EDITORIAL : Zimbabwe Government Must Swallow Pride
GOVERNMENT lost one of its properties in South Africa last week to a group of former white commercial farmers who brought a lawsuit against President Robert Mugabe’s administration over the compensation of farmlands expropriated from them as part of the land reform programme.
The property, a double storey house in Kenilworth, was snapped up for just over R3,7 million, which was way below its market value.
The money will go towards the legal costs incurred by government during a lengthy litigation with a civil rights organisation called AfriForum, in the South African courts.
AfriForum assisted a group of Zimbabwean farmers, whose land was confiscated in 2000, to enforce a 2008 ruling by the Southern African Development Community Tribunal, which found that Harare’s land grabs were unlawful, racist and in contravention of international law.
AfriForum is not done with Harare as yet. It will soon go after more government properties in foreign lands in order to get fair compensation for their clients, who number up to 78.
One therefore shudders to think of the scale of the fight on government’s hands should all the 3 000 farmers who lost their properties during the chaotic and often violent land redistribution take a leaf from the “group of 78”.
Government is most likely to pay through the nose to defend itself: In the event that it is taken to the cleaners, more government properties would be at risk.
While no one has any qualms with the idea behind the land reform programme, it is regrettable that government has not lived up to its word. Since 2000, no single former white commercial farmer has been compensated for the substantial investments they made on their seized farms. In the absence of any measurable commitment on the part of government to pay up, the dispossessed farmers are leaving no stone unturned in their pursuit for justice.
Government must swallow its pride by engaging the former white commercial farmers in order to come up with a tentative solution to the impasse. In the past, we have seen how government has been able to compensate individuals and companies whose Foreign Currency Accounts were raided by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in order to fund critical government commitments at the height of the country’’s economic crisis. in 2000. Similarly, government must come up with creative ways to pacify these restive former white commercial farmers.
Apart from saving government from the embarrassment of losing its properties in foreign lands, such a move will also serve to demonstrate its commitment towards respecting property rights and upholding the rule of law, which is critical in making Zimbabwe an attractive investment destination.
It is also regrettable that the beneficiaries of the land reform programme have been such a huge disappointment. Had they been productive on the farms, government should have long pooled together the requisite resources to compensate the former white commercial farmers.
In any case, why should the ordinary taxpayer foot the bill on behalf of lazy and ungrateful indigenous farmers who are conniving to sabotage national interests by abandoning their farms and yet many lives and limbs were lost during the liberation struggle in order to bring the soil back to its rightful owners.
Food for thought!