Zimbabwe: Some White Farmers Sceptical About 99-Year Leases

Some white farmers who lost their properties during the country’s violent land reform programme are hesitant about accepting President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s invitation to return, saying the business is no longer feasible.

A farmer who used to operate in the Horseshoe farming area of Guruve recently revealed that after Mnangagwa announced last February that white farmers were now able get 99-year leases, the ex-Horseshoe community held discussions and engaged an expert to assess the offer.

The farmer, now farming in neighbouring Zambia, said a report from their consultant was “highly negative.”

“We engaged a private consultant who visited our previous farms in Guruve to carry out an assessment,” he said, asking not to be identified.

“From the report we got from (the expert), we were advised against returning to the farms.

“He told us that most of the buildings like tobacco barns, dairies, houses and other infrastructure like dams and irrigation equipment were derelict or in very poor state and it would cost us millions to rehabilitate the farms.”

‘Doing fine where we are’

There was also no evidence that the government was sincere about its offer.

“We tried to get details from the ministry of agriculture on what will happen to those who are currently occupying our land, but nothing comprehensive was made available”.

The farmer said most former Horseshoe farmers were doing well farming in Zambia, Nigeria and South Africa or in other businesses in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

“Most of us have settled well in countries where we relocated to. We have resolved to relook at the offer only until the government paid us our compensation.

 “We had invested millions at our farms before the government evicted us with almost nothing, so more needs to be done for us to consider farming in Zimbabwe again.”

However, several white farmers have accepted Mnangagwa’s offer and since returned to their lands.

Change of policy

One of them is Stoff Hawgood, a farmer in Marondera who recently returned his farm after being offered the 99-year lease.

“Obviously it’s a positive move,” he said.

“Basically, white farmers are being considered as equal and full citizens of Zimbabwe with full rights as other Zimbabweans. It’s a reflection of a change of policy.”

According an MDC-T senior official, Eddie Cross, at least 600 white farmers have returned to their properties since Mnangagwa took over from Robert Mugabe in November last year.

“They were leasing the land from blacks, something that Mugabe did not allow, and production is likely to go up as a result of the recent changes,” Cross said.

In 2000, former president Mugabe ordered war veterans and landless blacks to seize and resettle on white-owned farms.

However, since then Zimbabwe has been experiencing serious food shortages and economic challenges as production on the farms severely declined.

 Read the original article on New Zimbabwe.

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