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Protest planned over contentious land-grab book

Protest planned over contentious land-grab book

http://www.swradioafrica.com

By Alex Bell
28 January 2013

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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