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Is Zimbabwe extending an olive branch to its white farmers?



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Zimbabwe is making deals with mainly white farmers – both local and foreign – who lost farms two decades ago in a controversial and often violent land redistribution programme that sought to redress colonial-era land grabs, but which contributed to the country’s economic decline.

Wilf Mbanga, editor of the Zimbabwean news site, considers the implications of these agreements and whether they will mend relations with the West.

The news that the government of Zimbabwe has finally agreed to compensate white farmers has surprised the world.

In Zimbabwe it has polarised opinion and set WhatsApp and Twitter alight. Many are outraged, many are disappointed – no-one is happy.

Except perhaps President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who hailed the agreement as “historic”, and the headof the mainly white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), Andrew Pascoe, who described it as “a miracle”.

Under the terms of the agreement some 3,500 white farmers will share a compensation pot of $3.5bn (£2.6bn) – but this is only for improvements to the land.

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe campaign to remove white farmers was often violent

The CFU agreed that compensation for compulsorily acquired land would not be given.

The agreement says half this sum is to be paid within the next 12 months, with the balance spread over five years.

The others affected by the land grab are some 400 black Zimbabwean farmers and a handful of foreign white farmers,

around 37 of them, who were protected by Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreements (Bippa).

The government recently announced that these farmers would be given their land back.

“Where the situation presently obtaining on the ground makes it impractical to restore land in this category to its former owners, government will offer the former farm owners alternative land elsewhere as restitution,” the statement said.

Approved by the constitution

A disgruntled group of so-calledwar veterans, who have the most to lose as they are the ones who were resettled on much of the commercial farmland – the lion’s share went to government ministers, senior officials and the politically well-connected – has denounced the agreement vociferously and threatened to sue the government.

Land reform timeline:

  • At independence in 1980, most of the country’s most fertile land was owned by some 4,000 white farmers as a result of colonial-era policies which forced black people from their land
  • The deal brokered to end the conflict against white-minority rule agreed an initial policy of “willing seller, willing buyer” – but the pace of reform was slow
  • In 2000, a referendum on constitutional reforms that would allow the seizure of these farms without compensation failed to pass
  • President Robert Mugabe then supported often land invasions by a mix of government forces and vigilante groups
  • These so-called “war veterans” continued their often violent invasions for years
  • A new constitution put together under a unity government passed in 2013, saying the land reform programme was irreversible
  • But it agreed to pay local white farmers some compensation for things such as equipment
  • It said affected indigenous and foreign farmers were entitled to compensation for both land and improvements

The lawyer’s letter addressed to Mr Mnangagwa describes the agreement as “highly discriminatory, degrading and akin to selling out the liberation struggle”.

What few seem to realise is that Mr Mnangagawa has not invented this solution to the contentious “land issue”.

image copyrightAFP
image captionPresident Mnangagwa, who came to power in 2017, says land reforms cannot be reversed

He has actually stuck firmly to the letter of the new constitution, negotiated and approved by both his Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) during the national unity government back in 2013 and voted for overwhelmingly by Zimbabweans in a referendum.

Under section 295 of the constitution, indigenous farmers as well as white farmers whose properties were protected under Bippas, are entitled to compensation for both land and improvements.

Other white local farmers are only entitled to compensation for improvements – not the land itself.

Mr Mnangagwa has said land reform cannot be reversed, but paying compensation is key to mending ties with the West.

Land no longer ‘the issue’

But if he thinks his decision to implement the terms of the constitution now will win him hearts and minds, he is mistaken.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionZimbabwe, once a regional breadbasket, now often has to import food

Very few Western governments are talking about land any more – they are more concerned about the human rights abuses and allegations of rampant corruption taking place on his watch, which rival those under the tenure of Robert Mugabe, who was forced to resign by the army as president in 2017.

Twenty years ago agriculture was the largest employer and the highest earner of foreign exchange in Zimbabwe.

In 2000 the 20-year reign of Mr Mugabe was seriously threatened for the first time by the MDC.

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Mr Mugabe’s response was to give his war veterans – those who fought in Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation struggle against white-minority rule – carte blanche to invade white-owned commercial farms, under the guise of restoring historical imbalances in land ownership.

Since then the country has fallen from breadbasket to begging basket, one of the least food-secure nations on the planet with unemployment at unprecedented levels – some analysts say it is 90%.

The tobacco sector has rebounded thanks to support and exports to China, but in 2018 alone Zimbabwe spent $724m on agricultural and food imports.

The whole question of land in Zimbabwe is now extremely complex – in effect all farm land belongs to the state, so technically it has no commercial value, and cannot be used as collateral for borrowing.

But commercial farming without borrowing is impossible.

Questionable spending

In a misguided attempt to bridge this financing gap, the government stepped in with a programme called “Command Agriculture” whereby it supplies farmers with all the inputs – fertiliser, seeds, chemicals, tractors and other equipment – needed for a season.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe tobacco sector has rebounded following a steep decline in production after 2000

This has been characterised by massive corruption and politicking, further entrenching the patronage labyrinth established by Mr Mugabe to entrench his power.

Officials from the Ministry of Lands and Agriculture were unable to explain how $3bn was spent on Command Agriculture without any documentation in 2019 – and without any sizeable harvest to show for it.

Documents unearthed by investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who spent more than a month in remand prison recently on charges of inciting violence in anti-government tweets, showed that one primary school received 200 tractors from the programme.

Serious questions have been raised about Zimbabwe’s ability to fund its decisions.

The government says it will issue a long-term debt instrument on international capital markets set to mature in 30 years.

image captionThe $3.5bn is to pay farmers for things like equipment they lost when they had to hastily leave their farms

But already the external debit is out of control, with 73% arrears.

Respected Zimbabwean economist John Robertson says the chances of government getting the required funding are “very poor”.

“Bonds imply promises to repay. We won’t get any support until we carry out reforms to restore our productive capacity,” he says.

“We have no way of repaying new debts when the existing ones are beyond us.

“But if we fix the economy by restoring confidence, we will get back to earning respect as well as money.”

Like everything in Zimbabwe it is a cat-and-mouse situation – and it will take more to get the agricultural sector back on its feet.

Wilf Mbanga is editor of The Zimbabwean

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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