In a joint statement released on Monday evening, Minister of Lands and Agriculture Anxious Masuka and Minister of Finance Mthuli Ncube said interested former farm owners could “ask in writing the Minister of Land, Agriculture , Water and Rural Resettlement, to hand over the title to the plot of agricultural land which was forcibly taken away from them”.
“The government will respond favorably to their requests when the current circumstances on the ground allow it to return their land to them,” the joint statement said.
He added that in order to allow interested former farm owners to repossess plots of land, the government would “revoke the letters of offer from resettled farmers currently occupying those plots of land and offer them alternative land elsewhere.”
“Where the current situation on the ground makes it impossible to return land in this category to its former owners, the government will offer former agricultural owners alternative land elsewhere where such land is available,” the ministers said.
The latest move is seen as a capitulation by the Harare authorities who have insisted for years that their controversial land grabbing program, which was launched in 2000 and saw more than four-thousand five-hundred white farmers lose their land, was irreversible.
It is also seen as an attempt by the Zimbabwean government to circumvent the payment of compensation to white farmers for improvements that had been made to properties before they were taken from them.
The move comes less than a week after President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed an agreement with farmer representatives to pay producers US$ 3.5 billion for infrastructure on the farms, not the land itself.
The money is to be collected from international donors by the Zimbabwean authorities and farmers.