Land grabs

A note from the editor

Hazel Healy

‘We don’t like to turn people away’

When I landed in Mozambique’s gleaming Chinese-built airport in Maputo, a large group of South Asian men from my plane were doing their level best to appear calm. As we went through immigration, officials steered them to one side when it transpired they didn’t have visas.

They had fallen foul of immigration rules that had changed just one day earlier, sending me scrambling to get a visa in time. Now most foreign visitors had to secure a visa before arrival. The rule-change was partly targeting people like my fellow travellers, but also Westerners – we’re not so used to that – after some job-seeking Portuguese got sent home in January.

Refusing entry to citizens of a former colonizing nation is a novel place to be for the Mozambican state. ‘We don’t like to turn people away,’ commented a woman from the forests department, whom I had got talking to on the plane. She was watching the anxious group of South Asian men with some sympathy. ‘They are only looking for work. But it was all getting too hard to handle at the airport.’

It’s a testament to the upswing in Mozambique’s economic fortunes that even Europeans are heading here in search of work and opportunity. But with this new interest come huge challenges. Private capital can move freely across borders, unlike the worker hopefuls I saw at the airport. The Portuguese hope to supply meat to the expanding cities while Britain is digging up coal and rubies. Players from the global South – Brazil, China and Indian firms like OLAM – also want a piece of Mozambique. The government will need to manage this influx with a firm hand and integrity to have any hope of the investment benefiting its people, without whom none of this ‘emerging Africa’ would have been possible.

Elsewhere in the magazine, a shocking story of how lack of public healthcare leaves people to die on the streets in Ghana – a chilling account as Britain sets about dismantling the NHS. This month’s issue also carries a review of Eduardo Galeano’s poignant and vibrant new book.

Hazel Healy for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

Keynote article.

‘They'll have to kill us first’. The land of villagers in Kitica, Cabo Delgado province, is under threat from a local landgrabber. They pose with machete, hoe and a coil of homegrown tobacco, the trappings of home – and self defence. Photo: Hazel Healy

The smallholders’ last stand

A visit to Mozambique dispels any notion that big business is going to ‘feed Africa’. Hazel Healy reports on a land rush in full swing.

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By 7am work parties are already fanning out along the road’s edge. The people of Chiure district in rural Mozambique are setting out before the heat kicks in. Gangs of children stride along with hoes over their shoulders; women make slower progress with babies tied to their backs, balancing large bundles on their head, trailing toddlers with the free hand.

It’s hard to see where this stream of people is headed at first. Then, looking closer you see the rise and fall of dull metal, the flash o...




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