MAPUTO, Nov 28 (Reuter) - Mozambican Agriculture Minister Carlos Agostinho de Rosario on Tuesday vigorously defended a planned agreement which will see hundreds of South African farmers invest in Mozambique.
Opposition deputies in the country's parliament complained that the proposed agreement would see South African farmers setting up "colonies'' in Mozambique.
But Rosario insisted that the South African investment was was not foreign settlement or occupation but legal investment under existing Mozambican legislation.
"The government has not alienated any portion of Mozambican territory,'' he said.
Thousands of white South African farmers have shown interest in farming across the borders and helping sub-Saharan countries to develop their own resources.
President Nelson Mandela has said he does not oppose South African assistance for neighbouring states as long as it was demand-driven and worked out between governments.
Countries earmarked by the South Africans include Mozambique, Angola, Congo, Gabon and Zambia.
Rosaria said land would not be allocated to individual South African farmers but to a joint South African and Mozambican company, Mosagrius.
The company would be responsible for setting up the infrastructure and basic services necessary for the investment programme and would take measures to ensure that all the projects were environmentally sustainable.
The draft agreement with the South African Chamber for Agriculture in Africa has not yet been signed, Rosario said.
Mozambicans would also benefit through a clause which stipulates that at least a third of undertakings under the programme must involve Mozambican businessmen, he added.
Out of Mozambique's 36 million hectares of arable land, only five million hectares would be used under the investment programme, he said.
The project will involves areas located mainly north of the Zambezi River.