Mozambican Workers and Communities in Resistance (Part 2)

By Judith Marshall

Part 2: Old and New Forms of Popular Protest

The chill effect from the Mozal strike notwithstanding, the first decades of the 21st Century have seen a growing number of popular protest actions at workplace and community levels, both urban and rural. Work stoppages and wild cat strikes involving small numbers of workers have been frequent, neither organized nor sanctioned by the unions.  Workers were faced with a government intent on luring foreign investors by offering implicit, if not explicit, promises of cheap, compliant labour. Noted Mozambican economist Carlos Nuno Castel-Branco captures succinctly how the labour system was, and is, negatively articulated to the broader political economy.

… the dominant political economy of Mozambique is focused on three fundamental and interlinked processes, namely the maximization of inflows of foreign capital – FDI or commercial loans – without political conditionality; the development of linkages between these capital inflows and the domestic process of accumulation and the formation of national capitalist classes; and the reproduction of a labour system in which the workforce is remunerated at below its social cost of subsistence and families have to bear the responsibility for maintaining (especially feeding) the wage-earning workers by complementing their wages… (Castel-Branco: 2015)

Major bread riots again put thousands of citizens on the streets of Maputo, the national capital and smaller regional centers in 2008 and 2010. Only massive police presence and blocked cell phone communication averted another major street protest in 2012. (Chaimite 2014; de Brito et al 2014; Bertelsen 2014) These cell-phone organized street demonstrations were triggered by government decisions to increase the costs of basic foods, fuel and/or transport.  The main participants were the poor and excluded, trapped in endemic poverty with growing murmurs of resentment against the luxurious life-style of the elite.

The street demonstrations in 2008 were sparked by a government decision to raise the prices of diesel and gasoline. The prospect of higher transport costs brought an immediate response at community level. While the Mozambique government touted impressive economic growth indicators, much of it based on aluminum exports from Mozal, the situation for most Mozambicans was a daily grind of poverty and exclusion.  The government responded rapidly, condemning the demonstrators and sending in army and police to restore order.  It also made concessions with withdrawal of the new tariffs and promises to make some compensation to the Chapa 100 owners in return for their cooperation in regularizing licenses. 

In September 2010, messages began to circulate about another major street protest, this time triggered not by fuel prices but by increases in the prices of basic products.  There was a 17% increase in the price of bread alone plus higher costs for water, electricity, and basics like rice, onions and tomatoes. The text message mobilizing people to go to the streets referred to the protest as a “general strike.”

Mozambicans, prepare yourselves for the general strike 01/09/2010.  We protest at the rise in the price of bread, water, electricity and others.  Send to other Mozambicans.  Wake up. (Text message of 31/08/2010)

This time government responded quickly, finding ways to channel subsidies to bakery owners and transporters. Clearly the uprisings got responses.  Early in 2011, government even announced a basic food basket for those at poverty level because of rising grain and fuel prices. The bill was publicly criticized as inconsistent and unsustainable, with no viable eligibility study.  It would benefit urban areas, focal points of the protests, while rural poverty remained untouched.  In the end, the measure was dropped. (de Brito 2014:32)

While most demonstrators were peaceful, the street actions in 2010 also entailed violence. Barricades were set up using tree trunks and garbage containers.  Demonstrators set fire to cars, burned tires, and threw rocks at police cars. Demonstrators looted shops taking home sacks of rice and other food.  In some case, the police, also underpaid, joined in the looting. (de Brito 2014: 21)  Government sent in repressive forces, ill-trained and equipped, unprepared for a volatile situation with their own neighbours on the streets. In 1993, one person died and 50 were injured.  In 2008, at least three people died and more than 200 were injured.  In 2010, more than a dozen people lost their lives and more than 500 were injured.

Popular musician Azagaia was accused of instigating the demonstrators with his song “Povo no Poder” (People in Power), recorded after the 2008 demonstrations and sung again in 2010.  The weekly paper, Savana, criticized the Public Prosecutor’s office for trying to suppress the protest song and published the lyrics in full.

Mr. President, you left the luxury of your palace

You finally noticed that life’s not easy here

Only now did you call a meeting of your Council of Ministers

But the people haven’t been sleeping

We came together a long time ago

We’ve barricaded the streets

We’ve halted the minibuses

No one is getting past

Even the shops are shut

If the police are violent

We’ll respond with violence.  (Savanah 3/9/2010)

By 2012, there were rumblings of another bread riot.  OTM  – the Mozambique Workers’ Organization – had come to the 2012 tri-partite discussions on minimum wage with a study costing basics for a family of five at 8,021 MT/month. Yet business and government continued to insist on taking sectoral productivity indices as the predominant reference point and established minimum wages per sector that averaged only 3,305 MT/month or 41% of what the unions considered an adequate basic wage. (de Brito 2014: 14).   The minimum wage for large-scale mining was set at 3525 MT/month.  In a round of bargaining with Vale that year, the company lauded itself for paying more than the minimum wage when it established a monthly minimum salary of 6305 MT/month for Vale employees. While this was considerably more than the government minimum, it was still a good deal less than what labour economists had calculated to be a living wage, i.e. 8021 MT/month.

On November 15 and 16, 2012, increases in transport fares were announced causing immediate tension and a flurry of texting about street action. This time government took rapid measures to avert the protests, mobilizing phone companies to restrict texting communications and ordering a massive police presence. (de Brito 2014: 20)   Only a few barricades were mounted and the protest ended quickly.

The weak and deformed Mozambican unions at the beginning of the 21st century were inadequate instruments for a new generation of workers contending with the power of transnational investors.  An extensive international study on the nature and state of union organization in Mozambique was carried out in 2002.  It characterized the situation as follows:

While retaining a residual presence in many workplaces, Mozambican unions have battled to cope with changes in the external labour market and a greatly altered political climate.  In most cases, they have proved equally incapable of challenging the authority of management and of articulating viable alternatives to the neo-liberal orthodoxy.  There is a need to enhance the quality of unionism and the service provided at existing workplaces…. (Webster 2005: 258)

The study, based on a sample of 177 workers in Maputo and Beira, revealed that less than half those interviewed had a local union executive actually elected by the members while 35% were in workplaces where management itself had appointed the members of the union executive.  Only 41% came from work places where unions were actually recognized as the bargaining agents for the members and only 25% reported that their employers actually complied with all or a large extent of what was in the collective agreement. (Webster 2005: 267-270)

Union membership had declined dramatically from 300,000 members in the early 1980s to only 90,000 in 2003 (Webster 2003:262).  As the Webster study points out, however,  “a more serious, but insidious, problem to that of union decline in numerical terms is ‘residual’ or ‘hollow’ unionism; where for historical-institutional reasons, a union retains a presence, but is no more than a passenger in an enterprise driven by autocratic managerialism.” (Webster 2005: 258)

As the 21st century unfolded even more obscene levels of rich-poor disparity came to prevail, and new groups of citizens took up the quest for social justice. Government service delivery of the basics like health and sanitation and transport decreased, while corruption grew. Workers throughout the country continued to fight back with wildcat strikes and work stoppages, with the union’s only role being one of pacification.  The “autocratic managerialism” of big mining companies did indeed dominate labour relations. The new investors were quick to take advantage of the “hollowness” of the existing trade unions.

