Chapter 6 turns to socialism’s afterlife. It discusses the migrants’ reintegration in Angola and Mozambique after their mass return in 1990 as a result of the dissolution of East Germany and socialism. The two themes that drive this chapter, loss and gain, reflect the two frames of mind that coexisted in the perception of the returnees. In hardship they have found agency, in their abandonment they have forged solidarity with each other, in their difference they have formed an identity. The chapter opens with the mass return of workers in 1990 and the circumstances under which they returned, whether voluntarily or not. Next, it features the workers’ multiple experiences of the loss of their goods and money, their ties to Germany, their status, their wages, and their aspirations. The second part of the chapter highlights how workers were transformed by their migration abroad and shows what they gained in the process; some came to hold different viewpoints on gender equality or sexuality, while others took to the streets to fight for the repayment of outstanding wages and benefits. These losses and gains were two sides of the same coin.
- Return migration
- Ruins of socialism
- Madjerman activism
- Transnational families
This chapter follows the experiences of the Mozambican and Angolan workers who returned home from East Germany in the early 1990s. By this time, the era of socialism had passed, and all three countries were transitioning into market economies. Initially many of the worker-trainees, now returnees, were hopeful and excited about their homecoming. Many expected lives as wage laborers in industry, allowing them to build their own houses and families while contributing to the economic development of their home countries. Unfortunately, ongoing civil wars and a painful transition from planned economy to free market made this a pipe dream.Footnote 1 Returnees found themselves catapulted into conflict and post-conflict economies that were unable to provide anywhere near the number of secure blue-collar employment opportunities that were required. In addition, returnees faced governments that had neither the interest nor the ability to take care of them.
The homecoming of many workers was euphoric as they and their families and friends celebrated their reunions. The returnees came back as an elite (albeit temporary, as it would turn out) who brought otherwise unattainable goods from Europe and had a network of support between themselves. This distinguished them from those around them and acquired them clients and customers. To use Jean-Pascal Daloz’s terminology, they were big men and big women, though on a small scale.Footnote 2 Despite the turmoil of the time, they collectively clung onto the dream of a bright future with formal employment. In this early stage, workers participated in the economy as providers of goods and services and gained social standing via the goods they brought. But disappointment quickly took over as returnees struggled to find their feet economically, socially, and politically. As most could not secure formalized or regular employment, to survive they had to slowly part with their migration hauls. This resulted in an injection of European goods into the local markets. These material vestiges of socialism contributed to the transformations of the Angolan and Mozambican economies to the consumer-oriented free market.
The profound experience of loss that most returnees experienced during the 1990s was understandably prevalent in the minds of many of my interviewees. Returnees lost the future they had imagined as reward for their migration. For some life turned out well, but for many it was worse than they had imagined. Many returnees lost their goods, their social standing, their job security, and the wages which they had thought they had been transferring home, but which in fact were simply unkept promises by their governments to make good the wages unpaid by the East Germans. They also suffered the loss of their affective ties to East Germany. Many left children and romantic partners behind, with whom they frequently lost contact. Finally, many had lost the ability to get on at home without being reminded of how profoundly their migration experience had changed their attitudes, for instance regarding gender roles and sexuality. In a way that will be familiar to many travelers who return home after a long time abroad, their different perspective changed the way they saw their home and made them permanent outsiders.
The returnees navigated the ruins of socialism with a mindset that had been shaped by socialisms at home and abroad. The legacies of this remained alive in their thoughts and practices long after their governments had abandoned the ideology. The memories of their experiences in East Germany impacted their daily interactions with the world around them and provided returnees with the ideas and tools to fight their marginalization and keep alive their memory in the Angolan and Mozambican governments’ consciousness.
The two themes that drive this chapter, loss and gain, reflect the two frames of mind that coexisted in the perception of the returnees. Once again, the chapter explores the duality of experience which so often seems to characterize the migrants’ experience. It shows that while many of the returnees’ experiences were negative, the overall trajectory of their lives cannot be described as only negative. In hardship they have found agency, in their abandonment they have forged solidarity with each other, in their difference they have formed an identity. They have shown the infinite complexity and unpredictability of historical reverberations and the cussedness and resilience of the human spirit.
The chapter opens with the mass return of workers in 1990 and the circumstances under which they returned, whether voluntarily or not. Next, it features the workers’ multiple experiences of the loss of their goods, their ties to Germany, their status, their wages, and their aspirations. The second part of the chapter highlights how workers were transformed by their migration abroad and shows what they gained in the process; some came to hold different viewpoints on gender equality or sexuality, while others took to the streets to fight for the repayment of outstanding wages and benefits. These losses and gains were two sides of the same coin.
Part I: Loss
The End of Socialism: Returning from East Germany
The sweeping changes of 1989 reverberated around the globe.Footnote 3 In East Germany, it was the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall. By the time that the inner-German barrier finally came down, some East German citizens had already voted with their feet and emigrated to the West via Hungary. Within East Germany, the democratic movement had become a political force.Footnote 4 Meanwhile, the Soviet Union under Gorbachev was tolerating for the first time remarkable policy shifts in Poland and Hungary and signaled its respect for the sovereignty of its allies. For the first time, the East German socialist leadership had to deal with its problems independently of Soviet protection.Footnote 5 As it would turn out, this did not last very long.
Angola and Mozambique were still engulfed in military conflicts.Footnote 6 In June the President of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko, invited the MPLA’s José Eduardo Dos Santos and UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi for peace talks at his palace in Gbadolite. Sadly, the agreements that they negotiated did not last.Footnote 7 In Mozambique, fighting continued until 1992.Footnote 8 At FRELIMO’s Fifth Congress, in July 1989, the party—and therefore the state—affirmed its interest in accommodating the private sector and free markets, at least as a privilege for party members.Footnote 9 In Angola, influential economic enclaves separate from socialism had always existed. For instance, the oil sector operated according to market principles. From 1985, the Angolan economy had started to shift away from a Stalinist model of industrialization through heavy industry.Footnote 10 The world of the worker-trainees was in flux, with both home and host countries undergoing fundamental reorganizations.
At the end of 1989, 90,600 foreigners were working and training in East Germany. This number had dropped to a mere 28,000 one year later. Roughly two thirds of foreign workers left within a few months. Of the 15,100 Mozambican and 1300 Angolan worker-trainees who were registered in 1989, only 2800 Mozambicans and 200 Angolans showed in the statistics at the end of 1990.Footnote 11 On June 30, 1994, an estimated 19,036 former contract workers still resided in Germany, the majority of whom were Vietnamese. This number also included 2018 Mozambicans and 383 Angolans who made Germany their new home.Footnote 12
In the Mozambican case, workers had returned throughout the 1980s but many of those who had returned eventually signed up for a second contract due to the combined dangers of the civil war, military service, and unsatisfactory employment conditions in Mozambique. In the Angolan case, the first cohort of workers was due to complete their contracts in 1989. Most of the workers featuring in this chapter returned home in 1990. This prevalence illustrates what the last delegate from the Mozambican Labor Ministry in East Germany, Pedro Taimo, called a “hasty return.”Footnote 13 That term was a euphemism for a messy and unforeseen mass exodus.
Renegotiations of the agreements governing the labor and training programs became necessary as many East German companies struggled in the new market conditions. They foresaw significant reductions in their labor forces, and in many cases faced an uncertain future. To this end, the new Secretary of State and Representative for Foreigners, Almuth Berger, whom we saw in previous chapters as a pastor actively engaged in helping and working with worker-trainees, led a delegation to Mozambique from May 22 to 28, 1990.Footnote 14 Key points for the East German delegation were that East German companies gain the right to terminate individual contracts, that no new migrants were to be taken on, and that the rights of those currently in East Germany were to be redefined.Footnote 15 The question that most interested the Mozambican government was the renegotiation of their debt payment, now that this would no longer be possible through the workers’ wage transfers.Footnote 16 In Angola, there were no meaningful negotiations as the Angolans simply signed the new contract proposed by the Germans without further questions.Footnote 17 This process demonstrated that reintegration or the well-being of the returning worker-trainees was not on the agenda either in Angola or in Mozambique, where governments were faced with more pressing issues.Footnote 18
Not all migrants who returned had chosen to return. Due to the chaotic circumstances of 1989–1990 in many East German companies, not all workers were informed of the possibilities of staying on. Some companies even took the law into their own hands, chartered airplanes, and flew workers back. The Mozambican news magazine Tempo reported that on September 17, 1990, an airplane full of returning workers landed without the authorities of the airport or any other Mozambican authorities having been informed.Footnote 19 The repatriation process was uneven:
My return was forced. From my point of view there were two kinds of situations. One saw everybody returned forcibly because the government pulled out of the contracts with the companies and they no longer wanted anything to do with Mozambican workers. But there were also other companies where people could stay even outside of the government contract with Mozambique.Footnote 20
Those who made an active choice to leave did so despite the ongoing civil wars in Angola and Mozambique. In East Germany foreign workers were especially exposed to the insecurity of the political, economic, and social shifts of the Wende.Footnote 21 They were foreigners with only vague rights of residence and were frequent targets for racist and xenophobic violence. Despite certain supports, employment had become a challenge and the legal rights of foreigners were subject to fundamental changes.Footnote 22 To understand why some workers decided to return despite fulfilling the criteria to stay on—basically having a job offer and a place to stay—we not only need to look at the circumstances in East Germany favoring a return but also need to examine the factors that drew migrants toward their countries of origin.Footnote 23
Many migrants looked forward to self-actualization upon return. They wanted to enjoy the economic goods of their own labor and build their own household. They sought to nurture family ties or felt obliged to take up family responsibilities. Many workers clung to a vision of employment that would allow them to continue living their lives with similar rights and responsibilities to those they had in East Germany. Jacinto’s reasoning echoes these many motives that played a role in his decision to return home:
It was the spirit of poverty. When we received that money of 3,000 marks and I looked at the money that I had saved—that was about US$14,000—I went…on a shopping spree. …I wanted to return to enjoy the new things and the rest of the money here in Mozambique. …President Chissano said that…the situation in the country wasn’t the best but that work was guaranteed to all who had accomplished their vocational training because there were open positions. Seeing that I had graduated and had received my diploma, and also taking into account the political situation that I was living [in] over there, I decided to return.Footnote 24
After the renegotiation of the agreements in May and June 1990, workers who decided to return before the end of their contract were entitled to an indemnity payment of 3000 marks and 70 percent of their net wage for three months. Moreover, the workers were guaranteed accommodation in the dormitory at first, and it was the companies’ responsibility to organize and pay for the trip home. If foreign workers were let go by the company to which they were assigned, they had the right to stay on in East Germany at least until the end of their contract period, the right to receive a work or a business permit, support for further vocational training, and help with procuring new employment. In theory, workers had options for organizing their stay in East Germany independently. In practice, these rights were often not respected. For some who did try to stay, a seven-year fight over their resident permit status ensued.Footnote 25
Quite a few workers told me that they had initially envisioned their return as temporary. In those cases, returnees planned on using the compensation payment to invest in goods for their extended family at home but ultimately expected to return to their East German families. This new return to Germany frequently did not occur for many reasons, including economic, social, and legal issues. Over the course of the 1990s, many returnees gradually lost contact with their East German families. The workers often explained this to me as having resulted from external circumstances outside of their control. For example, homes might be flooded or burned, goods were stolen, or documents deposited with family members for safekeeping during mobile periods disappeared and along with them the letters and addresses of loved ones in Germany. Initially, some German women sent money regularly to support their struggling partners and sent them invitation letters and even plane tickets to return, but not everybody who got a return invite decided to return to Germany.
