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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 20:02 GMT 21:02 UK
Mozambique celebrates costly freedom
By Alice Martin
BBC Africa Live!

Michael Hlashwayo was 12 when the Portuguese secret police arrested him and his siblings as they helped their older brother recruit fighters into the anti-colonial movement.

Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel
Revolutionary Samora Machel led Mozambicans to freedom

"We always ran away from cars in those days," reflects Mr Hlashwayo, as Mozambique commemorates 30 years of independence from Portugal.

"Cars always meant Portuguese. And Portuguese meant forced labour. Our parents trained us to be alert."

But on this occasion, the sound of a waterfall obscured the noise of the vehicles coming to catch them in the border region with Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where clandestine political opposition was forming.

Long fight

That was in 1961 when, for many African countries, independence was already a reality. But Lusophone Africa had to wait for 1975 and a military coup in Portugal to get its freedom.

For Mr Hlashwayo, his arrest beside the waterfall was a turning point.

Mozambican war veteran Michael Hlashwayo
I have mixed feelings [on independence day] - I remember the comrades we lost
War veteran Michael Hlashwayo

After his release he joined the militants, travelling secretly through Rhodesia and Zambia - often on foot - to the training camps in southern Tanzania.

At the independence celebrations 30 years ago, he was there as Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel, proclaimed the famous "Vivas!" and "A Luta Continua!" - catchwords in the fight.

But three decades on, Mr Hlashwayo won't be in the central square enjoying the independence parades on Saturday.

"I have mixed feelings [on independence day]. I remember the comrades we lost," he told the BBC's Africa Live programme.

Elusive peace

After independence, stability in Mozambique was elusive as the country was drawn into the Rhodesian war.

Throughout the 1980s it was a frontline state in the anti-apartheid struggle with neighbouring South Africa, spawning a civil war that claimed more than a million lives.

1991 famine victim in Mozambique
The peasants continue to suffer famine and epidemic diseases
BBC listener Shib SenChaudury

Only in 1992 did peace come. But as the country was rebuilding itself, the new millennium brought successive floods which destroyed much of the infrastructure.

Now, growth rates are back up, with the World Bank describing the economy as "fantastic".

Although life has improved for many, more than half the population still lives in abject poverty, according to government statistics.

For some contributors to BBC Africa Live's programme on independence, the problem lies with where the power is now. Freedom, they say, does not necessarily mean democracy.

"Most of the politicians in post-independent Mozambique belong to the higher class of society, President Armando Guebuza included," Shib SenChaudury told the programme.

"The peasants continue to suffer famine and epidemic diseases."

Corruption challenge

Mr Guebuza, who led the privatisation of large companies under the former administration of Joachim Chissano, came to power earlier this year on an anti-corruption ticket. It is still too soon to tell how far this drive will go.

Maria de Lourdes Mutola, Mozambican athlete
Billboards of Mutola appear with the words "Proudly Mozambican"

In many senses the fight for independence was easier to define than the post-independence struggle.

For Joao Lingua, a former war veteran, the battle today is against poverty; for Vasta Manhique, a student, it's about more schools and more support for those trying to enter the job market.

Schoolteacher Fernando Rocotso says low wages and the high cost of living are major issues.

And everyone wants good sanitation and drinking water.


But for Yvonne, a young customs worker, the celebrations marking 30 years of independence are significant.

Mozambique president Armando Guebuza
Guebuza is teaching us to be proud again
Yvonne, customs worker

"We didn't know that [independence] struggle," she says.

"But we are proud to be Mozambicans.

"Guebuza is teaching us to be proud again."

And standing 15 storeys high, Mozambique's most inspirational sportswoman - Maria de Lourdes Mutola - smiles out across the capital city on advertising hoardings.

As the country's only Olympic gold medallist, she figures high in the national psyche and represents what many feel at this time.

The sign simply proclaims: "Proudly Mozambican".

Mozambique: Ten years of progress
11 Mar 05 |  Business
Samora Machel remembered
19 Oct 01 |  Africa
Country profile: Mozambique
28 Apr 05 |  Country profiles


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