 “Strikes” predominated in the form of wildcat strikes and work stoppages; almost none of them were carried out by workers in a “legal” strike position with organizational support from their union.  They “strikes” were led by small groups of workers, fed up with “autocratic managerialism” in companies where the unions were simply “passengers”. 

The dispossession experienced by peasant farmers in the face of land grabs by mining, oil and agro-business was certainly the most blatant.  Workers and the urban poor, however, had a more subtle but equally acute sense of dispossession.  All the gains of the first years of independence were now a distant memory.  On my first visit to liberated Mozambique in 1976, I had spent evenings with the Dinamizing Group in the urban neighbourhood where I was living, preparing for Independence Day celebrations on June 25.  We were painting huge cloth banners of the victories of the first year of independence.  They included land, housing, access to schooling and health care, price controls on basic commodities (later Consumer Coops), along with the more intangibles of respect and dignity and solidarity.   These banners were later festooned on the lamp-posts along Eduardo Mondlane Avenue, Maputo’s principal thoroughfare.  By 2000, government commitment to a basic needs agenda that encompassed all citizens was only a distant memory. There were only much deteriorated public services for workers and the poor while a government/military/business elite now had access to private education and clinics, luxury homes and vehicles and consumer goods.

At moments of prices increases for food or fuel or public transport, there were food riots, characterized by government as hooliganism and met with police repression but understood as acts to defend rights by the protesters.  Michael Sambo and Kajsa Johansson in their article “Bread Riots: Exercise in Citizenship?” probe the concept of citizenship and how immediate causes like prices increases are merely the tinder to cause a conflagration. The rapid conflagration is fueled by a generalized sense of being fed up with living in a society where ordinary people have no voice and where the sufferings of the general population are worsening while the ostentatious living of the political and economic elite is on the increase. (Johansson, K. & M. Sambo: 2014)

Whatever the immediate cause of a work stoppage or a street demonstration, the larger context was a general sense of dispossession and latent discontent.  In addition to strikes and work stoppages, there were all kinds of other protest actions. Barricades, whether of rocks and trees or of human beings, effectively brought ore trains to a halt or prevented access to a mine site.  There were also moments of global protest with Mozambican organizations increasingly involved in larger global civil society initiatives.

The table below, while still far from complete, gives some indication of the range of protest actions from year to year. 

Table 1: Strikes and Protest Action in Mozambique 2000-2016

Data/Place  Action Protagonists Targets Issues
Feb   Maputo work stoppage 200 Mozal workers BHP-Billiton high expat salaries, racism
Oct  Maputo strike/lockout Mozal workers BHP-Billiton salary & benefit levels/respect
Nov  Maputo classes boycott university students UEM admin bursary conditions
Oct  Ilha de Mocambique work stoppage Municipal workers Moz gov 2 month salary arrears
Mar  Moma work stoppage/riot Kentz construction workers Kentz/Kenmare salaries, severance, racism
Aug   Xinavane work stoppage sugar cane cutters Acucareira de Xinavane salaries, working conditions
Feb 5 Maputo Chokwe bread riots urban poor, youth, unemployed Moz gov transport price hikes
Mar  Moatize wildcat strike 1200 construction workers Odebrecht/Vale salaries, working conditions, severance
May  Moatize work stoppage construction workers Odebrecht/Vale hrs of work, ex-pat salaries & benefits
Aug  Marromeu work stoppage seasonal cane cutters Sena Sugar salaries, transport, labour relations
Sept  Marromeu general strike 3000 seasonal workers Sena Sugar salaries, work conditions, ex-patriate salaries
June  Maputo open SOS letter civil society (JA, LDH, CTV, CIP etc.) Mozal, Moz gov environmental hazards
July  Nampula work stoppage plantation farmers Corredor Agro wages, health care, dismissals
Sept 1,2 Maputo bread riots urban poor, youth, unemployed Moz gov price hikes, rich/poor gap
April  Moma wildcat strike Kenmare workers Kenmare salary scale, job classifications
Sept  Maputo official letter of protest Justica Ambiental in name of resettlers Vale Cateme resettlers w/out land, water, etc.
Dec  Moatize official letter of protest Cateme resettlers Vale, Moz gov land, houses, water, livelihoods
Jan 10  Moatize rail road blockade 700 resettled  families in Cateme Vale, Moz gov broken promises and silence from Vale & gov
July  Moma strike notice Kenmare bargaining committee Kenmare wages, health care, foreign workers
Sept  Nacala wildcat strike Kentz construction workers Kentz severance, Labour law implementation
Nov  Maputo food riots urban poor, youth, unemployed Moz Gov cost of living, corruption
Nov  Changara work stoppage, attacks on ex-pats Jindal workers and affected community Jindal, Moz Gov no enviro study, insults, no resettlement plan
Dec  Maputo legal strike retail workers Shoprite low pay, no
Jan  Maputo doctors/nurses strike Moz. Medical Assn Moz Gov salary and work conditions
Apr  Moatize mine blockade 800 block makers Vale, Moz Gov loss of livelihoods
May  Moatize railway blockade Cateme block makers Vale compensation for loss of small business
May  Maputo open letter against ProSavana land grab 23 Nat’l and 43 int’l civil society orgs Moz, Brazil and Japanese Govts land grabs, agricultural policies
June  Maputo work stoppages doctors, nurses Moz Gov salary, work conditions
July  Changara Demonstration Jindal workers and community Jindal, Moz Gov work conditions, abuse, pollution
Aug  Maputo open letter against ProSavana 20 Moz orgs Moz, Brazil and Japanese govt land grabs, agricultural policy
Aug  Moatize demonstration at Vale offices block makers Vale response to new compensation proposal
Oct  4 cities peace and security march 30,000  civ society & NGOs Moz Gov, Frelimo & Renamo parties no war resumption, security from kidnaps
Dec Moatize mine blockade 25 de September resettlers Vale compensation for lost livelihoods
May  Moatize blockade threats block makers Vale no Vale response
July  Maputo II Triangular People’s Conference civil society reps  Brazil, Japan and Mozambique Moz, Japanese & Brazilian Govts land grabs for agro-industry, dispossession
Sept  Moatize mine blockade resettlers and block makers Vale land grabs, dispossession
Oct  Maputo III Intl Conference on Land & Seeds UNAC and other civil  society orgs Moz Gov lands grabs, genetically modified seeds, agricultural policy
Dec  Maputo march of Men against violence Men General public rape, harassment of women
|Jan  Changara work stoppage Jindal mine workers Jindal, Moz Gov “slave labour” conditions, racism
Mar  Maputo protest march 3000 students and civil society Moz Gov drive-by shooting of law professor Gilles Cistac
Apr  Maputo World March of Women international mtg 300 international delegates Moz and other governments Impact on women of land, forest and mineral resource grab
May, Changara Mine blockade 500 families of four affected villages Jindal,  Moz gov’t False promises of land, resettlement,  jobs and better living conditions
June, Moma Work stoppage 900 Kenmare miners Kenmare, Moz gov’t Lay-offs, reduction of night shift bonus
February Work stoppage 1,400 operators and processors Vale Salary and bonus reductions

