Gvt to compensate farmers under BIPPAs
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
Government is ready to either compensate or restore title deeds to farmers whose land was compulsorily acquired despite being protected under the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPAs) and Bilateral Investment Treaties, the Daily News reports.
This comes as the government recently announced the signing of a Global Compensation Deed agreement which will see about 4 000 former commercial white farmers being compensated a total of US$3,5 billion for the developments they made on the land.
Addressing a press conference in Harare yesterday, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube revealed that former indigenous Zimbabwean farm owners and citizens of other countries who had ratified the BIPPA or Bilateral Investment Treaties with Zimbabwe at the time their land was compulsorily taken were entitled to compensation outside the Global Compensation Deed, among other things.
“Those former farm owners who are indigenous Zimbabweans or citizens of countries which had ratified Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements or Bilateral Investment Treaties with Zimbabwe at the time their land was compulsorily acquired for resettlement are entitled to compensation for both land and improvements, in terms of subsections (1) and (2) of Section 295 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
“This category of former farm owners is not eligible for payment of compensation under the Global Compensation agreement signed on 29 July 2020. Their compensation will be considered separately on a case by case basis through the Land Commission (Gazetted Land Disposal in Lieu of Compensation) Regulations (SI 62 of 2020,” Ncube said.
He added that this category of former farm owners could apply to the Agriculture ministry for the restoration of title to the land that was compulsorily acquired from them for resettlement.
“Government will grant their applications where the circumstances presently obtaining on the ground permit the restoration of their land to them. In this regard, in order to allow former farm owners in this category to regain possession of the pieces of land that were acquired from them, government will, in the appropriate circumstances, revoke the offer letters of resettled farmers currently occupying those pieces of land elsewhere,” he said.
Ncube further indicated that in situations where the land could not be restored, the government would offer the former farm owners alternative land elsewhere as restitution.
“Where a former farm owner under this category regains possession of land that was previously acquired from them or accepts an offer by government of land as restitution, this shall be in full and final settlement or to the extent that may be mutually agreed with government of any claims for compensation from the state that the former farm owner may have.
“Where it is not possible or desirable to restore the acquired land to its former owner or offer alternative land, the government shall offer compensation to the former farm owner based on the same valuation method as was applied under the Global Compensation Deed,” Ncube said.
He further revealed that former farm owners who continued farming operations on compulsorily acquired land should urgently regularise their tenure through designated government institutions in the first instance, before consideration could be made for the issuance of 99-year leases.
On the farm downsizing, Ncube said the government had taken a deliberate policy position to initially exempt fully utilised productive farms from downsizing until land under multiple farm ownership and underutilised land had been brought into production.
“Government has received numerous reports regarding the resurgence of illegal land occupations, particularly on highly productive farms thereby disrupting production. Such disorderly behaviour among our citizens is indiscipline of the highest level which the government does not condone or tolerate. It should stop forthwith,” he said.
Speaking at the same event, Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka said compensation was not an indication that the government was backtracking on the land reform programme.
“The government is clarifying its position following the signing of the Global Compensation Deed. It is very clear from the statement that we have made that the land remains. We are going to offer compensation with regards to improvements. With regards to BIPPAs, those are a special case and we are going to honour our bilateral investment agreements,” Masuka said.