Transforming Mozambique: The Politics of Privatization, 1975-2000

Transforming Mozambique: The Politics of Privatization, 1975-2000

Transforming Mozambique: The Politics of Privatization, 1975-2000

Transforming Mozambique: The Politics of Privatization, 1975-2000

Synopsis

Many of the economic transformations in Africa have been as dramatic as those in Eastern Europe, though little is written about them. This study of Mozambique's shift from a command to a market economy draws on a wealth of empirical material, including archival sources, interviews, political posters and corporate advertisements, to reveal that the state is a central actor in the reform process, despite the claims of neo-liberals and their critics. Alongside the state, social forces--from World Bank officials to rural smallholders--have also accelerated, thwarted or shaped change in Mozambique. M. Anne Pitcher offers an intriguing analysis of the dynamic interaction between previous and emerging agents, ideas and institutions, to explain the erosion of socialism and the politics of privatization in a developing country. She demonstrates that Mozambique's present political economy is a heterogenous blend of ideological and institutional continuities and ruptures.

Excerpt

Visitors to Mozambique in the late 1970s needed few reminders that they were in a newly independent country, whose new leaders celebrated it as a “people's republic, ” a modernizing, nationalistic, and socialist state. Consciously crafted murals, brightly colored political posters, random graffiti, buttons, badges, and decals constantly informed even the most casual observers where the country had come from and where the new government wanted it to go. Sculptures depicted a valiant struggle against the colonial Portuguese and the triumphant victory by the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) in 1975. Striking images illustrated the defense and consolidation of national independence under the leadership of the Frelimo one-party state. Bold slogans drawn on street pavements in the newly named capital of Maputo proclaimed the end of feudalism, colonialism, and backwardness, or celebrated the equality of women, the arrival of justice, and the construction of socialism. Phrases etched on the factory walls of state companies from Zambezia in the north to Maputo in the south exhorted workers to improve production; while colorful, state-commissioned posters implored rural peoples to breastfeed their babies, vaccinate their animals, give blood, educate their offspring, and harvest more cashew and cotton.

Just two decades later, however, the walls proclaiming socialist victory were whitewashed, the factory slogans had faded, and the murals had deteriorated. Private investors, both domestic and foreign, were visible in every economic sector from finance to fishing. Two national democratic elections had taken place in the 1990s that international observers had pronounced free and fair. A new visual imagery had emerged with an entirely different message. Now billboards entreated Mozambicans to “drink Coca-Cola!”, or they honored a private company that had spent “100 years constructing a better Mozambique. ” Poster art encouraged Mozambicans to buy Colgate toothpaste, or smoke Palmars and GTs; to use OMO washing powder, fly LAM, or relax at the Hotel Cardoso. Company advertisements in the weekly magazine Tempo offered to fumigate houses and gardens against bugs, to provide a pleasant overland journey to Johannesburg, or to furnish comfortable parlors and offices. The faces of American film stars peering at shoppers from the back of second-hand t-shirts . . .

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