Sources: Compiled by author from Noticias, A Verdade, CIP, ADECRU, O Pais, Meusalario.

As indicated in the table, only 6 of the 19 strikes were actually organized by the union.  In the cases of Mozal and Kenmare, strong local union leadership assumed a role in engaging directly with BNP Billiton and Kenmare that led to legal strike positions, while the provincial and national union bodies dragged their feet and eventually sided with government and the companies, distancing themselves from the elected worker representatives. Fourteen of the strike actions were wildcats, organized at the base to pressure companies to respond to specific demands. These ranged from salary arrears to racial discrimination, from non-compliance with labour laws to arbitrary dismissals and demands for severance pay. In many cases, the company was forced to make enough concessions to get people to resume work. The informal leadership had advantages. When strike leaders could be identified, they were usually demoted or dismissed.

There were six instances of blockades, all related to coal mining operations in Tete province. These included the Cateme resettlement community blocking the railway line and worker/community protests against both Vale and Jindal that included blockading the entrances to the mines. There were three instances of major food riots in urban centres and a variety of protest actions from major marches for peace as well as a boycott action by university students and many “we the undersigned” letters of protest.

Worker and Community Protests at the New Mines: Odebrecht/Vale, Kenmare and Jindal

BHP’s aluminum smelter was the first extractive sector project but the new millennium quickly saw the arrival of more investors including SASOL (natural gas), Kenmare (mineral sands), Vale/Odebrecht (coal), Riversdale (coal) and Jindal (coal). Riversdale later sold to Rio Tinto and in 2014, Rio Tinto sold the mine to ICVL, a joint venture of five Indian state companies endeavouring to guarantee coking coal for Indian steel production.  One of the partners, state company Coal India has subsequently withdrawn.  Case studies of these mining companies reveal the dynamics of contemporary labour protests.[1] Not surprisingly, the big mining companies exhibited all the tendencies of “autocratic managerialism” already identified, often using their Mozambican Human Resource directors to work out a modus vivendi with their trade union “passengers” who guaranteed labour peace.

Mining Case Study 1: Workers’ Struggles Against Vale

Brazilian mining giant Vale with construction giant, Odebrecht, its regular partner for ventures in Africa, was the company that initiated the coal boom in Tete.  Vale had morphed over the years from the state-owned mining company, CVRD (Sweet River Valley Company) founded in 1942, to the privatized CVRD of 1997.  A state auction whose legality is questioned to this day put CVRD’s grossly undervalued assets into private hands. Today we have the sleek 21st century Vale, seen by the elite in Brazil as a success story that epitomizes Brazilian competitiveness in the global economy and the growing power of the BRICS. (Marshall:2015)  Vale ranks as the third largest mining company in the world with operations in 13 states throughout Brazil and 27 countries around the globe.

During Lula’s first presidential visit in 2003, conversations with then President Joaquim Chissano included the possibility of Vale’s winning the bid to operate Mozambique’s first coal mine.[2] Vale won the competition to carry out feasibility studies in 2004, got an operating license in 2007 and in 2011, officially went into production, after a glittering opening with several plane loads of Mozambican government and business leaders being jetted from Maputo to Tete for the celebration.  Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant, was responsible for the construction of the mine.   

In 2010, groups in Brazil took the initiative to organize an International Articulation of People Affected by Vale. Vale had acquired nickel mines in Canada whose workers were affiliated with the USW. The Steelworkers became active participants in the network in their own right and also supported active participation by union and community groups from Mozambique, New Caledonia and Indonesia.  In the ongoing hands-on collaboration with SINTICIM, the training team was expanded to include trade unionists from Vale operations in Canada and Brazil and a South African health and safety activist. On-line follow-up with the trainers for further information and support was encouraged. The skype and email topics ranged from puzzlement about the concept of “ergonomics” to advice about how to respond to the Vale HR Director’s offer of a company credit card.  One skype call conveyed shock and horror at company cover-up of the death of a young heavy equipment operator, left pinned for three hours under his over-turned compactor without rescue or first aid.

These new mining projects resulted in both old and new forms of protest.  As with Mozal, the construction phase was marked by labour conflicts. In 2009, there were two work stoppages in less than two months, the second involving 1200 workers.  Their main issues were low salaries, working conditions, hours of work, loss of week-ends off and management arrogance. The labour law stipulated a norm of eight hour days, 42 hour work weeks and week-ends free but also provided flexibility for alternative patterns by individual employers.  The construction consortium of Odebrecht, Vale and sub-contractors quickly took full advantage of the flexibility, intent on rapid construction of the new mine. Locally-based construction workers, contracted project by project, had enormous difficulties interpreting their rights in the midst of the rapidly shifting context.

The new mining projects were touted by the Mozambique government as creators of jobs and economic development and poverty eradication. Yet the agreement with Vale included a quota of 15% foreign workers, ostensibly with a training component. The Provincial Director of Labour complained to a union delegation from Canada in 2011 that the mining companies were inundating her with work permit requests for people without training capacity like a cook from Brazil.  

