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  • Christine Chumbler
    Feb 19, 2002
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      Rural revolt threat

      Three Southern African countries have sold out the region's peasants in favour of
      quick profits and short-term political expediency, a new hard-hitting academic study
      warns

      SIZWE SAMAYENDE AND JUSTIN ARENSTEIN

      The University of the Western Cape's school of government claims the
      systematic betrayal of small-scale and subsistence farmers in Mozambique,
      South Africa and Zimbabwe is causing a region-wide rural revolt that could
      shatter Southern Africa's economy.

      The university says peasants, who were promised land ownership and a real chance
      of prosperity with the advent of democracy, are instead being marginalised and
      kicked off their land in favour of rich foreign investors or privileged local consortiums.

      The university's latest Sustainable Livelihoods in Southern Africa report adds that
      even when governments attempt to deal with growing dissatisfaction, their policies
      and strategies have proved inadequate or impractical.

      In post-apartheid South Africa two-thirds of the country is still owned by 60 000 white
      landlords, while 14-million black subsistence farmers eke out a living in the former
      Bantustans.

      "None of the three main components of the South African land reform programme,
      namely the restitution of land rights, land redistribution and tenure reform, have made
      a significant impact," the report reads.

      Restitution and redistribution have both, it contends, suffered from cumbersome and
      ineffective bureaucratic processes, as well as an over-reliance on market
      mechanisms to acquire land.

      Tenure reform, which effects millions of rural workers, has also failed to prevent the
      eviction of long-term tenants on white-owned farms or halt the encroachment of
      private business on tribal and communal land.

      A key flaw, university researcher Edward Lahiff notes, is the government's failure to
      address the chaotic administration of communal land in former homeland areas
      where South Africa's poorest citizens live.

      "Land tenure reform has the potential to affect the largest number of people in the
      shortest time, but while the government has passed crucial laws it simply hasn't put
      the necessary resources into enforcing them," Lahiff explains.

      Provincial administrations have, he said, been tasked with implementing the
      Extension of Security of Tenure Act but often only hired a single official to police an
      entire province.

      "Not even the police, magistrates or other people in the justice
      system are sympathetic, so farm tenants aren't taken seriously.
      Recent policy shifts, away from the pro-poor approach between
      1994 to 1999, towards a commercial farming model and linked
      proposals to privatise communal land are also likely to even
      further diminish the benefits of land reform," Lahiff warns. South
      Africa's failings are not, however, unique.

      Neighbouring Mozambique, where 75% of residents are rural and 60% live in
      "absolute poverty", also favours big business and foreign investors over the livelihood
      of its peasants.

      The country promulgated a reform land law in 1997 recognising the land rights of
      subsistence farmers, but has failed to honour the rights when challenged by
      corporate or foreign interests.

      Massive tracts of Mozambique's most fertile land are, Lahiff says, being
      concessioned to cash-rich investors without local indigenous farmers being notified
      or consulted.

      "Available evidence suggests that the impact on the rural poor is entirely negative,
      with local people denied access to essential natural resources such as wildlife and
      indigenous forests," he warns.

      The investors also often impose exploitative contracts on local subsistence farmers,
      including sharecropping and labour tenancy agreements that hark back to colonial
      times.

      "Notable among these new settlers are Afrikaner farmers from South Africa who have
      been granted vast concessions in Naissa and Zambezia provinces," said Lahiff.

      Dispossession is increasing as tourism and wildlife investors move into Mozambique,
      with concerns that thousands of families affected by the new proposed transfrontier
      park with South Africa haven't been properly consulted or offered compensation.

      Zimbabwe too neglected its rural poor until very recently, granting the best
      agricultural land to government supporters and political favourites.

      "Zimbabwe was able to boast an impressive rise in production among small-scale
      farmers, but its attempts at land reform were implemented very slowly over the 21
      years since independence, without any of the key targets being met," said Lahiff.

      "President Robert Mugabe was still allocating land to big farmers until just before
      land invasions began, and only changed the policy when it was politically expedient
      to do so."

      Instead of relieving the plight of the rural poor, the invasions of white and
      corporate-owned farms by Zanu-PF supporters, war veterans and landless peasants
      have so disrupted the agricultural economy that production has plummeted and food
      shortages are being reported.

