Zimbabwe to return land to farmers protected by investment deals

(FILE) A resettled farmer opens a furrow in his field with an ox-drawn plough on Eden farm where Deon Theron ran a successful dairy farm before he was forced off the property during the Robert Mugabe lead land reform programme on November 27, 2017 at Beatrice, Zimbabwe. AFP PHOTO/JEKESAI NJIKIZANA – Standing outside the gates of the farmhouse from which he was evicted from in 2008, white Zimbabwean Deon Theron knows that he will never get his land back.But he does believe that Robert Mugabe’s fall after almost 40 years in power could lead the new government to encourage white farmers to play a part in reviving the country’s key agricultural sector. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

HARAREZimbabwe (AFP) — Zimbabwe said Tuesday that only foreign farmers protected by international investment treaties qualified to retrieve land seized by the government two decades ago.

Former president Robert Mugabe launched land reforms in 2000, grabbing parcels from 4,000 white farmers on the grounds that he was reversing historical land ownership imbalances that favoured the minority whites.

On Monday, the government said white farmers could apply to regain the titles to their land.

Information ministry secretary and government spokesman Nick Mangwana clarified in a tweet Tuesday that the offer did not apply to all evicted white farmers, but only to about 37 foreign farmers who benefit from special protection.

“Some of the previous owners had already been compensated from the previous government. For example the Dutch farmers were being paid over the years” Mangwana said.

(FILE) A worker at a farm owned by Zimbabwean commercial farmer Rob Smart pulls irrigation pipes for a potato crop at Lesbury Estates in Headlands east of the capital Harare on February 1, 2018 days after Smart was allowed to return to his land. – When the riot police arrived, Zimbabwean farmworker Mary Mhuriyengwe saw her life fall apart as her job and home disappeared in the ruthless land seizures that defined Robert Mugabe’s rule. Mhuriyengwe, 35, watched as police carrying AK47 rifles released teargas to force white farmer Robert Smart off his land in June 2017 — perhaps the last of 18 years of evictions that helped to trigger the country’s economic collapse. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

“They may get that land or replacement land elsewhere instead of compensation.”

Under a separate deal, the government last month signed a $3.5 billion deal with dispossessed farmers to compensate them for infrastructure developments on their former farms.

The government also said that local white farmers whose land was taken for resettlement of landless blacks could apply for other land under 99-year leases.

Both Mugabe, who died in September 2019, and successor Emmerson Mnangagwa who took office following a military coup, vowed that the land reforms would not be reversed.