JB’s Zimbabwe style land reform shocks Malawi donors

Shocked with Malawi President Joyce Banda’s declaration that her country will adopt the Zimbabwe land reform policy as a way of empowering locals, the country’s main donors that include the United States, UK and the EU summoned Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Emphraim Chiume for an explanation.
President Banda said recently while in Zimbabwe where she went for an official visit that Malawi was impressed with the land reform policy as well as the economic empowerment initiatives that it will soon sent experts to under study the policies for replicating in her country.

She was also quoted in Zimbabwe’s  The Saturday Herald of April 27 that she also promised President Robert Mugabe that she will assist in lobbying for the removal of ‘illegal’ sanctions against Zimbabwe.

However, on Tuesady the major donors, concerned with the implication of the statement especially on potential donors, called for an emergency meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister and asked him to come up with a public
statement to clarify the matter.

EU Ambassador Baum:President’s comments beg some questions.
EU Ambassador Baum:President’s comments beg
some questions.

The emergency meeting led to Minister Chiume issuing a statement on Friday when he said that President Banda did not utter such statements.

European Union (EU) Resident Representative Alexander Baum could neither confirm nor deny the Tuesday meeting but told Malawi’s influential Weekend Nation that it was obvious that the President’s comments beg
some questions.

Baum said he personally felt that there is something inconsistent in the statement as the situation in Malawi is “simply incomparable with the situation in Zimbabwe and the land bill currently in Parliament does not suggest anything either.”

“Nonetheless, given that President Banda is genuinely promoting Malawi’s participation in the ‘G8 initiative on agriculture and food security’ and the strong role that the private sector plays in it it is more than welcome to clarify any misrepresentation or misunderstandings around the reports also publicly,” he told the newspaper.

Baum said the public clarification was even more important in the light of the forth coming “Grow Africa” Investors’ Forum which will be held in Capetown next week.

German Ambassador to Malawi Peter Woetse, who is also the current chairperson of Common Approach to Budget Support (Cabs), also said although his government did not attend the Tuesday meeting he also
felt that President Banda’s statement needed clarification.

“I personally do not see a comparable situation in Malawi with the situation in Zimbabwe. I would prefer to learn what was really said from the people attending (the meeting),” Woetse was quoted by the paper.

The Zimbabwe Herald Online, a pro-Robert Mugabe newspaper reported that President Banda announced during her visit in that country that Malawi will replicate Zimbabwe’s land reform and economic empowerment
and will send experts to Zimbabwe to study the two programmes.

The Saturday Herald of April 27, 2013, also reported that President Banda also promised to lobby for the removal of what she called illegal Western sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe land reform policy saw a lot of Zimbabwean white farmers losing their land to black Zimbabwean in a campaign which saw some of the land ceased by force by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF functionaries.

However, most of the farms which were ceased now lie plundered and vandalised without being productive as they used to be during the time Zimbabwe was regarded as a food basket for the southern Africa.

Among several others President Banda’s remarks drew criticism from Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) saying that replicating the land reforms will be economic suicide.

One of the vocal campaigners for a free Zimbabwe, Rose Benton who has been coordinating a Zimbabwe Vigil outside the country’s Embassy in London since 2002, said her group was also shocked with President
Banda’s remarks especially on the sanctions.

“If President Banda did call for the lifting of ‘illegal’ sanctions she was just parroting Mugabe’s electioneering line that seeks to blame the West for Zimbabwe’s catastrophic economic decline. The sanctions are not illegal and were targeted at people involved in human rights abuses and their companies,” she said.

Both State House Presidential Press Secretary Steve Nhlane and Chiume confirmed the meeting with the donors but Nhlane could not comment on the demands from the donors.

Chiume on the other hand while confirming the meeting said it was a normal briefing meeting between government and its development partners as such there is nothing he can talk about through the media.

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