Friday, July 31, 2009

Foreign investment in land: New colonialism?

From Das Spiegel:

...It is not just bankers and speculators, but also governments that are acquiring land in other countries, seeking to reduce their dependence on the world market and imports. China is home to 20 percent of the world's population, but it has only 9 percent of the world's arable land. Japan is the world's largest corn importer, and South Korea is the second-largest. The Persian Gulf States import 60 percent of their food, while their natural water reserves are sufficient to support only another 30 years of agriculture....

Klaus Deininger, an economist specializing in land policy at the World Bank, estimates that 10 to 30 percent of available arable land could be up for grabs, although only a fraction of the potential number of lease and sale agreements have been signed. "There was a huge jump in 2008, when plans and applications in many countries more than doubled, in some cases tripled." In Mozambique, says Deininger, foreign demand is more than double the existing cultivated farmland, and the government has already allocated four million hectares to investors, half of them from abroad....

The most spectacular deals are not being made by private investors, however, but by governments and the funds and conglomerates they promote:

  • The Sudanese government has leased 1.5 million hectares of prime farmland to the Gulf States, Egypt and South Korea for 99 years. Paradoxically, Sudan is also the world's largest recipient of foreign aid, with 5.6 million of its citizens dependent on food deliveries.
  • Kuwait has leased 130,000 hectares of rice fields in Cambodia.
  • Egypt plans to grow wheat and corn on 840,000 hectares in Uganda.
  • The president of the Democratic Republic of Congo has offered to lease 10 million hectares to the South Africans...
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I am ambivalent about this.

If the poor are to eat, one needs to use modern agricultural techniques, which cost money for specialized seed, fertilizer, and insecticide (not to mention roads to and from the farms, decent ports to export via ship, and of course a fairly honest government that doesn't steal too much of the farm equipment or insist on too many bribes.

On the other hand, it might mean that small farmers are left behind as landless labourers instead of independent small farmers who could, with some money and backing by the government, actually make the land productive and make a living for their own family.

On the other hand, the main result of land reform in this area is that the farmers have educated their kids with their wealth, and now live in concrete (no termite) houses with electricity and TV, while their kids migrate to the city to work, or else work overseas. Those who work here often go back to help the family with their land in the busy season on the farm (e.g. planting and harvest season) while working in town. But those whose kids work in Saudi or Canada end up selling their land, either to businessmen like our family or to rich people from Manila to build a "country home" for them to spend weekends.



Tsvangirai meets with Generals

From the WashingtonPost

...Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Thursday attended the first national security council meeting to be held since he and President Robert Mugabe formed a unity government in February....

Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai say they are working well together in Zimbabwe's new administration although some disputes remain over the appointment of some top state officials and the recent arrests of MDC lawmakers. ....

(f0r example):

A Harare magistrate court on Thursday remanded in custody MDC Deputy Youth Minister Thamsanqa Mahlangu, who is facing charges of stealing a mobile phone belonging to Joseph Chinotimba, a staunch Mugabe ally and leader of a group of veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation war.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Trials erode Zim ruling party

From the Wall Street Journal:

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party is one seat away from losing its majority in parliament, threatening what little power his Movement for Democratic Change has in this shaky coalition government.

Five MDC lawmakers -- all convicted for instigating violence after last year's presidential election -- have been jailed in the five months since Mr. Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe agreed to form a coalition government. Members of parliament sentenced to more than six months in jail are required to step down unless their sentence is overturned on appeal.

The MDC has accused Mr. Mugabe's party of politically motivated trials aimed at eroding the party majority. That would consolidate the president's power, and allow him to pass laws or block legislation without consulting Mr. Tsvangirai's party.

In addition to the five already convicted, 16 more MDC legislators, including Finance Minister Tendai Biti, have cases pending before the courts. Mr. Biti faces treason charges, while others are accused of political violence. All deny the charges.

No one from Mr. Mugabe's party has been prosecuted for violence that raged last year before the presidential election

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zim launches national healing campaign

From AP

Excuse my cynicism, but although I'm all in favor of forgiving someone who repents and says they will never sin again, I'm not sure forgiving someone threatening you --or your neighbor--with violence is quite the same thing...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Podcast on Africa

a few weeks ago, the CSPAN podcast "AFTER WORDS" had an interview with Wangari Maathai...

