There is a new scramble for Africa, with ordinary people facing displacement by the affluent and the powerful as huge tracts of land on the continent are grabbed by a minority, rights activists here say.
“Our forefathers cried foul during colonialism when their land was grabbed by colonialists more than a century ago, but today history repeats itself, with our own political leaders and wealthy countrymen looting land,” Claris Madhuku, director of the Platform for Youth Development (PYD), a democracy lobby group in Zimbabwe, told IPS.
Civil society activist Owen Dliwayo, who is programme officer for the Youth Dialogue Action Network, another lobby group here, said multinational companies were to blame in most African countries for land seizures.
“Our forefathers cried foul during colonialism when their land was grabbed by colonialists more than a century ago, but today history repeats itself, with our own political leaders and wealthy countrymen looting land” - Claris Madhuku, Zimbabwe’s Platform for Youth Development (PYD)
"I can give you an example of the Chisumbanje ethanol fuel projecthere in Chipinge. The project resulted in thousands of villagers being displaced to pave way for a sugar plantation so that thousands of hectares of land space could be created for the ethanol-producing project, consequently displacing poor villagers,” Dliwayo told IPS.
The 40,000 hectare sugar cane plantation which started in 2008 left more than 1,754 households displaced, according to PYD.
Fifteen years ago, Zimbabwe embarked on a controversial land reform programme to address colonial land-ownership imbalances, but activists have dismissed the move as disastrous for this Southern African nation.
“To say African nations like Zimbabwe addressed the land problem is untrue because land which African governments like Zimbabwe grabbed from white farmers was parcelled out to political elites at the expense of hordes of peasants here,” Terry Mutsvanga, an award-winning Zimbabwean rights activist, told IPS.
“Land grabs in Africa have helped to perpetuate economic inequalities similar to the colonial era economic imbalances,” he added.
In 2010, ZimOnline, a Zimbabwean news service, reported that about 2,200 well-connected black Zimbabwean elites controlled nearly 40 percent of the 14 million hectares of land seized from white farmers, with each farm ranging in size from 250 to 4,000 hectares, with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his family said to own 14 farms spanning at least 16,000 hectares.
Further up in East Africa, according to a 2011 presentation by Uganda’s Joshua Zake titled ‘Land Grabbing; silent pain for smallholder farmers in Uganda’, key characters of land grabbing in that country are also a few wealthy or powerful individuals against many vulnerable individuals or communities...CONTINUES