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Mangwana says land reform backfired on Mugabe regime
Alex Bell, SW Radio Africa
August 25, 2009

http://www.swradioafrica.com/news250809/Mangwana250809.htm

A key architect of Zimbabwe's indigenisation laws, which paved the way for violent land invasions in the name of 'reform', said on Monday that the land redistribution system was 'erroneous'.

Paul Mangwana, a ZANU PF legislator for Chivhi Central and former Minister for Indigenisation and Empowerment, told an investment conference in Harare on Monday that the land 'reform' programme had essentially backfired. He explained that the campaign had been carried out in a 'revolutionary' manner, which has left the country unable to restore its breadbasket status because skilled farmers were replaced with unskilled land beneficiaries.

"The implementation of the indigenisation law has to be on a step-by-step basis rather than be in a revolutionary manner," Mangwana said. "Land reform was taken up in a revolutionary manner. Land was just taken. We
don't want to walk that road again."

Mangwana had reportedly been invited by the organisers of the conference to draw parallels between the laws that ushered in land redistribution, with a new law, which requires foreign owned companies to cede 51 percent of their shares to locals. The former cabinet minister told delegates that the new investment law was conceived out of a wish to transfer the bulk of the country's prime sources of investment into the hands of the indigenous black population.

But while Mangwana's comments are said to be heartening, it will do little to reassure commercial farmers who are facing ongoing harassment and threats by land invaders. Deon Theron, the President of the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) on Tuesday said while Mangwana's sentiments are 'politically heartening', it does not change the reality that farm invasions have not stopped.

"Things are incredibly difficult for farmers right now and morale is very low," Theron said. "What would really help right now is if someone did something about it and did not just say encouraging words."

Zimbabwe, which used to be renowned as net exporter of food, is now relying on aid handouts to provide basic nourishment for nearly half of its population. But despite being classed earlier this year as the world's most food reliant nation, state sponsored land invasions have continued on the handful of remaining productive farms across the country. Meanwhile vast tracks of farmland countrywide also lie idle and barren while corrupt government officials and military chiefs continue to invade one piece of land after another.

Most recently, a South African funded seed project has come under threat because of the forced seizure of a seed-producing farm in Mashonaland East. Farmer Dennis Lapham, whose farm produces more than 500 tons of maize seed for the Pannar seed project, has faced intimidation and threats since March by a ZANU PF supporter wielding an offer letter. The man, who has already moved onto the farm and built a house, has denied using violence or harassment to force Lapham to leave the property. The managing director of the Pannar seed project meanwhile has said that seed production is being affected by the chaos on the farm.

Lapham's situation is merely one example of the ongoing disturbances affecting food production on farms. More than 80 commercial farms have been taken over since August last year, while more than 150 farmers are facing prosecution for occupying so-called state owned land. At the same time relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe are reportedly strained over delays in concluding the signing of a bilateral investment promotion agreement. Its has come to light that the signing of the agreement was abandoned at the last minute in March, after Zimbabwe government officials vehemently objected to a clause about land. South Africa wants its citizens and entrepreneurs, who have invested in land and other natural resources, to be covered under the agreement to prevent disruption of their investments.

"The delays are straining relations between the two countries. The South African government is trying to help us, but we are refusing to help ourselves," said Finance Minister Tendai Biti, after holding trade discussions this weekend with his South African counterpart Pravin Gordhan and the South African Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, on bilateral issues.

"In our discussions, it was evident that the delays are affecting our relations. But it is us who are suffering as a country because we are losing out on credit lines and other business and trade opportunities," Biti said.

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