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East German Mozambicans campaign for rights

The Local · 19 Sep 2010, 09:27

Published: 19 Sep 2010 09:27 GMT+02:00

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But his memories of friendships abroad and walking in the snow are scant comfort now. Like most of the 15,000 Mozambicans sent to work in East German factories, Amade said he has never been paid his full wages.

"When I see those pictures, the emotion is enormous, it is big. It is the size of the world. Because no one's story is the same," the 41-year-old said.

While in East Germany, the Mozambicans were paid only 40 percent of their salaries, they say. They were told the rest was sent to Mozambique for investment and pay-out upon their return.

But after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the labour pact ended and they were sent home to a nation that was still a Cold War proxy battlefield. They received only about $350 dollars (€270) each.

The Mozambicans in East Germany worked in steel, construction, manufacturing and textiles industries from 1979.

Locally they're known as the MadGermans, meaning "those from Germany" in the Shangaan language.

"It's pejorative," MadGerman Association president Zeca Cossa said from their base at a park across from parliament in the Mozambican capital Maputo.

"We were there to learn these trades to build Mozambique. Then we returned and we were all unemployed. They told us 'We don't have money'," said Cossa.

He believes the group was sent to repay East Germany for the weapons sold on credit to liberation party Frelimo during Mozambique's fight for independence against Portugal from 1964 and during the civil war that ended in 1992.

"We didn't go to train. We went there to work off Mozambique's debt," he said. "We were used like slaves."

The MadGermans' situation reflects nagging problems that remain in the country, one of the world's poorest, after the 16-year civil war that pitted the communist Frelimo government against rebels supported by apartheid South Africa.

Despite the economy's projected 6.5 percent growth this year, 60 percent of Mozambicans do not have work.

But the MadGermans see more sinister reasons behind their failure to build a life in their home country. They say the government, the nation's biggest employer, refuses them work because they demonstrate for their rights.

"Most Africans don't see. Even when they do see, they don't speak," said Cossa. "We who were in Europe can see."

"But in Mozambique, if you talk, they kill you," he said, referring to a demonstration in 2003 when police shot dead one of the group.

Every Wednesday around 300 MadGermans march through the city's streets. Earlier this year they even attempted to storm parliament.

The labour ministry afterwards said it would make some payments to nearly 1,800 former workers, "definitely closing" the case, state radio reported.

Story continues below…

However, the group's reputation as troublemakers complicates finding a job anywhere. "Even when you work, when they find out you're a MadGerman, you lose your job," said Rose Ester Libombo, who worked in a lamp factory in Erfurt for two years.

"When they find out, they think you could make a noise, because we insist on our rights. They call us marginalised, confused," said Libombo.

These days she sits waiting in the dusty park with other MadGermans in the shadow of a tattered German flag hanging off a tree stump, while street vendors dodge the refuse and heaps of ash as they ply their trade.

Asked about the way forward, Libombo smiles faintly. "I don't have plans. You need money to make plans," she says.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:23 September 19, 2010 by bearded1
well then here is something,It happened one cannot deny it,the facts speak for themselves,BUT it is time for this GOVERNMENT to stop thinking lets give them some money,after all it happened,but my children and I didnt do anything wrong,either in the GDR or under the Nazi`s.stand up and be counted WE ARE GERMANS NOW AND GERMANY BEGINS JETZT.

STOP trying to pay off a debt we had nothing to do with. The JAPANESE havent even said SORRY for their behaviour to the WORLD in the second world war..

everybody somewhere puts their troubles down to GERMANY because they know we will PAY for things no other country will.......
11:18 September 19, 2010 by Berliner Mauer
Lighten up, they are not asking for money FROM Germany. They are asking for the money from their own govt supposedly invested from the payments from former East Germany.
11:51 September 19, 2010 by bearded1
Yeah that our government will somehow feel responsible for.Even that war criminal TONY BLAIR apologised for the slave trade,we had nothing to do with that either,it is about time everyone realised we are only on this planet for a short time,why cant we all get along and stop thinking only of how to fleece the others.

OH and by the way just in case I or any of my relatives past or future or heaven forbid,now in the present should have done anything wrong I AM SORRY now lets all start over and get on with each other.
17:05 September 19, 2010 by recherche
If they could not pay them it seems probable that the East German government could not pay many other workers, like East German workers. But East Germany does not exist, so no-one will get any money from a non-existent entity surely?
20:07 September 19, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
I find it interesting that even though they were only in the DDR they still found it gave them more ideas of freedom than your average Mozambiquan.....what's it like to live in a society *more* uptight and freedom-squelching than the DDR ?(and for those too young the Iron Curtain was no joke or made up marketing story by the West: people always looking over their shoulders, always wondering if someone with a grudge would make something up and report it to the Secret Police...must make sure we in the West don't get that way ourselves.)
03:27 September 20, 2010 by furious_angel
"60 percent of Mozambicans do not have work." i wonder how they afford food... makes me wonder that we waste quite a lot of food, dont "like" to eat certain foods and have some favorite places to eat out while there are so many people in this world who are so poor they might even find something to eat from the garbage we throw out. i once saw children eating the little remaining apple off an apple core from an apple eaten by someone else (dont remember the country).
10:20 September 20, 2010 by moistvelvet
"We were there to learn these trades to build Mozambique. Then we returned and we were all unemployed"

So at least that was one East German trade they could use. Did they study moaning, whinging and that old East German chip on the shoulder?

As pointed out, Mozambique took the money, there has to be a point when Germany isn't responsible for East Germany's actions all those decades ago - move on.
18:35 September 20, 2010 by MichaelMolenaar
Germany is not responsible for these people.

To furious_angel: That is because their society is not advanced enough to create the value necessary to produce food. If I am at lunch and take a few bites of an apple, and then throw it out, I don't care. It's worth about 4 cents to me. In Africa, that apple is worth much more because they have fewer orchards because of things like corrupt government, no skills, laziness so of course it is worth more since they don't have as much of it.

Germany has been bled dry since 1945. How much has gone to Israel? 80 Billion? This must end. German money must stay in Germany.
02:20 September 21, 2010 by Prufrock2010
What a bunch of sh#t. When West Germany decided to subsume East Germany in the name of "unification," (a misnomer), West Germany assumed the debt of the GDR. This is a legitimate debt that must be paid.
08:58 September 21, 2010 by wenddiver
Didn't the courts say the Communist Party could have a bank account???? Send the German Communists the bill, they were running the Plantation in those days.
15:50 September 21, 2010 by tallady
Prufroc..is this a legal opinion...The West is responsible for all GDR debt...

Stay safe stay out of places that go boom..Rick
19:39 September 21, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Yes, it's a legal opinion.
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