Protesters staged a second day of strikes and demonstrations Thursday over food price increases in Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world. The violence has so far left seven people dead and 288 wounded, the government says. Clashes between police and protesters broke out Wednesday and Thursday, as crowds in impoverished neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Maputo took to the streets.
They were protesting a 17-percent increase in the price of bread, as well as fuel, water and electricity rises. Mozambique has a per capita income of just 794 dollars (620 euros) a year. Prices in the import-dependent country have risen on the back of a South African rand whose value has appreciated 43 percent against the Mozambican metical since this time last year. In January there were 4 meticais to the South African Rand and 29.3 to the US dollar. Today the official rate is 4.9 and 36.3, a 25% devaluation in just eight months.
Domestic worker Mercela Manuel says she still has to go to work so she can feed her three children. “The cost of life is expensive. Very expensive. It’s difficult to live,” she says. Her wage of 54 dollars (42 euros) already makes it difficult to afford the 12 dollars (9 euros) she pays for the family’s bread each month.
About half of Mozambique’s 20 million people live below the poverty line, despite an average economic growth rate of 8 percent for the past 15 years, but in 2009 this slowed to five percent. Official unemployment is around 21 percent, but in Maputo, a city of about 1.5 million, the poverty level is estimated as high as 60 percent.
The prices of staple foods, such as maize and rice, have come under increasing pressure, despite “satisfactory” cereal production of maize, sorghum, millet and paddy rice – projected at 2.49 million tons, five percent lower than the record 2008/09 harvest
The Editorial Director of O Pais, Jeremias Langa, talks of the “enormous disenchantment with the widening gap between those who have an those who do not have”. It is said that Mozambique is a world example of economic growth but this is not reflected in the quality of live of most citizens. It is said the Mozambique has the most agricultural potential in SADC but agriculture has been left to subsistence production. “Instead of offering solutions of the citizens, we offer magician’s tricks to distract the citizens,” he concludes. Thus, “there is a class that manifestly feels itself excluded from the distribution of income, that feels that the state has broken the social contract, that does not see that state as a source of solutions but of problems – because its promotes accumulation by a few to the detriment of the majority.”