The intended temporary return turned into a permanent one. Unforeseen obstacles to navigating the bureaucracy and financial aspects of returning to Germany emerged, ranging from visa and money hurdles to scheming relatives. For example, Pedro had a jealous sister who received letters from his German partner at her work address and simply pretended that none arrived to avoid losing her brother and only son of the family to a life in Germany.Footnote 26 A common theme in these narratives was loss of agency, a certain powerlessness. Circumstances, events, and fate conspired against the returnees. In many ways this fatalism reflected the loss of agency that affected many people in the global post-socialist world, from Mozambique to the former Soviet Union. Stuck between two homes but no longer able to assume a cosmopolitan lifestyle, many sojourners had slipped into a permanent homecoming. The promise of socialist globalization that opened new migration routes for Angolans and Mozambicans had run its course.
Homecoming: From Big Men and Women to Lost Men and Women
In retrospect, the returnees told me the stories of their homecoming as narratives of loss. After an initial period of euphoria, disappointment began to dominate. Yet immediately after their return in the early 1990s, many returnees shared Adevaldo Banze’s positive attitude:
The astonishment was great. Everybody wanted to see the ‘madjermanes,’ as we were affectionately called. We were people who possessed economic respect, who faced the future. At the first chance I left my poor, crooked reed hut behind. …The new house was already made of stone and the first electric appliances arrived from Germany: TVs, fridges, radios, video recorders and much more; the famous MZ [motorbike], the German figurehead in Mozambique. It was an ambassador for economic interests and represented so much for a returnee. Family members and friends celebrated. There were so many of them, some entirely unknown, who visited me to share in the joy that the marks created.Footnote 27
The term madjerman derived from the Changana language, spoken in the south of Mozambique, although it became common currency in the national language, Portuguese. It can roughly be translated as “those from Germany,” and, as we will see, can have both positive and negative connotations.Footnote 28 Adevaldo felt the connotations to be positive, reflecting his general good feeling about his return. As a member of the new economic elite in his social environment, he relished the social standing the goods and money from Germany brought to his life. The stone house and the appliances marked his upward social mobility. He enjoyed homemaking and was hopeful for a prosperous future. Through the experience of his reintegration, he had grown into personhood as a small-scale big man, sharing his relative riches with his family members, friends, and other people who in turn looked to him for financial support and help with decision-making.Footnote 29 The migration had turned Adelvado into the backbone of economic and social redistribution for his personal networks. In the context of the general poverty in Mozambique, Adelvado’s acquired wealth and goods were a lavish display. His influence looked set to grow. But then:
The days became darker, day after day even darker, no compensation money, nothing. The time had already arrived to look for work, but not even work appeared. I still recall those sad moments when I separated from the goods, day after day, piece after piece. The TV, the radio, until the much-esteemed MZ, I had to say goodbye because I had to live…Footnote 30
With that, Adevaldo’s story is one of initial prosperity followed by decline, a narrative echoed by most returnees, especially those who took part in the mass return in 1990. A contemporary study, conducted by Elke Ahrens and Sigrid Müller, who spoke with returnees in Maputo in the early 1990s, concluded that “they cannot really identify with their home country, they do not feel capable of proactively taking initiative and they place high expectations in help from the outside.”Footnote 31
The 12,300 returnees that descended upon Maputo changed the city.Footnote 32 Returnees arrived at Maputo airport. Many stayed in the capital with the expectation of hearing more from the government regarding their job placement and payment of their remitted wages and enjoying its relative security. Others went straight back to their home provinces. Those who stayed in Maputo became the center of attention for local women. Madjerman from outside Maputo who had no friends or family stayed in a hostel near the central railway station, and one man who lived close by observed, “there were many women who got involved with the madjerman all around that hostel. They thought they could stand out a little in life like that. Those were people who came from Europe and they [the women] thought they had a lot of money.”Footnote 33 This faded as quickly as the wealth of the returnees. A cartoon, published in the early 1990s, depicted two Mozambican women in European business clothes talking to each other while a man on an MZ motorbike wearing a jacket imprinted with “DDR” drives away. One woman asks the other: “Why are you no longer going out with him?” The reply: “Ha, the guy only owned 3,000 contos and already burned it all.”Footnote 34
The madjerman shared their goods with family, friends, and neighbors, but this could also lead to tensions. Alfredo Mandlate and Carlos Cossa, two residents of Ferroviário, a bairro (district) of Maputo, recalled:
When they arrived here many things changed. The whole world went to the house of one of them, who was more welcoming to let people watch TV at his house. He was the only one with a TV around here. They were practically the first who brought sound equipment here, very noisy, and they often played that music totally different from those that we were accustomed to hearing…sometimes we couldn’t sleep because of all the noise they made when they partied.Footnote 35
The list of goods the madjerman imported was usually long. Jacinto, for instance, imported:
one fridge, two ovens, a mattress and bed frame, dishes, clothes, tools, food and detergents; a wheelbarrow, a carpet, leather, two welding machines, twelve cut-off wheels of iron, two packages of electrodes. …I brought back two TVs, two video recorders, 26 videos, mostly pornographic films, 54 disks, a state-of-the art photo camera…I brought some books, mostly vocabulary books…I didn’t bring back much memorabilia, like photos. I could have brought a car…but…I saw how complicated it was to import a car and so I left it behind.Footnote 36
In Jacinto’s case, all this was meant to support around twelve people from his family and circle of friends. He had four brothers and two sisters, and he lived with his aunt and her family; his parents had died by the time he went to East Germany. He later claims to have sold the oven for next to nothing, seventy meticais, and the fridge for 2500 meticais. Some of his goods were also stolen. Others he was still using in 2014.Footnote 37
This type of strategic shopping, to prepare for post-migration life, is a well-known theme in southern African labor migration. Previous generations—in some cases the fathers and grandfathers of returnees—invested their earnings in blankets, pots, clothing, shoes, suits, sewing machines, bikes, and later cars and other consumer goods. It had also been common to invest in things useful for farming, such as plows or donkeys.Footnote 38 Earlier generations had focused on returning to a rural homestead, while most of those who had been in East Germany envisioned urban life and thus focused on bringing things such as household consumer items, clothing, and machines which they could use professionally. The focus shifted from farming to work machines connected to their newly acquired skills such as welding and metal work.
One thing that remained the same, or was even more the case, was that the goods the migrants invested in were as much status symbols as they were practically useful. This mirrored the value attached to Western commodities in Eastern Europe.Footnote 39 In Mozambique, for example, an MZ motorbike marked its owner as a successful returnee. It also provided personal or professional transport services for themselves and their communities. In other words, the owners could use it to generate income or to provide favors. Spare parts for the MZ could be found in informal markets along with returnees who knew how to repair it, guaranteeing the bikes a relatively long life.Footnote 40 An investment in an MZ granted status, setting the returnees apart from their community; at the same time, it helped to integrate them socially and economically.
Returnees initially became an important part of the Mozambican informal economy. Abdou Maliq Simone’s notion of people as infrastructure is a useful framework to conceptualize the role of the returnees. There was an economic collaboration between returnees and residents in their neighborhoods, which expanded types of economic and cultural activity available to residents with limited means. A good example would be a returnee who allowed people in his neighborhood to watch his television, opening a new horizon to those around him. People who had rarely watched a TV before were exposed to the area outside their own neighborhood, but also to the possibility of owning a TV themselves. An MZ motorbike would have had a similar effect on the people around its owner. The returnees brought the wider world into their home patches.Footnote 41
At first, many goods were exchanged in the barter economy, an important part of the economy in Mozambique and Angola, as it also was to some extent in East Germany. The wars in Angola and Mozambique had halted production. In some respects, cash was not always useful because of the lack of goods available on the market. As a result, products and services were often exchanged as in the example of the MZ above; the MZ and other goods thus became currency. TVs as well as refrigerators were items commonly shared with neighbors as bargaining units in the barter economy, as an income-generating activity, or to invest in relationships.Footnote 42
Over time, the returnees’ economic contributions shifted from using the imported goods to generate profits in the barter economy to selling them in parallel markets. As the months passed, the returnees’ savings dwindled, their transferred wages remained inaccessible, and they increasingly resorted to selling their possessions from overseas. Some of the international socialist vanguard became traders on the informal markets of Mozambique’s unregulated parallel economy. One such informal market was the Mercado do Estrela Vermelha, the Market of the Red Star. This was nestled on the sidewalks of central Maputo, in the vicinity of what is now known as the park of the madjerman.Footnote 43 The market still takes up much of the street along Avenida Emilia Daússe.Footnote 44 The street is named for Emilia Daússe, a member of a FRELIMO women’s detachment who was active in the liberation struggle and died from a Portuguese bullet. The street eventually became an important base for the madjerman as they fought for survival in the early 1990s, as they struggled to find employment and could not access the money they had been promised.
Socialism under Samora Machel meant stamping out informal employment and petty criminality and maintaining a clean and orderly city, though those goals were not entirely met.Footnote 45 Ask any Maputense—the name for inhabitants of Maputo—about the Mercado do Estrela Vermelha today and three associations come up: illegality, informality, and the madjerman. In the words of a madjerman who has been selling at the market since 1990:
This market became famous for the products that the returnees from East Germany brought with them. …When we returned from Germany and neither encountered integration nor the money we had transferred, we had to arrange ways of surviving. The only way to survive was to sell the goods we brought from Germany, for us this turned into employment.Footnote 46
The four madjerman vendors whom I interviewed in April 2014 started by selling their own East German goods in 1990. They then bought goods from other madjerman and made a living reselling them until about 1998. They remembered about twenty madjerman sellers on this market at that time. Some had died, others had left. They described the choice to sell in the market as an “informal and spontaneous process. …Here we had no rules, we just put the goods out and waited for people to come. We put a just price on the goods, but everything was negotiable.”Footnote 47 They stored the goods, mostly electronics, refrigerators, ovens, and motorcycles, in an adjacent warehouse. Business went well because European products were highly sought after. When I spoke to them, the four vendors were no longer selling East German items. They were mainly reselling secondhand goods or trading in South African items.Footnote 48 The Market of the Red Star has become a fixture in capitalist Maputo’s economy.
Returnees also bemoaned their loss of job security. When they spoke to me in 2014, despite having worked on the Mercado do Estrela Vermelha for decades, the interviewees, like the vast majority of madjerman employed in the informal market, perceived themselves, in line with traditional definitions of unemployment, to be unemployed. Their measuring rod remained their East German experience of formal employment: “We lived a normal life [in East Germany], we left to work and returned home like normal people.”Footnote 49 “Normality” to them was equated with formalized, secure, permanent, or contractual blue-collar employment with benefits. This was in spite of the fact that normality in Maputo was, and is, informal self-employment such as had been the case since the 1990s.Footnote 50 Many returnees continued to see informality and insecurity as an abnormality, against all evidence to the contrary. As one returnee expressed it: “Normally, when a government sends a person away, it has a responsibility to reintegrate this person but what happened with us is that when we returned, they abandoned us at the airport. We received neither job placements nor our money.”Footnote 51 This discourse of normality and abnormality was in some respects a device to press their claims for compensation from the government, alongside being a change in their expectations after their German sojourn.
