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Africa has spoken! First ever Pan African Land Grab Hearing

August 20th, 2013 by Posted in Agriculture, English, Food security, Governance, GROW campaign, Women's rights
 Raulina Valoi

Raulina Valoi

Credit: Mohamet Lamine Ndiaye, Oxfam Pan Africa Programme

‘Today, Africa has spoken!’These were the last words of the panel at the first ever Pan African Land Grab Hearings, held at the symbolic Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg. The hill was formerly the site of a fort, later used as a prison during apartheid in which South African political activists like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi as well as Hon. Sisa Njikelena, a panelist at the Hearings were detained.

Land grabs have brought difficult situations upon so many African people. The panel and audience listened to presentations on land grabs in Africa and heard from nine witnesses with specific cases from different countries. Community representatives shared their experiences freely. Some spoke in their native languages with the use of translators, in order to better express their stories. One touching story was that of Ms Raulina Valoi from Mozambique. She expressed in Shangaan/Tsonga, ‘After they took our fertile land, they cleared a field very far away and said we can use those. But I cannot even walk there. We as the community say it is better if the company with its cars goes to those far away fields and we stay where we are.” In this particular case, investors were given 37,500 Hectares of land and 19 villages were affected.

From the cases presented, it was evident that local communities were not clear about the policies that exist, leaving them vulnerable without knowledge of the rights they have. Sadly, in most cases a lack of governance and lack of good democratic practice was clearly shown. Many communities believe that corruption is rife and fuelling a tendency for governments to serve the interest of these corporations rather than the local communities. There was evidence too that some government leaders, political leaders and traditional leaders have been involved in facilitating land deals and siding with corporate investors rather than with their people even when investments have negative impacts.

 Kenyan musician, Eric Wainaina singing ‘Revolution’

Kenyan musician, Eric Wainaina singing ‘Revolution’

In case after case, we heard of how promises made were not fulfilled and communities have been left with few avenues to hold investors accountable. Witnesses to these cases suggested a critical need for greater openness and transparency in all land deals. There is also a great deal of natural habitat destruction and negative impacts on food quality and availability.

The gender dimension of the land grab stories showed that women are not involved in the decision making concerning land issues. It is clear that women are paying the biggest price in terms of impact, compounding their already vulnerable situation while still taking primary care of their families.

 The High Level Panel

The High Level Panel

The High level panel was chaired by of Professor Olokushi Adebayo Director of IDEP. Other panelists were, Hon. Halima James Mdee from Tanzania, Hon. Patrick Mucheleka from Zambia member of the Pan African Parliament, Kumi Naidoo International Director of Greenpeace, Hon. Sisa Njikelena from South Africa and a member of the Pan African Parliament, Eric Wainaina Musician from Kenya and Maya Wegerif poet, young activist from South Africa.

The panel gave their recommendations in line with the African Union approved Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa and the Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa adopted by heads of state in 2009.

Please refer to the ‘Final Declaration of the Panel’

 Final Declaration

The Hearing was successful in giving a voice and hearing the stories of communities affected by land grabs in Africa. The hearing also brought the land grab issue to policy makers and influential people and groups.

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