Zimbabwean White Farmers Set to Share $3.5 Billion

By Prince Kurupati

Supporters of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa attend a rally organized for the white community in Harare, July 21, 2018 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

White Zimbabwean commercial farmers who were displaced from their farms starting in the early 2000s following the implementation of the controversial fast-track land reform are set to share a $3.5billion windfall. The windfall is part of a proposed compensation plan for former white farmers.

Zimbabwe has been for long looking for measures to ‘correct’ the negative effects of the fast-track land reform program. Zimbabwe implemented the program at the start of the new millennium. Originally meant to help black people get their fair share of land and correct the colonial injustices which placed much of the fertile land in the hands of the minority white population, the fast-track land reform program, unfortunately, was done haphazardly. This saw many whites displaced violently and in some unfortunate instances, some lost their lives.

At the height of the fast-track land reform program, Zimbabwe was slapped with economic sanctions. In placing the sanctions, Western nations accused Zimbabwe of gross human rights abuses. Some analysts however said the move was more motivated by the violent land reform program. As such, many from the word go said the panacea to removing the sanctions and all their ripple effects is addressing the land reform program and its ills. One of the moves meant at addressing the ills of the land reform program entails compensating all white commercial farmers who lost their land for the developments they made on their farms.

In the past, the Zimbabwe government proposed issuing treasury bills to be disbursed within 10 years as a compensation instrument. Unfortunately, this was resoundingly rejected by farmers. This was relayed by Reuters citing an email sent by the Commerical Farmers Union director to CFU members.

With the Zimbabwean government seemingly running out of ideas on the best compensation plan for former white farmers, the recent visit by the African Development Bank (AFdB) president Akinwumi Adesina has given the country another dimension which may be embraced by farmers. This entails Adesina’s proposal to grant a $3.5 billion windfall which will be shared by farmers.

Adesina’s visit to Zimbabwe was at the invitation of President Mnangagwa. As a man who has helped several African countries structure their debt effectively, President Mnangagwa saw it prudent to invite him and seek counsel. He is co-chairing a process that aims to clear $6 billion of external debt arrears and also includes reforms to the exchange rate and central bank. As part of his recommendations, he recommended compensating white farmers as soon as possible.

“It is important to try and fast track and front load these payments (compensation to white farmers). Further delay will cause a lack of trust (in the country among international creditors),” Adesina said.

Adesina’s recommendation to compensate white farmers is premised on the fact that doing so helps the country gain mileage and trust with international creditors. This in turn helps the country open new lines of credit, something that’s of paramount importance in clearing its external debt.

Coming over to the source of the proposed $3.5 billion windfall, the AFdB president is quoted saying the compensation plan would “help leverage the capital markets to fund the compensation without adding debt to Zimbabwe”. No further details are provided as to how this would work.

As of September 2022, Zimbabwe’s external debt stands at $14 billion. Of this, the AFdB president is quoted saying 91% of Zimbabwe’s multilateral debt and 61% of its bilateral debt is in arrears.

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