On the 6th of June, a press conference was held at Hotel Africa in Maputo by 23 civil society organisations in Mozambique. The press conference marked the release of an open letter from Mozambican social movements and organizations explaining their grave concerns regarding the controversial ProSavana program. The letter was addressed to the Presidents of Mozambique and Brazil, and the Prime Minister of Japan.
The open letter, dated 28 May 2013, had been handed over to the several dignitaries of the Japanese government, opposition, civil society and academics in Japan just a few days before. This took place in a recent visit to Japan by some of the signatories to discuss the ramifications this program with members of Japan’s civil society.
Coincidentally, this civil society visit had taken place just days before the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), where heads of state of various countries of our continent gathered in Tokyo. This included Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and some of his ministers, who suddenly found themselves flooded by questions about ProSavana, which thanks to this letter had gained another dimension in TICAD.
The highest point of the press conference last Thursday undoubtedly came from Augusto Mafigo, president of the National Farmers Union (UNAC). While responding to a question after the letter was read out, he gave a sharp retort to Mozambican Minister of Transport, Paulo Zucula, who in Japan crudely said that “our peasants are still illiterate to make a letter as perfect as that “, thereby no doubt trying to undermine the legitimacy of the letter. Without mentioning the Minister by name, Mafigo cleverly replied that “many of the Ministers of this country have peasants as parents.”
Although there is a relatively small coverage of ProSavana by the national Mozambican media, but on the other side of the planet in Japan, much ink has been spent on the topic. Here are some of the latest news links available online: