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Crossing Continents Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 14:38 GMT
On the move
Brendan Evans' farm
Zimbabwean farmers are being encouraged to set up farms in Mozambique
People are leaving Zimbabwe by the 1000s after the recent upheaval surrounding the elections. Mark Ashurst hears some of their stories. He examines the impact these migrants are making on their adopted countries and gains a new perspective on Zimbabwe.

 Listen to this programme in full

In Zimbabwe another white farmer was murdered in the continuing conflict over land - the tenth in recent months. Powerful images of the small dog that refused to leave his master's side were transmitted round the world.

Leaving Zimbabwe

Only a few days before, we had interviewed another white farmer, Brendan Evans. He has moved across the border to Mozambique with just his family, a small herd of dairy cows, a large satellite dish and three mischievous Jack Russell dogs - exactly like the little dog that refused to abandon the blanketed corpse of the farmer murdered last week.

The political crisis in Zimbabwe has been largely portrayed in stark headlines of violence and intimidation, of black verses white. It has also caused Zimbabwe's economy to sink like a stone dropped in a pond and sent ripples across southern Africa.

In recent months at least a million Zimbabweans - possibly two million - have left their crisis-ridden country seeking a fresh start - in neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and in South Africa.

Returning to Mozambique

Mozambicans who fled their own bitter civil war for a better life in a more modern and peaceful country are also coming home.

The Mozambican Meticais is now worth more than the Zimbabwe dollar and Mozambicans are flocking back, reversing the flow of migration from west to east.

Tungai Sagwate
Tungai Sagwate has returned to Mozambique

Tungai Sagwate is one of many Mozambicans to decide that life is now better at home. He fled his own country's civil war 15 years ago as a child, grew up in Zimbabwe and had a good job there. When Tungai found himself press ganged by ZANU PF war veterans into attacking farms and supporters of the opposition MDC party, he decided it was time to leave.

"As foreigners we had no choice," he said. "If we had refused, we would also have been in trouble." Now he has found work on Brendan Evans' farm, getting up at 4am to milk the cows.

Mozambique is thriving

Mozambique's government, keen to see commercial agricultural industry flourish in the country, is encouraging Zimbabwean farmers like Brendan to move across the border.

Brendan Evans' farm
Fresh milk is being produced north of Maputo in Mozambique

Less than five percent of arable land - all state owned - is currently cultivated and the farmers are being offered parcels of leased land tax free. The hope is that this will create jobs and give new skills to local people.

So far, some 20 white Zimbabwean farmers have taken up the offer, but hundreds more have expressed interest since the elections two weeks ago.

Brendan has built a very simple dairy where un-pasteurised milk is poured into plastic bags. This is the first fresh milk to be produced north of Maputo for 30 years and Brendan's excited by the potential to develop his farm in Mozambique - prospects that now seem closed to him in Zimbabwe.

Even if the situation improves in Zimbabwe, he says he would like to stay in Mozambique because he thinks there is more potential there.

It is not all plain sailing though.

Problems to overcome

The farmers complain about the bureaucratic difficulties they are encountering and a level of corruption which they say they have not previously experienced in Zimbabwe.

Farmers meet
Farmers in Mozambique pooling their potential

They are also anxious about the gathering drought and shortages of maize and seed in the region, which will have no respect for borders of boundaries

The biggest question is how secure they will be in Mozambique and how they can ensure the same problems over land will not re-occur in Mozambique in 10 or 20 years' time.

The president of the local small farmer's union assured us that his members are keen to co-operate with and work alongside the large-scale Zimbabwean farmers, but we also heard rumblings of discontent against the foreigners amongst local people in the bars of Manica town.

Farmers meeting
There are problems that need to be addressed

Zimbabwe's crisis has prompted some very serious thinking about old problems throughout the southern African region. It has been very painful, bloody at times but there is also no doubt that the people we encountered seem surprisingly optimistic.

Their is a sense that Mozambique can avoid replicating the problems that have occurred over land in Zimbabwe, that some sort of accommodation can be reached between the commercial farmers and small scale subsistence farmers.

Their hope is that it will open a new chapter on race relations in Africa.

To South Africa

About two million Zimbabweans also live in neighbouring South Africa. Thousands more are turned back at the border every month, or detained in the vast detention centres for illegal immigrants. But it is not just the poor who are drawn here.

Joel Phiri's family
Joel Phiri's family are settling in to a new life in South Africa

South Africa is also a magnet for Zimbabwe's middle class - the best-educated - and as a proportion of its population, the largest middle class anywhere in Africa. As their own country becomes more isolated - there has been a "brain drain" of skills and talent.

Joel Phiri moved his film production company to Johannesburg a year ago, when he realised he could no longer operate properly in Harare due to the economic isolation there.

The Phiris are a product of modern Zimbabwe - just as much as the landless poor and the dispossessed farmers. They are educated and entrepreneurial -- the vanguard of Africa's new middle class. What they ask of politicians is some acknowledgement of the rules of the global economy - plus an effort to make it work in their favour.

African politics

It is a strikingly modern, worldly kind of aspiration - but is it realistic on a continent where half the population still live on less than a pound a day and whose primary demand is for a small plot of land on which they can grow a few crops of their own?

The era of Nationalist politics -- the struggle for Independence, and self-esteem - is not yet passed in Africa.

Zimbabwe, and its President are proof of that. A residual empathy for Robert Mugabe endures - and no matter how much violence and intimidation there may have been in the recent election, it is clear he commands loyalty even among people who are impatient for change.

Economic integration and accountability is crucial to resolving the current conflicts and giving firm roots to democracy

Professor Lovemore Mbigi

In the affluent suburbs of Sandton are the offices of Professor Lovemore Mbigi, an academic and consultant who specialises in change management.

He believes that democracy is an expensive luxury that few African countries can currently afford and that for now, what matters most is good governance and ensuring Africa's participation in an increasingly globalised world.

"Economic integration and accountability is crucial," he says, "to resolving the current conflicts and giving firm roots to democracy." Perhaps rather surprisingly, he views the current violence in Zimbabwe as a hopeful sign of progress towards democracy.

The politicians at the top may be posturing and have few real policies he says, but the fact that everything is hotly debated on the streets is a measure of real political change.

Zimbabweans on the move: Thursday 28th March 2002 on BBC Radio 4 at 11:00 GMT.

Reporter: Mark Ashurst
Producer: Ruth Evans
Editor: Sue Ellis

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See also:

18 Mar 02 | Africa
14 Jan 02 | Business
13 Mar 02 | Country profiles
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
26 Feb 02 | Country profiles
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