PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has said the land reform programme, which redressed colonial land ownership imbalances by giving land to black Zimbabweans at the turn of the millennium, is irreversible and what the Government is doing now is implementing the dictates of the Constitution.
Addressing members of the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) at the State House yesterday, the President said there won’t be any vacillation on the land issue.
“Let me restate that the Land Reform Programme is irreversible. To this end, there is no vacillation. The current processes with regards to land issues entail the implementation of provisions of our national Constitution, in particular, Section 295 as it relates to black indigenous Zimbabweans. I urge all farmers to remain focused on preparing for a successful 2020/2021 season,” he said.
Way back in 2013, then Lands Minister Herbert Murerwa faced huge criticism from ZANU PF his own party after he announced that the government would no longer take over farms protected by bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements (Bippas) with foreign governments.
Murerwa said the decision was meant to respect the pacts and lessen future the burden of lawsuits against the government.
Under the Bippa terms, if the government took over a farm, it must pay for both the land and the infrastructure. For other farms not protected by such agreements, the government is only obliged to pay for equipment and not the land itself.
In the rushed haphazard land grab Zanu-PF ignored Bippas. This was displayed in its central committee report, presented to the party’s national conference in December 2012. The report said that, of the 153 farms protected by investment agreements across the country, 116 had been settled by 4179 families.
The party’s previous disregard for Bippas makes shocking of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sentiments that no one will be removed from land they are currently occupying when confirmed over 4000 people are on BIPPA farms. This about-turn is a surprise, even to its supporters.
How many farms are really under these agreements is a key question that government needs to answer.
The exact number of farms under this category is difficult to immediately established. However, figures from the former farmers’ compensation steering committee show that a total of 5,454 farms were taken over by the government since 2000, with 4,676 of these not being covered under any bilateral investment treaty.
In 2013, a ZANU-PF policy document, presented at that year’s conference addressing compensation for BIPPA farms, showed that out of a total of 153 farms protected by the treaties, 116 farms had been acquired for resettlement.