In 2012 Lula Ignacio da Silva, esteemed labour leader and ex-president of Brazil, travelled to Mozambique with Vale President Murilo Ferreira.  While there Lula gave a public lecture on “The Struggle Against Inequality’ and urged Brazilian investors to contribute to poverty alleviation in Mozambique.  He also joined the Vale president, however, in lobbying Helena Taipo, Minister of Labour,  to allow higher quotas of foreign workers for Vale’s future projects – which she refused to do. (Verdade 2012).

During construction, Kentz, a Vale sub-contractor, brought in several hundred Filipino construction workers who were housed in an encampment surrounded by barbed-wire while they carried out short-term contracts.  Complaints about the wage differences between the Mozambican and foreign technicians were a constant irritant.  The perception was that local Tete residents were left out while jobs went to foreigners, illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe and Zambia and the sons and nephews of the elite in Maputo.    

The wildcat strikes at Odebrecht also used texting to organize, making identification of leaders elusive.  During the 2011 work stoppage, messages circulated urging workers to congregate in the dining hall two days later.  They gathered, without coherent demands but with a generalized sense of frustration that quickly turned into random destruction of company property.  The Provincial union head was called in to pacify, along with government labour officers and armed police.

At Mozal, a decade earlier, the newly formed Union Committee had quickly created a strong, collective voice in defence of the rights and interests of the workers.  Employees of the foreign mining companies in Tete had no strong Union Committees to channel their demands.  One of Vale’s first actions in Tete was to offer a vehicle to the provincial head of the construction and mining workers union.  When members criticized him, the SINTICIM leader justified his acceptance saying it would allow him to visit workers in remote mining sites. Yet when Vale workers from Brazil and Canada taking part in a tri-national health and safety training programme met with the Moatize District Administrator in 2010, the Administrator spoke openly of the mining companies’ practice of buying off local government, labour and community leaders. He offered the SINTICIM vehicle from Vale as an example.

According to workers in the Odebrecht/Vale Consortium that was formed in the construction phase before workers had direct contracts with Vale, this same provincial SINTICIM head rigged the election of the first Union Committee. (Sekame 2013)  After calling a workers assembly he instructed each department to meet and elect its representative to the Union Committee.  When the official list circulated, however, elected candidates from two departments had been dropped.  They were replaced with two men who had worked with the provincial union head in the Carbomoc mine during the 1970s.  One was named as head the Union Committee and the other as treasurer. The two proceeded to make the air-conditioned union office into their personal lunch room and used the local union bank account as their personal social fund. (Sekame 2013)

The technical workers elected a well-qualified civil engineering technician who, to the surprise of many, took the task seriously.  Shortly after the local Union Committee was formed, the technician was asked to participate in a tri-partite meeting with Labour Inspectorate, company, and union.  The Vale Human Resources director accosted the technician on his way to the meeting, praising his work, promising future contracts and suggesting that during the meeting, the technician keep his mouth shut.  When the Labour Inspectors asked for union input, the Provincial Secretary opted for silence, despite recent wildcats. The project was ending without definition of severance pay or recall rights for future projects.  There was simmering discontent about salaries, overtime pay and arbitrary disciplinary measures and dismissals.   

The technician chose to break the silence with a long list of worker concerns.  His intervention was met with hostility on all sides, including that of the government.  Many Labour Inspectors supplemented their inadequate government salaries by waiving fines in return for cash payments from the companies which they pocketed.  Union leaders actually putting labour issues onto the agenda of official meetings cut off their under the table deals. 

After the meeting, Odebrecht demoted the technician and accused him of fomenting strikes.  Not long after, Odebrecht dismissed him on trumped up charges related to a heated verbal exchange when he unmasked the ongoing pilfering of local union funds. Despite complete exoneration both from the provincial court and from a petition process through the National Assembly, Odebrecht refused reinstatement and shunted the case to a regional court.  Clearly Mozambican workers attempting to defend their members through use of labour law and existing union and government structures found themselves up against not just the power of the transnational companies but also the weight of government – and union – indifference and corruption. [3]  

While good labour laws existed on paper, with both union and government structures set up to enforce their implementation, there were other logics and practices that prevailed within a porous world of favours and loyalties and under the table arrangements.  Indeed the practice of labour inspectors being bribed into waiving fines was so endemic that the new labour minister, Vitoria Diogo, called attention to it during her first meetings with her staff in March 2015. (Noticias: 2015)  

 African states generally, due to structural adjustment and within the prevailing discourse of neoliberalism, have been hollowed out to the point of leaving few qualified people and inadequate budgets for salaries or programmes. Mozambique falls readily into this category. Government officials no longer govern.  They trade, using whatever wherewithal their particular position in the state apparatus allows. At the bottom, traffic police trade fines for bills inserted in a driver’s license, bureaucrats trade influence or information or priority treatment for cash, teachers trade marks for sexual favours. At the top government and army officials trade in arms and drugs and high-stakes deals with foreign mining companies.  

Alongside, and interpenetrated  with, the formal institutions of the state, informal networks of officials, local power brokers or warlords, arms traders and international  firms in many countries form… a “shadow state” that leaves the formal institutions of government little more than an empty shell. (Ferguson 2006: 39)

“Residual” union leaders articulated readily with officials of the “shadow state” and the “autocratic” mining companies in highly promiscuous relationships with both, all to the detriment of workers and mining communities. 

The same company director who had bribed the provincial union head with a vehicle micro-managed the inexperienced local Union Committee eventually formed at Vale.  He allocated an office on company property with a computer and three hours/week for union matters.  Hours could not be used simultaneously, however, ruling out collective planning and problem solving.  Elected leaders still had to meet full production quotas, another deterrent to taking time away from production to make the union function. 

While workers readily voiced their discontents privately with Vale’s arbitrary disciplinary actions and dismissals and with the higher salaries and benefits enjoyed by foreign workers, the Union Committee at Vale has been slow to carry out protest actions. The mine operators and processors have also expressed little solidarity with the many community protests against Vale. (See below)  In 2015, Vale signalled the need for massive lay-offs in Moatize in the face of low prices of minerals on world markets.  The irrelevance of the union as an instrument to defend workers’ rights was all too clear. The Tete provincial government and Vale negotiated a strategy to avoid the lay-offs through a 25% reduction in the salaries of Vale’s workforce.  Provincial governor Paulo Auele claimed that the Vale workers were earning “astronomic salaries”.  According to Auele, “We negotiated with Vale Mocambique to reduce from 18 monthly salaries to 13, and the company is already making arrangement to reduce the lay-offs and dismissals” (DW:2015). Despite a duly negotiated and signed collective agreement between Vale and the workers valid until 2017, the massive salary cut agreed to by government and company elicited little reaction from the workers apart from a public statement claiming the grounds for the reduction were dubious.

