By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Harare: Zimbabwe on Monday offered to give back land to former white farmers whose properties were seized during the controversial land reforms two decades ago.
A month ago the government signed a US$3.5 billion compensation agreement with the white farmers for the land lost 20 years ago to sometimes violent land grabs. Then president, Robert Mugabe, forcibly took more than 4,000 farms from the country’s 4,500 white large-scale commercial farmers.
On Monday, the government said Zimbabwean or foreign citizens who lost their farms can apply “for restoration of title to the piece of agricultural land that was compulsorily acquired from them for resettlement”.
The offer was announced in a statement issued jointly by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube and his counterpart in the lands ministry, Anxious Masuka.
“Government will grant their application where circumstances presently obtaining on the ground permit the restoration of their land to them”. To allow the former owners “to regain possession” of land, the ministers said, government will revoke offers made to black farmers currently occupying the farms and “offer them alternative land elsewhere”. Government’s statement partially read.
The government said, “where a former farm owner regains possession of the land that was previously acquired from them or accepts a government offer of land restitution, this shall be the full and final settlement”.
Zimbabwe launched land reforms in 2000 seizing land from white commercial farmers in what Mugabe said was a reversal of historical land ownership imbalances which favoured the minority whites.
Both Mugabe, who died in September last year, and his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa who came to power at the back of a military coup vowed never to reverse the land reforms. Zimbabwe is buffeted by its worst economic crisis in over a decade, including scarcity of basics such as cornmeal.