Monday, May 6, 2013


Last weekend, Malawi News carried an article through which the international community has expressed clarification on remarks made by President Dr Joyce Banda when she visited Zimbabwe a couple of weeks ago. The Malawi leader intimated that Lilongwe might undertake the land reform programme as was the case with Harare in 2001. 

It seems the statement has attracted some attention not because it is wrong but because it was made while she was in Zimbabwe. The very ground where the world's largest land reform took place. Close to 6,000 white farmers have been replaced by 250,000 black farmers.     

Those in the worry with Zimbabwe's land reforms do so on technicality grounds not on the premise of a wrong policy.

For honesty's sake, Zimbabwe is not about Mugabe. It is about the people; it is about sovereignty and self-rule. Zimbabwe is probably a good example of how neo-colonialism should be handled, without any apology. 

It is not Zimbabweans who created the land problem in the first place. Mugabe wasn't there when a royal charter named Cecil Rhodes' British South African Company (BSAC) ruled the land as a commercial company in the 1890s.

Uncle Bob was only a 3-month foetus when the land gained self-governing status in 1923. He was only a 7-year old kindergarten chap when the white minority government drafted the harsh Land Apportionment Act of 1930. To add salt to injury during World War II, the Rhodesian administration allowed a massive migration of their European brothers into the country and in turn evicted (I mean EVICTED) more than 100,000 Zimbabweans from their ancestral land. Tens of thousands of British World War veterans found themselves on land that had been snatched away from indigenous people.    

From that background, we must understand that the independence struggle in the 70s was aimed at reversing these evil acts. I guess there is nothing wrong reclaiming what is yours. Whenever Mugabe and Ian Smith (Rhodesia Prime Minister) were locked in heated meetings, the former always demanded the reversal of the land reforms as a vital ingredient in the independence cake.

The colonialists made sure they signed a treaty with the first independent government on avoiding any radical land regulations. The colonizers feared that letting go power and land at the same time would be detrimental to their long time hold on the economy.

So, Smith and his British masters promised that land was going to be given back but did not put anything in black and white. 1980 came and independence was attained minus the land issue. Zimbabweans were waiting for their land; Mugabe was obliged to explain to his people on what was going on but London remained quiet.

This is where things got wrong because even after giving Mugabe all the state authority they failed to rectify the land issue which was pertinent in the eyes of the nationalists. Haven't you wondered why Zimbabwe received extensive positive media coverage in the 80s and 90s? It was all part of the dilly dallying by westerners. They thought this positive coverage was going to wipe out the memories of the struggle; land struggle in this aspect.

You will therefore agree with me that any issue that clocks 30 years without being addressed is a bomb waiting to explode. There had to come a time when Zimbabweans had to dust the files and ressuccitate the land issue. No two ways about it.
And 2001 was only an explosion of a bomb that had been pressed for long. What changed the whole ball game was that Mugabe's cohorts led by one Chenjerai "Hittler" Hunzvi invaded the white owned farms while their leader was on an official State visit to Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Whether it was a premeditated move which Mugabe knew before his departure or not, we are not here to speculate. The raid sent shock waves across the world and Mugabe's name was blacklisted. In the momentum of the act Chenjerai died of a sexually transmitted infection but his remnant troops made sure they never lost focus. The deal was done and the state followed with proper regulation on how the land was going to be divided among the indigenous people.

According to Tony Blair (British Prime Minister when the land seizures happened), his government wanted to have a hand in the whole reform process. But Mugabe gave his conditions as well, "just give me the money I will do it myself". The West started playing hide-and-seek due to what Blair calls trust issues. The West suggested that the money be given through United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Uncle Bob wasn't ready for such vague arrangement. Then the sanctions started and the rest of the story is there for all the world to see.

The land reforms were then coupled with the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Program which demanded that foreign owned establishments give up 51% of their stake to Zimbabweans. Another necessary blow to the West. In shame they created myths around Zimbabwe's story and sadly the Western media took it script by letter.

Coming back to Malawi's scenario, President Joyce Banda is simply asking genuine questions on behalf of the populace. 

Where is our land? 

When are we having it back?

How can we have it back?

We might not be as bad as Zimbabwe but we are surely not very safe when it comes to land distribution.

It pains me to see traditional leaders in the tea growing districts of Thyolo and Mulanje always begging for some piece of land from tea company owners for simple developments such as construction of a health centre or nursery school. Where did we lose it and why?

Fellow countrymen and women, our land cannot be given to us by an act of goodwill, absolutely not. It is ours and we need to manage it well.

What is independence if our own land is sold like tomatoes to Indians (most of who hold British passports), Chinese, Lebanese and Burundese? Have we gone to sleep such that 50 years after independence we still see nothing wrong with how we manage our greatest resource?

The international community is still trying to probe whether President Banda said she will execute land reforms just as the case of Zimbabwe. I am in support of such an action because I know she only meant the positives of Zimbabwe will be imitated. We don't have to raise a Chenjerai Hunzvi who will invade people's homes, No. All we need is an overhaul of our systems with regards to land management.

If land management is not overhauled, the rich will get richer while the poor, who constitute more than 90 percent of the population will get poorer and more desperate.

Japan, Taiwan, Zimbabwe have done it and it propelled them to new development heights. Namibia, South Africa and Malawi are next. It is not about personalities but general populations.

The West can have their own worries about our land but we will not starve our people of their land just because someone thinks investors are going to be scared away. Let us reform our land distribution exercise Your Excellency. I stand with you on this one.  



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