Zimbabwe’s government on Wednesday signed a deal with former white farmers to pay them billions of dollars in compensation roughly two decades after they lost their land in often violent invasions.
But because the government does not readily have the money, the farmers will be part of a team tasked with raising the cash.
About 4,000 farmers lost large swathes of land when Zimbabwe’s late leader Robert Mugabe launched the often-chaotic land reform program which he said was aimed at addressing colonial-era land inequities. White farmers had owned the majority of prime farmland. Agricultural land now belongs to the government.
According to the agreement, signed at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s official residence and witnessed by representatives of the former farmers, the $3.5 billion compensation is not for the land but for infrastructure such as wells, irrigation equipment and buildings. The farmers initially wanted over $5 billion.
The full payment is expected to be done within five years. But it is unclear if the former farmers will receive the money given that Zimbabwe is financially troubled and burdened with a huge debt.
The government will borrow on international markets and the farmers will be part of a “joint resource mobilization committee” tasked with raising the money, according to the agreement.
Mnangagwa, who took power in 2017 after Mugabe was forced to resign, has encouraged former white farmers to apply for pieces of land.
The president said the latest developments have brought closure.