Joaquim Chissano and the neo-liberal virus in Mozambique

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Joaquim Chissano and the neo-liberal virus in Mozambique
 
 
Since independence in 1975, the living conditions of the working people of Mozambique have deteriorated considerably. In 2007 the quality of life of the majority of citizens remains very poor. Mozambique ranks 168th out of 190 on UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), the lowest in Southern Africa. At the same time, there is a new class of rich capitalists in Maputo who live in luxury, says Horace Campbell.

In the book, The Liberal Virus and the Americanization of the World (Monthly Review Press, 2004), Samir Amin endeavours to show how the US project for military and economic domination has its roots in the liberal ideas of Western Europe. Amin draws attention to the plunder of the Third World, especially Africa, and the ways in which institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization fostered policies that undermined the quality of life of the world’s poor. Amin predicts the loss of more than 3 billion lives if African countries continue to pursue the West’s neo-liberal agenda, especially if poor farmers emulate the agricultural practices of North America and Western Europe.

Since independence in 1975, the living conditions of the working people of Mozambique have deteriorated considerably. In 2007 the quality of life of the majority of citizens remains very poor. Mozambique ranks 168th out of 190 on UNDP’s Human Development Index (HDI), the lowest in Southern Africa. At the same time, there is a new class of rich capitalists in Maputo who live in luxury. Neo- liberalism prevails at the high levels of the society while at the grassroots the poor remember the pledges of the leaders of Frelimo to provide food, shelter and water for the poor. In 1980, Samora Machel proclaimed that Mozambique would become a developed country by 1990. Yet, 27 years later, the country is becoming poorer as local and foreign capitalists continue to plunder the country.

Mozambique achieved its independence in 1975, after a period of armed struggle led by FRELIMO. Mozambique was among the Frontline states in the struggle against apartheid and colonialism. Despite pressure from the South African apartheid and Rhodesian states the people of Mozambique made tremendous sacrifices to provide a rearguard base for the liberation of Zimbabwe and later South Africa. In the face of the successful revolution in Mozambique, the apartheid government launched a Total Strategy Campaign to destroy the Mozambican society. Through their proxy army the MNR, the South Africans and the US neo-conservatives supported terrorism against the people of Mozambique. Villages were attacked, innocent women and children were massacred, and transportation and communication lines were cut while South African commandos infiltrated Maputo to kill ANC freedom fighters.

Samora Machel and Chissano negotiated with the South African government to end apartheid support for the MNR culminating in Machel and Frelimo signing the Nkomati Peace Accord in 1984. Despite this accord, the apartheid regime intensified its support for the MNR. Samora Machel was killed in October 1986 when his plane was brought down by the apartheid regime of South Africa. The killing of Machel was the high point of the terror war waged against the people of Mozambique by the apartheid regime with support from the neo-conservative forces in the US. Up to today, the full history of this terrorism unleashed by the MNR (called Renamo) has not been fully documented. Millions were killed and displaced in the war of destabilization. In the book, Mozambique: Who Calls the Shorts, Joseph Hanlon outlines the three forms of destabilization endured by the people of Mozambique. These were (i) Military destabilization and violence by Renamo (ii) Political destabilization brought about by the attempts to impose the band of killers on the people and (iii) Economic destabilization unleashed by the International Monetary Fund and The World Bank.

The Diplomatic Skills of Joaquim Chissano

Chissano had been one of the early leaders of FRELIMO from its days as a guerilla movement in Tanzania. Chissano developed his diplomatic skills negotiating the withdrawal of the Portuguese between 1974 to 1975. At independence, Chissano was named the foreign minister of Mozambique and became known as a skilled diplomat. As long as the party was strong, this diplomacy served the interests of the liberation project in Africa. When Machel was killed in 1986 there was a choice between Marcelino Dos Santos (considered a doctrinaire Marxist by the West) and Chissano. The party chose Chissano.

Chissano proved an adept negotiator who sought to appease the West, especially the US government. By 1990, projects for delivery of health services and clean water to the poor were abandoned and the economy was opened up to ‘market’ forces. IMF-designed Structural Adjustment Policies were adopted and the state rolled back the support for the poor. Market forces meant the opening up the economy to South African and foreign capitalist. The irony of this retreat was that the same forces that had destroyed Mozambique were now being invited to invest in its reconstruction.

