GOVERNMENT is working on setting up a $10 billion compensation fund to settle disputes and bring closure to the fast-track land reform exercise.
BY VICTORIA MTOMBA
Since government embarked on the land reform exercise 16 years ago, it has skirted the issue of compensation, blighting a seemingly noble objective to redress colonial imbalances.
On Wednesday, MDC-T legislator Eddie Cross told the visiting IMF head of Delegation Domenico Fanizza that government was working on a commercial farm compensation fund.
He said the comprehensive document was given to legislators on March 1. The document was inserted in legislators’ pigeonholes at Parliament.
In an interview on Friday, Cross said legislators were given the document and that the compensation included land, improvements, immovable assets, cattle and tractors.
“It’s a comprehensive compensation plan and could amount to $10 billion legal settlement.
“It’s the first time it has been indicated and it is in conflict with the traditional policy on compensation,” he said.
The document was written as a memorandum to legislators and had a January 7 2016 stamp from the Finance ministry. The memo was dated January 19 2016.
The instructions on the document state that the “Fund to be called the Land Compensation Fund is hereby established in terms of section 18 of the Public Finance Management Act (Chapter 22:19). The purpose of the fund is to provide resources for the payment of compensation to former farm owners whose farms were acquired by the state under the land reform programme and to enhance productivity on allocated land. The fund shall be administered by the secretary responsible for land and rural resettlement.”
Cross said the document would be tabled before Parliament for debate.
Fanizza told the parliamentary portfolio committee on Budget and Finance that the proposed fund was a good development and he would be grateful if people were informed about the document.
“I will be happy if your creditors know about it and it will change things for you. It’s not a question of government not affording it. Creditors are not after the money, but the principle,” he said.
“We should not be having a budget with contingency liability as we have a cash budget.”
Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora, however, said he was not aware of the document as he was not responsible for compensation, which falls under the purview of Treasury.
“I do not know about the document you are talking about. I do not deal with compensation, we just give the Ministry of Finance the figures and the farms that need compensation,” he said.
The country embarked on a land reform programme in 2000 and allocated farms to previously marginalised locals.
A number of farmers who were allocated the land have failed to produce due to adverse weather conditions, unavailability of funding, lack of skills as well as unresolved issues of land tenure.
The government claims to be working on a land audit to flush out multiple farm owners, although no evidence of the process has been seen.