Eight months later, in February 2016, the workers did responded to Vale’s abrupt announcement of a further cut in a variable benefit tied to company profit levels. More than 1400 workers carried out a work stoppage in protest, with leaders of both the Vale Union Committee and the provincial SINTICIM office giving public support. (Club of Mozambique: 2016)

Mining Case Study 2: Community Struggles Against Vale

Protests against the new mining investments by workers have been far outpaced by the actions from the surrounding community, where people have lost their lands and their livelihoods. The land grabs linked to the new mining projects have created situations of desperation for peasant producers. The recurrent protest actions from the 1360 families resettled by Vale in 2009/2010 have been well documented. (Mosca & Selemane:2011; JA, ADECRU 2013; HRW 2013)   Perhaps the most dramatic action was the first railway blockade.  In December 2011, the community in Cateme, Vale’s rural resettlement, had once again made a list of all of their demands. They found themselves, almost two years after resettlement, still without land suitable for farming, still without water, still in houses that had started cracking after the first rainy season, and still without full compensation. Visitors were taken to the Vale show pieces in Cateme, a well-landscaped clinic and school, and a model farm which was an oasis of green, thanks to daily tending by Vale agronomists and tubed irrigation.  Meanwhile, life for the resettlers in their rows of match box houses and treeless streets was desperate.  They had lost not only land and livelihoods but also their independence.  They now found themselves wards of a foreign mining company and their own government, neither of whom exhibited any political will to resolve their situation.

The community handed in their demands to Vale and government December, 2011, giving January 10 as deadline for a response.  None was forthcoming.  To the surprise of Vale and the Mozambique government, the Cateme community took direct action and blockaded the road and railway lines, effectively stopping transport of coal to the port in Beira. The government reaction was swift and excessive, sending in an armed police rapid response unit.  Fourteen community members were imprisoned, one of them blind and another lame. Five were rapidly released but four of the nine who spent time in prison were brutally beaten. Vale acknowledged that there were problems and promised solutions within six months. A hostile climate prevailed, with strong police and security presence making contacts between the settlers and their NGO advocates very difficult. The most tangible Vale response was forcing the resettled families into tents while the houses were patched up. Three months after the railway blockade, Vale offered three vehicles to local government authorities in Moatize, two of which went to the District Administrator and the police commander. (JA 2014: 12)   

Since 2012, there have been further strong protests and repeated blockades.  These have occurred despite the passage of new legislation on resettlements on August 8, 2012. The new law states that those directly affected by economic projects have the right to be re-established at a level of income and in living conditions (house, physical space, and social infrastructure) equal or superior to their former situation. (Bila 2015). 

Many of those resettled had lived for generations making building bricks from local clays. They constructed small kilns close to the clay deposits where they formed and fired their bricks.  Some introduced a small quantity of cement into their bricks; some used moulds for decorative bricks. In 2009, Vale had paid compensation of 60,000 MT for each functioning kiln and gave access to the Vale concession to remove previously produced bricks.  The brick makers had understood this as an initial payment, however, and continued to demand more. Neither Vale nor government was sympathetic. At one bargaining session, a government official had cynically queried why bother with inferior local bricks when Moatize now boasted a “Builder’s Warehouse” full of high quality building supplies from South Africa. 

In May 11, 2013, the brick makers met Vale again, armed with new proposals based on what they could have expected in life-time earnings from their businesses. They presented a formula for calculating compensation which took annual production (102,000 bricks) x price (2 meticais) x years of productive life for a brick maker (50 years).  Vale dismissed the new demands as illusory and said the matter was definitively closed. The response of the brick makers came two days later when they blockaded the railway line again. (O Pais 2013) 

At the end of 2013, the families in 25 de Setembro, Vale’s peri-urban resettlement took action. With total disregard for any sociological appreciation of African culture, Vale had carried out a “divide and rule” strategy (Selemane: 2010). Those with informal sector livelihoods were placed in a rural resettlement in Cateme. Those with formal sector jobs were rehoused in a resettlement on the outskirts of Moatize, the district capital. In reality, even households with a member in formal sector employment depended on agriculture to supplement low wages.  Since neither Vale nor government had responded to repeated communications from the town dwellers  demanding compensation for land losses, the families cut down branches and set up blockades on major access roads to the Vale mine, effectively paralyzing production.  None of the issues around resettlement has yet been settled, the 2012 legislation notwithstanding. Seemingly neither Vale nor the Mozambique government has the political will to do so. (ADECRU 2013).

Mining Case Study 3: Workers Struggles Against Kenmare

 Moma Titanium Minerals opened in Nampula province in 2007, becoming the first major mining project. Kenmare Resources is an Irish mining company with its head office in Dublin.  Its principal activity is operation of the mineral sands complex at Moma with mining carried out through a dredging operation and immediate transport to ships carrying the minerals to global markets. The mine is located in a remote area of the province. Many workers have permanent homes in other parts of Nampula and intersperse lengthy periods of consecutive shifts at the mine site with long blocks of time off.

Kenmare, like all the extractive companies, presented itself to both government and community leaders as a source of local employment for both direct employees and suppliers, as well as a bearer of local development.[4] Even during construction, hopes faded with the arrival of sub-contractors, all bringing foreign workers. The problems in the construction phase were similar to those at Mozal. On March 23, 2007, for example, Mozambican construction workers employed by one of Kenmare’s sub-contractors,  Kentz Engineering, rioted violently at the remote mine site. The main issue was non-compliance with Mozambican labour law on severance pay.  Workers had contracts for indeterminate periods and, by law, were owed severance on project completion. Another issue was retention of white workers while higher-qualified Mozambicans were terminated. Responses by company, government and union were predictable. The Kenmare director urged Kentz to comply with Mozambican labour law. The provincial Ministry of Labour sent investigators. The government sent armed troops. (WAMPHULA 2007)  SINTICIM, the construction workers union, was silent.

Workers in the remote Kenmare mine had created their own independent union to deal with work issues, only later affiliating with SINTICIM. The Kenmare workers carried out two rounds of bargaining with the company in which they made significant gains. They also carried out a work stoppage in April 2011 with demands around salary scales, job classifications and compliance with Mozambican labour law.  The workers only agreed to suspend the action after a tri-partite commission of three members each from company, union and government was formed to resolve the issues.

