Lands, agriculture and rural resettlement Perence Shiri has said the government regrets injustices made during its chaotic land-reform programme and is now taking corrective measures to address past mistakes and also compensate white farmers.

His comments come at a time when fear has gripped SA, and potential investors, over plans to expropriate land without compensation.

Shiri was speaking in Harare at the 75th anniversary of the country’s Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), a grouping of largely white commercial farmers who lost their land. The controversial “fast-track” land reform triggered Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, led to Harare’s international isolation and sanctions from the US and EU.

In his address to the white farmers, Shiri acknowledged Zimbabwe made mistakes and said CFU members had a legitimate right to seek redress. He said the government also wants to work with white farmers so they can help Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector grow. “Of the challenges the farming community faces, there is one which is a matter of particular anxiety to many of your members: land reform,” he said. “Our government is firmly committed to a process of the need for corrective measures to deal with the consequences of past injustices.

“Our policy acknowledges the property rights of existing land owners. It also recognises the legitimate demand for justice from those who have been dispossessed or excluded. But it is equally important that new injustices are not created or production capacity disrupted.”

Shiri said his government’s policy is to promote partnerships with the white farmers to boost Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector, whose production slumped after land reform.

“Such partnerships should bring restructuring of the agriculture industry; improved [protection]; an opening of farming opportunities for those who have been hitherto excluded; and measures to correct past injustices. It should include co-operation in working out measures that will lead to farmers enjoying the same rights and security as workers in our industries.”

CFU president Peter van Zyl said the “precipitous introduction of the fast-track land reform left the country ill-prepared for the social, political and economic impact.” He said white farmers are keen to work with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government for the good of the country.

He urged Mnangagwa’s government to fulfil its pledge to pay compensation to white farmers. “With regard to compensation issue, we are greatly encouraged by President Mnangagwa’s statement made at Davos and we, as a union, are willing to do all in our power to facilitate the process as envisaged in his statement.

“We are convinced that the settling of this issue will be one of the major keys that unlock the door to the international assistance we so desperately need to help our economy recover.”

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