Zimbabwe to pay $3 Billion to White Farmers to correct injustices of the past. How does SA not create the same future?

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The subject of land expropriation is a rather contentious topic in South Africa, as South Africans find themselves divided on the matter.

As the Government works on finalising changes to legislation and the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation, one must ask if this is a feasible move? Especially with the creation of the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill.

The draft bill states: “there is a need for urgent and accelerated land reform in order to address the injustices of the past that were inflicted on the majority of South Africans and especially as the hunger for land amongst the dispossessed is palpable and the dispossessed are of the view that very little is being done to redress the skewed land ownership pattern.”

The National Assembly has recently agreed to re-establish the multiparty committee to initiate and introduce legislation to amend Section 25 of the Constitution.

The Committee was initially established in July 2019, as to clarify parts of the Constitution which allow for the expropriation of land without compensation as a legitimate option for land reform. This is apparently to address the historic land dispossession of the majority of South Africans.

The pandemic put the committee’s programme on hold, with its term then expiring on May 29 before it could complete its mandate.

The National Assembly has now agreed to re-establish the Committee, which has until 31 December 2020 to report back to the house.

While it is important to address injustices of the past, is land expropriation without compensation the best of decisions? Can South Africa maybe learn something from our neighbouring country, Zimbabwe?

On Wednesday, July 29, Zimbabwe’s government signed a $3.5 billion deal to compensate white farmers, who were evicted from their lands years ago. These evictions were often extreme and violent.

According to Andrew Pascoe, President of the Commercial Farmers Union which represents the white farmers stated that this agreement marks a huge milestone in addressing the issue.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa describes the agreement as a momentous and historic event. He adds that not only does it bring closure, but also a new beginning.

The government now intends to sell a 30-year bond on international markets to pay for the compensation. This is according to the agreement which the government signed with the farmers.

Farmers’ whose land was expropriated will receive half their money in a year. The balance will then be paid in four equal instalments annually.

Furthermore, a committee has been formed by the government, farmers, and donors. Vice President Constantino Chiwenga says the committee will help raise the funding.

However, it is currently unclear how Zimbabwe will carry out the bond sale. Especially as the nation is battling inflation of more than 700%, and 90% of the population is out of formal employment.

What can we learn from the history and current reality of our neighbours to the North?  

While Zimbabwe is now looking at taking a more gentle approach and correct steps in paying and mending fences with the once, chased off their lands, farmers, what can we as a country avoid and do better? 

What can we learn from a country which owes approximately $8 billion to creditors, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank? What can we learn from a country which has intermittent food shortages and mass unemployment due to the way they handled land expropriation? With the number of farm attacks on the increase in South Africa, will we be able to learn a valuable lesson from Zimbabwe on this delicate topic?

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