Friday, September 24, 2010

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe

Godfrey Marawanyika tells about one Zimbabwe's successful new farmers. Around 2000, Mugabe seized the land of many white farmers and passed it out to some of his more clearly African constituency. The article has a fascinating schizophrenia of a tale in three parts: that one farmer's success, the overall perceived failure of the plan, and hence a dual picture of Mugabe as folk hero and corrupt tyrant. The racial comments are also worth reading. Here are excerpts of these points:

To get him started, a neighbouring white farmer lent him a tractor to prepare land to grow maize and tomatoes and in time he tried tobacco farming. The white farmer declined to be interviewed, but Mhembere said the gesture put him on a path toward success, placing him among a new generation of farmers who increased Zimbabwe's tobacco output for the first time in eight years. ... [Production is currently half what it was in 2000]

Mugabe said the scheme was needed to correct the legacy of colonialism, but the reforms were marred by deadly political attacks against farmers, who saw their land turned into militia bases for ruling party attacks on the opposition. Hundreds of thousands of black farm workers on white farms were forcibly evicted, while Mugabe's top aides seized prize farmland. Small farmers like Mhembere were often left with little support to finance their operations. Production of both food and cash crops like tobacco plunged, leaving Zimbabwe dependent on food aid and drying up foreign currency reserves.

For nearly a decade, government failed to help the resettled farms use their land effectively with a select few benefitting from handouts from the central bank, while their meagre incomes were ravaged by hyperinflation....

It remains to be seen if Zimbabwe's farms are solidly on an upward trend, but Mhembere says land reforms were among the best policies Mugabe adopted since independence from Britain in 1980. 
"If ever President Mugabe did anything for the majority in this country it is the land reform which is real empowerment for blacks. Land reform is about sharing, land reform was never about chasing whites. The problem is that some of the whites did not want to share."
Meanwhile, Mugabe and 80 person, $2 million, entourage arrived at the UN MDG Summit to declare US/EU sanctions were preventing them from achieving the poverty and hunger goals and claim that they are doing very well at meeting the education and HIV goals.

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