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Price Hikes Trigger Mozambique Protests

Nastasya Tay

MAPUTO, Sep 3 2010 (IPS) - September in Mozambique’s capital has begun with violent protests. Thousands have been striking over an increase in the prices of basic goods, including bread. Police responded with force – firing on crowds gathered on the streets in several suburbs and townships in and around Maputo.

September in Mozambique’s capital has begun with violent protests. Thousands have been striking over an increase in the prices of basic goods, including bread. Police responded with force – firing on crowds gathered on the streets in several suburbs and townships in and around Maputo.

By Sep. 2, seven people had been killed, including two children, and a man shot dead in his own home. Fresh tyres are still being rolled into the streets to form barricades, and a smoke haze hovers over the city as rioting transformed into a general strike.

Shops and schools remain closed, and public transport is barely functional. Locals say the strike will continue until the weekend, heeding text messages that ask people to continue protesting, because the government has not yet responded to their demands.

“We are going on strike because of the price of goods – the rice, oil, water and energy. All those things… We can’t stand it anymore,” said Cesaltina Sebastiao-Dimas on Sep. 2. “Our parents don’t earn a lot. It’s the right thing to strike today. And today we want to demonstrate. We stopped burning tyres and doing these bad things because they are not that good for us either. There were too many accidents.”

The cost of food in this impoverished country has skyrocketed this year, a result of a rapidly devaluation of the metical, the local currency, and the unravelling of government policies that had attempted to maintain the prices of various staples at below-market rates. The increasing cost of food worldwide has aggravated the situation for a country that imports much of what it needs.


Government spokesperson Alberto Nkutumula told media on Sep. 2 that the price hikes were “irreversible”.

But maintenance worker Xavier Alfredo Cherinoza, said, “In general, it [the strike] is a good thing because the minimum wage in Mozambique is around 3000 meticals. If we do simple maths, you realise that with 3000 Mt you can’t even buy one bag of rice. And then your money is gone. And then you would have no money left for transport.”

The strike is not just about food, or the cost of electricity, or water. It is about a sense of injustice. Many Mozambicans feel that their government has let them down, squandering money on expensive cars and other luxuries, while many remain in poverty. Corruption remains rife in the former war-torn country, and residents want to see the change they expected, in the peacetime they longed for.

 
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