White farmers in Zimbabwe are cautiously optimistic about the future after the new president pledged to compensate those who lost their land following controversial reforms in 2000.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa made the promise during his inauguration speech but also made clear that the land reforms that sparked the violent seizure of thousands of white-owned farms that were still ongoing this year would not be reversed.
“In resolving this matter it will unlock considerable conflict over the land and it will enable a whole bundle of rights to be delivered to farmers on the ground and this will restore bankability to the sector and enable full recovery.
There are a lot of exceptional black farmers and exceptional white farmers and we need farmers on the land. We don't want people that are just weekend farmers who come out here and don't utilise the land fully.
“It will also send a very positive message to international investors that our country is dealing fairly with investors and therefore we believe that those kinds of measures that have been taken that have restricted access to international finance will be removed and also foreign direct investment will come back helping both the agricultural sector and the country to recover,” Director of Commercial Farmers Union,Bill Gilpin noted.
Gilpin said the president’s statement will go a very long way in restoring confidence amongst farmers as well as the international community wanting to invest in Zimbabwe.
Tobacco farmers Phil and Dave Worswick’s family has worked the land in Marondera, a town about 70 kilometers east of Harare, for 107 years. In 1997, they voluntarily gave two of their farms to the government, but since 2000 have lost more land.
Owner of Domervale Farm, Philip Worswick said “I think there is enough expertise in this country, both black and white, to have people on the land who are true professional farmers. I do believe not everyone is a farmer.
“There are a lot of exceptional black farmers and exceptional white farmers and we need farmers on the land. We don’t want people that are just weekend farmers who come out here and don’t utilise the land fully. So we need people to farm it.”In 2001, President Robert Mugabe introduced laws to more equitably distribute land between black subsistence farmers and white Zimbabweans of European ancestry.
The reforms were aimed at addressing colonial imbalances in which a small number of white farmers owned most of the best agricultural land in Zimbabwe.