbabwe, who formed the vast majority of the population, were overcrowded in semi­-arable land, referred to sometimes as native reserves, whilst the minority Europeans retained the better half.

In terms of the above statutes, the land in this country was divided into European and African areas. In terms of the Second Schedule to the 1969 Land Tenure Act, the total extent of the African area was 44 949 100 acres and the total extent of the European area was 44 949 300 acres. The vast differences in the population of the two groups counted for nothing in the distribution of the land. Attempts to redress the land issue by peaceful means were not successful. The Africans took up arms and an armed struggle ensued

The Lancaster House agreement marked the end of the armed struggle and the transfer of political power to the Africans. The Constitution that came out of the Lancaster House agreement imposed certain restrictions regarding the redistribution of land. As of now, the perception still exist that large portion of the land still remains in the hands of a small minority of European descent, while the majority of the Africans are still crowded in semi­-arable communal land. The majority of the Europeans who own land are able and willing to release some of the land to resettle Africans. They are willing to sell it to a cash strapped Government at a premium. On the other hand, the majority of Africans who are still crowded in the communal areas are more than anxious to be resettled on land they see as their own taken from them wrongly in the first place. They see no merit in having to pay for land that was taken from them without compensation in the first place.

In the result, I have come to the following conclusions, that ­ facts that are common knowledge which the court can take judicial notice of establish that the program of resettlement of people is in the public interest and designation is part of that program,”-

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