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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
close this folderCountry reports
close this folderMozambique : Hope at last
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentInterview with president Joaquim Chissano
View the documentInterview with Afonso Dhlakama, RENAMO leader
View the documentEEC-Mozambique cooperation


You don't choose your neighbours, they say, and, over the past 20 years, in the bad times when the destabilisation operations incontrovertibly launched from the surrounding countries have hit home, Mozambique has had frequent occasion to brood over the fact. A look at the map of Africa tells the whole story- the 3000 km-long Mozambique is on the Indian Ocean close to the epicentre of the upheavals which have shaken this part of the world and are still sending their tremors through it.

It really has no experience of what internal peace and security are. Independence, in 1975, came after a decade of armed struggle to which many fell victim, including Eduardo Mondlane, the historic leader of Frelimo, the Mozambique National Liberation Front. And, free of the Portuguese yoke and now a sanctuary for the anti-apartheid movements, it immediately came under fire from the white regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa, which fretted that black independence might be catching and directed an unflagging demolition campaign at the new state.

In 1976, the Rhodesians set up a special unit of Mozambican half-castes and blacks to infiltrate the ranks of the ZAPU and ZANU fighters and attack the refugee communities in the border areas. A few years later, the South Africans formed their Portuguese-speaking Buffalo Battalion to raid Mozambique, Angola and Namibia and the Rhodesians gave military and logistical support to Renamo, Mozambique's armed resistance movement, which had started guerrilla warfare. Some say even now that Renamo was the work of the lan Smith regime and Afonso Dhlakama, its chief, does not try to hide the fact that he had Rhodesia's help. How could he? But he took it, he says, because no-one else, not the British nor the Americans whose code of freedom he claims to share, was willing to help him in his crusade for democracy and against the communist ethic of Frelimo leaders.

We know that happened next. Mozambique's life and economy were soon at a standstill and the Government was forced into the humiliation of the Nkomati Agreements, the accords with South Africa whereby the two parties were to stop helping their respective enemies, the ANC and Renamo. There is peace today, most certainly, and detente after all the laboriousness of the long-drawn-out talks in Rome, but may it not be due in part to powerful South Africa's realisation of the pointlessness of its policy and its decision to start transferring power to the black majority? After all, it would only be the last tug on strings which date back at least to the 19th century, because, for 100 years at least, Mozambique has borne the stamp of relations with its neighbours in Rhodesia and South Africa, who were quick to see the attraction of its pool of workers for their gold mines. But its claim to fame was as a supplier of slaves, that most abhorrent of trades, which developed in the 18th and 19th centuries and survived for 50 years after the Portuguese abolished it officially in 1836. In 'Mozambique - From Colonialism to Revolution, 1900-1982', Allen and Barbara Isaacmandans say that the country supplied almost 100 000 slaves to Brazil alone between 1817 and 1843 and a third of Cuba's slaves over the same period. All in all, a million Mozambicans were reduced to slavery.

Another brand of exploitation succeeded the Negro slave trade early this century, when contract workers were sent down the gold mines of Rhodesia and South Africa. The policy was made official in an agreement between the colonial government of Mozambique (self-governing since 1752, after being administered from Goa in India) and the Witwatersrand Native Labour Association, representing the South African mining industry. Under it, the Government of Mozambique was to receive 13 shillings per worker and sixpence for every month worked on top of the 12 months of the contract. In addition, they were to be paid half of every miner's wage, in gold, at a fixed rate which was lower than the world gold price-thus allowing a fine profit on resale.

Map to Mozambique

Throughout the colonial era, miners' wages and the profit from gold sales were the territory's biggest source of income. In 1904, Mozambique supplied most of the labour in the South African mines- 50 997 of the 77 000 workers-but its lead narrowed consistently as the sources of supply broadened. By 1927, the figure was 107 672 Mozambicans out of 215 000 miners, going down to 100200 out of 413 900 in 1961. And there are around 60000 of them there even today, estimates suggest, their contracts still an appreciable source of income for their country. In Rhodesia, the Tete Agreement laying down annual consignments of 25 000 miners was soon overtaken and about 100 000 Mozambican contract workers were taken on every year.

The policy of exporting labour, in which the people most concerned had no say, and similar forms of coercion whose purpose was to supply farm workers free of charge to the Portuguese planters, led many Mozambicans to flee to the neighbouring countries, with lasting effects on traditional farming, which both lost its manpower and had its strength sapped by the meagre prices fixed by the colonial administration.

