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Political Puzzles

[image, unknown]

new internationalist
issue 192 - February 1989

[image, unknown] Political Puzzles
Where is Frelimo going? The Marxist Revolutionary Government
invites investment from South Africa. Its IMF-backed economic recovery programme looks like capitalism. José Luis Cabaco, Frelimo's External General Secretary does some explaining.

'Most of the critics who say that we have moved away from the Marxist principles of the Revolution have an approach that we ourselves never had. We do not see socialism as a faith, as an ideal model to which reality must be fitted. Our starting point has always been the reality of the country and we have tried to build our ideology and our practice in direct response to the problems our society faces. Our priority has always been to build two things together: the nation and social justice.

'Now, the main objective of this war that is being waged against us by South Africa is the destruction of the nation. Not the destruction of socialism. That is a secondary issue. And because of this war the Mozambican state finds itself unable to provide full support for the development of our society. So we have to give greater freedom to the private sectors. Of course this will create social divisions in our society, which is a matter of concern to us. But we have to do what we can to encourage our people to participate in the creation of wealth for the survival of our nation.'

South Africa
'Sanctions are the most effective way of putting pressure on the apartheid regime. But Mozambique itself will never be in a position to do so, mainly because we are more dependent on South Africa than it is on us. South African sanctions against us - such as cutting back the number of Mozambican miners, reducing use of our ports and railroads - have had a catastrophic effect on our foreign exchange earnings.

'It is also important to remember that Mozambique's relationship with South Africa is a traditional one, deeply rooted in our history and in our own peoples. Thousands of families in Mozambique have relatives in South Africa.

'From our point of view South Africa must use our harbours as it did in the past and it must allow its companies to renew their links with Mozambican companies. A South African policy in favour of private investment in Mozambique is the best guarantee we have that the apartheid regime will stop supporting the destabilization of this country.'

One-party state
'People say we are a one-party state. We are not a one-party state, we are a one-party democracy. It is difficult to explain this to Westerners because the West has such a short memory of its own history. What are today's European nations are the result of a long process of tribal wars. Different tribes would merge until they became a more-or-less homogeneous group. Then that group could start becoming a nation and draw boundaries. This was not done by having multi-party systems but by a process of unification that was often far from exemplary.

'In the case of Africa the borders were not even drawn by Africans but by Europeans - in Berlin. So the main task that still faces all African countries is to create a sense of their own identity and to reinforce national unity. To do this we have to pull together all the different strands of our complex national reality - different cultures, different historic backgrounds, different languages.

'This is why the majority of countries in Africa, regardless of their ideology, settle for a one-party system. Those with multiparty systems are usually weaker politically. And if you look closely at their multiparty systems you will see that they actually consist of tribal parties, not class or national parties.

'Now, none of us is against the principle of multiparty politics but it is an expression of democracy at a certain stage of development. And I think we have a far greater understanding of the world's problems than those Westerners who are too narrow-minded to understand that the one-party state is a product of African culture and history and not a product of ideology.

'Meanwhile, those international interests that are trying to push us into having talks with Renamo and treat them as a valid opposition understand only too well how this would threaten our sovereignty and independence. Those foreign interests - and I am talking about racist, colonialist people - do not wish to change the Government of Mozambique. They do not even want Renamo to share power. They just want it to be recognized as an opposition which can then be mobilized as a destabilizing force. This was made very clear to us in October 1984 when we were about to sign an agreement with Renamo. The papers were ready and the press photographs had been taken when suddenly, under orders from the South African military, Renamo refused to sign.'

'There is plenty of opportunity for criticism of the Mozambican Government within the structures of power. But I believe we need to spread democracy further through the People's Assembly. We need to draw more people from different sectors of society into politics - be they peasants, workers, religious leaders or even rich industrialists, providing they act in the interests of the nation. Each will have their own different point of view to express. And to be a political leader in our country you do not have to be a member of the party. In fact, we have many people in government office who are not party-members. They are there because they are good, capable citizens who agreed to join us when asked.

'For those who want to join Frelimo our main criterion is one of social practice. No-one is asked to make a test of ideology but they have to be elected and recommended by the community in which they live.

'One thing that is certain is that we need more women in high places.1 The representation of women we see in the party reflects the situation that exists in the rest of society. But we should be an example to society. I think the Fifth Congress will see a definite move in that direction.'

1 There is only one woman n the cabinet, Education Minister Graca Machel.


Ronald Reagan, Leonid Brezhnev and Samora Machel are riding around town in a taxi. The driver asks for directions. Reagan says: 'Turn right - and keep right'. The driver does so and the car goes round and round in circles. Finally, Brezhnev growls: 'Enough of this. Turn left.' The driver does so and the car goes round and round in opposite circles. Finally, the exasperated driver turns round to a smiling Machel and asks him his opinion. 'Well, first you indicate left... and then you turn right.'

Eduarda Pereira 'I had to become a teacher because there was a great shortage of us after independence. I would rather have gone to University but I saw things this way: "The nation is like a wall. You have to put your brick in the wall where it is most needed. That way the wall is built more quickly."

I have to admit that today many of us feel confused by the political direction our country is taking. We feel uneasy about our President negotiating with Botha. We realize that the goal must be to achieve peace, but we also know that Machel would not have done it. Not after the violation of the Nkomati Accord. His position was quite clear and we knew what it was. But today, I don't know where we are heading.

One thing I am quite clear about, though, is that we should not negotiate with Renamo or treat them like some sort of political opposition. They are not. How can you make a Minister of someone who cuts off the breasts of my cousin?'

Eduarda Pereira, 26, secondary school teacher in Maputo.

