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Zimbabwe’s Not Compensating Farmers For Land – Only For Improvements

Not that we ever expected those white farmers to receive proper and fully legal compensation for the land that was confiscated under Mugabe. But this current process is being touted as being compensation to those farmers when it’s only a very faint shadow of what is due. Sure, the Zimbabwean Government doesn’t have any money but that’s rather their own fault, it’s in large part due to their own stupidity – OK, Mugabe’s such – in throwing those white farmers off that land.

This is not enough therefore:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Zimbabwe is to start paying compensation this year to thousands of white farmers who lost land under former president Robert Mugabe’s land reform nearly two decades ago, the government said, as it seeks to bring closure to a highly divisive issue. Two decades ago Mugabe’s government carried out at times violent evictions of 4,500 white farmers and redistributed the land to around 300,000 black families, arguing it was redressing imbalances from the colonial era. But land reform still divides public opinion as opponents see it as a partisan process that left the country struggling to feed itself. [/perfectpullquote]

Well, there’s no divide there in reality. It was a partisan process and it did leave the country struggling to feed itself. And desperately short of money as those farms produced the only export crops really worthy of the name.

But this isn’t compensation for the land, not at all:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Mnangagwa’s compensation plan The compensation will only be paid for improvements the former farm owners made to the land. It will not be paid for loss of the land itself. [/perfectpullquote]

Nope, not enough. The justification is this of course:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Colonialists seized some of the best agricultural land and much of it remained in the hands of white farmers after independence in 1980, while many blacks were landless.[/perfectpullquote]

Southern Africa was indeed colonised. But just as with Central Africa having been pygmy, Southern was Khoi San and such associated groupings. The Bantu – the larger grouping to which Zulu, Matabele, Tswana and so on belong – was just as much a colonising irruption as the whites were. In fact, The Dutch got to the Western Cape and the area behind the Fish River before the Bantu did. For the Bantu agricultural package, being West Africa derived, wouldn’t work there, while the Mediterranean derived European one would. The whites got into Zimbabwe later of course, but they were no less and no more colonisers than those Bantu had been.

But all of this is an irrelevance despite it being fascinating and true. For the reason we don’t steal peoples’ property is nothing to do with justice nor natural rights. The reason we pay full compensation if government really, really, does have to take it is also not some outcrop of civil liberty. It’s a purely pragmatic calculation. No one will invest in anything if government – or maybe whatever set of bully boys like the look of it – will just come along and steal the result of that investment. An economy without investment is a horribly poor one, as Zimbabwe is today.

It also doesn’t matter what skin colour all or some are, which languages they speak, even their nationality. Steal the results of investment and there will be none. An economy without capital investment will be a subsistence one, people will be trying to rub along on that historic modal experience for human beings of $1.90 a day. And that’s in the good times, in the bad all will starve.

Seriously, this isn’t too hard to understand. Nicking all the wealth means there will be no wealth. Even the people who receive the stolen goods won’t invest for they’ll see what happened to the last lot. Thus the argument in favour of full compensation is that without it Zimbabwe will continue to have no economy worthy of the name. But then impressing that on someone whose private jets are being paid for by Arab Princes is going to be difficult, isn’t it?

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4 years ago

I’d argue that this is really another version of Zims favourite whine, it’s all the fault of the (white) foreigners. In actual fact, had the land stolen from the whites been given to competent farmers instead of political favourites, it would still have been producing the goods. But the theft of the land is merely one aspect of the real problem of Zimbabwe, the government is stealing too much. When Mugabe and his merry men seized power, they wished to make themselves the new landed gentry. So they stole the land. They wanted more money, so they printed it. They… Read more »

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