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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

The critical tasks - a popular programme and rebuilding our party political structures

MARCELINO DOS SANTOS was a founder member of Frelimo, and one time Secretary of the party and Minister of Planning in the Mozambican government. He is, at present, a Frelimo Central Committee member. Comrade dos Santos was in Johannesburg at the beginning of October, as leader of the Mozambican delegation to the Southern Africa-Cuba Solidarity Conference. African Communist spoke with comrade dos Santos.

What are the immediate priorities in Mozambique?

MdS: In Mozambique today our priorities are more or less the same as those in South Africa - housing, education, health. We have the same priorities, only in Mozambique we have fewer means.

In the years after the revolution in Mozambique we made major gains. We nationalised housing and we were able to provide houses in a city like Maputo at very low rents. In education we managed to introduce free education from the village primary school level, through to secondary boarding schools at the district and provincial levels. Even university in Maputo was free, including board and lodging. We had a completely free health system, and an extensive rural clinics network.

So we had it, and now we have lost it, completely. At independence Frelimo Central Committee member Marcelino dos Santos (far right) at the Cuba Solidarity Conference we nationalised everything, now everything is privatised.

So what, concretely, is the way forward?

MdS: It is more or less impossible for us to nationalise. If you cannot do this, what are the other ways to get money to promote education, health and housing? There is only one way that I can see: impose taxes on capital.

But it is clear that if you do it without looking carefully at the economic situation, two things will happen. One: the business people will run away; and two: they will get support from Western countries and, naturally, the IMF and World Bank to undermine you.

Internally, in each of our countries, we need to analyse different business interests. Are there not some who (out of self interest, naturally) are willing to build up the productive capacities of our economies (and pay taxes)? This needs to happen in Mozambique, in South Africa, in our region. There is a big potential regional market, and this surely can attract some serious private investors.

From this I draw a number of other lessons. The only way to advance in our region is if we are together. We have an important base from which to move, this is SADC.

But is there agreement on perspectives within SADC?

MdS: It is true that there are countries in SADC which are not clear about priorities, and for this reason we need to encourage talks between progressive formations in our region. If a country like South Africa takes a lead in these matters, then Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe will surely agree in general, and the rest of SADC will come in. If we act together, it will be difficult for Western countries to undermine our social and economic reconstruction programmes.

What kind of programmes do you have in mind?

MdS: Perhaps the most critical task of all is for the government's and progressive movements of our countries to pursue popular policies. If you pursue other policies, you isolate yourself from the one potential strength we have - mass support.

But to carry through a popular policy requires strengthening not just our governmental structures, but our party political structures, and the structures of our mass movements (trade unions, women, youth). In Frelimo we were not satisfied with our party political organisational strength. Although the mandate of the Frelimo top structures was onlydue to expire in 1997, we recently held special elections to ensure that we did not neglect the party side of our work. We now have a new Frelimo Political Committee (the equivalent of the ANC's National Working Committee, or the SACP's Political Bureau). Comrade Manuel Toma is our new secretary general, and Frelimo as a party is starting to impact, once more, on Frelimo in government.

We are also now trying to develop groups of scientists and other specialists around the secretary general's office and the other Frelimo party secretariats (foreign relations, mobilisation, information and propaganda, administration and finances). We don't want our secretariat going around the country and talking on the basis of "more-or-less". Their understanding must he accurate and scientific,

A last word?

MdS: Well, all of the above under-lines the possibilities and necessities of more party-to-party interactions within our region.

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