      "As a result, prospects for successful reforms may have been set back even as
      popular pressure reaches new heights," said Lahiff.

      The promised reforms are further limited by Zimbabwe's technocratic, top-down
      approach.

      "The poor quality of support services to resettled farmers and government's neglect of
      tenure reform in communal areas has further limited potential benefits."

      The failings, which are common in all three countries, have prompted non-government
      organisations and peasants themselves to step into the breach.

      NGOs such as Associaçâo Rural de ajuda Mútua and peasant movements such as
      Uniâo Nacional des Camponeses in Mozambique have spearheaded a land
      campaign that has influenced legislation and is changing government's policies.

      In South Africa the national land committee hasn't been as successful at creating a
      rural social movement but has managed to win wide audiences for its demands for
      faster and more radical land reforms.

      The committee and its Mozambican counterparts also travelled to Brazil this week to
      learn from the apparent success of the Landless Workers' Movement, which has
      resettled 542000 rural families or almost two million people on 18-million hectares of
      new farmland at a cost of $6,5-billion.

      The African activists are, however, in for a disappointment.

      Recent Brazilian studies indicate that the dream has soured, with resettled farmers
      defaulting on a debt of $450-million and up to 25% of all resettled farmers abandoning
      their plots within two years.

      The problems cited by Brazilian settlers echo the challenges faced by their African
      counterparts, including competition from mechanised commercial estates,
      inadequate water, transport and electricity infrastructure and inefficient government
      support schemes.

      National land committee deputy director Tom Lebert concedes the problems, but
      insists that Africans can still learn from the Landless Workers' Movement's success
      in mobilising the rural poor and holding government to its land promises.

      "We're going to learn from their successes, even if that means noting their failures.
      We are also going to build relationships with the 70000 land reform activists at the
      World Social Forum, so we can build an alliance against corporate globalisation,"
      said Lebert.

      He stressed that the committee did not oppose South Africa's attempts to produce
      black commercial farmers, but warned that not all subsistence farmers wanted or
      were able to go commercial.

      "We believe land reform should primarily benefit the landless," he said. * African
      Eye News Service

      *****

      Militants March in Zimbabwe

      By Angus Shaw
      Associated Press Writer
      Monday, February 18, 2002; 3:57 PM

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** Thousands of ruling party militants marched through Zimbabwe's capital and hurled
      stones at the opposition headquarters on Monday as the European Union voted to impose sanctions on the
      violence-wracked African nation.

      An opposition-aligned group accused police of beating several of its members in a separate incident ahead of
      presidential elections next month.

      The 10,000 protesters marched Monday to the offices of Britain's diplomatic mission and accused the former
      colonial power of supporting the opposition to give control of Zimbabwe back to "white oppressors."

      Militants then stoned the building housing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, smashing the
      building's glass doors and the windows of adjacent shops. No injuries were reported.

      The vote will mark the strongest challenge yet to President Robert Mugabe's 22-year rule. Humanitarian workers
      say the violence is part of a coordinated campaign to ensure victory for the increasingly unpopular ruler.

      The Zimbabwean government on Monday banned a host of foreign journalists from covering the election despite
      earlier promises to admit them.

      On Saturday, it expelled European election observer Pierre Schori, prompting the European Union to cut off
      $110 million in development aid over five years and impose an EU travel ban on Mugabe and 20 of his Cabinet
      ministers.

      "The EU remains seriously concerned at political violence, serious violations of human rights and restrictions on
      the media ... which call into question the prospects for a free and fair election," a statement issued by the EU
      foreign ministers said.

      Church officials in Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo, said Monday that four clerics and seven of their
      followers were arrested Saturday by police who claimed their prayer vigil for peace violated Zimbabwe's new
      security laws.

      Several were arrested as they knelt and prayed outside a police station where the group's leader, the Rev. Noel
      Scott, an Anglican pastor, had been taken. Among those arrested was Father Kevin O'Doherty, a Roman
      Catholic missionary from Detroit who is based in Bulawayo.

      All 11 were released on bail by a Bulawayo court Monday after spending two nights in custody.

      The interdenominational group of churches said in a statement that police had banned a prayer procession
      Saturday to several local churches, saying they could not guarantee walkers' safety.