In the early 1990s, it was not apparent to every returnee that the government would not be able to live up to its promise of providing jobs upon their return. Instead of actively looking for a job, many simply waited for the government to approach them with a job and their deferred pay. To a certain extent, their years in East Germany had left them with the expectation that institutions would provide. As Santana, the president of one of the returned workers associations in Luanda, explained in 2015:
After our return, we needed to be integrated into the labor market. At the time of our return communism in Europe and Angola collapsed and the economic system changed. From that point onwards, it was no longer the government who gave you employment but the individual companies. This was already a market economy. In this new context, many of us did not achieve employment. At the time, we were also still in civil war and many people were unemployed.Footnote 52
Mozambican returnees who finished their contract during the 1980s were more often placed in positions that corresponded to their training. Marieta from Nampula trained at the VEB Malitex Hohenstein-Ernstthal, a textile company, from 1980 to 1984. She completed her training as a skilled textile worker “satisfactorily,” “with a spirit of mutual aid,” and was a “friendly” and “quiet” part of the “socialist work collective.”Footnote 53 After her return, she was placed by the Mozambican Labor Ministry with Texmoque, a Mozambican textile company, where she worked until the company closed in 1992. After that, she was mainly unemployed, apart from a short period of domestic service.Footnote 54 The textile industry was not the only Mozambican industry that employed returnees. Some returnees who previously worked and trained in the harbor of Rostock were able to find regular employment in Mozambican harbors.Footnote 55 Others who had trained in coal mining went to work for Carbomoc, a coalmine in Tete in Mozambique.Footnote 56
The wars in Angola and Mozambique often derailed professional paths. Alfredo was among the first Mozambican worker-trainees to be sent to East Germany in 1979 to work and train at the VEB Braunkohlewerk Belzow, a coalmine, where he was “respected by his collective” and judged a “promising cadre” who “showed great interest in his education and good work.”Footnote 57 He returned as a skilled electrician in 1983 and was placed with Carbomoc. There, he worked as a mining electrician and in a leading position as chief of general offices.Footnote 58 Despite being able to apply his knowledge and having achieved a senior position at just twenty-two years old, Alfredo was not willing to take the security risk that living in Moatize, a civil war hotspot, entailed at the time. He asked for a transfer to Maputo, which he received. Originally from Boila, near Angoche in Nampula, Alfredo wanted to be closer to his family and went back to Nampula to find work on his own initiative. He succeeded, and worked at Texmoque, a textile factory, as an electrician and later as the chief of maintenance and supervision. He also taught at the company’s secondary school from 1985 to 1987. Despite these early successes, Alfredo decided to go back to East Germany after he discovered his supervisor’s poor treatment of employees. During his second contract, Alfredo served at a car factory, IFA Automobilwerk Berlin Ludwigsfelde, as an electrician and assembler from 1987 to 1990. He then returned to Mozambique as he became afraid of continuing as a black man in unified Germany.Footnote 59 Like Alfredo, many of those early migrants who were able to use their East German skills training to work for Mozambican companies decided to return to East Germany on another contract after failing to find a place in Mozambique that satisfied them.
The returnees’ professional paths diverged throughout the 1990s. A few worker-trainees were employed long term in the fields that they had trained for. However, as Santana explained above, those who were part of the mass return had to look for their own employment. Some returnees eventually used their skills and the machines they brought home with them. Some opened up unregistered mechanic shops or guesthouses and employed others off the books.Footnote 60 Others never succeeded in using any skills and lived in poverty as porters or ambulant traders, or on the handouts of fellow madjerman.Footnote 61 Those with the means sometimes tried to further their education after their return and succeeded in adding a few more grades to their formal schooling. Some found employment opportunities in the service sector, as staff in restaurants and hotels, as drivers in transport, as security guards, and as shop assistants. These are positions which many still held in 2014.Footnote 62 A few chose other professions, such as the artists Xefrino and Dito, the latter of whom painted the cover for this book.Footnote 63 A small number of returnees succeeded in completing tertiary studies and subsequently found governmental positions or worked in the private sector.Footnote 64 Unsurprisingly, the returnees developed into a heterogeneous group.
The legacy of being a former worker could be advantageous or disadvantageous to the returnees. Having been to Germany helped some, such as Boato, in serendipitous ways:
I returned to Inhambane and tried to stay, but it was too difficult, and I came back to Maputo in 1999. I worked again in a security firm. While I was sitting outside a house, guarding it, I saw a lady walk by with her little girl and they spoke German. I talked with them for a while. It turned out that this lady was the director of the DAAD. I started working for the DAAD, then for ICMA and later for the GIZ.Footnote 65 I have been with German institutions since the 1st of September 2002 now.Footnote 66
While some returnees tell stories of getting a job because they spoke German or had been to Germany, the more common reality is that of those former workers reporting that they faced exclusion because of their affiliation with the madjerman:Footnote 67
I worked as a governess in a family and as soon as they discovered that I was a madjerman I was sent away. …We don’t have the right to work, they don’t want to pay us and on top they are discriminating against us. When I go to look for work, I can’t write on my CV that I am a madjerman.Footnote 68
As we will see later in this chapter, the madjerman acquired a reputation as troublemakers when they organized and campaigned for their rights during the 1990s and 2000s. Other Mozambicans are often less than sympathetic to their cause. For the more marginalized former migrants, what was once intended to guarantee stable employment in industrialized Mozambique became instead an impediment to employability in the contested labor market of post-socialist Mozambique. Life at the margins for many returnees was, and is, a far cry from what they had imagined their future to hold. This disillusionment put them in the company of millions of their compatriots.
In Angola, the story was similar, albeit with four significant differences. Firstly, only about 1100 workers returned in 1990, so the government had to respond to a much smaller group of returnees.Footnote 69 Some Angolan returnees from the VEB Gas- und Elektrogerätewerk Dessau found work at Sonangol, the state oil and gas conglomerate. Some of those who trained in Leipzig and Gera in textile production worked in the same field in Benguela. Others found work at Elisal in Luanda in garbage collection and processing. Still others, from the Industrieverband Fahrzeugbau, IFA, were employed in car repair around Luanda and Benguela in connection with the transport ministry.Footnote 70 The majority of returnees, however, struggled to find employment or further training opportunities in Angola, as was the case in Mozambique.
Secondly, in Angola, civil war continued for another twelve years, albeit with a brief interlude between the Bicesse Accords in 1991 and the multiparty elections in 1992.Footnote 71 Returnees and their fellow citizens were primarily concerned with the war, especially since the conflict spread to Luanda in 1992 and continued to be waged in the cities. This was different from earlier conflicts that had primarily affected the countryside and smaller towns. In this context, neither the government nor the public attached much importance to the workers’ return: “The government did not give even minimal attention to the fact that we returned. They said nothing about what should happen to us. They limited themselves to silence.”Footnote 72 About ten years passed, in which “everybody went about living their own life on their own costs,” between return and the first conversations about forming an association of returned workers.Footnote 73 “We expected to be integrated [into the Angolan labor market]. We did not have access to the agreement, and we had absolutely no way of…questioning the state as we are doing now.”Footnote 74
Thirdly, Angolan returnees refrained from large-scale public protest and did not develop a separate public group identity as in the case of the madjerman. Finally, although the Angolan economy was hard hit, thanks to the country’s oil wealth its recovery after the end of the war was impressive, albeit very uneven. My interviews suggested that between 2002 and 2014 many Angolan former migrants were able to profit from the new economic world to a larger extent than their Mozambican colleagues.Footnote 75 Alongside the greater opportunities afforded by the Angolan economy, as we will see later in this chapter, Angolan returnees were eventually granted significant financial compensation by the government. This was in stark contrast to events in Mozambique.
Overall, most returnees in Angola and Mozambique would have agreed with Adevaldo Banze, in that they were welcomed with open arms but thereafter experienced a gradual fall from grace. Many felt alienated and betrayed as they failed to see long-term benefits from what they perceived as time spent abroad serving their country. While the workers’ willingness to serve on the factory floor remained constant, the governments became disinterested in their now outdated skills. The workers’ mass return in 1990 thus brought to light the mismatch between the programs’ stated aims and their reality. In many ways, the returnees’ fate was a reproduction of their pre-existing status, in the sense that most workers came from modest backgrounds and returned largely to similar positions.Footnote 76
It had become clear that the Mozambican and Angolan war-torn economies had failed to industrialize on the envisioned scale, thus limiting the number of functioning factories that could absorb the returning skilled laborers. Another problem was that not all returnees returned as skilled workers. The last years of the migration scheme saw a dramatic drop-off in training outcomes. According to Ulrich van der Heyden, the percentage of Mozambican workers who acquired a useable level of training actually rose to 70.5 percent from 1983 to 1985. Of these, only 1 percent received certificates of professional competence in individual skills rather than certificates as skilled laborers.Footnote 77 However, these numbers fell thereafter for several reasons. These included East German preference for labor power rather than skilled work, especially in the textile, chemical, and energy industries and mining. Also, individual workers often chose to prioritize working extra shifts to earn money over education. Language classes also seem to have become less intensive, resulting in difficulties in qualifying for training. The highest numbers of foreign workers in East Germany were registered at the tail end of the 1980s, leading many to experience less rigorous vocational training than earlier generations. The disconnect between the workers’ training and dismal economic reality became ever-more apparent. Something similar happened to millions of East Germans after unification. The world for which they had been trained had ceased to exist. The difference was that in Angola and Mozambique this world had never come into being in the first place, and all ambitions for making it exist had been abandoned.
These historic shifts cost the returnees their expected role as members of a vanguard workforce and inspired their struggles for repayment in Angola and Mozambique. We will examine the ongoing claims against the Angolan and Mozambican governments in the last part of this chapter. But for now, we turn toward the loss of affective ties the migrants experienced during the 1990s.
The Loss of Transnational Ties
Hello to East Germany and to my lost son,
I was only with you once—it was beautiful. You know, East Germany, you’ve hidden my child, my blood, my sunshine! Blood of my blood. What should I do now? It was so long ago, but nobody comes to help me find you. God is no devil—one day a light will appear, somebody will come to help me to find my sunshine, blood of my blood. Small Friedland, where you, Heiko were born, tell me, you peace-land, where do you hide my son? Do you finally hear me? All that I had of you, the pictures, and your date of birth, I lost in the flood in 2000. All that I know is that your mother is called Marina and that you were born 1984 in Friedland. My son, I would like to get to know you one day.Footnote 78
Many of the relations that migrants had created with East Germans were destroyed in the chaos of the programs’ end upon German reunification. This was one of the most poignant aspects of the human cost of the Mozambican and Angolan migrant schemes.
Transnational families were one of the most visible results and tightest ties of the contract labor migration to East Germany.Footnote 79 The new generation of Afro-Germans that Angolan and Mozambican workers fathered in East Germany were a durable legacy of their presence and their intimate relations with East German women.Footnote 80
Many of us created families over there because we left when we were still young, and we lived with the people from there. We had women, we fathered children, and all that leaves a mark on a person. I always say that we sowed trees in Germany because our blood flows through the veins of many people there. These are things we will never forget.Footnote 81
To many Angolan and Mozambican fathers of mixed-race German children, their relationships were about blood bonds, roots, and seeds.Footnote 82 Even in the abstract, fatherhood was still important, regardless of the degree of separation or connection with the child. The return logic integral to this labor and training program meant that workers had to sign up as individuals without family attachments. As people do everywhere, workers created new families in East Germany. Many then lost them.