The union’s 2012 bargaining proposals were prepared with care, including skype consultations with a Brazilian health and safety expert met at one of the earlier tri-national exchanges. The proposals included a 40% salary increase, a 13th month salary, a medical plan and a phased replacement of foreign workers with Mozambicans.  The SINTICIM General Secretary made last minute contact ordering postponement until his arrival.  The union bargaining committee opted to proceed as planned, briefing the SG on arrival but limiting his role to advisor only.  Bargaining reached an impasse and the union took a strike vote, all as prescribed under labour law. Kenmare came back to the table. After several tense days with the strike threat hovering, a settlement was reached with workers gaining much more than Kenmare’s initial offer.  Meanwhile, the Mozambican government had ordered armed police to the mine site.  

The Kenmare workers were jubilant about their victory, won entirely through their own efforts.  They began to question continued dues payment to a union that offered them nothing in return. The dues were being deducted at source and sent directly by Kenmare to SINTICIM.  Ninety percent stayed with national and provincial SINTICIM offices with only ten percent reverting to the union at plant level, and even that arrived only sporadically.  Meanwhile  the SINTICIM national and provincial offices provided no services, no legal support to defend against disciplinary charges and dismissals, no economic studies to support bargaining, no training except when a foreign donor financed a course, no information or communication tools.

The Kenmare Union Committee decided to instruct the company to start paying the dues into a newly-opened Kenmare Union Committee account.  They collected the more than 300 signatures necessary to ratify their decision to terminate their affiliation with SINTICIM. The ratification signatures were sent to the Ministry of Labour, Kenmare and SINTICIM.  There was no immediate reaction – nor has there been since.

Shortly thereafter, however, the SINTICIM Secretary General expelled two of the elected executive members of the Union Committee at Kenmare. The SINTICIM SG informed the mining company of the expulsions, and claimed that the local union Secretary’s participation in a conference and training programme with Canadian Steelworkers six months earlier had actually been a clandestine visit, unauthorized by SINTICIM.  Furthermore, he accused the Secretary of deceiving the company and stealing union dues. Finally he accused the Secretary of “contacts and involvements with a foreign organization which has shown itself to be manifestly against the implementation of the investment projects for the economic and social development of Mozambique and for its fight against poverty. This foreign organization makes use of emails and Facebook to carry out its intentions, including recruitment of foreigners coming from Canada, Brazil and…South Africa.” (Timana: 2012).  

These were thinly veiled references to the Steelworkers, with whom SINTICIM had had cooperation projects for more than a decade.  The “foreigners” were, in fact, the trade unionists from Canada, Brazil and South Africa who had participated in the tri-national health and safety seminars from 2010 – 2012 as a gesture of international solidarity.  In the same way that Numsa’s collaboration with the new Union Committee at Mozal was labelled as foreign interference and rejected by SINTIME in 2001, the collaboration of Canadian and Brazilian and South African unions to strengthen the new unions in the mines was labelled as foreign interference by SINTICIM in 2012.

Kenmare promptly dismissed both the local union head and the treasurer, presumably grateful to SINTICIM for providing ammunition for dismissal of worker leaders who had just won some victories in a round of tough bargaining. The remaining elected leaders were threatened with further dismissals if they questioned SINTICIM’s actions, including its arbitrary appointment of substitutes for those dismissed.  With their jobs on the line and the combined forces of company, government and union all aligned against them, the Kenmare workers backed down, leaving an atmosphere of resentment and fear at the mine. 

Mining Case Study 4: Worker and Community Struggles Against Jindal

The tumultuous history of Jindal Steel and Power, the Indian transnational working the newest of the big coal mines in Tete, began even before its formal opening in August 2013. Jindal is a diversified industrial conglomerate which has operations in 13 countries in Africa. Jindal Africa is headquartered in Johannesburg.  Like Vale, Jindal is a flagship company of one of the BRICS and tries to portray its investments within the framework of South-South solidarity.

There was widespread labour unrest in November 2012, even prior to Jindal’s opening, which resulted in intervention by the Ministry of Labour and expulsion of two Indian directors.

Mozambique’s Minister of Labour, Helena Taipo, has cancelled the work permits of two Indian citizens, Manoj Kumar Pandey and Ram Many Pandey, with immediate effect….  The two men were the director of human resources and the coordinator of operations of the company MGC, which has been subcontracted by the Indian company, Jindal Steel and Power, for work on its coal mining concession…. The two Indians are accused of repeated violations of the Labour Law and of the Mozambican Constitution. … they mistreated and insulted the 250 Mozambicans working at the company.  They also made “false promises” to the Mozambican workers, and failed to provide them with work contracts and with protective equipment.  No record was kept of overtime worked, and neither the company not its workers were registered with the National Social Security Institute (INSS).  Furthermore, the company did not provide any clean drinking water for its workers. The behaviour of the MGC management led to a strike last week…. The two Indians even denied access to the company premises to the brigades sent by the provincial government and the police who were attempting to reach a solution to the workers’ grievances. (Club of Mozambique; 2012)

Less than a year later, on July 22 and 23, 2013, the issues of the Jindal workers and the residents of the rural community around the mine erupted.  People from four communities congregated at the Jindal office. Two of these communities were directly affected by the open mine pit. The crowd attacked the Jindal staff members, wounding one in his office and three in their homes.  Neither the Jindal security guards nor the three adjacent police posts could calm the agitated crowd.

Jindal was accused of broken promises. On arrival in 2008, Jindal had promised no coal extraction before resettlement but resettlement location and date were still pending. Jindal had promised no farm occupation without negotiation but had, in fact, occupied land with crops ready for harvest. Jindal had promised a full environmental impact assessment.  None had been done. Jindal had promised to build wells and water supply. None had been built. People found themselves prisoners in their own land, locked inside the mining concession, suffering the dangers and pollution of living within a functioning open pit coal mine. All of this notwithstanding, President Armando Guebuza presided over the formal opening on August 13, just a month later.

In January 2015, the workers carried out their third work stoppage since the mine opened. Some 250 workers decided to shut down the mine to force Jindal and government to deal with a series of alleged labour injustices. The grievances against Jindal and its lack of compliance with Mozambican labour law were many.  The issues included contracts of only six months duration, salaries incompatible with those in other coal mines in Tete, huge distinctions between Mozambican and expatriate salaries, unequal pay for equal work among the Mozambicans, irregularities in social security payments, no health and safety equipment, no registration of overtime hours, abusive behaviour by management, hiring illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe and Zambia for lower pay, sub-standard housing, food and sanitary conditions for workers, just to name a few. A recent lengthy report on Jindal in the Mozambican weekly, Savana, quotes an Indian manager as having said aloud that the Mozambicans had nothing to complain about because they lived in a poor country with few alternatives for survival and should be thanking God for what they were earning. (Savana 2015)

Raul Senda, the Savana reporter, likened the situation he found at Jindal to modern slavery.  Jindal representatives were unavailable for comment and the provincial labour department said it was writing a report on the situation. (Savana 2015) If the reporter had asked the Jindal workers about the union’s role, he would have learned that, in fact, the Jindal workers have refused to have anything to do with the SINTICIM provincial secretary and resisted all his efforts to form a local Union Committee affiliated to SINTICIM in their mine.

