By: Andrew Mambondiyani
Date: October 31st 2016
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Brian van Buuren, a white former farmer in Burma Valley, eastern Zimbabwe, couldn't hide his anger as he recalled how he lost almost everything during the country's controversial land reforms.
After investing most of his money in his tobacco farm, van Buuren was left almost destitute when his land was seized by the government in 2010.
"I lost virtually everything," van Buuren, 80, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Today, he is one of countless evicted elderly white landowners struggling to make ends meet as they wait for compensation that many fear may never come - since the black farmers expected to stump up the cash say they don't have it.
In 2001, President Robert Mugabe introduced laws to more equitably distribute land between black subsistence farmers and white Zimbabweans of European ancestry.
The reforms were aimed at addressing colonial imbalances in which a small number of white farmers owned most of the best agricultural land in Zimbabwe.
Earlier this year, the government pledged to compensate all farmers who lost their farms during the land reform programme, in which about 5,000 white farmers were evicted from their land in often violent struggles, and at least 12 people died.
The violence and allegations of rigged elections and rights abuses - all denied by Mugabe - led to Western sanctions.
The sanctions compounded an economic crisis that had worsened since the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank suspended aid in 1999, after Zimbabwe defaulted on debts.
The country's new constitution, adopted in 2013, included a provision to compensate the white farmers who were evicted, particularly for the improvements they had made on their farms.
In September, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the government had paid $42.7 million to farmers in compensation.
"The government has taken a big step towards compensation of previous farmers," he said. "The government is expediting the mapping and valuation of improvements on farms acquired under the land reform programme so it can compensate the farmers."
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Photo source: Swathi Sridharan via Flickr/Creative Commons (CC By-NC-ND 2.0). Photo: © Swathi Sridharan