The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Riots over Price Increases in Mozambique

Sep 27, 2010

On September 1, violent demonstrations broke out in the capital and elsewhere in Mozambique. Demonstrators had built barricades and looted stores, protesting the rise in the cost of living. The police killed at least 13 people, wounded another 400 and arrested 150 others.

The government announced a rise in bread prices of 25%, provoking revolt in the poor neighborhoods. This increase follows a rise in the price of rice, water, and gasoline. It was the third time prices were increased in less than six months. Electricity rates went up 13%. The situation was illustrated by a woman in Maputo who said, “Now a 25 kilogram sack of rice cost 2000 meticals, but I earn just 1500. So how am I supposed to survive?”

The Mozambican government blamed the price rise on speculators, who have driven up world grain prices. It also blamed the financial crisis that caused the Mozambican currency to decline in relationship to South Africa’s currency. The currency is worth 43% less than it was at the beginning of the year. Mozambique is dependent on South Africa, from which it imports most basic necessities.

In fact, a large majority of the 23 million Mozambicans live in extreme poverty. But it’s imperialism that is to blame. Mozambique was one of the first countries in Africa to have been colonized, exploited by Portugal for more than 500 years. Mozambique was drained of its population by the slave trade, with huge numbers forced to work in Brazil for the Portuguese colonizers there.

For about 10 years, the Mozambicans fought for their independence, declared on June 25, 1975. But imperialism and its allies did not want Frelimo, the nationalist party that came to power, to serve as an example to other Africans. Frelimo was considered too radical, and a slap in the face of the apartheid regime still in place in South Africa. The South African apartheid regime thus organized an armed rebellion in Mozambique with a group called Ranamo. A civil war lasted another 15 years, with close to a million victims.

The country came out of this war literally drained of its blood. And even though it is filled with potential riches, notably minerals and sources of energy, the majority of the population lives in miserable conditions. Even worse today it must suffer the consequences of the capitalist speculation that has hit wheat and rice – leading to the starvation of millions.

In Mozambique, the population has not finished expressing its anger.