Harare - Zimbabwe plans to compensate white farmers for land seized for redistribution to blacks and has begun evaluating the properties, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Friday.President Robert Mugabe's controversial and sometimes violent land reforms, which began in 2000, have been blamed for plunging the country into an economic crisis.Around 4 000 white farmers were driven off their land and have struggled for years to obtain any payment for their loss.The move towards compensation comes as the government shows signs that it wants a rapprochement with western donors and the International Monetary Fund to help heal the economy."It [compensation] is under our constitution, this is an obligation under our constitution as far as I am concerned," Chinamasa told AFP.Chinamasa said the government had started working out the value of the farms to determine the amount of compensation to be paid, but he refused to be drawn into how the cash-strapped government would finance the exercise."I want to settle any issues or disputes arising from our resolution of our land question," Chinamasa said."It is not good for agricultural development that we should make and perpetuate dispute or discontent around the land question."The minister did not say when the dispossessed farmers could expect to be paid.ModalitiesThe compensation would differ between farms that fall under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs) and properties taken from individuals, he said."The farmers who are protected under the bilateral investment agreements are under our constitution entitled to full compensation for both land and improvements on the farms."The farms which fall outside BIPPA, we are only required under the constitution to pay compensation only for improvements."The majority of farms fall outside BIPPA."Of the 6 000 or so farms that we compulsorily acquired only about 1 500 have been evaluated," Chinamasa said."So it means there is a lot of work that we need to do to get the figures first.""After the figures have been obtained then we can look into the modalities how that compensation will be paid."Any story giving you figures is nonsense and has not come from government."The land reforms were aimed at reversing historical injustices which saw white colonialists push black Zimbabweans off the best farming land.But critics say that the redistribution of farms favoured the government elite, while ordinary people who did receive land often lacked the means to use it productively.The result has been a perennial food deficit which has reduced the former regional breadbasket to a regular food importer.