MP3 download here

COSATU to join on push for Zim constitution

from Afrikasources

South Africa’s biggest worker federation has vowed to join hands with the Zimbabwean civil society in pushing for a people driven constitution. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a key member of the African National Congress (ANC) –the tripartite formation ruling South Africa said as part of its International Solidarity Conference Declaration that it would work with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and other civic bodies in pushing government.....

“We also support the civil society initiatives led by COSATU, OSISA and the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum for a Conference in Botswana to assess the situation under the GNU in Zimbabwe, conditions under Terrorism Law in Swaziland, the transformation of SADC and the task of building a regional solidarity movement, through the effective harnessing of all the solidarity efforts towards maximum cohesion,” Masuku added.
The union bemoaned the continued harassment and persecution of political and civil society activists in Zimbabwe “even under a cloud of a supposedly new and changed environment”.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Child killing in Uganda

From IWPR:

Go to link...the report sickens me even to read it...
what is not mentioned: If this was done to gain power/wealth (e.g. starting a store), if this was related to "insurgent" groups trying to get power, or if it was done to cure HIV...

What Africa needs


Reason.com links to this UN report on what Africa needs.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Judge orders state to turn over video evidence

from SWRadioAfrica

...the judge on Monday insisted on the production of video evidence the state has based its entire case on. The judge expressed concern at the failure of the state to produce the videos since May, when the activists were finally indicted after several months of unlawful detention.

The activists have said they were tortured into making confessions on video. It is unlikely any fair court could accept such evidence.

Meanwhile 16 of the activists, including journalist Shadreck Andrison Manyere, are suing the state for US$19,2 million in damages. The group filed their application in the High Court last week Tuesday, seeking damages for their abduction, unlawful detention and deprivation of liberty last year....

Inflation is starting to rise again

From AFP

...In June, the monthly inflation rate registered at 0.6 percent, against -1.0 percent in May.

Food prices, however, remained deflationary, with food and non-alcoholic beverages at -1.26 percent, against -0.84 percent in May, the Central Statistics Office said.

Non-food inflation was at 1.45 percent, compared with -1.05 percent for May.

Since trading in foreign currency was allowed, Zimbabwe's once-deserted shops are again fully stocked with food.

But even with food prices falling, few people can afford to buy food in a country where the unemployment rate is estimated at 94 percent....

Monday, July 20, 2009

DNA of schistosomiasis decoded

from the BBC.

Schistosomiasis is a common infection in rural Zim

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Lessons I learned from Bob

from Kubatana net:

TOP del.icio.us

Stand by your beliefs stand firm even if you stand t o lose your very livelihood.
When your enemy is down kick in the teeth repeatedly.
Choose a very public forum to insult you enemies; do a good and thorough job of it.
That way you divert attention from your transgressions.
You are always right it’s everyone else who is wrong.
If they don’t agree with you to hell with them who do they think they are.
Pretend to agree with some of your opponents.
When they gain your trust.
Stab them in the back.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zim talks resume after fight

from the BBC:

...On Monday Mr Mugabe's supporters disrupted the opening speech by dancing and singing revolutionary songs, prompting an angry reaction from supporters of Mr Tsvangirai - his former rival.

Water bottles were thrown, delegates scuffled with each other and riot police were brought in to clear the venue.

Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party wants the new constitution to be based on a draft drawn up last year, but critics say it gives the president too much power. ...

Liberia's ex pres denounces war crimes charges against him

from the AP

...Charles Taylor, once one of West Africa's most powerful men, is charged with 11 counts of murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery and the use of child soldiers and terrorism in his role backing rebels in Sierra Leone's 1991-2002 civil war.

An estimated 500,000 people were the victims of killings, systematic mutilation or other atrocities in that war, with some of the worst crimes committed by child soldiers who were drugged to desensitize them....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Zim military blamed for bloodshed at diamond mine

from CNN:

... Residents and workers contributed accounts of attacks detailed by the interim findings of the Kimberley Process after a weeklong investigation in Zimbabwe.

The probe started days after a Human Rights Watch report accused the nation's armed forces of violently taking over the diamond fields in Marange district and killing about 200 people since last year. Some victims of the clash were buried in mass graves, the report said....

Tapiwa, 32, who declined to give his last name, said he has scars on his back and head from beatings he got when troops found him in the mining area.

Such stories are common, said Georgette Gagnon, director of Human Rights Watch. The organization said more than 100 witnesses, including soldiers and children, were interviewed for its report....

Separately, Human Rights Watch has accused the armed forces of funneling money from the fields into ZANU-PF, President Robert Mugabe's party. The government decried some aspects of the report, saying the critics were trying to smear the Mugabe's party.

