Zimbabwe People First leader Dr Joice Mujuru has reportedly met the white former occupier of her Ruzambo Farm in Beatrice, Guy Watson-Smith, offering to personally compensate him for improvements made on the land. The amount of the compensation is being put at more than $1,4 million.We can choose to ignore the quantum being talked about for now.The decision to make personal compensation is strange.The Constitution of Zimbabwe is clear that it is the State which should compensate former land occupiers, not individuals.
The reasons are clear enough and Dr Mujuru should know them better than anyone else having been at the top of the political perking order when the Zanu-PF Government launched the fast-track land reform programme in 2000.
The first reason is that Government is the acquiring authority, not the person who is given an offer letter or lease agreement to use the farm. The second and strongly linked to the first is that Government retains ownership of all the acquired farms. They don’t belong to those privileged to occupy and use them such as Dr Mujuru.
The only logical reason she would travel all the way to London to parley with Watson-Smith over compensation for the improvements made on the farm is possibly that she is very desperate to be viewed by her British hosts as a reformist and very different from the rest of the members of Zanu-PF and its leadership.
Alternatively, she wants to repudiate the whole land reform programme, which involves regretting her husband, the late national hero and Army General Solomon Mujuru’s role in it. In the interview she gave in London, she in fact insinuates that she was not fully supportive and tries to hide behind culture, claiming she could not challenge decisions made by her elders.
This is hypocrisy and insincerity of the worst kind given that in the same breath she tries to assure potential voters back home that the land reform programme is in fact “irreversible”. What is clear is that she has blundered big time.
She wants to present herself as a reasonable and compassionate leader, but at the same time knows who she must appeal to for the vote.The British and Americans can give her party money, but they don’t vote. The people who decide the national leadership of this country are desperate for land — regardless of whether they are in urban areas looking for residential stands or in rural areas in search of agricultural land and pastures for their animals.
This is the naked reality which should confront Dr Mujuru as she makes her case for compensating one Watson-Smith.
But Dr Mujuru’s poor judgment has greater and more serious ramifications. There are fellow blacks who lost their land through her family’s expropriations. She must consider compensating them. She seems to have lots of money in her pocket. So logically she should have started the compensation process with her black neighbours. But that’s not all.
Her decision to compensate a white farmer who was evicted under a Government land reform programme is a bold statement of self-absolution which ignores the circumstances of the rest of the resettled people battling to eke out a living on the land.
What happens to those who are not so rich like herself to pay compensation? Is she saying they should be evicted?It is Government policy that white former farmers would be compensated for improvements. It is a matter of limited resources that they haven’t been compensated. There is no room for self-help or self-righteousness.
Moreover Dr Mujuru should not delude herself that a 99-year lease on the farm means it becomes personal property from which she cannot be evicted. It is only a lease. If she wants to convert it into personal property she has to negotiate with Government.The sum total of these blunders discount her as a serious leader who can be trusted to make decisions for the nation.