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A whisper of a sorry


White farmers in Zimbabwe may finally be compensated for Mugabe’s land grabbing seven years ago
SAURABH KUMAR | Issue Dated: May 13, 2007
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A whisper of a sorry Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has given himself a rare chance of wronging history first and then, the irony notwithstanding, attempting to set it right, however late in the day this may be. In what could be a small but significant step, Mugabe’s government, which through a series of often bloody raids grabbed more than 4,000 farms belonging to the country’s white community seven years ago, has decided to make up for the vandalism, making a beginning with 800 farmers who are now to be “compensated”.

If carried through with the sincerity that has been claimed, compensating the 800 farmers could mark the beginning of a process that could set right what Mugabe had at the time called his land reform policy, in reality a land grab operation that, he said, was necessary to reverse “colonial imbalances” that favoured the country’s British settlers. Mugabe’s ‘crusade’, which claimed the land taken from the whites would be redistributed among the black community, had pushed the once prosperous farmers to the brink. While 500 of them remain in Zimbabwe, many moved to other

African countries.

Needless to say, the government’s ‘compensation’ attempt has been received with the suspicion it probably deserves. “We are sceptical of the move and have serious doubts about the figure they are quoting,” Emily Crookes, spokesperson of the Commercial Farmers’ Union of Zimbabwe (CFU), the largest group of white farmers opposing Mugabe, told TSI. “According to our reports, the figure is not more than 300 farmers.” Adds Kuda Ndora, chief Economist of CFU, “The compensation is a media circus. The price they are paying for the land is not more than 5% to 12% of the market value.”

Zimbabwe's Minister of State for Land and Resettlement Flora Buka has meanwhile been quoted as saying that “billions of dollars have been paid out to dispossessed farmers”. There is also a compensation committee chaired by Ngoni Masoka, secretary for the ministry, with representatives from the ministries of finance and agriculture, Buka said, though the exact amount of the compensation (to be paid quarterly) was not mentioned. As for Mugabe, this is one time he cannot afford to go wrong, not when his first round of ‘reforms’ led to unheard of food shortages in the country and runaway four digit inflation figures. On the positive side, honesty on the part of his government may help Mugabe take a step beyond the economic, to heal the wounds that a country has suffered thanks to a policy devised by the President himself.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017