International Investment conference opens in Harare

from SWRadioAfrica:


...The key to this (i.e. investment), according to the address by deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, was restoring the rule of law, which provides the foundation of confidence for contractual dealings and investor activity, without which no economy can run effectively.

He said: ‘The rule of law, transparency and accountability in the public sector serve not only as means to counter corruption but also as fundamental conditions of good governance’.

Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said investors at the conference took a keen interest in the energy, mining, construction and telecommunication sectors. These are perceived as sectors with the highest potential for profitability.

But there were also concerns raised by investors during a question and answer session with the three leaders that real reforms have yet to take root in the country. Others felt Zimbabwe was still a place where property rights are not respected...

Another MP convicted on trumped up charges

from SWRadioAfrica:

The MDC MP for Chipinge South, Meki Makuyana, was on Thursday convicted on ‘trumped up charges’ of kidnapping. Magistrate Samuel Zuze sentenced Makuyana to 18 months in prison with hard labour - 6 months were suspended. This means the MP will serve an effective 12 months in prison. This brings to 4 the number of MDC MP’s, all from Manicaland Province, who have been convicted and sentenced to jail by magistrates on the ZANU PF payroll. Coincidentally all the MDC MP’s targeted so far beat ZANU PF cabinet ministers in last year’s parliamentary elections....

Land Reform Issue Dominates First Day of Zimbabwe Investment Forum

from VOA news:


The three principals in Zimbabwe's troubled unity government differed sharply on the vexed question of land reform on the opening day Thursday of a conference aimed at convincing international investors to bring capital to the country's economic recovery.

President Robert Mugabe called on Britain to pay restitution to farmers whose properties were seized by his government in the controversial fast-track land reform program which it launched in 2000 and which has been blamed for the country's economic collapse.

Mr. Mugabe told delegates attending Zimbabwe International Investment Conference that the responsibility of compensating the white commercial farmers rested "on the shoulders of the British government and it's allies." The president said Zimbabwe will only compensate white farmers for improvement to properties seized for land redistribution....

Friday, July 03, 2009

Corporate Council on Africa remarks

remarks to PM Tsvangirai at a meeting...they support private enterprise to boost the economy

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Militias are Back

from SWRadioAfrica:

Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us most militias have been deployed in areas where the MDC made major inroads in last year’s polls. He said ZANU PF fears if its supporters do not particpate in the reform exercise, the consequences could be dire for the party.

“Already there have been skirmishes involving these militias and officials from the MDC in Mutare, Masvingo and some parts of Mashonaland central. The militias are forcing people to attend local or provincial conferences and push for the Kariba draft to be used as a reference point in drawing up a new constitution,” Muchemwa said....


Since independence the country has followed the Lancaster House constitution, but since then the ZANU PF led government has added 18 subsequent amendments to the Constitution, strengthening presidential powers and turning Zimbabwe into an authoritarian country.

Makoni's new Party

from SWRadio Africa

...Former Finance Minister Dr Simba Makoni on Wednesday slammed political corruption and greed during the official transformation of his Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn (MKD) movement into a political party.

A strong contingent of diplomats, media representatives and activists from MKD gathered for the official launch in Mbare, under the theme: ‘Real Change.’ The theme was decided as an ironic spin-off from the MDC’s campaign slogan - ‘Change you can trust,’ which the new MKD says is a promise that the MDC has not delivered on.

At Wednesday’s launch, Dr Makoni criticised the unity government for ushering in ‘fake change,’ while ‘bickering for vehicles’ and fighting internally for power and jobs. He accused the government of not taking the interests of the people to heart, but insisted that MKD was prepared to assist the government if it proves otherwise....



Ex ZANU-PF Finance minister Makoni is now starting his own breakaway party. He is slamming corruption, but has been accused of corruption in the past.

If you believe the Wikipedia post, the "corruption" was about a measley $25 000....which either means he was caught in some minor shennanigans (to small to count and so is incompetent), or he was so incompetent that he is only stealing small amounts of money, or that he is smart enough to steal without getting caught (competent and corrupt). Or maybe the guy is honest and the others lied about him.

the Wikipedia post also says Mutambara backs him...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

China Gining Zim a loan

from the NYTimes

China is giving $950 million dollar loan to Zim...

this is in contrast to the West who worries that the loans will go into the pockets of the old government so they can continue to abuse human rights.

Again I'm having computer problems...go to link
 
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