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Author Topic: The 'war-for-own-land' in Africa is a reality  (Read 9952 times)
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« on: August 15, 2005, 05:11:04 PM »

Africa: The Other Side of the Coin

Like EU, Africa Should Close Ranks

Neither academic analysts, nor well-resourced international lobbies and their think-tank programmes will be able to stave off Africa's "war-for-own-land"!

By Udo W. Froese


THE 'war-for-own-land' in Africa is a reality. No imported industry of "neo-liberal, US approved democracy", "free market economy" and no "willing seller, willing buyer concept" will be able to reverse it.

Africans are aware of their historical rights and are angry.

Obviously, Africa's land is an emotive and sensitive issue for both sides: the current landowner, whose history on this continent is known and the original, first African, who had to go to war to eventually receive democracy, but still sits with no real access to land and therefore, remains in abject poverty. This is also known.

Zimbabwe's fast-track land reform made Africans on the continent and the Diaspora more aware of their failure to get land back that once belonged to their ancestors and was taken by colonial conquerors from Europe. After Zimbabwe's fast-track land reform, African governments had to re-introduce land reform in their national agendas.

In their efforts to remain pro-active, white landowners and multinational companies introduced the concept of "willing buyer, willing seller", being aware that it would be contrary to development, as they decided what land to sell, the timing of the sale and the price - thereby making quite sure it was not working. This observation is on record particularly in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In addition, the usual open threats of "damage done to (white, international western) business confidence and (international western, neo-imperial) investor perceptions of South Africa and the SADC region, as well as damage done to the stability of South Africa and SADC's commercial farming sector" are repeated on as many public platforms.

On those public platforms it is regularly insisted that the price for land, according to the concept of "willing buyer, willing seller", should be "market-related".

Whose market and what market? And, who determines that market? Is it not those landowners and their multinational industries, which have all to lose?

A spokesman for the "Transvaal Agricultural Union, South Africa" asked whether "these guys (black Africans) are commercial farmers"? He further expressed a "concern", which most landowners and their agricultural industry have - that is food security.

"Almost every other country in Africa needs food aid," he explained. The spokesman of the "Transvaal Agricultural Union SA" referred to Africans, who had lost their land in the process of colonialism and its surreal outflow of apartheid, UDI and current neo-imperialism.

Is it not a direct threat of economic destabilization and even war, if things do not go the way the landowners strongly "recommend" the "willing buyer, willing seller" way?

It is a known fact that 'Africa needs what it does not produce and produces what it does not need'. This is a colonial hangover with perpetual dependencies for those on the receiving end of the neo-imperial stick.

Zimbabwe's Prof. Sam Moyo of the 'African Institute for Agrarian Studies' summarized the continent's land reform by sounding a clear warning to governments concerned, particularly on the failed "willing buyer, willing seller" programme: "If the state does not move when it is challenged, it will be challenged. The social process leads and the state must then try to contain, and conduct and reform in the correct way."

At the land summit with over a thousand participants in Johannesburg, it was observed that the South African government is facing serious criticism over the pace of land reform, with many groups warning of "Zimbabwe-style land grabs" if the reform is not speeded up.

Zimbabwe's Prof. Moyo suggested that South Africa's government should adopt a "radical approach to land reform, instead of a structured, conservative one".

Prof. Moyo further explained, "People often thought the Zimbabwean land invasions were government-orchestrated because it wanted to win the elections. In fact, the invasions had social origins." He compared the legal and policy framework and the market concept in Zimbabwe before the land grabs with those of Namibia and South Africa today.

In fact, Namibia's Permanent Secretary for Land and Resettlement, Frans Tsheehama, had to agree at the same summit that the concept of "willing buyer, willing seller" has failed in Namibia too. Tsheehama pointed out "the Namibian constitution, as in South Africa, allows land to be expropriated, if necessary". "Land of foreign and absentee landlords would be targeted first for expropriation," he announced.

All parties concerned agreed that the "willing buyer, willing seller" concept has failed. And foreign landownership was bluntly defined as "just another form of colonisation via the cheque book".

In Kenya, the assistant director for settlement at the Ministry of Lands highlighted that "the situation in Zimbabwe has made their work more difficult, as landless Kenyans who have learnt from the events in other countries are putting pressure on government to settle them. Landless Kenyans are now talking of getting back their ancestral land that is in the hands of multinationals (international, white owned companies)".

As recorded by the monthly magazine "New African" in London, in their June 2005 edition under the title "Kenya – The Growing Land Issue", The Kenya Bankers' Association voiced concern that titles held by banks as security for loans comprise 54% of their asset portfolio. And the banks' exposure amounts to US$3.4billion in loans tied up in title deeds.

No wonder then that Kenya's government recently abandoned their "controversial" policy of issuing "new generation title deeds", as it had caused panic in the financial sector.

This columnist suggests, as one of the ways forward, that a new tax law should be created, which would commit all landowners to be taxed according to the registered value of their land. In order to do so, all landowners would have to register their land in their regions. The value of the land would be established together with a government evaluator. The final value of the land would then be registered with the 'national revenue services' and taxed, similar to property owners in the urban areas. It could stop inflated land prices.

South Africa's president Thabo Mbeki paid a surprise visit to the Land Summit in Johannesburg and explained, "When the Lancaster House Agreement on land reform with Zimbabwe, which was market-based, expired in 1990, the then deputy secretary-general of the (British Colonial) Commonwealth, Emeka Onyeouku, asked Zimbabwe to delay taking another approach."

Onyeouku's reasoning was then that any other approach to land reform would "scare the colonial-apartheid regime and set back the liberation of South Africa".

Above explains Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe's predicament. In addition, his land reform is not supposed to work, according to the neo-imperialists of the international West. If it would succeed, other African countries, particularly South Africa would follow suit. South Africa's commercial agricultural sector employs over 7 million farm laborers.

Above further highlights the policy of 'national reconciliation' works only on terms of the owners of the economy and the land and their powerful international lobbies, as they are resourced with easy access to expensive law and judiciary. However, it is they who have all to lose on a continent they so persistently seem to disrespect and destabilize.

In the words of respected Pan-Africanist from Kenya and director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, New York, Dr Ali A. Mazrui, "The imperative for African Renaissance demands the cooperation of countries (on the African continent and the Diaspora) at the same level of development.

Towards this end, the first logical stage for Africa is Pan-Africanism, a quest for solidarity with other African countries and with people of African descent around the world."

In other words, Africa should close ranks, consolidate, pool its resources and then re-negotiate all its deals with the international community.

After all, this is the way the European Union works.

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