LAST AUGUST Mozambicans walked many hundreds of kilometers - sometimes from neighbouring states - to take part in their country's first national census. After just five years of freedom, they knew that giving their names to government officials meant something different from the old colonial systems of forced labour and a demand for taxes. Citizenship in the new Mozambique is beginning to reap rewards.
It also entails energetic commitment, to judge from recent reports. In the languid surroundings of tropical Africa FRELIMO now confronts the task of keeping people and revolution in touch with each other. The new citizens are kept on their toes by 'dynamizing groups' of grass roots party members, an offensive against bureaucratic corruption and laziness, as well as internal self-criticism campaigns on many levels.
The path hasn't been smooth. There were only about 60 doctors in the whole of the country at the time of independence, virtually no lawyers or judges and one of the lowest literacy rates in Africa. The amount of daily food available for each person remains well below requirements. And the country still bears the human and material costs of neighbouring Zimbabwe's liberation war in which it played such a crucial role.
But benefits are slowly becoming tangible. Payments from the Portuguese-built Cabora Bassa hydro-electric dam, which supplies South Africa with ten per cent of its requirements, are coming into the country at last. President Machel is reported to be seeking foreign investment for further development of hydro-electric and coal resources. The country's excellent ports are also being revitalised. Beira's vast natural harbour ground almost to a standstill during the Zimbabwe struggle when sanctions stopped the railway traffic up to Salisbury and Blantyre. Now, helped by Commonwealth funding and weekend work by volunteers, it is working again. Maputo too, the second largest port in Africa, is shipping four times the tonnage of 25 years ago.
In keeping with FRELIMO priorities work is also being done on smaller ports up the coast and a new central road will open up development through the northern Tete province. The northern provinces were generally ignored by the Portuguese and suffered worst in the Zimbabwe war. Now they are being recompensed.
Six different states border Mozambique with its beautiful 2,730 kilometer Indian Ocean coastline. The potential for transit and tourist trades is obvious. Indeed, Maputo is the base for the new nine-nation Transportation and Communication Commission set up at last year's Southern Africa economic summit in Lusaka.
But FRELIMO's first commitment is to the people of Mozambique. And transport policy, like private enterprise and foreign investment, must serve that end.