21st Century Strikes and Protests

Can workers in contemporary Mozambique actually look to trade union structures and the instruments enshrined in the labour law like collective bargaining and strikes to defend themselves from the arbitrary power of multinational investors, all with strong government backing?  An astute observer of labour history in Mozambique offers insights into the nature of trade unions in Mozambique and even suggests that the “fascist unions” of the colonial era and the “socialist unions” had much in common.

Neither was formed through demands from the workers acting to protect their interests. Both were the fruits of public policies of regimes which, although different…sought total control over workers’ actions….Both the so-called fascist unions and the so-called socialist unions  felt the weight of the state on top of them with rigid control mechanisms and lack of worker autonomy that impeded any flowering of real trade unionism in the classic sense….The workers themselves always remained distant from the decision-making processes of the unions since all the union leaders and their ability to function depended on the state (colonial fascist and post-colonial socialist). (Colaco 2001:105)

Are the unions in neoliberal Mozambique any different?  The new freedom of trade union organization law adopted in 1991 came about not because of demands by workers at the base but because the IMF and World Bank made political pluralism a conditionality for financial assistance, including greater trade union freedom. Three of the affiliates of the existing central, OTM, did break away to form a second central, CONSILMO. Despite widespread notions of the new central as being more independent from – or even anti-government, both centrals have maintained the practices of the earlier eras. As the case studies of Mozal and Kenmare illustrate, neither SINTIME, an OTM affiliate, nor SINTICIM, a CONSILMO affiliate, was prepared to back a new generation of workers trying to use existing union structures to defend themselves and further their interests. Both aligned themselves with the now neoliberal government to defend multinational investors.

While the Union Committee representing workers at the BHP aluminum smelter has managed over the years to gain control over a significant part of the monthly dues payments which are used, among other things, to retain a group of lawyers to defend workers faced with disciplinary charges or dismissals, other groups of workers gain nothing from their union affiliation. As noted previously, Kenmare workers got so fed up that 300 of them signed a document affirming a desire to disaffiliate. Although duly received by Kenmare, Ministry of Labour and SINTICIM, the document was never acknowledged, much less acted upon. Two of the elected Union Committee leaders were dismissed shortly thereafter on trumped up charges.

For many workers, then, availing themselves of the formal union structures has proved fruitless. Random work stoppages organized through cell phones and text messages with no visible leadership tend to give more results. Recently the Minister of Labour recognized a new union central in the extractive sector, SINTEL. While its statement of principles includes more power in the hands of the Union Committees at workplace level and stronger links with other social movements, it is finding itself up against formidable foes. These include not only the triumvirate of transnational companies, the Mozambican state and the “residual” unions, all of whom will be quick to react negatively to a new union vigorously defending workers’ rights and interests. They will also be hampered by their own inexperience of genuine trade unionism and the lack of a strong labour and social movement culture to draw from and give them support. 

Mozambique state commitment to a development strategy based on wooing TNC investors is unwavering.  The rights of workers and peasant farmers cannot be allowed to get in the way. Past revolutionary credentials notwithstanding, the liberation movement leaders in power in 21st century in Mozambique, and indeed in the other countries in southern Africa, exemplify the failings of post-independence leaders in Africa as captured so scathingly by Algerian psychologist Frantz Fanon in 1961:

The national middle class discovers its historic mission: that of intermediary.  Seen through its eyes, its mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation; it consists prosaically, of being the transmission lines between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged, which today puts on the masque of neo-colonialism. The national bourgeoisie will be quite content with the role of the Western bourgeoisie’s business agent, and it will play its part without any complexes in a most dignified manner.  But the same lucrative role, this cheap-jack’s function, this meanness of outlook and this absence of all ambition symbolize the incapability of the national middle class to fulfill its historic role as a bourgeoisie.  (Fanon 1966: 124)

Mere Survival Strategies or a New Citizen Protagonism?

Most Mozambicans are among the poor and dispossessed of the planet, disposable to make way for the mega-projects that siphon out finite resources for world markets. Mozambican peasant farmers are apparently invisible to their own government as it colludes with foreign investors for land grabs of “unoccupied” areas for mines and agro-industry.

Yet despite all of the obstacles, the 21st century has seen a growing resistance in Mozambique. A new generation of workers has tried to make use of the existing unions, despite the heavy weight of corrupt and inept residual structures and the closeness of union-government relationships.  Several young union leaders have lost their jobs for doing so. When legal strikes do not work, the workers revert to wildcat strikes and impromptu work stoppages. When the levels of injustice and arbitrariness get too much, they revert to destroying company property or products.  Communities of peasant producers throughout rural Mozambique who have been robbed of their lands and livelihoods and independence in order to make way for megaprojects in mining and agri-business are also inventing practical ways to say “enough is enough”. They stop the trains carrying coal to the port for export. They block roads and rails and entrances, forcing production to a halt in the mines and plantations. They internationalize their situation through social media and global civil society events and counter-events.

Amidst the changing patterns of protest and discontent, a broader spirit of resistance and vision of alternatives is beginning to emerge. The sense of dispossession may be most acute for those subjected to land grabs for mines and agro-exports, but there is a growing awareness of dispossession on the urban streets which is felt as much in Maputo as in São Paulo or Athens.  The pervasive neoliberal ideology has persuaded governments everywhere to adopt austerity, which means cuts in social sector spending and abdication of responsibility for the basic needs of its citizens for jobs, food, housing, health care and transport.  In Mozambique, the post-independence gains in schooling, health and housing are now a distant memory. For many, having a job just means joining the “working poor” rather than the “jobless poor”.  Free, universal education has come to mean overcrowded schools, underpaid teachers and constant demands for money from home. Some of it is for books, uniforms and pencils but there are also demands for money for everything from the school electricity bill to student outings. Many parents understand these requests to be coming from teachers-turned-traders. The money extracted from parents supplements the teachers’ inadequate incomes. The doctor’s examination is futile when there is no means of buying the prescribed medications. The sense of abandonment by the state is profound. It is exacerbated in Maputo by dispossession from the streets themselves, all forced to scramble for safety from cavalcades of expensive cars with sirens marking the passage of a member of the elite, moving from government office to palatial home to international conference centre.    

