Property rights take centre stage in fresh land compensation debate

Zim farm invasions

One of the legacies of the farm invasions is there are no longer property rights in Zimbabwe

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
02 April 2014

Commercial farmers in Zimbabwe are moving to shift the focus of the land compensation debate to become a national issue, with individual property rights at the centre of the argument.

This is one of the issues being debated during a series of meetings on farm restitution and compensation in Zimbabwe this week. Featuring South African land valuer Mills Fitchet, discussion has zeroed in on the danger of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector being undervalued because of the nation’s land policies.

The land grab campaign that has defined the current farm ownership system effectively destroyed property rights in Zimbabwe, with vast tracts of land being claimed as ‘state land’ and parceled out along partisan lines. This situation still persists, despite warnings that without a return to a productive agricultural sector, enshrined by rights to property ownership, Zimbabwe’s economy will fail to recover.

John Worsley-Worswick, who heads the Justice for Agriculture (JAG) group, said Wednesday that “there is a necessity to bring the land issue to closure.” He told SW Radio Africa that protection of property rights and individual access to title deed was key for Zimbabwe to move away from being a ‘begging nation’, reliant on highly expensive food imports and aid.

“In Zimbabwe the agricultural land is the biggest national asset, and if this land is not valued properly, to an international standard, then we become a beggar nation and we will have to accept the reconstruction of Zimbabwe on someone else’s terms,” Worsley-Worswick said.

He said that Zimbabwe, which has the potential to be a strong player in international food production, “can’t afford to have this asset undervalued in any way.” He added that the local land tenure system, which “hamstrings” agricultural endeavours, means the country’s agricultural value is not what it could be.

“Property rights issues and compensation issues are going to be at the forefront of concerns before we can go forward. These rights have been grossly infringed and trampled on for years. Individual rights to property is a basic human right and these issues have to be dealt with before going forward,” Worsley-Worswick said.

The property rights issue has previously been argued as the key for Zimbabwe’s agricultural restoration, along with a transparent, independent land audit to decipher exactly who owns what in the country.

Such an audit has recently been recommended in a new report about the prospects for Zimbabwe’s economic recovery. The report, Zimbabwe’s International Re-engagement: The Long Haul to Recovery argues that if the country is to salvage its crippled economy and attract investment, the government must demonstrate that Zimbabwe is a worthwhile business destination and credible partner.

The report says the government must move to reduce uncertainty about the multi-currency system, indigenisation, and complete a full, impartial land audit.

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5 Responsesto “Property rights take centre stage in fresh land compensation debate”

  1. THE BLACK ARISTOCRAT says:

    Land Audit ????? Dream on !

    Will never happen in the beggar nation Mafia State known as Zimbabwe – as the First Election Rigger and the First Sausage Jockey would have to answer as to why they have 20 large farms between them, and Mansions all over the place !

  2. Chimbwido Warvet says:

    Anybody who fights for ‘individual property rights’ and the right to ‘be compensated’ for land that has been in the hands of thieves for hundreds of years needs to be examined in his/her fcking head. By giving the so-called ‘individual property rights’ will have the effect of driving away the poor people who benefited from the land resettlement programme as individuals with pockets full of money as Rhodies will takeover their land. Rhodies who lost the land and had migrated to Australia, New Zealand, Zambia, Malawi will come back this time to buy land they had stolen from us. For now, this is unacceptable. I will not address the question of compensating crooks who got our land through chicanery, deceit, and outright thievery. Nowhere in the world have criminals or thieves benefited from their crime and Zimbabwe can not be an exception. Not a penny will be paid to any former white commercial farmer for land that was illegally occupied. Any structures that were built on stolen land will be forfeited by the state, end of story.

  3. Mike hondo says:

    These former farmers who have been kicked off their land still have their title deeds and so have the right in law to take back these farms under Zimbabwean law. These title deeds should be paid for and exchanged with the new occupiers so that we can bring an end to the land question and then there should be a land audit to show who owns what and the country can move on otherwise the land is useless as far as farming and only ground nuts and a few vegetables and some maize can be produced

    • Chimbwido Warvet says:

      When, why, where and who gave the former commercial farmers title deeds Mike Hondo? As far as we are concerned, title deeds that were given to the white commercial farmers during the colonial era are illegal. The country was ruled by an illegal regime and all laws that it passed were illegitimate. The only title deeds we will recognise are those that will be given by this government from now on. Anything else is unacceptable to us. Ok?

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