Gaddafi’s gifts to Mozambique

By Luis Nhachote

On Thursday, news of Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal end topped the news.

In Mozambique, many people will remember the antics of the colonel and the times he spent there. Frequently during his visits, he nonchalantly shuffled the protocols of the Frelimo government to gain favour with the public.

I remember the 2003 summit of the African Union in Maputo in 2003. He crossed the border into Namaacha, the southern-most district of Mozambique.

Unannounced, the flamboyant colonel stepped off a large bus, surrounded by his bodyguards: uniformed beauties with black hair cascading from underneath their berets, armed, gorgeous and very dangerous. The first thing he did was hand $200 to the nearest old man he saw. The elderly gentleman was resting in the sun in front of his small makeshift house.

At the time $1 was worth 25 meticais — the Mozambican currency. With that you could buy four loaves breads, or a litre of milk. It may not sound like a lot, but to the poor of Mozambique, it was a small fortune.

The scene was that of a “benevolent” Gaddafi. He continued with the lavish distribution of hundred dollar bills to every person he passed, an unheard of gesture in this poor community.

At the end of his township tour, he turned to the journalists and personally handed a hundred dollar note to each of us.

In Maputo, on a visit to a neighbourhood built after the floods of 2000, he was told that a lack of running water was a major problem for the residents. He asked the local authorities how much they would need to rectify the situation. Right there and then, he issued some orders to his staff. The next moment, they appeared with a suitcase, packed with dollar bills. He counted out $5 000 and handed the money to community leaders. He turned to the people of the community and said: “I’ve given you the money. You will have water soon.”

After this ceremony of generosity, a lively celebration followed — courtesy of the colonel.

This time, we journalists were not included.

Luis is an award-winning Mozambican journalist who is completing his fellowship at amaBhungane, the Mail & Guardian’s Centre for Investigative Journalism.

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    • Sterling Ferguson

      This is one of the complaints against Gaddafi by the people in Libya that his family spent the governmt money like it was their personal money. When Gaddafi was traveling around Africa giving money away this was not his money because this money belongs to the people of Libya. When his son went to the island St. Bart and paid Beyonce a million dollars to sing three songs this was the state money of Libya that he was spending. All of these gifts might have looked good to the people receiving them but, the people in Libya had no voice in how this money was spent.

    • Oscar

      Interesting Luis. So, did the villagers get the water?

    • Elwyn

      Then he went home and killed some more of his own people.

    • Siobhan

      Given that the world now knows the big G had roughly $200 Billion stashed around the world for his personal use, his attack of largesse in Mozambique can be seen in perspective. The “King of Kings” as he liked to be styled, was a garden variety wing-nut. He was narcissistic in the extreme, full of empty gestures like the money shower in Moz, notoriously self-indulgent, deluded and sadistic. Dictators have only two strings to play: dictator/hero and persecuted victim. What’s not to love about such a character? His type must be loved on this continent because we produce them at about a dime a dozen in every generation…

    • Tebza

      Yes we have heard all the bad he has done… I would like to learn about the state of being for Libya when Gaddafi took power. What changes did he make in the country, its economy and longevity.

    • Gavin Foster

      Well, that’s him gone. Hope they come for Brother Bob – soon.

    • MLH

      Sooner may not be soon enough, Gavin.

    • Rahul

      Western powers have always indulged in thrusting their opinion on other countries, from the beginning of the history. But other super powers like Russia and China never did that till now. Now it is the turn of Gaddafi to suffer a death for defying western power. It may be another leader of another country next time.

    • George

      some time ago, Hitler was loved by his people and his largess knew no limits. Later he was known to be a saddist who takes delights in other peoples’ sufferings. Now, Ghadafi was a generous giver to the detriment of his popularity. He ruled Lybia with an iron fist known only by those who were victims of his 42 years rule. We africans have to choose between good governance and personalised dictatorship.

    • paul fauvet

      Yes, Gaddaffi’s entourage was certainly tolling 100 dollar bills about as if they were confetti during his visit to Mozambique.

      But then, at a state banquet in Maputo, President Joaquim Chissano politely asked Gaddaffi to cancel Mozambique’s debt to Libya – about 140 million dollars, arising from oil purchases in the 1980s. The western powers had all forgiven the bulk of Mozambique’s debts under the Heavily Indebted Poor Counties (HIPC) initiative, so surely Brother Colonel would do likewise. Surely Comrade Leader would be at least as generous as the wicked imperialists?

      But no – Gaddaffi deliberately snubbed Chissano. He publicly declared that Mozambique would have to pay all the money back. So much for Gaddaffi’s solidarity with poorer African nations.

    • Peter Joffe

      Gaddafi bought favours and ‘respect’ with handouts. The ANC do the same with promises but those promises seldom result in results.

