Recompense for Zimbabwe’s white farmers?

THE CATASTROPHIC collapse of the Zimbabwean economy can be reversed if its government adopts the controversial recommendations of a recovery programme, according to its authors.

The independent report, published by The Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI) at The University of Manchester, urges the Inclusive Government to set aside to cash compensate the mainly white farmers who lost their land.

It was launched by Dr Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe Minister of Finance, at a public lecture at The University of Manchester on 11 December 2009.

Such an approach, say the Zimbabwean authors, will bring closure to a sore chapter in the country’s history and if done well and fairly could kick start investment in different areas of the economy, promoting economic recovery.

The February 2000 programme which redistributed land to the majority black   Zimbabweans is recognised as a major factor which triggered an unprecedented socio-economic and political crisis, slashing the country’s life expectancy to 35 -among the world’s lowest.

Hyperinflation topped 500 million per cent in July 2008 and in March this year unemployment was still estimated at 80 per cent while more than 72 per cent of the population lived in abject poverty surviving largely on food handouts.

The report argues for an agriculture led recovery and a reconstruction programme with a focus on smallholder farmers. It also proposes $1.6billion of investment to small-scale farmers given land as part of the country’s controversial redistribution programme.

However the report argues the Inclusive Government should use tax instruments to ensure that medium and large-scale commercial farm holders utilize the land seized from the mostly white commercial farmers.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it adds, could be well placed to deal with bitter differences which still remain between Zimbabweans.

Other recommendations include:

  • Support for smallholders in communal areas over at least three seasons on ‘full packages’ followed by a managed reduction of support over a further two years. Reestablishment of state run social protection programmes.
  • Restoring the state bureaucracy to the standards of 1990 when it was regarded as one of the best in Africa.
  • Substantial increases in health budgets from the minimal $0.19 per capita per annum.
  • An environmental audit to establish the state of the environment and tackle unsustainable use of natural resources.
  • Agriculture water reforms to ensure fair access by smallholder farmers who now hold most of the agricultural land but do not have fair access to water.
  • Reforming information technology policy to allow citizens to benefit from new technologies and opportunities.

Lead researcher Dr Admos Chimhowu, from the BWPI, said: “Following the formation of a Government of National Unity in March 2009, Zimbabwe is emerging from a decade of socio-economic decline – but there is still a long way to go.”

“An important way to help that process is to compensate many of the farmers who lost their land.

“The global political agreement that formed the basis for the government of National Unity foreclosed any discussions about reversing the previous policy.

“But it may be possible for the Inclusive Government to consider a pool of funds, probably partly supported by donors but mostly funded from local resources, to compensate the farmers for the land.

“This is a controversial idea and donors might be unwilling to pay compensation to the mainly white commercial farmers rather than support poor smallholder farmers.

“However, we know from the cases of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea that it was the investment of compensation payments to dispossessed landowners which helped these economies grow after the Second World War.

“Clearly things are different in Zimbabwe, but under certain conditions such compensation could kick start investment in selected areas of the economy and perhaps help with economic recovery.

“It may be worth exploring this avenue as a way of bringing closure to an issue that will likely rumble on in the courts of law for many years to come.”

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One Response

  1. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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