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Mozambique: President Rejects Social Networks

[All links in Portuguese unless otherwise indicated.] 

Mozambican President Armando Guebuza made waves on social networks in March 2012, with his rejection of the use of online communication tools in a speech before an audience of young supporters of the historic ruling party Frelimo [en]. The speech was delivered at the closing session of the Central Committee of Organização da Juventude Moçambicana (OJM, Organization of Mozambican Youth).

Guebuza stated that tools like Facebook and Twitter have “the potential to be transformed into spaces that produce performances, factories of unattainable dreams and infinite mirages and expectations that can lead to the sidelining of a culture of work, promoting the spirit of dependency.”

Global Voices’ partner newspaper in Mozambique, @Verdade, published on April 19, an editorial that criticized the controversial statement, saying the real motivation of the statement was to silence critical voices:

Presidente Armando Guebuza. Foto de World Economic Forum no Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

President Armando Guebuza. Photo by World Economic Forum no Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Guebuza disse que os jovens precisam de deixar de ser fofoqueiros e intriguistas e entregarem-se ao trabalho. (…)

Ao invés de ministrar “palestras de motivação”, onde pudesse dar aos jovens dicas de como se edifica um património económico em tão pouco tempo, o Presidente da República prossegue indiferente ao eleitor, ao povo, aos jovens e à opinião pública, demonstrando o desprezo absoluto por alguns princípios básicos da democracia.

Guebuza said that young people need to stop being gossips and conspirators and dedicate themselves to work. (…)

Instead of giving “motivational speeches,” where he could give young people tips on how to marshal economic resources in a short time, the President of the Republic continues to be indifferent to the voters, to the people, to the young people and to public opinion, showing an absolute disdain for some of the basic principles of democracy.

To which an anonymous commenter responded:

Sempre a tentar mandar poeira para os olhos do povo. Deves andar borrado com as redes sociais, deves ter pesadelos de te acontecer uma à Ghadaffi. Então toca de tentar minimizar a utilidade dessas ferramentas. Mas os jovens têem sempre aquela veia de rebeldia, além de que não gostam de receber ordens de velhotes que se escondem atrás do passado para impingirem a sua doutrina.
Always throwing sand in the eyes of the people. You must walk around tainted by the social networks, you must have nightmares that a Gaddafi [referencing former Libyan leader] will happen to you. So try to minimize the utility of these tools. But young people always have that rebellious streak, and beyond that, they do not like to take orders from old people who hide behind the past to push their doctrine.

Historian and analyst Egídio Vaz reacted in a note that was republished on Antonio Kawaria's blog Reflectindo sobre Moçambique (Reflecting on Mozambique) on April 17:

Wireless sign on a building in Maputo. Photo by rabanito on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Wireless sign on a building in Maputo. Photo by rabanito on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

um abraço a todos jovens que usam o facebook como ferramenta para o exercício dos seus direitos de cidadania (…). na verdade, recorramos as palavras do Presidente Samora Machel que se tornaram em máxima frelimista de então: Quando o inimigo nos ataca é porque estamos no caminho certo. Pelos direitos de cidadania, inalienáveis e não-negociáveis, Viva o facebook

A hug to all the young people who use Facebook as a tool to exercise their rights as citizens (…) in truth, let's resort to the words of the President Samora Machel which became a Frelimo maxim of the time: When the enemy attacks us it is because we are on the right path. For the rights of citizens, inalienable and non-negotiable, long live Facebook

One of the comments left on Egídio Vaz's piece, signed by user Tchaka, added:

na juventude [de Guebuza] não havia internet, redes sociais, etc., ele e o seu partido estão com dificuldades de perceber as tendências modernas da juventude e têm medo do poder que as novas ITC [Tecnologias de Informação e Comunicação] trazem para a mente juvenil.

In [Guebuza's] youth, there was no Internet, social networks, etc, he and his party are having trouble understanding trends of modern youth and are scared of the power new ICT [Information and Communication Technologies] brings to the young mind.

In a meeting with the country's Youth Parliament in Inhambane, journalist José Belmiro, refusing the latent threats against those who would make their voices heard, concluded:

Nós jovens não podemos nos calar (…) Expor ideias não quer dizer que seja do contra ou da oposição. Significa que sou sujeito do meu destino (…) Nós jovens temos a responsabilidade de romper com o ciclo do medo

We young people cannot silence ourselves (…) Setting forth ideas does not mean to be against or of the opposition. It means that I am in charge of destiny (…) We young people have the responsibility to break with the cycle of fear

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