Mozambique: Zimbabwe Style Land Occupation in Maputo

An abandoned eucalyptus plantation 30 km from the centre of Maputo has been occupied in an organised way by people who are quickly building houses, in a form similar to the organised land occupations in Zimbabwe and Brazil.

The 1230 hectare (ha) plantation 30 km from of the centre of Maputo is on the N1 just before Marracuene and was FAO project FO-2 in the 1980s to grow woodfuel for Maputo; it was abandoned with other FAO projects during the war. In 1998 there was a public tender and the land was given to a company called Milhulamente; although land cannot be sold, company spokesman Isidro Macaringue said Milhulamente paid $64,169 for the land. Finally in 2009 it obtained a DUAT (land use title) which allowed 767 ha to be divided into housing plots. After that, nothing happened. But by now the rapidly growing city of Maputo has expanded past the plantation, and this is a valuable urban area.

Finally in July are group of self-described “natives” of Marracuene occupied 200 ha, used machinery to clear the land, quickly divided it into 40 metre x 20 metre plots, and began building both permanent and temporary houses. There are new roads with cars; even the police now patrol the new neighbourhood; small temporary shops have opened.

On 15 August the local Marracuene court ruled the occupation illegal, and “construction embargoed” has been painted on the sides of some houses.

The land is now highly valuable – to whomever wins the right to occupy it, Milhulamente or the “natives”. Macaringue says that plots are already being sold for 70,000 Meticais ($1000). And O Pais says the presence of expensive cars “suggests that the ‘natives’ are not just dividing up the land, but also selling it.”

Comment: There is a myth, propagated in part by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe himself, that Mugabe organised the Zimbabwe land occupation. In fact it was organised by the war veterans as a protest against Mugabe and a ZANU-PF elite because of their refusal to do land reform. In a highly organised fashion the war veterans took over 1000 white farms during the Easter weekend of 2000 and settled unemployed from the townships and landless from the communal areas. Initially Mugabe and the government opposed the occupation. But Mugabe is a skilled politician and later in the year when he saw the success of the occupation, he legalised it and took the credit. And the media and opposition was happy to help him create the myth that he did it. (see Zimbabwe Takes Back it Land by Joseph Hanlon, Jeanette Manjengwa and Teresa Smart).

Source:Mozambique News Reports & Clippings