Former Zimbabwean Vice President Joice Mujuru has offered to compensate a White farmer who used to own the land she now occupies. According to BBC, Mujuru has agreed to pay a total of $1.4 million to Guy Watson-Smith, the farmer whose land was seized by her family in 2000. The estate, known as Alamien farm or Ruzambo farm, is located about 70 kilometers outside of the capital Harare.
Mujuru recently met with Watson-Smith at a London hotel in a meeting brokered by U.K.-based Zimbabwean journalist Violet Gonda. According to News24, Mujuru inherited the farm from her late husband, Solomon Mujuru, who was a former army general and a close ally to President Robert Mugabe. He obtained the land during the height of Zimbabwe’s controversial land reform program.
Zimbabwe’s Land Reform Program
More than 4,000 White Zimbabwean farmers were forcefully evicted from their lands in the early 2000’s, when President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party launched the controversial land reforms that proposed taking over White-owned farms in order to resettle thousands of landless Black Zimbabwean farmers.
The land reform initiative was heavily criticized by most Western countries for its lack of due process and transparency. Many described it as a corrupt government take over meant to redistribute top estates to members of Mugabe’s inner circle. The land reforms prompted a string of sanctions from Western nations, which paralyzed the country’s economy and further alienated Mugabe’s government.
The land that Mujuru inherited was formerly owned by one of the biggest tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe. At the meeting, Mujuru reportedly agreed to pay back the money that Watson-Smith lost from the crops, animals, and equipment on the farm. However, she refused to return the land, saying it was now owned by the state.
Mujuru was a powerful member of Zimbabwe’s ruling party and served as vice president from 2004 to 2014, when she was expelled from the party for alleged anti-party activities, including plotting to overthrow Mugabe’s government. She is now the leader of the opposition party, the Zimbabwe People First.