A group of war veterans in Zimbabwe indicates where his followers will settle on Rockwell Farm, owned by farmer Andreo Malus, in March 2000. Picture: HOWARD BURDITT
A group of war veterans in Zimbabwe indicates where his followers will settle on Rockwell Farm, owned by farmer Andreo Malus, in March 2000. Picture: HOWARD BURDITT

Harare/Johannesburg — Zimbabwe’s government has signed a $3.5bn deal to compensate white commercial farmers evicted from their land two decades ago.

The agreement is a turning point in a dispute that tipped the Southern African nation’s economy into freefall by slashing food production and export income, and incurred sanctions from the US and EU.

“Today marks a huge milestone,” Andrew Pascoe, president of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) that represents the white farmers, said on Wednesday at a signing ceremony in Harare. “As Zimbabweans, we have chosen to resolve this long-outstanding issue.”

It’s unclear how the compensation will be funded, at a time when Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic crisis. The country is battling inflation of more than 700% and dealing with shortages of currency, fuel and food with more than 90% of the population out of formal employment.

A committee has been formed by the government, farmers and donors to raise funding for the compensation, vice-president Constantino Chiwenga said at the ceremony.

Zimbabwe has endured intermittent food shortages since the government began the often-violent programme that seized most white-owned, large-scale farms from 2000. Zimbabwe’s rulers maintain that the land was taken forcibly during colonial times and needed to be returned to black residents.

The compensation agreement is for improvements and assets on the more than 4,000 farms seized and doesn’t pertain to the land itself, Ben Gilpin, a director of the CFU, said earlier this month.

“This momentous event is historic,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said at the ceremony. “It brings closure and a new beginning.”

Bloomberg

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