When Helena Terra heard that ProSavana, a giant agribusiness project proposed for northern Mozambique would be presented for “judgment” at the Permanent People´s Tribunal in South Africa, she was convinced that their struggle against the project was gaining momentum.
From central Zambezia province Helena was one of the four peasant leaders from the Peasant´s Union of Mozambique, UNAC that exposed to a panel of eight jurors and an audience of almost 200 participants, the threats that ProSavana represents to small-scale farmers and food sovereignty in their region, the Nacala Corridor.
“ProSavana should be stopped because is a threat to our traditional farming systems, our local knowledge and our social harmony”, denounced Costa Estevão, one of the complainant peasants.
Like ProSavana, six other cases of corporate abuse in Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Tanzania and Zambia will be presented at the second session of hearings of the Permanent People´s Tribunal that is taking place from 17th to 18th August, at the Old Women's Jail at Constitution Hill, a former prison complex that bears testament to South Africa's turbulent past. The first session was held in 2016 in Manzini, Swaziland, where seven communities and movements from Southern African region gave testimony to the violations of their human rights, environmental rights and the Right to Say No.
The cases presented at the first day of the second session, included one in which an Australian mining giant, World Titane Holdings is threatening the livelihoods of indigenous communities of various villages and continuity of the Mikea ancient forest. A representative of the threatened community said that often national governments are allied to the transnational corporations to the detriment of local population. “The Ministry of Mines spoke to the media to defend the company and say that we are just crazy people who don't know how important mining is and how important this company can be for the development of Madagascar.” She went on to say that it is known that World Titane Holdings is registered in a tax heaven in Mauritius to avoid paying tax in Madagascar.
Two peasant women from the Namibia Rural Women Assembly, RWA and the National Smallholder Farmers' Association of Malawi (NASFAM) presented a case of the Subsidy program, named Farm Input Subsidy Program, FISP, in which corporations like Monsanto are strongly involved. Those farmers input subsidies programs are threatening local food systems and sustainability, as they force peasants to use hybrid and genetically modified seed, in a package that includes chemical fertilizers.
According to Ellen Matupi and Alice Kachere, from Malawi explained that the FISP benefits more the corporations. “FISP now is like a political tool. We don't know if the government has shares in Monsanto, or if they get commissions”, they said.
Another case from Mozambique that was exposed is a major hydropower project, Mphanda Nkuwa Dam, that will displace around 1400 households and it is estimated that around 200 thousands people living downstream of the dam will be negatively affected by the dam operation system.
Anabela Lemos, of Justiça Ambietal, said that Mphanda Nkuwa Dam is a big threat to local people and, although the dam is sometimes proposed as a solution to coal industry, it is also a false solution. She said that the agenda is to allow the advance of capital and promote mega projects. “We are a country built on mega-projects. Anything that is small is not good, everything that is big is fantastic”, she said.
The cases presented at the first day of the tribunal allows us to understand that reclaiming their agency is part of a process of, not only building resistance, but most importantly the transformation of power relations.
This second session of the hearings focuses specifically on transnational corporations that destroy food and seed sovereignty, steal from Southern African peoples through illicit financial flows and tax havens, demolish native forests, and work with states to oppress the people.