In Egypt, a people’s uprising has succeeded in removing Hosni Mubarak from power. The main battle, however, lies ahead. Will there be a substantive transformation of Egyptian society, or will the economic and political system remain essentially unchanged, with only a new face occupying the presidential office? There are powerful forces that are determined to steer events in the latter direction.
For years, Western journalists have castigated Zimbabwe’s land reform program. From afar, they pronounced land reform a failure for having brought about the total collapse of agriculture and plunging the nation into chronic food insecurity. Redistributed land, we are continually told, went to cronies with political connections, while ordinary people were almost entirely excluded from the process. Farmland went to ruin because of the incompetence of the new owners. These were simple messages, drilled into the minds of the Western public through repetition. For Western reporters, certain that they owned the truth, emotion substituted for evidence. Those of a more curious frame of mind, however, were left to wonder what conditions were like in the field, where no reporter bothered to venture.
So often we are told that the free market is the path to economic prosperity. All an impoverished nation needs to do is privatize, deregulate, reduce the size and role of government, cut tariff protections and open its economy to foreign investors, and it too can become a developed model economy. This gospel is preached by the U.S. and Western European nations and enforced through international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO). The neoliberal economic model, it is claimed, is beneficial for all nations and in all circumstances. But is it true? These assertions never acknowledge the actual experience of developing nations that implement these policies. To do so would dispel such notions. The effect of free trade on agricultural development in Sub-Saharan Africa provides a characteristic example.Read More »
Radio Interview with Gregory Elich, by host Brendan Stone on the Unusual Sources program, CFMU FM.
An Interview with Sam Moyo
Amid the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, the agricultural sector continues to struggle. Although the plunge in agricultural output over the last few years has often been commented on in the Western media, little or no attention is paid to the complex factors contributing to that decline. Instead, matters are reduced to a simple generalization. It is rare to be presented with information from someone with direct involvement with the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. Sam Moyo has over 25 years of research experience in rural development issues, and his organization has conducted studies and analyses and provided policy recommendations on land policy. Highly respected in his profession, Moyo is uniquely positioned to offer an evidence-based overview of the situation.
Amid heightened tension, an all pervading crisis is afflicting Zimbabwe. The economy is close to collapse, the standard of living has plummeted, and the political scene is marred by recent violence. To hear Western leaders tell it, it is Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who has brought this state of affairs upon his nation through economic mismanagement and repression, and what would have been an otherwise prosperous country is instead on the edge of ruin. The U.S. and Great Britain trade barbs with Zimbabwe, and relations are perhaps at their lowest point, with pressure mounting in the U.S. and Great Britain for harsher measures.
An Interview with Obi Egbuna
As a founding member of the Pan-African Liberation Organization, Obi Egbuna has devoted his life to the struggle to unify the African continent and the African Diaspora. His activities have led him to split his time between the U.S. and Zimbabwe. I was interested in finding out more about the Pan-African Liberation Organization and its role in the movement, and contacted Mr. Egbuna. This interview took place shortly before his return to Zimbabwe.
Mr. Berman’s letter illustrates the point I made about selective concern in the opening paragraph of my article. His outrage is reserved for the case of Vincent Schultz, a white commercial farmer who owns a 1,400-acre farm. This is approximately 200 times the size of the average black owned farm, and is situated on land far more suitable for agriculture than the barren lands blacks were herded onto during the colonial era. The Schultz farm has been divided into several smaller farms, which will now support many farmers. Mr. Schultz, as well as other white Zimbabwean commercial farmers can continue to farm, but their new farms will be smaller. They will no longer possess gigantic tracts of land, much of it unused, while millions of people live in severely overcrowded conditions on barren land. They will have enough land to make a living, though. It is simply untenable that a few landowners hold more land than they can use while millions live in despair. There is room in Zimbabwe for both white and black farmers. What there is no longer room for in Zimbabwe is gross inequality.
As Zimbabwe descends into anarchy and chaos, land is irrationally seized from productive farmers, we are told. President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is portrayed as a dictator bent on driving his nation into starvation and economic disaster while benevolent U.S. and British leaders call for democracy and human rights. These are the images presented by Western news reports, intended to persuade the public to support an interventionist policy. As always when the West targets a foreign leader for removal, news reports ignore complexity and context, while the real motivations for intervention remain hidden. Concern for democracy and human rights is selective and it is always the nation that displays too much independence that evokes concern, even in cases of a functioning multiparty system and wide ranging media.