As with all utopian schemes to remake humankind, creating New Men and New Women carried a human cost. Workers were temporarily or permanently separated from a generation of children who grew up disconnected from at least one biological parent, whether that parent was in Angola, Mozambique, or East Germany.Footnote 83 Female worker-trainees more often left a child behind with family members when they migrated to East Germany than did male worker-trainees.Footnote 84 Some returned pregnant from East Germany, leaving the father in Europe.Footnote 85 Therefore, many children in Africa grew up temporarily separated from at least one birth parent, if not both. While distance and the need to earn a living separated children from parents in the African context, in East Germany racism played a large role. In (East) Germany, some of the children of Angolan and Mozambican and East German parents were separated from both birth parents and grew up with foster parents, in children’s homes, or with grandparents. Many grew up with their mothers, sometimes in new patchwork families. Not all biological fathers lived with their children or were active parents while in East Germany; some East German families barely accepted the children but not the black fathers. Some workers were sued to pay child support but never met their children.Footnote 86 Yet, in other cases intercultural families stayed together and actively parented their children.Footnote 87
Despite this diversity of circumstances, a pattern emerges: after the mass return of workers to Angola and Mozambique, many of their children in Germany lost connection to their biological fathers. Most grew up without knowing much about them and their African roots; many started actively searching for these lost connections in their teens and as young adults.Footnote 88 Manuel, for example, grew up in Halle and Hamburg. In 1995, six years after his father returned, letter exchanges between his parents ceased. Manuel recalled:
I resigned myself to the idea that I would never meet my biological father. … When I was fourteen, I talked with my father on the telephone for the first time. …The first conversation with my father was not that great, because I was not interested in getting to know him or even in calling him ‘Dad.’ …I had no interest in being involved with Mozambique or with my father until I noticed that…I desperately wanted to know who my real father was…and what I might be like in relation to him. So, in 2012 I initiated the contact by calling him myself. In 2013 the opportunity arose for us [Manuel and his mother] to fly to Mozambique. It was an incredible experience. Half an hour before I met with my father, I started feeling very nervous and I realized how important this moment was…this was the piece that had always been missing from my life.Footnote 89
Upon meeting his father in Maputo, Mozambique, Manuel was confronted with conflicting emotions. On one hand, it was a joyous occasion because he was welcomed by his father’s Mozambican family. On the other hand, Manuel confronted his father with his feelings of loss:
I was also upset with my father, because it was through him that I got the skin color which I have, my dark skin…I always had to explain myself because of it, I had to put up with so much because of it, I was always a target, and my father was never there to protect me.
Manuel was marked by his experience with racism in Germany. He not only experienced the stigma attached to his skin color, but he also suffered the loss of his black father and was missing a source of positive identification with blackness in shaping his identity as a black man.Footnote 90
Another child born of the migration schemes is Adelino, born in 1990 to a Mozambican father and East German mother in Leipzig. Like Manuel, he had a complicated relationship with his own national and racial identity. Adelino grew up believing his birth father had died, but then as an adult managed to establish contact. This made Adelino reconsider who he was: “You aren’t German and the more you grow up the more you notice that. I am Mozambican, but what that means I don’t know. That I will still have to find out.”Footnote 91 Adelino had not yet been to Mozambique when I spoke to him in 2014.
Peter, born in 1984 in Radeberg, “grew up like a German boy, with a German mother and a German father because my Mozambican father left again in 1987.”Footnote 92 His mother told him early on that he had a Mozambican father, but he was not interested in the topic until he turned twenty and wrote a letter to his father’s work address in Maputo. He received a reply. Peter traveled to Mozambique to meet his father and new family. Afterwards he started learning Portuguese and made plans for a return. One thing led to another, and in 2014 he was living in Inhambane with his Mozambican partner and children. “I think I am one of the first ones to return to Mozambique,” he proudly states.Footnote 93 His use of the word “return” was interesting given that Peter had been born and brought up in Germany and had previously never been to Mozambique as an adult. He had fully embraced his father’s identity. Peter held German and Mozambican citizenships and saw his future between the two countries.
Many returnees and their children are not as lucky as Manuel, Adelino, and Peter, and their fathers. Fathers and children were not always able to find each other. Aniko from Dresden, for instance, took up the search for her father. This was against the wishes of her mother. Her father still wrote to her for ten years after leaving. Aniko’s mother kept the letters from her to shield her daughter from a geographically distant, and what she perceived as unreliable, connection. Aniko finally flew to Maputo and followed the traces of her father to South Africa without finding him.Footnote 94 Both Angolan and Mozambican fathers and German children sought to fill a void in their lives by rebuilding a connection that had been severed, or perhaps never even established. The many active ongoing searches for one another speak to an emotional, though abstract, family connection and a need to transform this into a real bond.Footnote 95
Fathers’ searches for their offspring have often been equally emotional and tenacious. Santana’s case was instructive because it illustrated how deep the commitment to establishing connections could be in the face of adverse circumstances:
I did not return [to Angola] with the intention of staying because I already had assumed a commitment with a woman in Germany who was pregnant. When I returned in November, I was informed the child was born on October 20 and it was a girl. I tried in vain to get in contact with the mother; she did not respond. The child was in the care of the youth welfare service. I got in contact with a German lawyer now…who found out that the woman died in 2010 and that it was a boy rather than a girl. …Later, they made me take a paternity test at the embassy. …I am now waiting for the results of the second test. …At the time, she had all my documents, and she had my address but unfortunately, she decided to give the child up for adoption when it was four months old. And now I don’t know.…so this is what is gnawing inside of me.Footnote 96
For Santana, the search was also related to his life cycle. As a pensioner with more free time and a level of financial independence, he was able to establish contacts with Germany, and make a serious effort to find his lost son.
Fathers approached me with different stories. Some had left their young children and their mothers, later tried to get back to Germany, but failed. Others did not remain in contact after their departure. Some no longer recall the names of the mothers of their children; others remember them as the love of their life. Some had children with different German women; others had several children with the same women. Very few have managed to visit their children—and grandchildren—in Germany.Footnote 97 All spoke of the desire to rekindle a connection with their far-away offspring.
The reasons that Angolan and Mozambican fathers lost contact with their East German families were many, including shame, trauma, lost or destroyed contact information, relocation, and sabotage of communication by family members. The children who grew up in Germany were often unfamiliar with the precarity that returnees faced and had difficulty understanding the forces that brought about familial ruptures. Many relationships proved problematic due to language barriers and different cultural expectations about parenthood and parent-child relationships. Augusto, who lived with his daughter’s mother in Berlin for two years, told me:
Our daughter was born in 1987. …I started having contact with her last year but one day she got very angry and cut all contact with me and even my friend who helped me locate her is no longer answering my calls and I was left without understanding the situation that led to this attitude.Footnote 98
Augusto’s experience is not unique, as there was much room for misunderstanding.
Family relations and child-rearing was one area where cultural differences emerged between the Angolan, Mozambican, and East German norms. In the GDR, custody resided with both mother and father in the name of equality, even in the case of small children, but it was usually mothers who won custody.Footnote 99 Many Afro-German children held expectations about a father’s role that did not correspond to their father’s understanding of their role. Many former worker-trainees saw children as central to a complete life. However, they had grown up with more expansive family relationships than a German nuclear family. Many had experienced separation from one or both parents during their childhood and youth, for instance because they left to pursue secondary education in a city or because their parents left for work. The civil wars in Angola and Mozambique introduced an additional level of precarity, which included the loss of family members and an increased burden on mutual help networks and kinship care.Footnote 100 In many parts of Africa, child-raising is not the sole responsibility of birth parents as is the norm in Europe. Shared parenthood and child-circulation among kinship and other support networks are socially accepted and widely practiced in Angola and Mozambique.Footnote 101
The rupture of transnational romantic relationships and the associated emotional costs was another narrative of loss for both returnees and their East German partners. What remains striking is the loss of agency in the worker-trainees’ retelling of separation narratives, which mirrors the lack of agency many worker-trainees felt vis-à-vis their careers, and ties in with a certain feeling of post-socialist fatalism familiar from around the world. Returnees detailed to me many cases in which a couple at first maintained a long-distance relationship, until they lost contact by accident or through jealous family members’ interference. It is important to note just how separated from a globalized socialist world the lives of many returnees became as their prospects deteriorated after their return, postal service was not reliable, often workers lacked stable addresses, and phone conversations were beyond their means. In other cases, lovers simply grew apart or found new partners in East Germany, Angola, and Mozambique.Footnote 102 Given that many migrants intended to return home only temporarily, they often saw separation as an unintended consequence of life decisions, made with incomplete information about the medium-term effects of the transition in East Germany and migration policy changes in Germany and their consequences for romantic partnerships and family life. The following extract, from a letter written by a German woman to a Mozambican returnee in 1990, underscores this difficult negotiation:
I hope that you have reintegrated well at home and that you don’t have any problems. What are you doing now? Will you work somewhere or is that impossible? I still have work but in the next couple of weeks many workers will be let go. I hope I can keep my work. There are already many unemployed. You write that you want to return. Do wait at least until 1992. We will need that time to create order in our country. After October 3, the GDR will cease to exist. It would be very difficult for you to live here through this time. There is no work and the hatred of our people towards foreigners is really bad right now. I am very sorry for all this, but I would be distraught if I knew stupid people would hurt you. Do you know, little one, I miss you terribly. Sometimes I think you aren’t really gone, and you will soon walk in through that door. But that is impossible. You remain many thousands of kilometers away from me!Footnote 103
Though none of my interviewees brought a German woman home with them, some East German women lived in the bairros in Maputo and other provincial capitals where they were a visible presence in the early 1990s.Footnote 104 Faced with the harshness of the living conditions there, most eventually left again for Germany.Footnote 105 A popular song, by well-known Mozambican musician José Guimarães, called “Miboba”, referred to the returnees from Germany with the line “other boys came back with motorbikes and white girls from Germany.”Footnote 106 In the popular memory returnees were linked to material possessions and to white women. Both were lost to the returnees.
Part II: Gain
East German Legacies: “When We Came Back, We Had Another Way of Being in the World”
A quick glance at a map of central Maputo is a reminder that the socialist past has not vanished. Street names feature prominent socialist leaders, among them Marx, Engels, and Lenin, and many of Africa’s socialist-inspired leaders: Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Zambia’s Kenneth Kaunda, Guinea’s Ahmed Sékou Touré, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Angola’s Agostinho Neto, and Mozambique’s Samora Machel and Josina Machel.Footnote 107 In Luanda, on the other side of the continent, visitors can stroll along streets with strikingly similar names and stumble upon other reminders of a socialist past: both a stranded ship in Luanda’s ship graveyard and an abandoned cinema are named after Karl Marx; and socialism’s great men such as Agostinho Neto, Leonid Brezhnev, and Fidel Castro adorn decayed murals.Footnote 108 Maputo and Luanda continue to bear witness to FRELIMO’s and the MPLA’s quarter-century flirtations with socialism.
The attentive visitor to both Maputo and Luanda will also detect the enduring presence of socialist material relics. Occasionally, one might come across an old MZ or other goods with Eastern Bloc brand names that migrants brought back home from their extended stays in the East. Listening closely, one might detect a linguistic legacy of the former global socialist links. Some Angolans and Mozambicans can switch from Portuguese to German, Czech, Cuban-accented Spanish, Bulgarian, Romanian, or Russian. These fragments of the past remind a visitor who is paying attention to such things that well into the new millennium there are still echoes of a time in which the promise of a socialist utopia inspired Angolans and Mozambicans. These echoes are a reminder of how Angolan and Mozambican migrants shaped and were in turn shaped by these internationally entwined national histories.
