President Joyce Banda has earned the wrath of analysts after announcing that Malawi will replicate Zimbabwe’s land reform and economic empowerment initiatives.
Banda, was expected to arrive in the country on Friday from a four-day state visit to Zimbabwe, while in Harare insisted land reform programme was the way to go because it can uplift the livelihoods of the majority.
State-owned Herald Online quoted her saying she will soon send experts to Zimbabwe to study the two programmes and recommend how they could be implemented in Malawi.
Banda has hailed Zimbabwe’s land reform and economic empowerment programmes as success stories after touring the Boka Tobacco Auction Floors in Harare on Wednesday.
In reaction to the development, land reform researcher and academician Blessings Chinsinga described the declaration by President Banda as a grave mistake while Civil Society Agriculture Network (Cisanet) National Director Tamani Nkhono Mvula said replicating Zimbabwe’s landform in Malawi will be committing an economic suicide.
Chinsinga argued Malawi has procedures that clearly state how land reform programmes can be implemented.
“What has been lacking in all this is political will,” said Chinsinga who is part of the team of researchers from the University of Malawi that include Henry Chingaipe, Micheal Chasukwa, and Ephraim Chirwa who have researched on ‘The Political Economy of Land Grabs and Land Reforms in Malawi’.
Said Chinsinga: “But forceful acquisition targeting those believed to be foreigners takes away the need to understand the root cause of the problem.”
He said three quarters of land in Malawi is in the hands of the elites that include top civil servants, top businessmen, top politicians and traditional leaders and they are just keeping it idle. He said ways and means have to be found to redistribute this land properly and not taking after the means that adopted by Zimbabwe. Nkhono-Mvula said the Zimbabwe approach can not apply to Malawi.
“I am failing to understand the context we are going to acquire that land,” he said.
He said most of the land in the country is in the hands of smallholder farmers and the only place where there are white owned farms is in Mulanje and Thyolo where there are tea estates.
“To take this process will be an economic suicide,” he declared.
He said the context of Zimbabwe land distribution had a long history and that it was out of frustrations because the British government did not commit to pledges it made on land reforms in that country.
“While the decision was somehow right, the process was not the right way to do it,” he said before adding: “We did not have the Zimbabwe scenario where 90 percent of the good land was in the hands of 10 percent of the population.”
Land reform saw the majority of Zimbabweans, who were previously settled on marginal infertile land, getting vast tracts of land that were occupied by about 4 000 commercial farmers.