Once Frelimo had capitulated before Western and apartheid capitalism, the forces of reaction sought to rein in Renamo. The Vatican (which had been the most opposed to the policies of Frelimo) offered to mediate a cease fire to end the war of destabilization. This was also an effort to give a clean image of Renamo in the face of intensified struggles against apartheid. After the defeat of the South African army at Cuito Cuanavale in 1988, the apartheid regime went on the defensive. The independence of Namibia in 1990 along with the release of Nelson Mandela created a new political dynamic in Southern Africa. The peace talks in Rome to end the war between Frelimo and Renamo were drawn out to ensure that Frelimo made concessions to the forces that terrorized the people.

The United Nations sent a team for the transition to integrate the former murderers into the state structures. Such was the process of counter revolution in Mozambique that instead of arresting those who had carried out crimes against humanity, the leaders of Renamo were given the respected title of leaders of the opposition. Frelimo won the 1994 elections and Chissano became the first President of a multi-party ‘democracy’ in Mozambique.The second element of the destabilization had been thwarted, the West and the apartheid government failed to impose Renamo with its criminal past as legitimate leaders of the country.

The victory of neo-liberalism in Southern Africa

The third element of destabilization went into full gear in 1994. This was to promote the capitalist mode of production. Mozambique and Tanzania were being punished by the World Bank and the IMF for attempting an alternative to rapacious capitalism Faced with the organized working class and the possible cross-border links between workers in Southern Africa (calling for a Charter for Human and Peoples Rights across Southern Africa), the neo-liberal organizations inside and outside Africa poured millions of dollars into projects to discredit popular forces of the poor.

South African society embarked on a virulent xenophobic campaign against Mozambicans while the media was replete with stories about ’the failure of ujamaa’ in Tanzania and that socialism had failed in Mozambique. Workers in South Africa were mobilized to think of their brothers and sisters from Mozambique as the problem, rather than the system of exploitation and looting. After an initial project of Reconstruction and Development (RDP) with plans for housing, sanitation, clean water and education for the poor, the political leadership of South Africa opted for a World Bank style-project of Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy (GEAR). Under this policy the social scars of apartheid were exacerbated by the emergence of a new class of black entrepreneurs who had become rich through the ‘black empowerment project.”

The reversal of the gains of self-determination (some would say the counter-revolution) was evident across the region of Southern Africa. In countries like Mozambique and Zimbabwe where the workers had formed trade unions and were in the forefront of the struggle for democratic rights, these same workers were now being oppressed by “black entrepreneurs.” Black empowerment and privatization were the buzz words for the new class of leaders who turned their backs on the struggle for a better life for all.

The tragedy is that it was in the countries where the poor had made the greatest sacrifices (Angola, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe) where the new black bourgeoisie were most callous in the sellout to international capitalists.One of the clearest examples of this betrayal is the case of the construction of the Mozal Aluminum Smelter in Mozambique. This project is owned by an international consortium led by London-based Billiton (47%) and includes South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation (24%), Mitsubishi of Japan (25%) and the government of Mozambique (4%). The project to set up this aluminum smelter was the biggest in post-independence Mozambique. The trade union was not allowed to organize the workers to participate in this project worth over US $1.3 billion.Chissano as a diplomat

This context of reversal of fortunes for the ordinary person in Southern Africa provides a back-drop to understanding the prize given to former President Joaquim Alberto Chissano. Last week it was announced that the former Mozambican President has won the inaugural Mo Ibrahim award for exemplary leadership in Africa Announcing the award on Chissano’s birthday, former United Nations Secretary General (and the head of the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs at the time of the Rwanda genocide) and Chair of the Prize Committee, Kofi Annan, said that '''President Chissano's achievements in bringing peace, reconciliation, stable democracy and economic progress to his country greatly impressed the committee.”

Mo Ibrahim is the archetypal successful African entrepreneur and has been lauded as a text-book success story for young Africans. Mr. Ibrahim provides best personifies the neo-liberal propaganda about “hard work, competition and the fairness of the market and new technologies. According to the media, “Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur, established the prize as a way of encouraging good governance in a continent blighted by corruption and a frequently loose adherence to democratic principles.” Not a word is mentioned about the living conditions of the people of the Sudan from where Mr. Ibrahim hails.

