Mozambique unrest over food prices illustrates growing world crisis
Published Sep 8, 2010 4:18 PM
Seven people were killed and 280 suffered injuries in the Southern African
nation of Mozambique in early September, when crowds rebelled after a 30
percent increase in food prices. The unrest in Mozambique has prompted concerns
that other African states as well as countries internationally will face
similar problems related to escalating food prices.
The disturbances in Mozambique were reminiscent of events during 2007 and 2008,
when numerous countries in Africa and Europe saw widespread protests over food
pricing and deficits. In Mozambique, which has enjoyed relative stability and
economic growth over the last several years, the escalation in the price of
both food and fuel has made it extremely difficult for workers and the poor to
feed their families.
Events in Mozambique have also shed light on concerns about problems associated
with food deficits in other African states, such as Egypt and South Africa. In
South Africa, where workers held a 20-day public sector strike and other job
actions, one of the major causes has been complaints over rises in food
Sizwe Pamla of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union in South
Africa pointed to Mozambique as a stark reminder of the potential social unrest
related to rising food prices. “Look at Mozambique,” Pamla said,
“we are sitting on a potential time bomb.” (Financial Times, Sept.
Pamla pointed out that “too many workers are living from hand to mouth;
the costs for poor people are skyrocketing.” These problems have also
been recognized across North Africa, where newspapers carry regular reports of
rising anger related to escalating food prices.
According to political analyst Adriano Nuvunga in Mozambique, “Bread is
the key item in the basket for ordinary people. People are worried that rising
costs have reached the point of no return.” (Financial Times, Sept.
The Sept. 3 London-based Financial Times noted, “The United Nations Food
and Agricultural Organization’s food index last month reached a two-year
high on the back of rising cereal, sugar and meat prices, up almost 16 percent
since last year.”
Costs for both water and electricity have also risen by 10 percent in
Mozambique. Fuel prices have been increased three times since July in several
World capitalist crisis at root of instability
Since 2007 the world capitalist system has undergone its worse crisis since the
Great Depression of the 1930s. In the United States approximately 8.4 million
workers have lost their jobs.
Capitalist governments and central banks in the West have bailed out the
financial institutions and multinational corporations to the tune of trillions
of dollars. Real wages for workers have declined and millions have lost their
homes, pensions and health care coverage.
This crisis has impacted the developing regions of the world, since these
mainly post-colonial states have been completely integrated into the world
capitalist system. With the decline of socialism in the former Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe, the West has been encouraging the developing states to accept
wholeheartedly the capitalist model of economic production.
In Africa, it has been estimated that some 50 million people have been thrown
into poverty since 2007. Washington has not directly addressed this crisis in
the developing states and has instead escalated its military operations in
Africa as well as other parts of the so-called Third World in Central Asia, the
Middle East and Latin America.
Mozambique itself was enslaved and colonized by Portugal for nearly five
centuries. The African masses organized themselves during the 1960s and 1970s
through the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), which waged a successful
armed struggle against the Portuguese colonialists who were a part of NATO.
This anti-colonial struggle sparked a rebellion among Portuguese soldiers and
captains, who overthrew the fascist regime in Lisbon in April 1974.
Mozambique won its independence in 1975 and set out to build a socialist
society in close alliance with other states in southern Africa. The country
served as a rear base for the armed struggles against European
settler-colonialism in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and apartheid South Africa.
Beginning in the early 1980s, the racist apartheid regime trained and financed
a counterrevolutionary bandit force known as RENAMO (Mozambique Resistance
Movement). For a decade RENAMO destroyed development projects, government
offices and terrorized the Mozambican population.
In 1992, a cease-fire was signed with RENAMO. A process of national
reconciliation led to multiparty elections that still resulted in the continued
rule of FRELIMO, the liberation movement that won independence from
Nonetheless, the adoption of neoliberal economic policies in the aftermath of
the collapse of the European workers states — the USSR and Eastern Europe
— created new problems for the Mozambican state. Despite a growth rate of
7.2 percent during the first half of 2010, the country is faced with rising
prices and growing social unrest.
Capitalist economic policies have proven to be disastrous for the
newly-emerging African states. Only the return to socialist-oriented policies
and the unification with other African states in the region can provide the
potential for genuine growth in Mozambique and throughout the continent.
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