      The group decided to travel between services in cars, but "a police presence was observed" at each service, the
      churches said. Scott was approached while giving a sermon and arrested when he stepped outside the church.

      A 1,000-person march for constitutional reform was broken up by police on Friday after it was banned on the
      grounds it risked triggering public violence.

      The march Monday by 10,000 ruling party supporters, however, was legal, police said.

      Police stopped the crowd's attack on the opposition party building and herded at least 50 party militants into
      police vans. Police refused to say whether any had been charged.

      "The police are blatantly the instruments" of the ruling party, said Lovemore Madhuku, head of the
      opposition-backed National Constitutional Assembly, which organized Friday's march. "If you are against the
      government you don't have any rights."

      On Sunday, the government told Swedish reporters that they would not be allowed to cover the election * an
      announcement that came one day after Schori, a Swede, was expelled. Some journalists from other European
      countries and South Africa were also rejected.

      A few U.S. media organizations, including The Associated Press, were told Monday they had been denied
      permission to bring in foreign reporters. A few other U.S. organizations were granted accreditation, which will
      costs $300.

      *****

      Zimbabwe Condemns EU Sanctions

      By Angus Shaw
      Associated Press Writer
      Tuesday, February 19, 2002; 6:24 AM

      HARARE, Zimbabwe ** The government on Tuesday condemned European Union economic and diplomatic
      sanctions, accusing Europe of orchestrating "hostile action" to influence March elections.

      "There is no price that is going to be high in defending our independence," said Information Minister Jonathan
      Moyo.

      The European Union, angered by Zimbabwe's refusal to let its observers freely monitor March 9-10 presidential
      elections, imposed sanctions Monday against President Robert Mugabe's government and ordered its observer
      team home.

      EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels imposed "targeted sanctions" with immediate effect, Spanish Foreign
      Minister Josep Pique, the meeting's chairman said.

      Moyo described the decision as "an orchestrated and self-fulfilling process," The Herald said.

      "There is no amount of hostile action through sanctions or otherwise that will make us move from our principle to
      defend our indepen mission and accused the former colonial power of supporting the opposition to give control of
      Zimbabwe back to "white oppressors."

      EU ministers said the 15-nation bloc was seriously concerned about political violence, human rights abuses and
      restrictions on the media which called into question the prospects for a free and fair election.

      The sanctions include cutting off $110 million in development aid for the 2002-2007 period, a ban on travel to the
      EU for Mugabe and 20 of his Cabinet ministers and freezing their assets in Europe.

      The EU said it will also pull out 30 European elections observers already in Zimbabwe.

      Zimbabwe has been wracked by political violence for the past two years that opposition supporters, human rights
      activists and many international officials blame on Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party.

      Mugabe, 77, who has ruled Zimbabwe since it won independence from Britain, is fighting to maintain his 22-year
      grip in power. As his popularity has waned, he has imposed curbs on journalists and opposition parties and many
      of his critics have been attacked or threatened with prosecution.

      The state media, a platform for official policy, carried no reaction to the EU decision from Mugabe early Tuesday.

      In a defiant statement on state television Sunday, a visibly angry Mugabe said Zimbabwe was capable of running
      its own elections without interference from Western countries.

      Mugabe earlier this month banned election observers from Britain, the former colonial ruler, Denmark, Finland,
      Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands, accusing them of bias in favor of the opposition Movement for
      Democratic Change.

      Moyo said the government welcomed "open-minded observers."

      "We are happy the world is larger than Europe and that we in Africa would like to be judged by Africans who
      share the same values with us," he said.

      The European sanctions came two days after Zimbabwe expelled Pierre Schori, head of a 30-member EU
      election monitoring team.

      Schori, Sweden's ambassador to the United Nations, attended the EU foreign ministers meeting. He
      recommended against sanctions but said he agreed the observers had to withdraw to spare them physical abuse
      and insult.

      In London, an opposition Conservative Party spokesman told British Broadcasting Corp. radio Tuesday that
      Zimbabwe could become a "rogue state" and a menace to the international community unless democratic elections
      are ensured.

