Archive for March, 2009

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means, to each according to his needs) to highlight how Frelimo’s bureaucratic order (symbolised here by the queue) has been replaced by a time when individuals each look out for themselves, and the more political power one has, the better one can do this.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.

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Diabolical and hysterical materialism

The growing complaint was that the resulting programs did not facilitate the student’s gaining any more enlightened comprehension of Mozambican realities and therefore did not provide an adequate guide to action. Reiteration of the so-called laws of the dialectic and other such dubious formulations tended to take pride of place over developing an analysis of Mozambican realities in Marxist-Leninist terms. The result? In the formal school system it was more the political demobilization of the students than it was the reverse. Before long most of the programs in the schools had actually disappeared, although subject to ongoing efforts to revive them. At the university students took to calling the Department of Dialectical and Historical Materialism, charged with providing political-cum-social science courses to all faculties, the “Department of Diabolical and Hysterical Materialism.”* (143)

John S. Saul, ed. A Difficult Road: The Transition to Socialism in Mozambique. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1985.

* Following E.P. Thompson, I guess.

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Left journalism and storming the Bastille

Aquino [de Bragança, director of the African Studies Centre at Maputo’s Eduardo Mondlane University], speaking at the journalists’ club on 13 August 1977, remarked that ‘bourgeois’ journalism could often be much better, from a professional standpoint, than journalism of the left. He recalled that when he was in Moscow, since he was unable to read Russian, he looked for papers in French or English, and found that L’Humanité, the daily paper of the French Communist Party, was the only one readily available. ‘After reading it, I was convinced they were going to take the Bastille,’ he remarked drily. He had to find someone with a subscription to Le Monde if he wanted to know what was going on in the world. (53)

Paul Fauvet and Marcelo Mosse, Carlos Cardoso: Telling the Truth in Mozambique. Cape Town: Double Storey Books, 2003.

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The failure of neoliberalism is its success

Mozambicans are now beginning to insist that, while the world’s best economists may not be as bright as peasant farmers, they cannot possibly be that stupid. Could it be that the IMF programme really is successful, but that it has different goals and a different agenda from what the Mozambicans are told? (107)

Joseph Hanlon, Peace Without Profit. Woodbridge: James Currey, 1995.

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Ideology and military hardware

But it was rather disconcerting … to find the World Bank standing marginally to the left of spokespersons from the Mozambican government. (105)

My friend also referred to a long series of discussions he and I had had over the years (including during the period when I had taught at the FRELIMO party school) in which I had often emphasized the costs of FRELIMO’s embracing the particularly lifeless brand of Marxism on offer from the Soviets as the ideological instrument for codifying its radical intentions. We should probably have listened more to you, he said lightly, then – in a wry voice – ‘Of course, you didn’t have in your briefcase the military hardware that we also felt we needed’! (107-108)

John S. Saul. “Mozambique: The Failure of Socialism?” Transformation 14 (1991): 104-110.

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Total trust

[On] 15 June 1980, President Samora Machel announced on the radio that the old ‘escudo’ [currency] would be replaced, one for one, by a new ‘metical’, over the following three days….

To reduce the number of people in the bank queues, people with jobs were encouraged to bring their money into the workplaces and one person would queue for them all. On Monday the office manager told us all to bring in our money the next day, and we did. I handed in about a month’s salary as did 40 other people, and he went to queue at the bank. It was late when he reached the front of the queue, so he took the bag of new money home and gave it to us the next day. No one thought it was strange. This was what Samora told us to do. Everyone knew that anyone walking away from a bank had a huge pile of money. Yet we heard no stories of people being robbed….

There was total trust — a belief that Frelimo was working for you and that everyone was working together to build something new. (101)

Joseph Hanlon and Teresa Smart, Do Bicycles Equal Development in Mozambique? Woodbridge: James Currey, 2008.

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Medicines for weapons

We denounced the attitude of the countries that, because they were members of NATO, never condemned Portugal. During a visit to West Germany, the Social Democratic Party offered us a million German Marks for medicines, but we said that we thought that it was immoral. We would rather see them give the medicines to the Portuguese and instead give us the weapons that they gave to Portugal. They never did. They never accepted our proposal, but the media made a big deal out of it.

Marcelino dos Santos, Frelimo

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A lunatic, evil project

One [explanation of the collapse of socialism in Mozambique] is obviously that of the cold war warriors in Pretoria and the State Department which holds that socialism is a lunatic, evil project which runs against human nature and is doomed to failure everywhere. I will not waste any time on this argument. (83)

Dan O’Meara. “The Collapse of Mozambican Socialism,” Transformation 14 (1991): 82-103.

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