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Zimbabwe Farmers Wait for Promised Compensation


One of the reasons Zimbabwe's economy is such a mess is the collapse of the commercial farming sector. This is due in part to the government's chaotic and sometimes violent land-reform program launched in 2000. The recently signed political power-sharing agreement states that the land reform is irreversible. Tendai Maphosa reports for VOA from Harare.

Agriculture used to be Zimbabwe's number-one foreign currency earner. But since the land-reform program began taking farms from whites, the country has had to rely on food imports and aid handouts. The black farmers who took over the land were ill equipped in terms of farming skills and capital to maintain production.

The mostly white Commercial Farmer's Union and the Justice for Agricuture group represent less than 1,000 commercial farmers. Of these less than 300 are actively farming, down from 4,000 at the beginning of the farm seizures.

Some white farmers have left Zimbabwe, but others are still in the country fighting to get their farms back or to be compensated.

The Zimbabwean government has said it would only compensate farmers for improvements on the farm, not the land.

It says former colonial-power Britian should compensate for the land.

The recently signed power-sharing deal underscores this and also adds that land acquisition and redistribution is irreversible.

The Commercial Farmers' Union did not respond to VOA's request for an interview, but Justice for Agriculture's John Worsley-Worswick said while the agreement addresses compensation for land, responsibility for other compensation lies squarely on the shoulders of current and future Zimbabwean governments.

"They are talking about compensation for the land, our compensation issues are not confined to the land only; we are talking about the fixed improvements on farms, we are also looking at the fact that no farms have been legally acquired and no farmer has been compensated fairly or equitably," he said.

Worsley-Worswick listed grievances for which farmers are demanding compensation - including loss of earnings, loss of equipment, relocation costs and cost of litigation.

He said his organization would rather negotiate with the government than continue with litigation, which he described as a fallback position. The Justice for Agriculture spokesman warned that should the government not be prapered to compromise, his organization would try to block international assistance necessary for Zimbabwe's recovery.

"We have got to find a way forward that frees up the title in this country and re-engages international financial support," said Worsley-Worswick. "Certainly if our property rights continue to be infringed we will make every effort to have that support culminated."

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Harare told VOA that while Britain views support of rural recovery as part of a wider recovery package for Zimbabwe, it has never accepted responsibility for the compensation of farmers.

The power-sharing agreement acknowledges the haphazard manner of the land-reform program and proposes a non-partisan land audit for the purpose of establishing accountability and eliminating multiple-farm ownerships.

Critics of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe have accused him of giving the best land to ranking members of his government and party. They also charge that some of the beneficiaries have more than one farm while many Zimbabweans are still land hungry.

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