28 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Protest Planned Over Contentious Land-Grab Book

A demonstration has been planned to protest a contentious new book about ZANU PF's land grab campaign, which is painted as a 'success' by the book's authors.

"Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land" was written by three scholars and aims to counter "the dominant media narratives of oppression and economic stagnation in Zimbabwe."

The authors are Dr. Joseph Hanlon, Jeanette Manjengwa from the University of Zimbabwe and Dr. Teresa Smart. The book's blurb reads that a decade after the land grabs started, "the land reform story is a contrast to the dominant media narratives of oppression and economic stagnation. Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land offers a more positive and nuanced assessment of land reform in Zimbabwe. It does not minimize the depredations of the Mugabe regime; indeed it stresses that the land reform was organized by liberation war veterans acting against President Mugabe and his cronies and their corruption."

The authors are this week in London discussing their research findings, collated after spending a month in the country last year.

London based protest group the Zimbabwe Vigil has now planned a demonstration outside one of the events where the authors will be speaking, insisting that the information is misleading and the book "sanitizes" a devastating decade of abuse. The demonstration will take place on Thursday evening at Chatham House.

The Vigil's Dennis Benton told SW Radio Africa on Monday that, after reading the book, he found the information to be "contentious," and "misleading," saying the book is written from an inherently "racist basis."

"It is full of statistics that are impossible if you have spent such a short time researching the details. It is also written from the basis that if you are white, you are not Zimbabwean," Benton explained.

In its open letter to Chatham House, the Vigil said: "We believe the illegal and violent seizure of commercial farms is an abuse of human rights. British courts have found this to be the case."

"If, as claimed in the book, agricultural production is returning to former levels, the Vigil warmly welcomes it. But this assertion does not square with the statement by the UN that 1.6 million Zimbabweans are facing starvation - some 12% of the population - and for yet another year Zimbabwe needs international food aid."

The letter adds: "Whether or not the agricultural situation is improving, and it could hardly fail to, the land seizures were illegal under international law and the SADC treaty. This has fatally undermined agriculture sector finance, especially since Zimbabwe has yet to meet its legal obligations to pay compensation."

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