An important new aspect of these contemporary forms of resistance in Mozambique is that they are not neatly understandable within what may be referred to as a “vertical topography of power”.  The 20th century view of resistance tended to pit ‘local’ unions and communities with “authentic” leaders organizing at the “grassroots” against a repressive state encompassing both imperial capitalism and local dominant classes.  Resistance was played out within national boundaries. (Ferguson 2006: 106).  

This image of resistance from below and repression from above, however, misses the horizontality of the contemporary world.  Transnational corporations today exercise their global power through horizontal flows rather than the more vertical concepts of nation states.  The enclaves of the extractive sector, far from promoting national development, tend to disorganize national economic spaces as they create more horizontal global ones with their supply chains and their self-sufficient operational networks linking various continents and supra-national trade and banking institutions. 

Civil society organizations have also begun to work these horizontal spaces, thereby creating new instruments of governmentality. The nation-state is not replaced; instead it now co-exists and interacts with this new apparatus of global civil society which, for its part, invents new forms of struggle. Organizations and movements with global images and links to global networks create mechanisms of governmentality operating outside and/or parallel to the national state. While they may represent grass roots concerns, the power they exercise goes beyond the local. Through claims related to such issues as stewardship of the planet or protection of universal human rights, they operate from a wider global spatial and moral purview than just that of a national state. 

Mozambican organizations now have connections, whether operating alone, or in networks, or as part of civil society organizations with a global presence. These range from Friends of the Earth to Via Campesina to Amnesty International to UN civil society platforms.  These new structures of horizontal governmentality tackle the supra-national institutions that today buttress neoliberal capitalism, from transnational corporations themselves to trade and investment agreements, the transnational apparatus of banks, international agencies and other  lobbying and market institutions.

As we have seen, the workers and communities affected by Vale are venturing into these horizontal structures to take their resistance forward. Organizations in Mozambique are connected to the International Articulation of People Affected by Vale, for example. This means giving and receiving information regularly with other workers and communities affected by Vale in Brazil itself but also in Canada, New Caledonia, Peru and Indonesia. The network members write counter reports to Vale’s annual Sustainability Report, they intervene in Vale Annual General Meetings with its directors and shareholders, they campaigned globally to have Vale named the Worst Company in the World at Davos in 2012.  

The resistance to ProSavana is being propelled forward partly through Via Campesina, a global structure linking agricultural producers.  Mozambique has already hosted an international Via Campesina meeting in Maputo. Strong connections with Brazil’s powerful Landless People’s Movement already existed when ProSavana came onto the agenda of struggle.  This helped in organizing a new form of resistance, the Triangular Peoples Conferences involving civil society groups from Brazil. Japan and Mozambique, the three countries whose governments are supporting the project.

Pope Francis’ extraordinary initiatives through the Pontifical Justice and Peace Commission constitute a new part of this emerging global apparatus of governmentality.  Mozambican activists were among the more than 100 representatives of the poor and excluded at the first World Meeting of Popular Movements in October 2014 in Rome. A second meeting was held in July 2015 in Bolivia with 1500 activists. In August, there was another gathering in Rome co-organized with the Churches and Mining network. The Pope’s message included a call for a paradigm shift in global mining. In the same month, 60 mayors were invited to Rome to strategize about climate change and how to urge national governments to take stronger positions. 

Through these initiatives, Pope Francis is establishing a new supranational moral discourse around economic institutions and financial systems that create widespread poverty and discard the poor that promote mindless consumerism and a throw-away culture while destroying the earth, our common home. These initiatives with their universal moral imperative create new, horizontal spaces of contestation. The claims transcend national states and engage with institutions where power is being exercised from transnational corporations themselves to market and banking institutions and investment protection treaties.

The challenge is to invent new discourses that capture 21st century realities and find forms of protest that target the points where power is being exercised with greatest impunity and where inequality and destruction of the planet are being exacerbated most blatantly. These resistance strategies may be triggered by desperation and survival strategies. They gain momentum, however, from a wider sense of dispossession in contemporary capitalism. It may be most acute through the increasing land grabs by aggressive mining, oil and agro-business investors. As Occupy Wall Street revealed, however, there is also a strong sense of dispossession among the 99% more generally. In Mozambique, it may focus on the loss of the post-independence entitlements for all to citizenship, dignity, land, housing, education and health care. These hard-won rights are now being given away to foreign companies by a government that has ceased to assert national sovereignty. In Canada, it may focus on remembered securities of the post-war welfare state with life time jobs and cradle to grave social programmes and secure pensions.  Wherever the resistance is rooted, it points to the urgent need to question the supremacy of the market as determinant of global well-being and halt the corporate insistence that tries to commodify everything. 

While the resistance strategies may be triggered by the need to survive, they also carry in them the seeds of a different approach to building more democratic compassionate societies with more popular protagonism and more effective ways to care for the planet. The 21st century strikes, bread riots and blockades in Mozambique can take their place proudly as part of the broader panoply of global resistance at a moment in history characterized by grotesque rich-poor disparities and unregulated corporate power.

Judith Marshall is a Canadian labour educator, writer and global activist who has traveled extensively in Africa and Latin America.  She worked in the Ministry of Education in Mozambique for 8 years and on her return to Canada, wrote her doctoral thesis on a literacy campaign in a Mozambican factory. She has recently retired after working for 20 years in the Department of Global Affairs and Workplace Issues of the Canadian Steelworkers union.


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[1] The mini-case studies of worker and community resistance that follow are based on situations  that I monitored closely in my role as coordinator of the Steelworkers Humanity Fund’s programme in Africa from 1993-2013.  The Steelworkers international development and solidarity fund gave annual support to training projects with SINTICIM, the construction and mining union, starting in the mid-1990s.  In 2009, SINTICIM requested hands-on collaboration from USW in health and safety training with a focus on the new mining unions. This placed me in a “participant-observer” position during a crucial period. The depiction of resistance in the new mining communities draws heavily on these experiences.

[2] Former President Joaquim Chissano is mentioned frequently as one of the unidentified Mozambican shareholders in the Vale project. .

[3] For a fuller account, see Marshall 2014

[4] For a more comprehensive study of the Kenmare mine, see Brynildsen, Oygunn Sundsbe and Dioniso Nombora (2013) in their report entitled ‘Mining without development’.




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