      *****

      Zimbabwe rewrites
      observer rules

      By BBC News Online's Martin Asser

      The run-up to the 9-10 March presidential
      election in Zimbabwe has seen unprecedented
      interest in the electoral monitoring process, in
      particular the composition of those bodies
      tasked with ensuring the election will be free
      and fair.

      The government has issued a number of
      invitations for observers from abroad, but has
      also specifically excluded certain nationalities -
      with UK citizens top of the list - as well as
      some of the international organisations which
      usually monitor elections.

      New electoral legislation
      in Zimbabwe makes the
      unique linguistic and
      legal distinction between
      election observers and
      election monitors.

      Only the monitors
      assigned by the official
      Electoral Supervisory
      Commission will be able
      to deliver a verdict on
      how democratic the
      elections have been.

      Observers, on the other hand, will be given
      free access to observe the electoral process
      across the country, but their findings will not
      be taken into account by the ESC.

      The vast majority of observers - about 12,000
      - are to be "domestic", i.e. Zimbabwean
      nationals, who will be present in groups of
      three at each of the country's 4,000-plus
      polling stations. Four monitors are meant to be
      at each station as well.

      There will also be
      dozens of foreign
      delegations providing
      hundreds of observers
      who - in co-ordination
      with their Zimbabwean
      counterparts - will be
      deployed at potential
      "hot spots" to try to
      bolster the security of
      voters.

      Monitors are being
      drawn mainly from
      employees at the
      Ministries of Education and Home Affairs, and -
      to the concern of some domestic observers -
      the Defence Ministry.

      An agent for each candidate contesting the
      election is also allowed at every polling station.

      The only difference in terms of access
      between these groups is that domestic and
      international observers will not be allowed to
      stay with the ballot boxes between the polling
      booth and the place where votes are counted.

      Delegation withdrawn

      The Zimbabwe
      Government has issued
      invitations to numerous
      countries - both
      individually and
      collectively under the
      auspices of continental
      and international bodies
      of which they are
      members.

      Invitations to send observers have gone out to
      the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)
      nations group, the Organisation of African
      Unity (OAU, or African Union), and the
      Southern African Development Community
      (SADC) and the Commonwealth (excluding the
      United Kingdom).

      The problems with the
      European delegation -
      which officials in
      Harare said had been
      invited as a junior
      partner in a group with
      the ACP nations - and
      the Europeans'
      withdrawal, stemmed
      from the government's
      determination that
      British observers were
      not welcome.

      That "disinvitation"
      was later extended to include Sweden,
      Denmark, Germany, Finland and the
      Netherlands, all for allegedly "favouring"
      President Robert Mugabe's main rival, Morgan
      Tsvangirai.

      EU officials announced "targeted sanctions"
      and the withdrawal of all the observers,
      including those from countries such as France,
      Spain and Italy, who had already been
      registered.

      Other omissions

      From the US, only the National Association for
      the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
      has been invited to provide observers, while
      other organisations, such as the Carter
      Institute and the National Democratic
      Institute, which might usually expect to
      monitor elections, have not been asked.

      The NDI has struggled
      to work in Zimbabwe
      since 2000, when it
      concluded that "the
      conditions for credible
      democratic elections
      do not exist". Denied
      accreditation, the
      body withdrew later
      that year.

      The withdrawal of the
      EU team deprives the
      international observer
      body of a group which
      would have eventually totalled about 150
      observers.

      That will increase the pressure on the
      domestic observers, and the officials and civil
      society members of the large foreign
      delegations, such as the 100-strong South
      African team and the 50 representatives of
      SADC.

      *****

      Analysis: EU sanctions
      lack teeth

      By Paul Reynolds
      BBC World Affairs Correspondent

      The European Union decision to impose so
      called "smart" sanctions on Zimbabwean
      President Robert Mugabe and 19 of his senior
      associates will make little difference to the
      conduct of the presidential elections there on
      9 and 10 March.

      The sanctions mean that Mr Mugabe and the
      others will not be able to travel to the EU, will
      have their assets in the EU - if any are left -
      frozen and the EU will not sell arms to
      Zimbabwe.

      The EU's foreign ministers imposed them after
      the head of the European observer mission,
      Swedish diplomat Pierre Schori, was ejected
      from Zimbabwe.