    • david hurst

      In these times, this is a silly article. It seems to provoke the innocence of Africa, when in fact Quadaffi was a puppet of autocratic self-degradation, a fingernail-puller, oppressive to any degree he could learn – from a significant proportion of the population as informers, to mass killing of prisoners, to every degradation of humanity that the Saddam’s, Mao’s, and Stalin’s of the era could impose. This ain’t propaganda, this was his reign as self-proclaimed ‘king of kings’, leader of all tribes. All economic activity (as in Iran), went through government (his) hands, and for every mosque he built in Chad (with whom he also warred), Sudan (!), or Uganda, or sugar candy he handed out in Mozambique, he cut the fingers off those who spoke out and supplied cash for the Charles Taylor’s and Mad Bobs of the world. Such is the innocence of Africa, of the liberation – in fact – theology of Venezuela, Soviet Cuba, indignation of government in Africa; namely populist crap of anti-imperialism in favor of home-grown oppression, even as Autocrats United pocket Chinese dollar bills, and indeed pay for Chinese workers and immigration in return for non-renewable resources (modern, and cheaper, colonialism). No wonder the Arab world turned their collective backs on this man, and he turned to Africa with candy and free bullets. Sounds like the recent birthday party the Chinese threw for Mugabe.

    • Wout

      How about reporting on the “assets” and “investments” he left behind in Moçambique?

    • Milton Machel

      Good reminder, Luis. I remember, also, a years ago, Mozambican public television station (TVM) could not afford to pay the rights to broadcast, the African Cup of Nations (ACN). Who came to the “rescue”? The Colonel Muammar Al Qathafi! And there are more gifts to count, business-wise…

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      What I find interesting is that there is little white-black racism in the former colonies that do not speak English as their colonial language – like Mozambique and Brazil.

      I attribute this to the English speaking black liberation movements having been indoctrinated and infiltrated by American Black Power mythology of “One African Culture”.

      I left Mozambique on independence day in 1994, having spent a year living on the beaches doing an underwater documentary. The people were heartbreakingly naieve and gullible – white and black.

      I remember a group of medical students, mostly white, eager for independence, explaining how they were all going to leave university and become “workers” and build roads.

      When I asked who would then man the clinics and hospitals – they had no reply!

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @David Hurst, I enjoyed your comment and you hit the nail on the head . I might want to add that Gaddafi was not ant-West and paid millions to import western culture. He put his money in Western banks and sent his family to school in Europe and the US.

    • goolam.dawood

      Gaddafi killed less people than the western establishment, and built more for the poor than the western establishment. Yet, all his critiques are silent about the other…. hmmmm …. I wonder why? It seems that criticising Africa is a past-time, while arguing in favour of Africans against western outsiders is a difficult ask. Despite all the evidence that its the outside western influence that historically and in the present day is the major contributor of African problems.

    • Terece Gilbrey

      R.I.P Colonel

    • chantelle

      goolam.dawood, and so you too, remain silent on what he did for the poor by not mentioning one single thing.

    • Peter

      He was so generous he even gave our Prime Minister camels….He flew 5 camels to Lesotho, God knows why…?

    • goolam.dawood

      @chantelle – Erm … I actually mentioned it explicitly in my post?

      @peter – Leaders of nations have exchanged gifts since time immemorial.

    • Nelson Livingston

      Still trying to figure out what was the main objective of the article.

    • http://-the-maximum-degree/ Mirella Ekin

      I keep listening to the reports speak about getting free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the most excellent site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i find some?

    • slawule

      To non Libyans this sound as a joke but go and ask them now’just a different ball game.Libyans regret now for not heading to AU proposals for smooth transition without Gaddafi choosing to flatten the country with their western allies. Libya used to have free education up to tertiry level, free health system, start-up finance once get married. Evn though people did have say n the running of finances they had better life compared to other countries. Now they have to start paying when they flush water in a toilet let alone to payback the bombs dropped to flatten their country. South Africa took several decades to fight the white minority oppressive regime but where is it now??. Africans liberate your minds.

    • Clay Kepler

      Muchos Gracias for your post post.Truly thank you!

    • Noza

      Oh – people alway forget any good you have done – always point out mistakes and negatives. Before you point Gadaffi’s wrongs, point yours brother.

    • Dawid

      Nelson livingston askes “What is the point of the article?”. It seems from its heading that it was intended to highlight the gifts given to teh people, but question his motives for doing so. All the “gifts” appear to be small ones of the kind that are merely gestures. What are the big and enduring gifts that he gave and why ould he turn down Chissano’s request to write off the debt to Libya. It appears that he ws not even prepared to write off some of it. So it seems that there is justification for the article in raising an issue and generating debate that might bring more information to light.

    • Jake

      Like most world leaders, Gadaffi was a complex man. He may have been a brutal thuggish dictator, but he was also a proud African. He wanted a strong Africa with strong African people. I have no doubt that if I had the opportunity to have know him that I would have found some good in the man amongst all his egomania.

    • Sparks

      A friend from Libya, told me they are now regretting.

    • http://http/ AGLAGOH JMENDS K

      long live kwame nkruma jomo kenyanta samora machael marthin luthar king junoir namzi azikiwe modibo keita nelson mandela and of course bro uncle murmar gagahfi. resourses for lybia belongs to the africans not anlgo or afro gold platinum thieves go to zimbabwe and get a third of acountrys land imperiliest h

    • David

      We are all quick to judge the late Quadaffi. Yes he did good and in some eyes he did wrong. What about america and Israel and the UK. Do we turn a blind eye to the countless deaths of innocent people

    • http://[email protected] MEDUPE

      usually we are quick to judge even when person did good thing, people who received money are satisfied because he changed their life by giving them money