Sergio Macamba I would rather see a Mozambique with several parties to choose from. I don't think we should necessarily have a socialist or communist government either. Indeed, I believe South Africa is destabilizing us because we are a socialist country.

But I do think the government is right in its economic reforms. I particularly welcome the introduction of private education. That way people will have a choice as to what they study. Sure, it might open up class divisions but the biggest social division we have in this country is between the foreign experts - who enjoy a lifestyle that is way out of reach for most ordinary Mozambicans - and the local people.

I must admit that I favour talks with Renamo, not because I approve of them in any way or regard them as a valid political opposition, but because I don't think we are ever going to get out of this situation unless we are prepared to talk.

Sergio Macamba, 25, postgraduate mechanical engineering student studying in USSR.

Manuel Braz da Costa. During the liberation struggle I supported Frelimo. This made me unpopular with PIDE, the colonial secret police, and they sent me a letter bomb. That is how I lost my arms. Today I am still a firm supporter of Frelimo. I think they are on the right track. In spite of all our problems people are becoming aware of what it is to be independent. And the economy has improved tremendously - especially here in the countryside. People are producing more and they at last have things they can buy in the shops. This acts as a great encouragement.

Manuel Braz da Costa, former Portuguese settler, now a trader in the provincial town of Lichinga.

On the streets of downtown Maputo you will see a phenomenon quite new to the city. In front of shop-window displays there are women and children hawking nuts, cigarettes, chewing gum, lettuces, anything they can get hold of. The children are generally aged 9-16, small and thin, and have dropped out of school to help keep their families.

We have the Government's economic rehabilitation programme - approved by the IMF and the World Bank - to thank for this. Basic food prices have gone up by 300 to 600 per cent in two years and the urban poor simply can't survive on their meagre incomes. Their situation was made even worse in 1988 when food subsidies were removed - on the orders of the IMF.

The new economic measures are meant to help people in the countryside - partly by freeing up agricultural prices - and so encourage peasants to produce more food. But the programme ignores the fact that, because of the war, around a million peasants are fleeing the land and many of these end up in towns and cities as the poorest of the urban poor.

Perhaps the most disturbing measure, however, has been the introduction of charges for medical care. In one fell swoop this did away with the famous Frelimo claim that 'health is the right of the people'. And we are already hearing reports of people going back to traditional healers because they can't afford the new charges.

Now, the Finance Minister Abdul Magid Osman explains these measures by saying that the State can't continue to give what it has not got. He says we have to 'move out of an economy of need to a realistic economy and that 'economics is that art of the possible'. But this 'realistic' economy is forcing people to find illegal means of survival, often by smuggling goods across the border from South Africa or Swaziland or selling them on the underground market. Serious crimes such as mugging and homicide - which practically disappeared after independence are also making a come-back in the city.

Perhaps the most telling phrase to describe what is happening was that used by our President recently when he said: 'the poor will have to learn to live as the poor'.

Antonio Gumende, journalist with the official Mozambican news agency, AIM.

Renamo banditry has made Mozambique dependent and vulnerable to external pressures - especially from the West. But if you ask Frelimo officials whether destabilization is therefore working in the interests of the West they will tell you: 'No, the West wants to invest in Mozambique. Destabilization is an obstacle to this.'

Why does Frelimo take this simplistic view? Well, it fits in with the general policy of attracting funds and support from a broad political spectrum. It also follows the Maoist advice to tackle only one enemy at a time. But more cynical critics might say it is due to a certain naivete.

Western interest in Mozambique is complex. To ensure its own survival Mozambique has already had to show 'good faith' by joining the IMF and the World Bank and by signing the Nkomati Accord with South Africa. This raised the eyebrows of friends and allies.

With a four-billion-dollar debt and half of its population living on international aid there is not much room for manoeuvre. This was made clear by Prime Minister Mario Machungo, when on a recent trip to Portugal he accepted the principle that corporations abandoned by Portuguese settlers at the time of independence could be used as capital to reduce Mozambique's debt. Now this might be a way of attracting new investment and managerial know-how. But it might also be a way in which the Portuguese colonists can re-acquire their former assets - which is precisely what Renamo representatives living in Lisbon want.

Similarly, party officials recently found themselves defending a US-funded programme which was restricted to helping private farmers in the wealthy southern provinces of the country. This did not go down very well with peasants working in the co-operative sector.

Aid is a difficult area. But Mozambican officials do not criticize how donors operate. Rather there is a prevailing sense that hunger and starvation have no ideology. The idea that aid can be used as a weapon with which to control the receiver gets little play.

Nor has the soaring cost of living led to IMF food riots on the streets of Maputo. The connection between the new economic measures and the IMF is rarely explained.

But grassroots democracy is not yet dead. There are still talks and meetings at workplaces and community centres to sound out public opinion. And Frelimo listens. A plan to raise housing rents was shelved on the strength of public protest.

The country is in a shambles but the people are still out there, trying to find solutions. It is not easy. With all the destruction - of lives, houses, factories - a dream is being killed. The social fabric of this country is being severely damaged, and the project to build a nation across tribal, racial and regional differences is under threat. We badly need time and breathing space to reach a consensus - and achieve a degree of military security.

But our search for solutions is interpreted differently abroad. In Washington, officials who support US aid to Mozambique see it as a means of moving Mozambique away from the socialist community. While in London, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher uses aid to Mozambique in order to counter intentional criticism of her Government's refusal to apply effective sanctions against South Africa.

Today Mozambican officials are being asked: 'Is the country moving West?' Frelimo veterans used to say 'If they think we are turning to the West, let them think that way. Our bottom line continues to be our country's sovereignty and independence'.

Maybe we are now getting very close to that bottom line.

Fernando Lima, a Maputo-based journalist who has studied international affairs, both in Mozambique and the US.

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