In Mozambique, names emerged to describe former workers in East Germany. The most common is the term madjerman. It is an ambiguous name. On one hand, it is an externally imposed identifier with negative connotations: laziness, arrogance, a sense of entitlement. On the other, it is a positively affirming and internally ascribed name.Footnote 109
We feel good about the name [madjerman] because we were there, and it corresponds to the truth. Sometimes we are called Djerman Kohl, that was our adaptation. …We ate cabbage there and here we continued eating it. We called each other by that name, and nobody gets angry because we all ate that product in that country. …Our official name is ‘returnees from Germany.’Footnote 110
Returnees are perceived as a collective group by the public in Mozambique. Decades later, when I conducted my research, whether former migrants were referred to as madjerman—“those from Germany”—or referred to themselves in self-mockery as “German cabbage,” there was nevertheless recognition that this group of former migrants had developed its own identity and had been transformed to a degree that distinguished them from those who stayed. In Angola, due to the significantly smaller number of returnees, they had not had the same public attention and were simply referred to as returnees.
Not all was negative. Returnees brought with them memories and experiences of life under East German real socialism that continued to mark them and their behavior after their return:
We learned many things and in life all types of experiences count, especially when people emigrate and go to another country, get to know other cultures, habits, and customs. That person adopts other habits and evolves intellectually. …we also transmit what we have learned regarding social questions living together with other people, to our countrymen who stayed. When it comes to education you never lose anything. I can say it was definitely worthwhile that I learned to speak German. …I also learned about German history and saw some culturally significant places such as Weimar, the Berlin [TV] tower, and the Dresden picture gallery, which is one of the biggest in the world. …I also got to know the old town of Dresden which the Americans bombarded during the Second World War. …These are memories that we will never erase.Footnote 111
Migrants brought with them material possessions, new blood ties, and non-material legacies. In the following pages, we will explore one subset of ideas and practices that distinguished returnees from their home communities, namely their ideas about sexuality and gender roles.
When in 2015 I asked Bernardo a question about the applicability of the knowledge that he had acquired in East Germany to his present life, I was expecting an answer about his professional skills. However, he surprised me with a reference to his intimate relationships:
Simplicity in terms of intimate relationships. I don’t have problems with kissing my lover or wife in the streets. That sort of behavior is until today still complicated in this country [Angola]. That is why my family says that I am very German. [Another difference is that] when I say ‘no, I don’t want to’ it is because I really don’t want to do something and when I want to, I say, ‘Yes.’ My family asked me whether I would like to marry again, and I said yes, I would like to marry a white woman. They asked me why, and I said because a white woman is more loving and attentive.Footnote 112
Bernardo’s perception of white women as “loving and attentive” compared to Angolan women, whom many men portrayed as solely interested in economic gains, was consistent with the general idea migrants had of East Germany as a land of sexual freedom. Dagmar Herzog’s analysis of sexual behavior and morality in East Germany argued that an affirmative attitude toward sexuality developed over time.Footnote 113 In Angola, gender equality is enshrined in the constitution. Yet the notion of male supremacy remains ingrained in many Angolan men and women.Footnote 114 João Baptista Lukombo Nzatuzola claims that a “man flirting with more than one woman is seen as a sign of social prestige, reinforcing male authority.”Footnote 115 Bernardo picked up on the different degrees of equality practiced in the two societies, albeit both being countries that professed women’s equality before the law and lacked in practice.
Bernardo’s statement also highlighted differences between direct and indirect communication styles, which in turn shapes relationships. He was exposed to, and subsequently adopted, a direct communication style in East Germany, which, now that he had returned to Angola where indirect communication was more usual, made him an outsider and earned him the label “German.” It was this difference in communication style that probably contributed to his generalized reading of Angolan women as “difficult”—presumably, not a one-way street.
In Mozambique, Bernardo’s colleagues dealt with similar changes to their behavior that rendered them different. This notion of being an outsider also came with changed ideas about masculinity that seemed to some to undermine what they thought of as traditional “Mozambican” masculinity based on the role of the man as the provider. Particular points of difference were the relatively domestic role of men in East German society and associated approval of women’s active participation in the workforce. Adriano stated:
[In East Germany] we saw the men get up and walk into the kitchen to wash dishes. If you do that here, you won’t find a woman. The woman controls a lot [in Mozambique]. But we are already acculturated, and we say we are all human beings and if I wash the dishes, you will go and iron, and if you sweep the rooms, I will do another thing in the house over the weekends. …We do not hide [what we have learned in East Germany].Footnote 116
His colleague, Alves, shared the housework with his wife on the weekends.Footnote 117 Alfredo and his wife also made a conscious decision to only have two children to ensure they could finance their education, a decision he attributes to the nuclear family he experienced in East Germany.Footnote 118
East German women in East Germany were expected to become part of the workforce, were encouraged to pursue further education, and assumed leadership positions in companies, albeit rarely achieving top leadership positions.Footnote 119 The subsequent economic independence of women resulted in a shift in gender relations as women increasingly had bargaining power with their partners and the state.Footnote 120 As the regime encouraged men to actively participate in household chores, a particular brand of East German manhood emerged. Dagmar Herzog describes this as a “distinctive egalitarian style of heterosexual masculinity” based on “East German men’s domesticity and self-confident comfort with strong women.” This move toward equality, however imperfect, according to Herzog, was different from the “socialist machismo” seen in other Eastern European states, where patriarchy and misogyny existed side by side with gender-egalitarian rhetoric.Footnote 121 What is more important than the extent to which East German households were actually marked by shared tasks here is that many worker-trainees perceived the roles of East German men to be different from the cultural context from which they emerged. The extent to which many worker-trainees picked up on gender roles and cultural cues in East Germany once again demonstrated the importance of their affective ties with the East German population; the fact that they acted (or at least claimed to act) upon some of these new ideas, despite causing friction in their home environments, speaks to the lasting effects of these socialist ideas.
In East Germany, workers were also exposed to a different relationship to the body. Regina described her discovery of nakedness in the following terms: “There are things that for our Mozambican culture are unacceptable. After having come back from Germany we already thought of them as normal. For instance, when the people heard us talk about having gone swimming all naked, they thought it was very strange, but we already thought of it as normal.”Footnote 122 Not all interviewees embraced East German nudism (Freikörperkultur, FKK), as Regina did. This form of nudity was one of the freedoms the East German people carved out from the regime starting in the 1960s. By the 1970s, full nudity was the norm at many beaches and lakesides.Footnote 123 In a culture that promoted a non-commoditized relationship to sex, many East German women felt safe stripping and being seen without feeling as if they were being consumed.Footnote 124 Regina captured this general sense of freedom around the female body, read against her own experiences of sexual violence in Mozambique:
we saw so many white women wearing very little over there and in contrast here we have old women who dress in capulanas [traditionally worn type of sarong] and hide every part of their body, and they are still violated. These kinds of values that we learned in Germany; these are the values we really need to transmit to the next generation.Footnote 125
What Regina had seen and adopted as desirable, she did not want to keep for herself. She was driven to work toward greater gender equality in Mozambique. To that end, Regina was raising awareness about domestic violence in Mozambique and was volunteering for various social projects in Namaacha.Footnote 126 Whether it was Regina’s empowerment, Bernardo’s willingness to show affection publicly, or Adriano’s and Alves’s domestic chores, these workers’ stays in East Germany had shown them aspects of a society striving toward gender equality and a more liberal expression of sexuality. They were keen on keeping these aspects alive despite criticism from neighbors and friends.
A Luta Continua! Activism for Redress and Acknowledgment
So many years of work, but all in vain,
Madjermanes don’t know anymore whether they have
The right to those moneys they conquered
With the sweat of their undershirts
And that they confiscated from them.
Where is justice? Who has the power tramples on the hand.
The poor stay even poorer and are left with xiça.Footnote
Workers use xiça, or chiça in Portugal, to express pain and dissatisfaction when they get hurt or things go wrong. Marrabenta refers to a popular Mozambican music style. “País Da Marrabenta” by the Mozambican rap group Gpro Fam. The song was launched as an advanced single, part of the first Mozambican hip hop album Um Passo em Frente. Translation: Inês Alves. Thank you to Janne Juhana Rantala for introducing me to this music.
Workers use xiça, or chiça in Portugal, to express pain and dissatisfaction when they get hurt or things go wrong.Injustice! The most common word used among us. We complain so much, we practically lose our voice.Footnote
Marrabenta refers to a popular Mozambican music style. “País Da Marrabenta” by the Mozambican rap group Gpro Fam. The song was launched as an advanced single, part of the first Mozambican hip hop album Um Passo em Frente. Translation: Inês Alves. Thank you to Janne Juhana Rantala for introducing me to this music.Verse from “O Pais da Marrabenta” by Gpro Fam
In Mozambique, madjerman collectively gained an ambiguous reputation; loss and gain in this section lie as closely together as admiration and contempt for the madjerman in Maputo. Hip hop artists like Gpro Fam, Azagaia, and Tira Temas composed songs that reference the madjerman’s ongoing struggle for vindication. These songs portrayed madjerman as people who stood up for their rights against a FRELIMO government that betrayed them.Footnote 129 Yet, many a Maputense sighed when stuck in a traffic jam caused by yet another madjerman demonstration.Footnote 130 Some even saw the madjerman as ungrateful troublemakers who had already had the privilege of living abroad while others suffered through the civil war and were now claiming preferential treatment yet again. Despite this criticism, the group became a reference point for civil activism against the government. This sentiment was humorously expressed in a caricature published in Savana in 2014 that depicted masses of people demonstrating and holding signs that identified them as interest groups. Among them were the madjerman, the resettled, the demobilized, and opposition parties such as MDM and RENAMO. In this depiction, a line of heavily armed police officers from the rapid intervention unit kept the troublemakers at bay to allow the then President Armando Guebuza and Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina to walk to work. Guebuza beamed: “What is important is that the same remedy works for all diseases!”Footnote 131 The madjerman thus earned a certain prominence in the political landscape of post-socialist Mozambique.
They also gained a collective voice. The overwhelming majority of returnees in Angola and Mozambique expressed disappointment, anger, and continued hope when it came to the tense relationship between them and their respective governments. They felt as if the government had betrayed them. The various organizations the returnees formed proclaimed to fight for the workers’ rights. These rights involved the repayment of outstanding wages, which had been withheld in varying percentages from 25 to 60 percent, as well as social security and pension benefits. Deferred pay was nothing new to many migrants as it had also been practiced in the labor migration to the South African mines; likewise Angolan and Mozambican workers were not the only foreign workers in East Germany for whom the plan was to find parts of their wages in bank accounts upon their return home.Footnote 132 In the Angolan case discussed below, the workers fought for a collective compensation settlement, rather than restitution of the exact amount owed to each individual worker. In Mozambique, the ATMA (Associação dos Trabalhadores Moçambicanos na Alemanha, Association of Mozambican Workers in Germany), the largest organization representing the madjerman countrywide, leaned toward group compensation in its demands but individual workers often expected specific restitution of the exact amount owed per worker. Most individuals in Angola and Mozambique remained unclear about the details of the claim-making; they did not relate to the ongoing fight as a technical negotiation but rather as a moral discourse. They felt economically, socially, and morally wronged by the actions of their respective governments and sought to redress this injustice by claim-making. Even on the level of the leadership, facts and wishful thinking intertwined, and the movement leadership has changed repeatedly over the last two decades.