Another thing still making its effects felt is the dependence of Mozambique's ports, which are far too large for national needs, on the neighbouring countries' shipping. In 1901, a clause in the Treaty with Witwatersrand made the supply of cheap labour contingent on part of Transvaal's trade going through the port of Lourenco Marques (now Maputo). By 1917, $700 000 was being made from the customs handling and transit of these goods and, with major expansion, half of Transvaal's import and export trade was soon passing through Lourengo Marques, making a South African satellite of the city and the whole of southern Mozambique. Beira, the main ocean outlet for Rhodesia and central Mozambique, was more dependent on Salisbury (now Harare).

The fact that Mozambique is the only former Portuguese territory in Africa to drive on the left, as they do in South Africa and Zimbabwe (all the others, with Angola in the lead, like Portugal, drive on the right) is a sign of how involved the three countries are, even today.

Financial plight

After 14 years of civil war, hundreds of thousand of deaths, the incalculable suffering of whole populations struck by the life-threatening famine which came with the war and the demolition of infrastructure and all the consequences that flew from it, Mozambique's fighters have now laid down their arms. Negotiations opened in Rome in 1990 and, with encouragement from the country's churches and the painstaking support of the Italian Government and the United Nations, they came to a successful conclusion two years later. On 4 October 1992, the Government of Mozambique signed a peace treaty with those who had recently been 'armed bandits' and the cease-fire came very soon after, on 15 October. Fighters from the two sides were separated and billeted in camps in preparation for the demobilisation of all those not to be recruited to the new national army. Demobilisation was scheduled for completion six months later, on 15 April, to make way for the election campaigns and the elections themselves on 15 October 1993 at the latest.

But by mid-April the 7000-strong UN peace-keeping force due to supervise the cease-fire still had not arrived, so the billeting of the fighters prior to demobilisation had not started and this, in turn, delayed the whole election process. The only encouraging sign was that the cease-fire held without anyone to enforce it, which says a lot for the state of mind of the protagonists, who were all convinced that they could not win on the battlefield and had to thrash out their differences around the negotiating table. Their dampened ardour is of course the best guarantee that Mozambique will not suffer the fate of, say, Angola.

Aldo Ajello, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, put these potentially disastrous delays down to over-optimism on the part of the negotiators in Rome, who had made believe that transition could be very rapid; and to the fact that neither the Government nor Renamo, nor even the UN, was yet in a position to carry out its undertakings. The head of the peace-keeping force said that the UN made a mistake and underestimated the time it would take to deploy its units of soldiers and civilians in Mozambique.

Yet it was all predictable, for with all the UN troops around the world, in Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia and Angola, it was difficult to find the manpower and the money for more peace-keeping operations. The bill for a year of the 'restore hope' operation in Somalia is more than $1.2 billion and the cost of peace-keeping forces in Mozambique for 10½ months is $332 million. The same rich countries have to put their hands in their pockets yet again and it is easy to see why some of them are not so keen to do so.

At the end of April, however, the lumbering UN machinery finally got into gear, with most of the troops ready and the demobilisation operations at last able to go ahead. But this was counting without the demands of Renamo, which had pulled out of the supervisory committee and the three other bodies set up under the peace agreements, on the pretext that it did not have the material resources-whether of money, housing, transport or office equipment - to perform its duties properly.

This display of temperament masked the real problem, the financial plight of Renamo, whose leader was saved in the nick of time by a western chancellery a few months ago from the wrath of a Geneva hotelier whose bill he could not pay. Afonso Dhlakama proclaims that he has been tricked, that a secret clause in the Rome agreements guaranteed financing to help his movement convert into a political party and that a percentage of the funds earmarked for the UN forces is intended to be shared out to finance political activity, the amount for Renamo even being specified.

Promises there certainly were, although certainly nowhere near the $100 million or $150 million Renamo has sometimes claimed. It is actually expecting between $10 million and $15 million, enough to publicise itself abroad and recruit the technical people it so badly needs from amongst the expatriate Mozambican communities.

Tiny Rowland, the head of Lonrho, who has major interests in plantations in Mozambique, has put his Maputo hotel, the Cardoso, at Renamo's disposal for representatives of the committees set up under the peace agreement. And the Government says it is acting in good faith, claiming to have spent something like $500000 on logistical support for Renamo as well as having handed over several official houses since the end of April.

Have there been other 'gifts'? Who knows? But after a three-month boycott, Renamo was back on the supervisory committee at the beginning of June and, a fortnight later, the UN Special Representative announced the opening of the first three billeting/demobilisation centres. There are to be 49 in all, 29 for the 63 000 Government soldiers and 20 for Renamo's 21000 underground fighters. But the camps-two (one for each side) in the province of Nampula and one in the province of Zambeze-are opening more than eight months after the date laid down in the Rome agreements. This has prompted government authorities and guerrilla leaders alike to say that the elections cannot be held before mid-1994 and that this is bound to have financial implications.

