In its first big internal rift over economic policy, Mozambique's ruling Marxist Frelimo party has reaffirmed the primacy of its commitment to developing communal villages over state farms and to man over machines as key elements in its distinctive approach to agricultural Development.
The conflict over agricultural policy goes to the heart of Mozambique's post-independence socialist revolution and the type of society Frelimo wants to build on the ruins of the 400-year-old previous colonial government.
Mozambique became independent from Portugal in June 1975 following a 12-year-old guerrilla war that profoundly radicialized Frelimo's thinking about many issues, including how a poor African nation should go about development.
The decision on Agricultural development, taken at a meeting of the party's central committee in August, is being interpreted by outside observers here as a victory for Frelimo's Chinese-influenced radicals and a defeat for those advocating a more Soviet-style policy or rural development.
The Soviet Union, however, remains Mozambique's most important partner among its "natural allies," as Mozambique's President Samora Machel refers to the socialist countries. And Moscow is providing the bulk of the country's new heavy arms.
The decision has resulted in the dismissal of Agricultural Minister Joaquim de Carvalho from his post in the cabinet and his ouster as a member of Frelimo's Central Committee. He is the first high-ranking party and government official abruptly removed from office.
Carvalho was publicly accused of "systematically giving priority to technology. He scorned the people's initiative and contribution," the government statement read. "In particular, he sought to block the process of creating communal villages, thus jeoparizing one of our decisive choices in development."
Among his other errors, the party said in dismissing him from the Central Committee, were his "individualism, egotism, liberalism, indiscipline and wrongheaded attitude toward the emancipation of women." Reports circulating in Maputo say Carvalho was also at personal loggerheads with Frelimo leaders over his choice for a wife, who was not held in high regard.
President Samora Machel and most Frelimo ideologists have taken extremely seriously the spawning of a "new socialist man." The hatching grounds for this "new man" are supposed to be the communal villages. Their faith in this collectives stems from their experience with them in "liberated zones" of northern Mozambique during their guerrilla war for independence.
At independence, the government was initially overhelmed by the massive flight of Portuguese farmers who left practically all of the country's 4,000 odd commercial farms abandanded.The exodus resulted in a disastrous drop in production, especially revenue-earnings export crops.
Most of the fledgling government's efforts, resources and time went into getting these abandoned farms working again under state management. This priority was reflected last year in the government's earmarking $25 million - more than one-tenth of all export earnings - for the purchase of 1,200 new tractors and other farm equipment for the new state farms.
The government also asked the Scandinavian countries to aim their three-year $50 million agricultural assistance program at helping to staff and advise the state farms.
Simultaneously, partly spontaneous and partly party-inspired groundswell movement to set up communal villages began. Unofficial estimates put the number of Mozambicans now living in 460 of these villages at about 2 million - almost one-fifth of the total population. Most of the villages are still located in northern Cabo Delgado Province where there were few Portuguese farms and many wartime "liberated zones".
But over the past year, the government and party have discovered that these buidding communal villages were not getting sufficient financial and technical assistance to ensure their success. The initial huge investment in machinery for the state farms was not paying off either.
Machel cited problems of supplying the villagers with goods that encouraged production, difficulties in their efforts to market their produce and the locating of the villages too far from sources of water and good roads.
These same kinds of problems have resulted in the disenchantment among the peasantry in neighboring Tanzania with similar villages and their poor performance as food production centers.
Anxious to avoid the same results as Tanzania, Machel has now ordered that a special economic plan be drawn up for the villages to provide them with the necessary financial and technical support. The communal villages are also to be established by law as the basic economic and administrative units in rural areas.
As for the state farms, the heavy reliance on modern machinery has proven a failure. Many of the new tractors are already out of order with no spare parts or trained mechanics available to fix them.
But the climax of the crisis over machine versus man came at the time of the rice harvest this past August. On state farms around Chokwe in southern Gaza Province, the government discovered that 109 colossal East German combines bought for $31,000 each could not be used. They became bogged down in the wwet fields and could not cut the rice, grown too tall from an overdose of fertilizer.
Machel and several other Cabinet ministers then led 50,000 volunteers, brought in from nearby villages and the capital, to reap the harvest. In this dramatic Chinese-style manner, the idea of mobilized "people's power" rather than highly sophisticated machinery, was brought home to the party, government and entire nation.