As soon as it became clear that the government would not honor their agreement to make good the deferred wages, an angry opposition formed in Mozambique, which saw the formation of various organizations of returned workers and public protest marches. A similar process later occurred in Angola.Footnote 133 The public protests by angry Angolan and Mozambican workers in Maputo, Luanda, Berlin, and Brussels were a direct result of the migration experience to East Germany. The money and benefits claimed were a product of the workers’ labor in East Germany. In a less material legacy, their methods drew on the active protest culture they witnessed in East Germany. Most important in this respect were madjerman participation in and leadership of company strikes, and in 1989 to 1990, their witnessing of, and occasionally participation in, the Monday Demonstrations when people in East Germany came out to peacefully protest the government. The madjerman protest movement has been the subject of countless news reports, exhibitions, and analyses over the years.Footnote 134 Madjerman have taken part in creative May 1st demonstrations, occupied the German Embassy in Maputo in 2004, and marched into the Mozambican parliament, all in an effort to get the respective governments to pay out what is owed.Footnote 135 Rather than drawing a complete picture of the protest movement, I focus in the following on the political voice of the protesters, a voice they gained after coming back from Germany.
The returnees foremost criticized their governments for exploiting them. At the heart of their grievances was less the deferred payment policy per se and more the bitterness about the (non-)repayment process. One worker in Maputo remembered:
We thought it [the deferred pay option] was a good thing because we would receive the money after our return. It was better only to receive 40 percent of our wages there because we didn’t have a future in that country [East Germany]. So, it would have been better to get the other portion here and live very well but that never happened.Footnote 136
The deductions varied from 25 to 60 and later 40 percent of the wages of the workers. Many workers mention that they had to part with their documents outlining how much money was deducted from each of them at the airport upon returning. Subsequently, some workers received some payouts but could no longer prove how much the money they received was compared to what they had once earned. The fact that many workers did not receive the withheld portions of the wages gave rise to allegations of government corruption and continues to fuel the demonstrations.
Workers also gained a political voice as some compared their situation to slavery, as in Momade’s critique: “When FRELIMO sent us to Europe they said it was for our vocational training but in reality they used us as political slaves.”Footnote 137 Momade’s realization came after he learned about the use of his transfer payments to pay off some of the Mozambican debt resulting from imports from East Germany. It is a retrospective evaluation of the migration scheme on a continuum of forced labor practices. The fundamental economic rationale for slavery is extracting value from people’s labor by not paying them. Mozambicans did receive a wage, and one that—without the subtractions—would have been equal to that of an East German worker in the same position. But both governments party to the bargain did indeed extract value from the workers’ labor. The government officials involved in negotiating higher numbers of Mozambican worker-trainees to East Germany and a higher percentage of mandatory transfers in the mid-1980s with the explicit aim of reducing rising Mozambican debts must have been aware of the fact that there was no feasible way for Mozambique to pay the workers upon their return. They must have realized when they stipulated that pension entitlements were to be credited in the Mozambican system that no such system was in place at the time. It was only introduced in 1988.Footnote 138 The program was thus built on deceit and a level of exploitation that rendered all claims to socialist solidarity absurd. Foreign workers (and East German companies) were left in the dark about the machinations regarding their transfer payments. As of June 1, 1987, the standard contract to be signed by Mozambican workers and their East German employers simply stated that with their signature, workers agreed to transfer 60 percent of their net wages to accounts at the Banco de Moçambique for their benefit, where the money would arrive “through the intergovernmentally agreed channels.”Footnote 139 Nebulous formulations such as this kept the actual schemes hidden from the workers.
Outright slavery cannot operate without force; here participants were attracted and kept motivated with promises that were in reality to be broken, a sad echo of forced and indentured labor programs throughout world history.Footnote 140 While the daily lives of Angolan and Mozambican contract laborers as remembered here departed significantly from those of earlier, far more exploitative contract labor migrations of indentured laborers in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as Chinese or Indian contract labor to Cuba or Peru and South Africa, the fundamental rationale was built on state-sponsored deception in both cases.Footnote 141 Labor exploitation happens on a continuum from unfree to free labor and the fact that workers’ payments and benefits were traded for debt reduction without a plan in place for how to compensate the workers in full reveals the East German and Mozambican propaganda about the labor migration programs as woefully incomplete.
The fact that the money the workers had earned with their labor was used to pay back Mozambican debts was the issue that continues to incite former workers. Juma from Nacala compared his father’s life under Portuguese colonialism to his own under FRELIMO leadership:
I felt aggrieved because we did not see the benefit of the things for which we worked in East Germany. It was as if I were my father. When he was taken to São Tomé e Príncipe, he only received a subsidy. The real money went to the colonial government. That is why he returned only with a suitcase of ragged clothes and a pair of shoes. …I had a contract for Germany and worked there for three and a half years but 60 percent of my wages was subtracted, which I was supposed to receive after my return. I never received anything. That is exploitation like the labor of my father. The difference is that I am exploited by compatriots. That is the difference between the colonial government and that of the FRELIMO…I returned with the same clothes here, with the same shoes. I did not construct my house, I did nothing, and they kept my money. For me there is no difference between colonialism and the FRELIMO government.Footnote 142
The comparison is fair, to the extent that the same basic economic idea sent Juma’s father to São Tomé e Príncipe and him to East Germany in the late 1980s, where 60 percent of his wages were taken from him. We can therefore speak of a continuum between contractual labor practices between colonial and postcolonial governments in this case. Yet, the working and training conditions, the remittances, and the degree of freedom with which the migration started varied significantly. The comparisons with the colonial regime were drawn by a generation of migrants who had never lived with the threat of forced labor producing cash crops to enrich the colonial masters. They grew up instead with the promise of socialist revolution. Collective labor practices drawing on the labor power of subjects/citizens to develop the colony/country through infrastructure projects showed marked continuity from colonial to postcolonial times, not only in socialist Angola or Mozambique but across Africa. Yet, what changed fundamentally was the relationship between citizens and the state.Footnote 143 Many workers I interviewed embraced the development dream of the Cold War period wholeheartedly. They bought into the postwar dream of development “as a promise of a better future, as a tool of liberation, and as a vision of a feasible alternative to the past and present.”Footnote 144 They sincerely expected development to lead to a better life for everyone and to be the result of schemes like the one in which they had participated. They believed in the importance of their training. Instead of a blue-collar job, they received decades-long warfare and the precarity of an economy unable to provide formal employment for many. Juma’s disappointment and anger were real. His were the sentiments that continue to fuel the ongoing protests decades later.
The fact that the money the workers had earned with their labor was used to pay back the debts of Mozambique was the issue that continues to incite former workers, where they are aware of this aspect of their history. Having grown up with the memories and histories of slavery and forced labor in the colonial context, labor migrants watched closely how their working conditions compared. One worker from Ilha de Moçambique remembered: “We knew it was a real offer because we had a contract and all types of guarantees that this was not slavery. When we arrived there, we met people from other nationalities, and we were all treated the same as the German people.”Footnote 145 This worker’s assessment rings true, too, to a certain extent, especially if we think of the first generation of worker-trainees, who on the whole received better training and job placements upon return. If the workers had received their full wages and benefits either in East Germany or upon return, they would have likely returned with grievances about working conditions in East Germany but not with the fundamental distrust of the FRELIMO government which continues to govern the country in 2022.
Former worker-trainees also gained a place to cement and maintain their group identity. The central gathering place in Maputo, replicated throughout the provincial capitals of Mozambique, is the Jardim 28 de Maio, colloquially known as the park of the madjerman. Situated in downtown Maputo, close to the Labor Ministry, the park serves as the headquarters of the umbrella organization for returned workers, the ATMA, and as the central rallying spot for weekly demonstrations.Footnote 146 A memorial bears witness to comrades lost to the past two decades of the workers’ struggles to claim government payments. The park also serves as a social, economic, and protected space for various madjerman groups. This includes the destitute, who sleep in the park and spend their days living off the alcohol and food given by fellow madjerman. There are also many madjerman traders and informal businesses along Av. Ramao Fernandes Farinha. Someone from the ATMA leadership is usually on hand at the tables next to the organization’s office. This person is the initial point of contact for the constant trickle of madjerman from all over the country who stop by to be updated on nossa luta—our struggle. “We are a family,” observed Juma in 2014.Footnote 147 Madjerman support each other in this space with connections and advice. They can also find a place there to recuperate and anchor their collective memory of their shared past. They use the place to express solidarity with each other and lend weight to their collective claims on the government. While a renovation of the park and the Covid-19 pandemic have altered the use of the park in recent years, it continues to be the place to which madjerman turn in search of information about ongoing demands for restitution (Fig. 6.1).
In Angola, there are no madjerman, or rather there is no equivalent term, and no cohesive organization representing former worker-trainees as a whole. Instead, two single-story brick houses in the Luandan suburbs, one in Prenda, the other in Tala Hady, serve as the offices and meeting places for two rival wings of AEX-TAA, the association of the Angolan ex-workers in former East Germany.Footnote 148 In 2015, the acting president of the Prenda wing was José António. He spent four years in Ludwigsfelde at the IFA car factory before returning to Luanda in 1990.Footnote 149 The president of the organization in Tala Hady was Estevão de Santana Maria Dias de Elvas, who was also part of the first group of Angolan workers sent to IFA Ludwigsfelde to work in truck assembly in June 1985, and who later worked as a translator at various companies in East Germany.Footnote 150 AEX-TAA was formed in 2003 to negotiate with the government in the name of approximately 2500 former Angolan workers in East Germany.Footnote 151 The reclaiming process started officially in 2004, to which the government responded positively.Footnote 152 In the meantime, the organization had split into two wings. The key difference between the two factions was that the Prenda wing was still pursuing its claims against the government, while the Tala Hady faction had accepted a settlement. Rather than making new demands, Prenda focused on signing on all former worker-trainees who were eligible for the benefits that had been agreed.
The agreement in question was signed on February 11, 2011. The government agreed to attribute the status of Técnico Médio de 1a classe, a category identified in Angolan labor law, to all workers who had labored in East Germany. This categorization made Angolan laborers, who had been subject to East German labor laws, visible in Angolan labor laws. The amount allotted to each worker was 1,278,000 kwanza (US$13,462 at the time). This consisted of the payment of a fee for the contract cancellations, holiday subsidy, Christmas subsidy, departure subsidy, money to kickstart self-employment, and money for re-training. In addition, every worker fifty years of age and older could sign up to the system of the National Institute of Social Security (INSS) to receive a pension calculated as if it were for twenty-eight years’ work—this was worth 45,000 kwanza per month.Footnote 153
As of August 2014, the Angolan government viewed the case as closed, having made available 4,016,604,800 kwanza since 2004.Footnote 154 This would mean that by 2015 each of the 1600 registered former worker-trainees had the opportunity to receive a total of about US $26,000 in compensation, regardless of their time in service. In addition, they were entitled to a monthly pension of roughly US$450. President Elvas thought that the settlement was fair:
Normally sixty is the retirement age here…many of us, when we are 50 years old, we receive our pension but still continue working. …This was one of the advantages that we had based on the agreement. Today we are in a good place because the state already grants us a monthly pension.Footnote 155
Members of AEX-TAA Prenda disagreed and continued mobilizing for higher remuneration:
This is impossible, we are on our way to 30 years of involvement in this process and they just say, ‘you like demonstrations, you are cooked and grilled!’ Nobody likes demonstrations. People demonstrate because they feel injured. If MAPTESS [Labor Ministry] had paid, nobody would be on the streets to demonstrate.Footnote 156
The campaigners cast themselves as victims:
Give us back what is ours, our sweat. It isn’t easy to leave a place and then come back and not find what you have worked for; it hurts. You know, in Europe we worked in the cold, in the rain, everything. We had to get up at 4:00 AM and by 5:00 AM we already had to fight the cold.Footnote 157
They also cast their demands in terms of human rights. José António maintained: “Angolans have to learn to fight for their rights and demand dignity!”Footnote 158 This rights-based discourse was, and continues to be, central to both the Mozambican and Angolan processes, and it indicates the larger meaning that these individual cases hold for the country as a whole.