It costs roughly $1 million per day to keep the UN's peace-keeping forces in operation. There are already 5000 men in the field, with the biggest contingents from Bangladesh (1320) and Italy (1039), followed by Zambia and Uruguay (820 each) and Botswana (720). Logistical and technical support is being provided by other countries including Portugal, Argentina and Japan (only its second mission abroad since the end of World War II). The original $332 million allocation will not last long at this rate and it will once more be a case of relying on the generosity of western funders to provide a top-up, possibly in excess of $100 million.

The second problem is demobilisation itself. Many of the fighters are unhappy with the idea of leaving the relative comfort of the towns to go first to the camps and then back to their villages, armed with only a few farm implements and a couple of months' rations. At Maputo airport, in early April, we saw one of them trying to escape. There is no other word for it. The sentry had to fire into the air to stop a government soldier who was running away, refusing to board a plane due to take him and his companions from the familiar surroundings of the capital far away to a demobilisation camp at the other end of the country.

The national army is just as much of a problem. The Rome agreements fixed on a force of 30 000 men (24 000 in the army, 3000 in the navy and 3000 in the air force), consisting of equal numbers of Government troops and Renamo fighters, and the UN suggestion is that only 6000 of Renamo's 2 1000 combatants need to be demobilised because 15 000 of them have to go to the new Mozambican army. However, although there is no doubt as to the bravery of these men, they have given ample proof that their training is well below the level of troops in the Government ranks, where officers have often trained at military academies in the developed world. And how can officers and NCOs be trained for the navy and the air force in only a few months?

The dividends of peace

Another major problem is the fate of the 4.5 million deslocados, the displaced persons, some of them refugees abroad, who will not go home unless the rural areas are safe. Many of Mozambique's roads are still mined, of course, but there is currently only one mine disposal brigade, a Community-financed team advancing at the rate of 2-3 km per day along the 890 km of priority roads to be cleared so emergency aid can get through. And there are thousands of km of tracks and fields where mines will go on claiming victims for years to come, because the erstwhile enemies can no longer remember where they buried their lethal devices.

That is not all. Not only is the countryside dangerous. It is also now lacking in any form of social infrastructure. 3995 rural schools, 68% of the 1983 total, have been damaged or destroyed, 1100 health centres pillaged and abandoned and thousands of wells dynamited. Deputy Planning Minister Tomas, Salomao, who puts damage done between 1978 and 1990 at $50 billion, says that reconstruction must focus on the rural areas, the only places which can quickly be made fit to house the millions of Mozambicans displaced by the country's interminable conflict. But where is the money coming from? 'The foreign donors can help us and indeed they are already doing so, but there are limits to what we can ask. We have to bear the brunt of it ourselves,' he says.

Like other political leaders, Tomas Salomao is counting on the dividends of peace, starting with agricultural recovery, to finance reconstruction. With the end of the region's worst drought for decades and the countryside at peace again, Mozambique could soon return to the position of self-sufficiency in food which it lost in the early 1980s. It could also do something about its annual trade deficit. Last year, for example, it exported $10 million-worth of goods and imported $900 million-worth, but, 'with peace, our exports could be up at the $500 or 600 million-mark,' ventures Daniel Tembe, the Trade Minister and National Authorising Officer for the EDF.

But peace alone will not suffice. Rapid reconstruction of some of the infrastructure is called for-17 of the 23 tea processing plants were wiped out, for example-if the country is to boost its export capacity of traditional products such as tobacco, tea, cotton, sisal, sugar and the cashew nuts of which it was once the world's leading supplier.

However, repairs are well under way in the transport and communications infrastructure sector, where Mozambique plays a crucial part in the region. The 2.4 million-tonne capacity port of Beira is already back up to pre-independence levels, handling 1.3 million t of the 5 million t of food aid sent to Southern Africa last year and notching up $15 million in profits. The giant, computer operated cranes, the thousands of containers in neat rows along the quays, the packaging facilities which can bag 60 t of grain per hour and the plan for a 2.5 million t oil terminal are proof of the unique place which this port occupies in the economy of the nation and the whole region. Beira and the other two ports, Maputo and Nacala, and the railways linking them to Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and South Africa, form the network which makes Mozambique one of the key countries in this part of Africa.

But you don't choose your neighbours, as we said before. Take another look at the map of Southern Africa. Even if Mozambique does manage its peaceful transition to democracy, countries on which its prosperity ultimately depends -South Africa, that is to say, Malawi and even Zimbabwe, indirectly-could be seeing serious upheavals over the coming years which cannot but affect its domestic situation.

But for once, at least, there is hope that these outbreaks will be the last to afflict this hard-pressed country.

Arnadou TRAORE