What is significant about the whole award process is the way in which moral imperatives of service and commitment to the poor and exploited have been overtaken by the neo-liberal discourses and the Liberal Virus. It is true that if a prize were to be given at this historical moment to a former president, none would have been more deserved that former President Chissano. After all, he had stepped down from power in 2005 and was responsible for a smooth transition to a new leader. This point was made by Kofi Annan when the prize was announced. For this Joaquim Chissano should be congratulated. Chissano is also working very hard to negotiate an end to the war in Northern Uganda between the Museveni regime and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). In this regard Chissano can be distinguished from the militarists all across Africa.

But, isn’t this prize also a sign of the political retrogression in Africa? The idea of a President voluntarily stepping down is now so novel in the face of leaders such as Museveni and Mugabe that Chissano indeed stands out. Compared to Robert Mugabe and Thabo Mbeki, and their megalomanic policies, Chissano does look good.

While announcing Chissano as the winner, Kofi Annan may have gone overboard by saying, “leadership should be the ability to formulate a vision and to convince others of that vision. It should be the skill of giving courage to accept difficult changes to make possible a longer term aspiration for a better and fairer future.”  It was also said when the prize was announced that, “the mark of a good leader is one that can inspire people to a higher standard of living, unite diverse interests and ensure subjects live in harmony, despite holding different opinions.” It is understandable if African leaders want to pat each other on the back, and of those still alive, Chissano stands heads and shoulders above his contemporaries. But, do we have to set the bar so low for African political leadership in this era?

Neo-liberalism and corruption

One of the successes of the neo-liberal project of privatization has been to increase the export of capital from Africa. Despite efforts such as the Stolen Asset Recovery (STAR) Initiative, the role of the Western financial institutions across Africa has largely been to facilitate the export of wealth. Mozambique is no exception and one of the blots on Chissano’s tenure is the privatization of Mozambique's largest bank, Banco Comercial de Moçambique. Carlos Cardoso is among the stalwarts of the Mozambican revolution . As a fearless investigative journalist, he was committed to the principles of peace, freedom and prosperity for the people. Cardoso was looking into a US$14 million fraud connected with the privatization of Banco Comercial de Moçambique.

He was shot dead in central Maputo on 22 November 2000.

The truth about those who orchestrated and carried out the murder of this courageous journalist is still unknown. It is the hope of all who want crimes and murders to stop in Africa that those with information on criminality will assist in bringing criminals to justice. Only last week Lucky Dube was shot down while dropping off his children in Johannesburg, South Africa. Street crimes of the sort that took the life of Lucky Dube cannot be fought when crimes of theft in the banking system involving millions go unpunished. We should remember the words of Peter Tosh, “every one is talking about Crime but who are the real criminals?”The truth is that the criminals are the leading capitalists in Africa along with their allies in the capitalist world.

The prize for the best accountant

When Chissano left office, Mozambique was seen as a country that had retreated from the old socialist model and successfully embraced neo-liberal capitalism. Social democratic ideas of providing services to the people were considered old fashioned among the young who were been fed the anti- socialist line. International non-governmental agencies now traverse the countryside in Mozambique doing the kind of work that should be done by the government. World Bank consultants are very busy ensuring that there is ‘good governance’ and ‘market reforms’. Instead of identifying the capitalists as looters and purveyors of greed, we are bombarded with the discourse on “donors.” Mo Ibrahim has elevated himself into the ranks of the “donors.”

The Mozambican workers and poor peasants remember their long struggle against colonialism. The challenge in Africa is to remember the victories of the Mozambican revolution and not to allow the World Bank discourse on ‘governance’ to erase the memories of mobilization of the people against exploitation. While the workers organize, the prize for rooting out corruption should help us to get to the truth behind the murder of Cardoso.In the past few months, the UN established the STAR initiative to assist exploited countries recover assets stolen by corrupt leaders. The initiative was to ensure that looted assets are returned to their rightful owners, For those who still believe in the transformation of Africa, we believe that the next prize should go to the accountant who uncovers the most money stolen from Africa by its leaders.

* Horace Campbell is Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University
 

Publié dans contemporary africa

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