Mugabe signs land deal with Chinese to tackle food crisis

Ecovillage Network UK evnuk at
Wed Feb 12 18:49:12 GMT 2003

Mugabe signs land deal with Chinese to tackle food crisis

By Basildon Peta Southern Africa Correspondent
12 February 2003

Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, has awarded a contract to grow 
food crops on more than 100,000 hectares to a Chinese company in an 
imaginative attempt to avert the IMF driven farming crisis.

The land was mostly seized from white farmers and is now lying derelict 
after its new black owners failed to take it up because no agricultural 
equipment was available.

Mr Mugabe's decision to approve the land allocations to the China 
International Water and Electric Corporation, a state-owned company, 
contradicts his claims that he wants to empower black Zimbabweans by giving 
them land seized from white farmers.

State media said the deal would restore Zimbabwe's agricultural strength to 
its former position of glory in Africa's agriculture sector. It proved that 
Mr Mugabe's policy of co-operating with Asia and former Communist countries 
in Eastern Europe at the expense of the West was paying dividends. Mr 
Mugabe has said that his government will no longer work with the 
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank but will concentrate on 
finding new friends in Asia.

But a senior government official said the deal was a direct indictment of 
Mr Mugabe's chaotic land reforms. "I think what it proves is that our 
system of chasing farm owners and confiscating their land has not worked,'' 
said the official, who was interviewed on condition of anonymity.

"We are now stuck with a huge amount of derelict land, which could have 
been under good use if the politicians had taken our advice to implement a 
phased and systematic land reform exercise.''

Joseph Made, the Agriculture Minister, publicly admitted for the first time 
last month that most of the seized land had not been taken by its new 
owners. In some of the most important agricultural provinces, less than 
half of the land allocated to blacks has been occupied. New black occupants 
often become frustrated by the government's failure to give them resources 
to farm and return to communal areas, where there is infrastructure such as 

The government is trying to lure back commercial farmers displaced from 
their properties by violent occupations and seizures, which began three 
years ago and accelerated after the President was re-elected last year in 
polls that independent observers said were rigged.

Mr Mugabe's government claims that it has drafted a memorandum of 
understanding, which awaits signing. But farmers say nothing has 
materialised from talks that began a few weeks ago. As part of the deal, 
the government wants to give back to white farmers some seized properties 
in exchange for farming equipment needed to help to resettle black farmers.

The white farmers have rejected the offer, saying the government is not 

According to state media, the deal with the Chinese will yield at least 2.1 
million tons of maize a year, enough to feed Zimbabwe's 12 million people. 
The project, which is expected to start soon, would play an important role 
in reducing inflation, which reached 200 per cent last month. The Chinese 
are expected to bring in massive irrigation equipment for use on the 
project. Meanwhile, in a sign of the country's deepening economic troubles, 
a parliamentary inquiry said the national airline was heading for collapse. 
Silas Mangono, head of the inquiry, said two of Air Zimbabwe's six planes 
had been grounded because there was no hard currency for spare parts.

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