      These personal
      sanctions will not affect
      aid which is directed
      towards helping ordinary
      people.

      The observers still left in
      Zimbabwe will be withdrawn on the grounds
      that they will be so restricted as to be
      ineffective.

      Europeans unanimous

      The decision was taken after a debate among
      the foreign ministers as to whether it might not
      be better to leave the sanctions on one side
      and the observers in place until after the
      elections themselves. The Portuguese and
      Greeks took this line.

      Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said
      Europe should not help Mr Mugabe win the
      election.

      The French were
      inclined towards holding
      off on sanctions, but
      French Foreign Minister
      Hubert Vedrine fell in
      behind British Foreign
      Secretary Jack Straw, who called for a hard
      line.

      In the end there was unanimity. Everyone,
      despite their reservations, accepted that the
      expulsion of Mr Schori and inhibitions placed on
      the observers were just too much.

      "Today is the end of
      the road", declared Mr
      Straw.

      The European Union
      has therefore played
      its card. But it is not a
      particularly strong
      card, since Mr Mugabe
      is unlikely to be much
      moved by not being
      able to travel to
      Europe.

      He is single-mindedly
      determined to win the
      election, as much as he was to win the
      guerrilla war against white Rhodesians.

      No sign of support

      And there is no international agreement on
      sanctions. South Africa is not joining in.

      Its attitude will also largely determine that of
      Zimbabwe's neighbours in the 14-member
      South African Development Community (SADC).

      The United States might add its weight but
      this is not certain and again, in any case,
      would not make much difference.

      And there is some real opposition to
      withdrawing the observers. Amnesty
      International says it would have been better
      for them to stay.

      So the upshot is rather messy - limited
      sanctions which will have little effect, and no
      observers.

      The European Union has huffed and now it has
      puffed.

      But it is unlikely to bring Robert Mugabe's
      house down.

      *****

      EU sanctions move
      'baffles' African nations

      The EU fears Mugabe is trying to steal the election
      African nations have expressed surprise at the
      EU's decision to impose sanctions against
      Zimbabwe and withdraw its election observers.

      Neighbouring South Africa described the move
      as "difficult to fathom".

      "We're really surprised at
      this decision, because if
      there are allegations
      that elections might not
      be free and fair, then it
      is important to ensure
      that as many neutral,
      objective, impartial
      observers are in place," Deputy Foreign
      Minister Aziz Pahad told SABC radio.

      Observers from South Africa and the
      Commonwealth are still in Zimbabwe.

      The South African head of the election
      observer team from the Southern African
      Development Community (SADC), Samuel
      Motswaynarnay, contests the view prevalent
      in Europe that Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party is
      preventing free and fair elections through
      violence.

      Mr Motswaynarnay attended a Zanu-PF rally at
      the weekend.

      "It was quite big," he said. "I think there was
      an attendance of anything up to 20,000 people
      at the rally."

      "Everything proceeded
      in a very orderly way,
      and there was no
      evidence of any
      coercion or
      harassment caused by
      the police who were
      there in large numbers.

      "We also attended a
      rally of the opposition
      party, in Harare, and
      that also proceeded
      quite smoothly, with
      no evidence of
      violence at all."

      Nigeria

      Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo - who
      brokered an agreement between Britain and
      Zimbabwe last year - also challenges the EU
      assertion that Mr Mugabe is using
      unacceptable means to ensure his re-election.

      "What are the democratic principles that he is
      flagrantly abusing?" Mr Obasanjo asked. "He
      says he is going into an election. He has
      parties other than his own that are allowed
      freely to contest and participate.

      "He has asked for
      observers from all over
      the world to come. He
      has asked for the
      foreign press from all
      over the world to
      come.

      "He has worked with
      other political parties
      and civil society and
      religious leaders in his
      country, to reduce the
      level of violence."

      Joel Kibazo,
      spokesman for the Commonwealth Secretariat
      in London, said that its mission would go ahead
      as planned.

      "Our observers are now in Zimbabwe, he said.
      "We've got 10 on the ground, and by the end
      of the week, we will have a large group of
      observers. We hope to have more than 40 in
      total."

      "The Commonwealth has decided that what it
      wants to do is observe the elections, and we
      are continuing with that."
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