Sunday, March 10, 2013

Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land

Zim takes back its land

Sunday, 10 March 2013 00:00
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

Today we publish Part 5 of a transcript of the panel discussion on the new book Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land which took place at the London Institute of Economics and Political Science on January 28 2013. Last week, Dr Joseph Hanlon, who co-authored the book with Dr Jeannette Manjengwa and Teresa Smart, spoke on how Government embarked on the land reform exercise.

Teddy Bridge: Thank you very much. I think that has put very important issues on the table and I think especially in the last 10 minutes raised a lot of issues that I think are key issues that we would really want to see being discussed here.

I think it’s fair to say that a great many injustices and inefficiencies have been perpetuated in the past. The problem with history is that it doesn’t take place on the basis of justice. It takes place on the basis of whoever it is that can manage to take control over things. Of course, history moves forward only when after these things have happened.

People who are now in a new situation find ways of resolving problems and particularly resolving the kind of conflicts that can keep problems going for a very very long time.

For me, an interesting paradox is in 1972 when I joined Makerere University in Kampala and watched the whole of the Asian community being put onto buses and being put onto aeroplanes and sent out of the country.

And I watched soldiers allocating their businesses in Kampala a few months later.

And a month or two after that I couldn’t buy a bag of sugar in a shop and I had to go to Kenya to buy a new tyre for my motor car.

But when I went back to Uganda in the late 1980s, a new government had taken over; new classes of people had actually taken over those businesses and despite the immense losses, were beginning to run them better.

At that point, a new government came into power which in 1974 actually re-allowed the Asians to take their property rights back and some of them came back; the bigger ones actually making an important contribution.

Many others had sold their property and so the country had been moving forward in the last 10 to 15 years in an unprecedented kind of way.

So, the interesting question I would like to sort of focus on here is that whether some kind of transition, whether Zimbabwe is now at that point which Uganda reached in the late 1990s, when these old losses and old conflicts will be overcome and some of the things that Joe has talked about and Charlie perhaps will make some comments about now, can take the country forward because it went a long way backwards, just the way Uganda did in the 1970s and 1980s and hopefully we think it may be possible for it to go forward now.

Obviously, I think a lot of the issues that are going to determine that are going to be resolved at the political level. These kinds of practical issues are the ones that really have to be resolved.

Charles Taffs, chairman of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Association: In terms of investment, of course, we want investment in Zimbabwe, but we need it on the basis that the investments are sound, they are safe and people are secure on their property rights and we have none of that right now.

In terms of quite forgetting the past, take it in context.

What I was saying is that for the Zimbabwean people it has been a long time, 13 years.

It is the last decade plus we need to resolve our issues, use the past to afford the future.

That is what I was referring to.

I would like to correct a few things as well. In terms of Zimbabwean farmers, commercial farmers being insolvent, that is a complete misnomer. In 1999, the . . . commercial . . . (inaudible) . . . with the financial institutions was less than 5 percent.

In 2012, the (inaudible) commercial agriculture was over 80 percent.

We just have to look at the facts. Commercial landholdings in 1980 were 15 million hectares; freehold by 2000 was 7,3 million hectares. The land reform was happening in a way where production was increasing, land values were increasing, the economy was booming and you had a new commercial sector of successful black farmers, well trained, well integrated and one in the value chain.

It was happening on a successful basis. It was fully backed up and endorsed by Government, supported by European countries, particularly Britain.

We had a system in Zimbabwe from 1980. I was part of that system. I bought all my properties within Zimbabwe, whereby you bought a farm and it first had to be offered to Government. If the Government chose not to take it, they would issue a certificate of no interest and the sale could proceed.

There was no trading without Government participation. The Government endorsed and encouraged and yet we are still being accused of having 70 percent of all land.

Commercial land was purchased after 1980.

So, with that in mind, 70 percent of commercial land was first offered to Government for purchase.

Let’s have a look at the facts. For 13 years, we have been net food importers.

Right now, we have 1,7 million people facing starvation. We are then appealing to the international community to appeal for support against a backdrop of a country being utterly and totally broke by this land reform programme.

We must also understand that people with access to land have over a billion dollars given to them through the mechanisation programmes, input programmes and others.

Where is this? What has happened?

A fact: 60 percent of all industry imports came from agriculture from small scale and large scale.

When the commercial sector was destroyed, industry had a collateral effect. We had the fastest (inaudible) economy outside a war zone in the history of the world. We now don’t even have our own currency. We are now based on a currency dictated to by outside influences.

We are not competitive.

The commercial agricultural sector had 350 967 permanent employees. There were too many people on the land; there was a lot less migration from farms into cities. We have had a compounding impact on the rural areas, towns which were based around agricultural inputs.

Masvingo, for example, was built around the
cattle industry. Bulawayo, for example, was built around the cattle industry and then industrialised. It was an industrialised port and now it has been overtaken by Musina in South Africa.

A few grown crops: Tobacco, 2 247 tonnes of tobacco was produced and last year 144 000 tonnes was produced.

In 2000, when we produced 247 million kilogrammes, Brazil, our biggest single export competitor, had 350 million kilogrammes. They are now producing 800 million kilogrammes.

That is the loss to this country and we can get back there. We had the magnificent cotton. It was even produced by small-scale farmers. Commercial farmers were not big cotton producers, but we had a fantastic integrated value chain of manufacturers and processors of raw cotton lint.

We now have a system where contract growers are dedicating to those small-scale growers to export raw lint and they have no protection, none whatsoever. Last year, they received a dollar for their lint and this year they received 35 cents.

The poor woman in Muzarabani is now impoverished because of this. There is no action. What we are saying is we need to re-establish these value chains.

In my view, it is very simple: we need to take a neutral exact position on both sides of the equation.

We need to remove the conflict. We need to place value back on the land so that the very people who have access to the land can mobilise their inherent value of the land to plan and maximise their production.

On the back of that, we will get massive inflows into Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe must understand that infrastructurally, it is way ahead of its neighbours outside of Southern Africa.

It is strategically placed to take maximum advantage of the global food supply which we know is going to double in the next 30 years. We are primly positioned for that. All we require is to remove the conflict and re-establish the values, and Zimbabwe has a massive future.

Leslie Maruziva: You paint a very positive picture about the new farmers in Zimbabwe and I just wondered from your research, did you get an impression or were you able to ascertain how much of the production these farmers could improve?

Have they been given the right resources?

Would they be able to actually double the production? Would they be able to actually get the country over and beyond where it was when the production started going down?

Ms Pagel: I want to follow up the point that was made about people moving out of their previous jobs to become farmers.

This struck me as something that must have a terrible effect on the rest of the production in Zimbabwe because it wasn’t farmers moving to better farms but people who had been producing something and there was loss of production in relation to the losses which the last speaker discussed, and you don’t mention this at all.

While production on these farms must have increased, production of whatever they were doing before must have gone down and I was really shocked at the point that you both made that it took them 20 years to farm and now to make a farm productive, which is worse than any other (inaudible) activity except possibly a surgeon, which then struck me as an additional argument against small farms.

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