Party officials and Mugabe’s relatives were anxious that they could lose the farms if the seizure of the land that started in 2000 is challenged in court, reports the latest issue of the British news magazine Africa Confidential.
“A wave of anxiety is passing through the highest echelons of the party … as relatives of Mugabe and other high-ups appear to have realised that without title deeds to the properties forcibly seized from white commercial farmers, they could eventually lose the land in court.
“The government has always claimed that the land-redistribution programme was irreversible but after Mugabe leaves office, law suits to reclaim the land for its previous owners could succeed. Guarantees that the government and the official current owners have given to their leaseholders and tenants could also be affected,” says the article.
In the 2000s, the Zanu (PF) government changed the constitution to ensure that the white farmers who lost their farms could not claim them back. Even under the new constitution farmers can only claim compensation for improvements on the farms, not the land itself.
The President of the Commercial Farmers’ Union (CFU), Charles Taffs, told The Zimbabwean he had heard reports of Zanu (PF) heavies buying title deeds from the former commercial farmers. “These reports highlight to me the need for a practical solution … title deeds must be respected. If not, this will perpetuate the conflict for a very long time. That is why we have been urging government to engage us for a win-win, long lasting solution,” he said, adding that government owed the displaced farmers up to $10 billion in compensation.
Despite their removal from the farms, Taffs said the majority of farmers still held onto their title deeds. “Most of them (displaced farmers) still possess their title deeds, and rightly so. As it stands, there are many pending challenges that have been made in regional and international courts. Some have already won their cases against the forced acquisition of their land,” said Taffs.
Those who were given the land are reportedly scared that, once Mugabe is gone, his successor might succumb to international pressure to honour the ejected farmers’ property rights.
Vice President Joice Mujuru is considered a moderate who could push for a compromise situation in order to revitalise agricultural production and regain international investor confidence – vital to the resuscitation of the moribund economy.
Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has also been reported to hold presidential ambitions, is seen by observers as a pragmatic and shrewd politician and businessman who might agree on a compromise if he manages to succeed Mugabe. The president of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union (ZCFU), Wonder Chabikwa, said it would not be surprising that some rich Zanu (PF) members were buying the land. “A lot of cash is required to buy the deeds, as the purchase value would be determined by a lot of things, especially the properties and structures that existed on the farms,” said Chabikwa. “But because of desperation, the farmers might end up drastically reducing the prices.”
Despite that, he said it would be difficult to change the names on the deeds as the plots were now state land, even though he left room for the manipulation of the process by those involved at the top.Post published in: News