Members of Robert Mugabe's ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party (ZANU PF) gather in the streets of Harare, 09 November 2006, in support of the issuing of the 120 99-year leases to new farmers by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe doled out long-term leases 09 November to land which had been confiscated from white farmers, warning the former owners not to expect government compensation. Senior government officials along with five white farmers were among the recipients of the 120 99-year leases presented by the veteran president at a ceremony in an international conference centre in downtown Harare. AFP PHOTO / Desmond Kwande / AFP / DESMOND KWANDE

Harare - Redistribution of land that used to be owned by thousands of former commercial white farmers in Zimbabwe is now nearly complete and there are signs that the government intends to pay them some compensation for the billions of dollars of capital goods left on the farms, such as dams, barns, houses and fencing.

“Land reform is a continuous process but from the land that we have, not much has been left for redistribution,” lands minister Douglas Mombeshora told journalists last week.

“We have 900 000 hectares that are left but this will mainly be reserve land as we cannot afford to give all the land that we have,” he said.

“Now that we are almost done with redistribution, the focus now will now be on those we have given the land to see if they are using it in the right way, otherwise they risk losing it.”

He also said the government was determined to pay white farmers compensation for the improvements on land taken from them post 2000.

The improvements on about 4 000 white-owned farms, which have all been appraised, surveyed and valued in intricate, world-class detail - as most were private limited companies - amounts to several billion US dollars.

Only about 200 white farmers received about 20-percent of the value of their farming assets when they were kicked off post 2000.

Now Mombeshora says that land rents from”new” large- and small-scale farmers will, in part, be used to pay off white farmers' capital goods left on the farms.

He said new farmers, as those who were given land post 2000 are known, who do not pay the newly introduced land rentals, risk losing the land they were awarded.

He said money generated from land rentals should bring in about $22-million (R369m) in the first instance, which would help fund a land audit and pay something towards capital assets taken from evicted white farmers.

The fees are pegged at $3 a hectare a year and an additional annual development levy of $2 a hectare for larger-scale farmers, while smaller farmers will pay a flat fee of $15 a year, irrespective of farm size.

“We will not hesitate to kick out those who resist paying the land rentals.

“These fees that we have prescribed are very low. These are just token payments and anyone who is making use of the land should have no problem whatsoever in paying these fees,” he said.

“What should be made clear is that the government does not compensate for taking the land. We only compensate for improvements that were done on the land, so that will also be done using funds collected from the land rentals,” he said.

Many evicted white farmers have left the country since 2000 but most of those who remain in Zimbabwe are in their late sixties and seventies.

Independent Foreign Service