In an interview on a Voice of America podcast, Angola Fala Só, José António made a connection between his cause and the wider state of democracy in Angola: “Angolans need to claim their rights and voice their positions because one day the situation will change.”Footnote 159 He expressed his conviction that it was important to stand up for one’s cause, because of the potential this act has to collectively contribute to political change. He connected the rights of the former migrant workers with a larger human rights framework: “They have to respect the rights of the workers because these are also human rights.”Footnote 160 Asked how much longer they are willing to continue their fight, José answered: “As long as necessary, until our claims are met. We are also citizens of this country and we have earned recognition. We conformed to all our duties for the fatherland until the moment of peace and now we demand our rights.”Footnote 161 This statement clearly demonstrated an idea of a bargain between citizens and government—a social contract that Jean-Jacques Rousseau would have recognized—that had not been upheld.
Public opinion is generally supportive of the former worker-trainees’ claims because dissatisfaction with the Angolan government is widespread.Footnote 162 On the other hand many perceive the claimants as a privileged group: “They went there and ate and drank and had a good life. They ask for more than US $200,000 but nobody speaks about the money for former FAPLA soldiers who gave their very best while those in Germany ate, drank, and went out with prostitutes. We […] only ate gunpowder.”Footnote 163 Or worse, they accuse them of opportunism: “They want to use the disorganization…If Angola was still in the hands of the oldest brother, Dr. Savimbi [leader of UNITA, the MPLA’s civil war opponent, killed in 2002], they would all be thrown into the fire because this is absurd.”Footnote 164
Former worker-trainees have protested in Angola.Footnote 165 But given the tenuous security situation for visible protest in Angola, more open demonstrations are outsourced to the Angolan diaspora in Europe. There are about 300 former Angolan workers still registered in Germany.Footnote 166 The press attaché of the Angolan Embassy in Berlin, Fernando Tati, stated in December 2014: “They are attempting to extort the Angolan government. Today they ask for a predetermined amount, tomorrow they ask for more. It practically amounts to racketeering.”Footnote 167 In another Deutsche Welle article, the embassy is quoted denouncing the workers’ ongoing demonstrations as “irresponsible” and as “misleading propaganda.”Footnote 168
In the opposition press, the demonstrations in Germany are characterized as expressions of the “profound indignation of the Angolan diaspora, which is faced with corruption and impunity in Angola.”Footnote 169 At least ten demonstrations took place from 2011 to 2017 in Berlin, Frankfurt, and in front of the European Parliament in Brussels.Footnote 170 The protest march in Brussels in June 2015 was attended by about 250 former worker-trainees, mainly men, now living in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Key protest slogans were: “Down with corruption!” “Long live democracy!” “Down with the dictatorship!” “Long live freedom of expression!” and “We will win!” The wider aims and claims of the movement were clear in these phrases.
Miguel Cabango, the organizer and president of Assoextra e.V., maintained: “it is not our intention to stain the Angolan image here in Europe, but necessity obliges us. This is our right because we worked but never saw our money. Until we see our money the marches here will not stop.”Footnote 171 The protesters delivered a letter to the President of the European Commission and addressed the then Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos, calling on him to intervene on their behalf. Diasporic Angolans saw and portrayed themselves as patriotic Angolans, on the right side of history, holding the elite accountable while demanding their own rights, and campaigning for greater accountability and responsiveness in Angolan governance.
Employing patriotism and the independence struggle has allowed for a critique of corrupt elites. The victimization narratives and the rights dialogue aimed at both an international and national audience. The desire for recognition and further payments motivated the protestors, some of whom acknowledged that the current political system allowed greater leeway for this kind of action: “Now we have the right to claim our rights if we think that things aren’t going well. That was not possible earlier on…During socialism we had a one-party state and that was an authentic dictatorship.”Footnote 172 Ultimately, Angolan former workers achieved a settlement that allows them many more benefits than the former workers in Mozambique. The crucial difference is that the Angolan state is flush with oil money, which has allowed it to buy off the former migrant workers and, in so doing, draw much of the sting from their protests. Mozambique, lacking the oil riches of Angola, does not have this option.
In recent years, the Mozambican community in Germany, represented by the CMA (Comunidade Moçambicana na Alemanha, the Mozambican Community in Germany), has engaged lawyers to claim missing repayments for members of the Mozambican diaspora.Footnote 173 Formalized relations between the campaigning groups for the former workers in Germany and Mozambique, the CMA and ATMA respectively, came about in 2014 and allow for a certain level of coordination with regard to demonstrations and preparations for different legal proceedings in Berlin and Maputo.Footnote 174 As of 2019, former Mozambican workers in Germany and Mozambique, working alongside German civil society actors with a background in East German resistance networks and the Sant’Egidio community, have organized with the goal to have former contract laborers recognized as victims of the East German SED regime and to reenter negotiations with the German as well as Mozambican governments about retributions.Footnote 175 Key to this was a conference on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the 1979 agreement between East Germany and Mozambique.Footnote 176 It brought together participants—former workers and school children from Mozambique, former workers’ German children, East German development experts posted to Mozambique, those having worked with Mozambican laborers in East Germany—with state representatives from Mozambique and Germany, researchers, artists, and interested citizens.Footnote 177 The central concern of the conference was to seek a solution for the missing wages, social security contributions, and unclear pension entitlements of the Mozambican contract workers. In this context, journalist and legal expert Dr. António Frangoulis brought out the exploitative nature of the agreements when he stated: “In fact, the inheritance of the GDR is a dark chapter in the history of the relationship of friendship and cooperation between Mozambique and Germany.” He called the labor migration to East Germany “a living history of modern slavery […] smack in the middle of the twentieth century” and referred to the workers as having been “sold like things” and having been “robbed of their fundamental rights, in clear violation of the universally applicable Declaration of Human Rights.”Footnote 178 Günter Nooke, personal Africa representative of Chancellor Merkel in the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and Africa Officer in the same ministry, represented the German government and emphasized that no valid outstanding payment liability existed for the German government. However, he also admitted: “For the GDR, its engagement in Mozambique and the contract labor agreement was not just socialist fraternal assistance but also business. East and West both instrumentalized African states, their governments and especially the people of those countries for their political and geopolitical interests.”Footnote 179 The representative of the Mozambican Embassy, Julião Armado Langa, recognized the contribution of the workers to the development of Mozambique “in one way or another” and underlined his wish for a continued close German–Mozambican relationship.Footnote 180 Since then, the new momentum has carried the issue into debates in the German Bundestag where MP Dr Karamba Diaby has called upon parliament not to forget the Mozambican workers in debates about East German pension transitions, and Katrin Budde and Matthias Höhn have exchanged viewpoints on whether Germany needs to accept financial responsibility vis-à-vis former contract laborers in East Germany;Footnote 181 Vice-President of the Bundestag Dagmar Ziegler acknowledged that parliament needs to ask the moral question. She underlined that the East German side knew perfectly well that workers did not receive what they had worked for, and opened the door toward recognizing the continuing workers’ demands as moral demands.Footnote 182 Moreover, well over 400 researchers signed an open letter to the German government in support of compensation payments.Footnote 183 These developments have not gone unnoticed in Mozambique. The madjerman have, after pausing due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, resumed their meetings in the park of the madjerman, where they discuss the ongoing developments in Germany.
This migration had far-reaching unintended consequences which continue to echo in the lives of Angolans, Mozambicans, and Germans. None of the program planners could have anticipated the transnational protests which are its most recent reverberations. What becomes apparent when Angolan workers march in front of the European parliament, or Mozambican workers march through the Brandenburg Gate, are the ongoing ties that bind Angola and Mozambique to Germany through the legacies of their shared socialist histories even as all three countries firmly form part of today’s globalized world. The diaspora, at home and abroad, has found its political voice and is utilizing it, as fiercely proud Angolans or Mozambicans, to stake their claims to consideration in domestic policy.Footnote 184 What will happen next is history’s unfinished business.
Angolan and Mozambican workers returned home to rebuild their personal and professional lives and to support their country’s development through industrialization. But they soon realized that their dream of living life as blue-collar workers, with similar benefits and privileges to those they had encountered in East Germany, was to remain just that—a dream. What originally was a euphoric return, followed by active participation in the sharing economy and enjoyment of newfound social capital, soon turned into disappointment and marginalization. The workers thus narrated their return through the prism of their loss: loss of their goods, their deferred wages, their social standing, their ties with Germany, and their professional and personal dreams.
Despite this, they also spoke of the transformations they underwent abroad and the gains from this journey. They came back with a group identity that bound them together and provided them with a community. They adapted their worldview in lasting ways about issues such as gender equality, sexuality, and partnership. And finally, they gained agency and successfully negotiated repayments. Their experiences with life under real socialism heightened their political consciousness as civic actors, taught them the skill of protesting, and allowed them to envision the possibility of an alternative present. The migrants are part of their national histories; through their lives, the East German experience became interwoven in the fabric of Angolan and Mozambican history. Through the Angolan and Mozambican protests in Europe, their national histories once again became situated within a global context. But this time, it was a post-socialist one.
The German Democratic Republic, the People’s Republic of Mozambique, and the People’s Republic of Angola have all ceased to exist. The legacies of the historic entanglements of all three states are complex. The positive and the negative exist side by side. In telling this multifaceted history we must have the patience to balance workers warmly recalling facets of their East German lives with the structural critique that exploitation became part of the system once it was clear to the parties involved in signing the bilateral government agreements that no provisions were made to pay workers their full wages, social security benefits, and pension entitlements upon their return. The next chapter examines how the memories of the migrations have continued to shift and evolve, and how this relates to their overall meaning. For thousands of present-day Mozambican and Angolan returnees, the legacy of this migration continues to live on in their memories in the form of eastalgia, a longing for aspects of their East German experience.
M. Anne Pitcher, Transforming Mozambique: The Politics of Privatization, 1975–2000 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002); Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola since the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015); João Mosca, Economia de Moçambique, Século XX (Lisboa: Editora Piaget, 2005); Patrick Chabal and Nuno Vidal, eds., Angola: The Weight of History (London: Hurst, 2007); Tony Hodges, Angola: From Afro-Stalinism to Petro-Diamond Capitalism, African Issues (Lysker, Oxford, Bloomington: The International African Institute, James Curry, Indiana University Press, 2001); Tony Hodges, Angola: Anatomy of an Oil State (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).
