White former commercial farmers who lost land after Government embarked on the fast-track land reform programme in 2000 have started receiving compensation, Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora said yesterday.
This comes as Government has dispatched 14 teams of experts countrywide to evaluate properties on farms for the purposes of paying former landholders on improvements they made.
This, however, comes against the backdrop of liquidity challenges that have seen people — including farmers — failing to withdraw money to finance their operations after selling their produce.
Said Dr Mombeshora: “We have dispatched 14 teams throughout the country that are carrying out evaluation on farms that were acquired for resettlement under the land reform programme. We want to establish the total compensation that will be paid because in some cases we only pay for improvements on the land, while in other cases we will pay for both the land and improvements”.
Dr Mombeshora said the teams were expected to complete their work next year after which Government would have established the total compensation to be paid.
“In actual fact, compensation of those who lost their land under the land reform programme has already started, but so far only a small number of people have been paid, especially those where evaluations were completed,’’ he said.
However, he did not disclose how much the first batch of farmers received.
‘’The compensation will be paid as and when funds are available but we will surely pay and Government is committed to pay.’’
Government undertook to pay for improvements only on land acquired from white former farmers with the state paying for both land and improvements for acquired farms that were protected under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA).
Dr Mombeshora said Government would go ahead with compensation for land acquired by the state for resettlement purposes.
He said Government wanted to establish the total cost of compensation to be paid for all acquired land and properties hence the ongoing evaluation exercise.
Government has since introduced land rental for both communal and commercial land reform programme beneficiaries mainly to raise funds to pay compensation.
Former white farmers who lost their land have been making noise demanding to be paid compensation with Government insisting that payment would only be for improvements on the land.
The Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement has since started collecting land rentals, which were approved by Cabinet before being subsequently gazetted in June last year.
Dr Mombeshora said Government expected to rake in $20 million annually from land rental to be used to compensate former white farmers and also funding infrastructural development in the resettlement areas.
The rental would also be used to finance a planned land audit to identify underutilised farms that would be repossessed for allocation to landless.
Dr Mombeshora said model A2 beneficiaries would pay $5 per hectare per annum comprising $3 rental plus $2 unit tax.
The Lands ministry took over the collection of unit tax from rural councils.
Model A1 beneficiaries would pay $10 rental per annum plus $5 unit tax with all funds being handed over to Treasury before allocation to relevant ministries.
The Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister said the land rental would encourage productivity on the farms and warned those who fail to pay it that they risk having their farms repossessed by Government. herald