An increasingly intense debate about poverty is emerging, with President Armando Guebuza making an angry attack on his critics on 6 December. Noticias (7 Dec 2012) reported an extemporaneous speech to the congress of the OTM trade union movement, saying that Guebuza “launched strong criticisms against those he called professional agitators acting in bad faith, and in the name of friendship with the poor [who are] alleging that only some people are benefitting from natural resources and from wealth.” Some foreigners "come here and say the gap between the rich and poor is increasing."
Among the foreigners who make the claim is Roger Nord, IMF Deputy Director for Africa, who said that in Mozambique the poor "have benefitted less" than others from growth and that this is "an issue because it raises social tension." (News reports & clippings 198, 6 June 2012).
But President Guebuza may have been referring, at least indirectly, to the ex-president of Brazil, Luiz Lula, who gave a talk on 19 November in Maputo entitled "the struggle against inequality". He was invited to Mozambique by Graça Machel, who introduced Lula by praising him for "making Brazil less unequal, creating millions of jobs, and lifting millions from poverty." By contrast, she said, Mozambique is a success in terms of economic growth, "but we are a society that is ever more unequal [and] economic growth is not transforming the well being of the majority of our people." Machel's and Lula's comments were published in Noticias (22 November 2012) along with photos of Machel with Lula and of Joaquim Chissano in the audience. Both are known critics of Guebuza within Frelimo, so Noticias was underlining that this was an attack on Guebuza.
In his talk hosted by the Samora Machel Documentation Centre, Lula pointedly warned against leaders who try to extend to a third term and those "who are afraid to speak to the people".
In a speech to businessmen later in the week, Lula said "No Mozambican can feel proud to open their car door and see a hungry person looking for something to eat in the rubbish." He went on to note that the hungry person is of no interest to businesspeople because he has no money to buy – but if he had money he would become a consumer and help businesses to grow. (O Pais 23 Nov 2012).
Lula's Machel Centre talk put stress on his experience of reducing inequality in Brazil, and said Brazil proved that it is not necessary to grow first and then redistribute (as the World Bank and IMF have always advised), but that you can redistribute at the same time as growing because redistribution promotes growth. You must combat poverty at the same time as you promote growth.
He stressed the importance of Brazil's family grant (bolsa família) in which 0.5% of GDP is redistributed to 50 million poor people. When they started, they were accused of simply giving "alms" (esmola) to the poor. But Lula says this is not an expenditure, but an investment, which people use to buy food and other goods and promote economic growth.
This seems to have been pointed particularly at the Frelimo leadership, which has repeatedly refused on the to do a similar cash transfer on the grounds that the government does not give "alms" and the poor will waste the money.
Guebuza in his OTM comments said it true that wealth was not reaching everyone, but he argued that it was because farmers and fishermen were not working hard enough. Speaking in Xai-Xai on 10 November, he said "only the lazy believe we cannot end poverty". And he went on to criticise certain social sectors which say poverty is not ending. (Noticias 12, 23 November 2012)
Guebuza may have been responding indirectly to Catholic bishops, who issued a statement after their 6-13 November conference that "notwithstanding that there is increasing wealth, the poor are increasingly poor." The gains from natural resources are not contributing to the improvement of conditions for ordinary people. It continued: "The people continue to have a hard life, marked by a situation of ever more severe poverty." (Savana, 23 Nov 2012; Canal de Moçambique, 28 Nov 2012)
But the government sounds increasingly irritated by criticism. The new prime minister Alberto Vaquina told parliament on 22 November that "the government cannot be guided by a few critics to change policies and strategies it carries out." And on 13 December he told parliament "it is not true that poverty is worse today than it was yesterday.” (O Pais 23 Nov 2012, AIM 13 Dec 2012)
Source: MOZAMBIQUE 209,News reports & clippings 14 December 2012