John Kachamila is Chairman of PCD (Portos de Cabo Delgado) and Former Minister of Environmental Affairs.
Interview with John Kachamila, Chairman of PCD (Portos de Cabo Delgado) and Former Minister of Environmental Affairs
I would like to know your vision for this country. You have been in politics, and you have been involved in the country's economy. You still play an active part in both. Given your wealth of experience, what would you like this country to achieve?
I have dedicated my life to this country, from the age of 17. I was sure then that I had to take part in its liberation, as well as participating in the necessary economic and social programmes to raise our country's standard of living. Mozambique was unfortunately a country that did not pay much attention to education. Our level of education has been extremely low, perhaps the lowest in Africa. In 1975, only 3% of the population could read and write, which was disastrous. In addition, there were no liberties: no parties, and you couldn’t even dare talk about politics. This is why, following many negotiations with Portugal, we decided to take up arms, in order to liberate the country. It was not the best of choices, or what we would have preferred, but a last resort for Mozambicans.
Fortunately, after 10 years, the country was liberated and we achieved our Independence. Of course, we then faced many problems. You cannot rule a country without an intellectual and experienced body of people able to run it. We also sadly had two hostile countries on our borders, namely Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia. This led to the 16-year war, where these neighbours had been financing rebel groups, in order to destroy our country's independence. We survived, with difficulties and much sacrifice, with our economy hitting the lowest point any country could bear. That was during the 1980-82 period. Our exports were only 80 million. You can't imagine how we survived, but we did. This has also been important in other respects.
My vision is ultimately to see a developed Mozambique: a country that can feed its own people and produce goods; a country that can live peacefully with its neighbours and be one of the region's chief exporters.
Personally, after completing my studies - I studied outside the country and did a Master's Degree in Geology - I came back immediately and became involved in the development of the mining sector, which had been extremely neglected. I feel I have accomplished much in this regard.
Unfortunately, the war had somewhat restricted our penetration of the country's interior, where we believe there are many resources. But I have been in government for about twenty years, which is quite a long time, so I have experienced much of the suffering of the Mozambican government, accompanied by the intention to develop the country. We came to a peaceful agreement some years ago, in 1992, when our first elections were also held. But I have been in Parliament throughout, as well as being a member of the Central Committee of the Frelimo ruling party, and I feel I have personally contributed to the strengthening of our economy and of our political perspective and outlook.
Anyway, not everything has gone well. We are still experiencing some instability, which is certainly very negative. But I believe that, leaving these difficulties aside, this country has shown that it can develop. If you look at our development in the 1990s, our growth was in the double digits. It has gone down, for a number of reasons, including our dependence on mineral resources. Today, our growth has dropped to around 6 or 7%, but as a country we are able to quickly recover.
Mineral resources are not solely important to us, and we believe that agriculture is in fact the most important sector. Still, we are currently lucky that at least 70% of the population still lives in the countryside, and that's where we can promote agriculture, feed people and develop the country.
My vision is ultimately to see a developed Mozambique: a country that can feed its own people and produce goods; a country that can live peacefully with its neighbours and be one of the region's chief exporters. Of course, we have the gas and our reserves are enormous. These certainly need to be used to finance the country's development. I'm very sure this will happen, and we are marching towards becoming a gas-exporting country. The relatively small Pande-Temane gas fields, in Inhambane, already produce important economic benefits for the country, as we export gas to South Africa through a pipeline.
We are also trying to use gas ourselves, which will have a major environmental impact. We are among the countries in the region where drought does occur. This year was one of our worst years, and we don't expect this to improve in the future. As such, using alternative sources of energy is very important to us. We have the resources, but we need to develop them in such a way that the population can benefit from them.
I'm very confident that Mozambique will overcome all the challenges that have arisen, and our international cooperation with other countries will continue; because we can see that in spite of many problems, our cooperation with Europe, with America, with Asian and other African countries is very firm. This gives us hope that this country will surpass all difficulties.