From each according to their patience to each according to the length of their rope

Perhaps the most interesting question in relation to petty corruption is: how do underpaid public employees manage not to practise corruption? (544)

Corruption has provided a source of much sarcastic humour within the Mozambique press. Much of this humour revolves around the representation of corruption as goat-like behaviour, that is, the propensity to ‘eat’ rather than work. While the UK was beset by the ‘mad cow’ crisis, satirist and writer Mia Couto argued that Mozambique was suffering from ‘mad goat’s disease’. The Chinese new year of the Tiger was compared with the Mozambican new year of the Goat. Mediafax published a Cabricionario on 27 May 1996 (cabricionario being a conflation of the Mozambican words for goat and dictionary), providing a subversive lexicon of anti-corruption language. A wonderfully revealing new word suggested within the dictionary was:

CABRITALISMO [conflation of cabrito (goat) and capitalismo (capitalism)] Definition: socio-economic system characterised by the use of state resources for private profit. Distribution policy is made according to the principle ‘from each according to their patience to each according to the length of their rope’.

This quotation reveals the popular perception-in many ways correct-that corruption is part of economic liberalisation. It also satirises Marx’s famous dictum (from each according to his means, to each according to his needs) to highlight how Frelimo’s bureaucratic order (symbolised here by the queue) has been replaced by a time when individuals each look out for themselves, and the more political power one has, the better one can do this. The phrase ‘each according to the length of their rope’ evokes an image of goats, each with a circle of bare ground around them: larger goats have longer ropes and therefore larger circles of ground to eat from… (547-8)

Graham Harrison, “Corruption as ‘Boundary Politics’: The State, Democratisation, and Mozambique’s Unstable Liberalisation,” Third World Quarterly 20, no. 3 (June 1999): 537-550. this!

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