The lunatic Marxist president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, needed some time and a lot of financial insanity to hit his country, but he has finally admitted (at least grudgingly) that robbing white farm owners of their property was a big mistake.
The white owners knew how to use the land and thereby benefit Zimbabwe’s economy. After the massive, and often violent, dispossession of these lands by Mugabe, hyperinflation hit Zimbabwe like a ton of bricks.
The economic crisis has now compelled his administration to admit its mistake and to state that he wants to give the lands back to their previous owners.
From the libertarian point of view, there are some issues with this news.
First of all, the U-turn by Mugabe is only done for “strategic economic importance”, not as a correction of unjust policies. His administration simply realizes that it would benefit the country’s economy to rectify his past policies. The question is, therefore, to what extent he would actually rectify his mistakes, and how secure any returning white farmers would be.
The second part is, that in some way, the dispossession of the lands from white owners is in accordance with libertarian justice. After all, how was this land originally obtained by white people? In all likelihood it was through the horror of colonialism; even if current white owners bought the land fairly, down the chain of preceding owners someone will probably have simply taken it by force, invalidating the moral acceptance of owning it now. However, if the land had not been homesteaded (which would make the lands the legitimate property of the white farmers) the only way of returning the lands to their rightful owners can be to track down the people who owned the lands when it was taken from them. Most likely they are long gone. And since Mugabe had no interest in returning the lands to their rightful owners, only in taking it away from white people, his act is no more or less an act of racist robbery than was the theft of colonialists. By lack of finding the last legitimate owners of the lands, the closest thing to justice is for the white owners to own the lands, provided they themselves obtained it in fair ways (by buying the property with honestly earned money).