Jean-Pascal Daloz, “‘Big Men’ in Sub-Saharan Africa: How Elites Accumulate Positions and Resources,” Comparative Sociology 2, no. 1 (2003): 271.
Jeffrey A. Engel, The Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Revolutionary Legacy of 1989 (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); Susanne Stemmler, Valerie Smith, and Bernd M. Scherer in collaboration with Nevim Çil, Manthia Diawara, Silvia Fehrmann, Navid Kermani, and Yang Lian, eds. 1989—Globale Geschichten (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2009); James Mark, Bogdan C. Iacob, Tobias Rupprecht, and Ljubica Spaskovska, 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019); Carlos Riojas-López, “1989: Global History?” Iberoamericana 14, no. 54 (2014): 7–26.
Ulrich Mählert, Kleine Geschichte der DDR (München: Beck, 1998), 166f, Ch. 6.
Dale Gareth, Between State Capitalism and Globalisation: The Collapse of the East German Economy (Bern: Peter Lang, 2004), 255–60.
David Birmingham, Frontline Nationalism in Angola and Mozambique (London: James Currey, 1992); James Ciment, Angola and Mozambique: Postcolonial Wars in Southern Africa (New York: Facts on File Inc, 1997); Kai M. Thaler, “Ideology and Violence in Civil Wars: Theory and Evidence from Mozambique and Angola,” Civil Wars 14 (2012): 546–67.
Only seven days afterwards Savimbi destroyed the electricity supply in Luanda; see David Birmingham, A Short History of Modern Angola (Oxford University Press, 2016), 106–7. The MPLA retaliated with new offensives against Mavinga, the gateway to Savimbi’s encampment at Jemba, in August and again toward the end of the year leading into the new year. Stephan L. Weigert, Angola: A Modern Military History, 1961–2002 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 94–6.
Stephen Emerson, The Battle for Mozambique (Pinetown, South Africa: 30 degrees South, 2014), 190.
Pitcher, Transforming Mozambique, 136.
David Birmingham discusses the economic crisis of 1985 that introduced “a policy of ‘economic purification’” which brought with it some market principles and incentives; see Birmingham, A Short History of Modern Angola, 102. For the oil sector, see Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, “Business Success, Angola-Style: Postcolonial Politics and the Rise and Rise of Sonangol,” The Journal of Modern African Studies 45 (2007): 595–619. Ku-Ntima Makidi even argues that Angola pursued a policy of “economic non-alignment” expanding the private sector and increasing Western investment initiated by Neto and continued by Dos Santos; see Ku-Ntima Makidi, “Class Struggle and the Making of the Revolution in Angola,” Contemporary Marxism 6 (1983): 137.
Almuth Berger, “Annäherungen - Bericht der Ausländerbeauftragten des Landes Brandenburg” (Potsdam: Die Ausländerbeauftragte des Landes Brandenburg, 2006), 38; Andreas Müggenburg, Die ausländischen Vertragsarbeiter in der ehemaligen DDR: Darstellung und Dokumentation (Berlin: Bonner Universitäts-Buchdruckerei, 1996), 18.
Uli Sextro, Gestern gebraucht—heute abgeschoben. Die innenpolitische Kontroverse um die Vertragsarbeitnehmer der ehemaligen DDR (Dresden: Sächsische Landeszentrale für politische Bildung, 1996), 216. My book is not concerned with the workers who stayed on in Germany. For a summary of the fate of former contract workers in united Germany, see Eva Kollinsky, “Meanings of Migration in East Germany and the West German Model,” in United and Divided. Germany since 1900, Mike Dennis and Eva Kollinsky, eds. (New York/Oxford: Berghahn, 2004), 145–75.
Pedro Taimo, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, May 20, 2014. In 2006 there were still about 20,000 former contract workers in Germany across all nationalities. About 100 Mozambicans and 70 Angolans resided in Brandenburg alone; see Berger, “Annäherungen,” 36. This book does not trace the history of the few who stayed in Germany, but traces the return of the many to Angola and Mozambique.
Almuth Berger, pastor and founding member of the Cabana movement, was elected as representative of the civil society movement Democracy Now to the Round Table in the working group on rights of foreigners. She then assumed the role of Secretary of State and Representative for Foreigners (Ausländerbeauftragte) for the Council of Ministers of East Germany under Hans Modrow and Lothar de Maizière until unification and subsequently held the same post in unified Germany for the federal state of Brandenburg. Members of the German delegation included: Almuth Berger (head), GDR-ambassador Günter Fritsch, Jürgen Schröder, Reinhard Gerber, advisor in the office of the Representative for Foreigners, and Mario Sande and Peter Schwotka as translators. The Mozambican delegation included Labor Minister Aguiar Real Mazula (head), Miguel Jona (National Director for social organization in the Labor Ministry), Pedro Taimo (head of the representation of the Labor Ministry in East Germany), Fontoura Sebastião Correira (National Director for Social Security), Muzemyk Aly (department head in the labor ministry), and Gregorio Elton Lingande (head of the department of socialist countries in the Foreign Ministry), Berger, “Annäherungen,” 524.
The protocols in question consisted of twenty-five articles and an agreement signed by Almuth Berger and Minister of Work Aguiar Real Mazuala in Maputo on May 28, 1990. The Angolan protocol consisting of twenty-seven articles and an additional agreement declaring prior agreements to be invalid were signed on June 1, 1990 in Luanda, 1–6262, MFAA, Berlin.
This particular East German delegation was not authorized to negotiate national debts. Almuth Berger, interview conducted by the author, Berlin, Germany, November 17, 2014.
Tempo, October 14, 1990, 22–6.
Group interview with Pinto, Rafael, Bacal, Fortunado, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, April 21, 2014.
There is no current consensus on how to call this period in German history, which processes this includes, and how they should be rated. Among the different terms to chose from are: Wende, Umbruch, friedliche Revolution, deutsche Einheit, Wiedervereinigung, Einheitskriese, Ausverkauf, Transformation. Of course, the evaluation of history depends to a large extent on the perspective from which it is written. For the workers, the Wende or transformation might be most suitable, as their lives hit a turning point with the reunification of Germany and subsequently fundamentally changed. Speaking about the peaceful revolution blends out the victims of xenophobic and racist violence around the same time. As Patrice Poutrus, states, in some places the revolution of the Monday demonstrations included voices against foreigners and demands for foreign workers to leave, Katrin Gottschalk, Historiker über 32 Jahre Mauerfall: “Nicht nur friedlich,” TAZ, November 9, 2021.
See Dr. Zieger, “Die rechtliche Situation der Ausländer in der ehemaligen DDR nach der Wende,” in Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten. AusländerInnen in Ostdeutschland vor und nach der Wende. Erfahrungen der Vertragsarbeiter aus Mosambik. Interviews-Berichte-Analysen, ed. Ahmed Farah, Eva Engelhardt und Bernd Bröskamp (Bremen: IZA, KKM, tdh, BAOBAB, 1993), 119–28.
For instance, see Jacinto, interview conducted by the author, Beira, Mozambique, June 3, 2014; Paulo, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 14, 2014.
Jacinto, Beira, June 3, 2014.
Müggenburg, “Die ausländischen Vertragsarbeiter,” 11–12. For texts discussing the fate of those foreign workers who stayed on in unified Germany, see Zieger, “Die rechtliche Situation”; Sextro, Gestern gebraucht; Helga Marburger, Und wir haben unseren Beitrag zur Volkswirtschaft geleistet: Eine aktuelle Bestandsaufnahme der Situation der Vertragsarebeitnehmer der ehemaligen DDR vor und nach der Wende (Frankfurt: Verlag für interkulturelle Kommunikation, 1993); Almuth Berger, “Vertragsarbeiter: Arbeiter der Freundschaft? Die Verhandlungen in Maputo 1990,” in Wir haben Spuren hinterlassen! Die DDR in Mosambik: Erlebnisse, Erfahrungen und Erkenntnisse aus drei Jahrzehnten, ed. Matthias Voss, Die DDR und die Dritte Welt (Münster: Lit, 2005), 36–40.
Pedro, Maputo, May 20, 2014.
Adevaldo Banze, in Ulf Dieter Klemm, Moçambique - Alemanha, Ida e Volta: Vivências dos Moçambicanos antes, durante e depois de estadia na Alemanha (Maputo: Instituto Cultural Mocambique—Alemanha, ICMA, 2005), 37–8.
I discuss this name in more detail in the introduction.
I speak about smale-scale big men because while migrants amassed relative riches abroad and thus turned temporarily into providers for their personal networks and commanded local respect, they did not operate on the level of the politicians, warlords, and other Big Men discussed by Jean-Pascal Daloz, “‘Big Men’”; and Mats Utas, ed. African Conflicts and Informal Power: Big Men and Networks (London: Zed Books, 2012).
Adevaldo Banze, in Klemm, Moçambique - Alemanha, Ida e Volta, 38.
Elke Ahrens and Siegrid Müller,“‘Ohne Perspektive’ Zur Situation der Rückkehrer aus der ex-DDR in Mosambik” Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten. AusländerInnen in Ostdeutschland vor und nach der Wende. Erfahrungen der Vertragsarbeiter aus Mosambik. Interviews- Berichte- Analysen., ed. Ahmed Farah, Eva Engelhardt und Bernd Bröskamp (Bremen: IZA, KKM, tdh, BAOBAB, 1993), 130.
Fernando Agostinho Machava, “Os Madjermanes e o seu impacto: Caso da cidade de Maputo” (Licenciatura thesis, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, 2017); the thesis was published in part as “Echoes of the Past: The Social Impact of the Returned Labor Migrants from East Germany on the City of Maputo,” in Socialist Encounters: Relations, Transfers and Exchanges between Africa and East German, Eric Burton, Anne Dietrich, Immanuel Harisch, and Marcia C. Schenck, eds. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2021): 207–33; Theresia Ulbrich, “‘Madgermanes’ moçambicanische VertragsarbeiterInnen in der DDR und ihre Rückkehr nach Moçambique. Zur kollektiven Identität der Madgermanes” (Master’s Thesis, Universität Wien, 2009); Isabella Laura Sophie Kern, “Nachwirkungen der DDR-Vertragsarbeit am Beispiel der mosambikanischen Remigranten” (Undergraduate Thesis, Hochschule Fulda, 2011); Héctor Guerra Hernández, “Ma(D)Jermanes: Passado colonial e presente diasporizado: Reconstrução etnográfica de um dos últimos vestígios do Socialismo colonial europeu” (PhD diss., Universidade Estadual de Campinas Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas, 2011).
Samuel Manjate, July 15, 2016, interviewed by Machava, “Os Madjermanes,” 19.
Cartoon by Magaia reprinted in Ahmed Farah, Eva Engelhardt, and Bernd Bröskamp, eds. Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten. AusländerInnen in Ostdeutschland vor und nach der Wende. Erfahrungen der Vertragsarbeiter aus Mosambik. Interviews- Berichte- Analysen (Bremen: IZA, KKM, tdh, BAOBAB, 1993), 128. The clothes could be read as gifts from the madjerman boyfriend. Clothes were popular gifts for friends and family as fashionable items were hard to come by in Mozambique’s conflict economy. One conto refered to 1000 escudos, the Portuguese currency also used in Mozambique but substituted by the old metical already in 1980. The reference here is thus anachronistic but serves to underline the mental connection between money from the GDR and Portugal.
Alfredo Mandlate and Carlos Cossa, July 18, 2016, in Machava, “Os Madjermanes,” 20.
Jacinto, