Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to pull a very big rabbit out of a tiny hat with an agreement to pay roughly $3.5bn in compensation to white farmers who were evicted from their land under the redistribution programme of his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, two decades ago.

The main problem with this ruse is that because the country is bankrupt — thanks in no small measure to what turned out to be a sort of scorched-earth policy rather than good agricultural practice — the state doesn’t have the money to pay the farmers. The compensation — half of which is supposed to be paid within 12 months, and the rest in four annual instalments — is only for infrastructure and improvements, not the actual land...

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