Is ED reversing the ‘Land Reform Program’? What you need to know

In 2008, a group of white commercial farmers, whose farms had been expropriated by the Zimbabwean government during the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP), won their case at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal. After finding against the Zimbabwean government, the SADC Tribunal made an order for compensation and for costs of litigation in favour of the claimants. The Zimbabwean government refused to comply with the judgment.

Recently the Mnangagwa government reached a landmark US$3.5 billion compensation deal with ousted white former commercial farm owners.

How It’s Going To Be Financed?

This compensation is said to be limited to paying for developments on the acquired farms, not for the land value. But there is a group of farmers to be paid for both as explained later in this piece.

The agreement says the compensation money will jointly be raised by the government of Zimbabwe and the ousted former farmers, through an effort to apply for a 30 year loan amounting to the said amount from international financial lending institutions. The deal is the white farmers help to secure the loan, they get the money, and the Zimbabwean tax payer pays back the loan over 30 years, with interest.

The agreement also says both parties would engage the West in a fundraising effort to raise money towards the targeted compensation amount.

Emmerson Mnangwagwa further explained that the compensation money would have to be raised by lobbying Western governments to contribute towards this compensation amount.

What you need to know ?

Firstly the deal avoids reviving the contentious debate on Britain's obligation to compensate colonially settled white farmers and the inheritors of colonially acquired farm lands in Zimbabwe, as agreed at Lanchaster House in 1979, just before Zimbabwe got its independence from British colonial rule.

While the Thatcher Tory Government agreed to pay such compensation under the Willing Buyer Willing Seller basis between 1980 and 1990, the New Labour Tony Blair Government totally refused to honour any such payments after the Land Summit of 1998, leading to the forceful and compulsory land reclamation of 2000.

This is when the masses, led by war veterans of the liberation struggle marched onto any white owned commercial farmers and occupied such land, evicting the owners, and ordering them to leave everything on the farms.

This torched a huge diplomatic dispute with the West, leading to economic sanctions, blocking of credit lines, and a fierce pushback by Britain, the EU, the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

There were white commercial farmers covered by Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA), and these too had their land occupied by the invading masses. BIPPA was a post independence agreement between the Mugabe government and countries like Denmark, Belgium, German, Switzerland, Malaysia and Italy.

Some of the affected farmers took their dispute to the International Court for Investment Disputes an they won their case in 2012, and were awarded US$25 million in compensation entitlements, leading to the then Lands Minister Herbert Murerwa declaring a halt to the occupation of BIPPA farms in 2013, but he did not get the support of President Robert Mugabe, who insisted that any white occupied farms belonged to black Zimbabweans.

As a result the genesis of Zimbabwe's massive economic woes in the past 20 years, where the agricultural sector spectacular collapsed, industries shut down at an unprecedented rate, inflation went through the roof, food shortages as well not being the one factor but corruption as well as mismanagement of state has contributed to the woes to a large extent.

So what's Mnangagwa Government trying to achieve?

So the Mnangagwa government seeks to reverse this by going out on an appeasing mission to impress Western protagonists.

But that comes at a political cost in Zimbabwe and among ruling party ranks as well. Many people are less than impressed with any idea of compensating colonialists or their beneficiaries, and it does not matter the semantics and legal technicalities used to describe the form of compensation in question. To the majority of Zimbabweans colonially stolen land should never be compensated for, and neither should any developments made on such stolen land.

Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration argues that all it is doing is implementing the 2013 Constitution, which provides for the compensation of ousted former colonial farmers. Minister Mthuli Ncube said the constitution provides for compensation for both land and developments for the ousted BIPPA farmers.


Mnangagwa might be allowing economists to lead the politicians on a very sensitive matter here, allowing economics to determine political direction unlike his mentor who did it vice-versa. But already facing challenges in luring the West due to huge corruption and massive human right abuses by his military regime.

Whatever it is Mnangwagwa wants to achieve with his reforms, he is going to face a political impossibility when it comes to evicting black farmers to resettle ousted white farmers.