Zimbabwe white farmers sue South Africa

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“Although it relates to the grabbing of farms in Zimbabwe, it relates to the further deprivation of the rights of people to access the court in order to enforce their rights,” Spies explains.

Read more: South Africa: Lawmakers open way for land reform

Zimbabwe promises to compensate farmers

In the meantime, Zimbabwe has moved on, past the Mugabe era. Although cash-strapped, the new government under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has made promises to compensate the farmers. In the current budget, 53 million RTGS dollars have been allocated. (The RTGS dollar is Zimbabwe’s new, yet still fluctuating currency. 53 million RTGS dollars is equivalent to $21 million, according to the official government exchange rate, but its real value amounts to less than half of that.)

The allocated amount, which the farmers’ representatives have for now accepted, is not enough to compensate all those who lost their land. “The new constitution of Zimbabwe which was approved in 2013 acknowledges the liability for compensation to farmers,” explains Zimbabwean economist Vince Musewe.

In the current difficult economic mood in Zimbabwe, not everybody is happy about this, says Musewe. “Black Zimbabweans are angry,” says Musewe. “They say why should we compensate people who took land from us in the first place?” That’s why the government agreed to compensate for the infrastructure development that was destroyed and taken over, but not the land.

The land, so the argument goes, belongs to the Zimbabwean people, who lost it during colonial times. But the method with which the farms were seized was wrong, says Musewe. “If the transition had been planned, by now a majority of white farms would be black and they would have productive land,” he argues. “But because we took it by force that land has been lying fallow.”

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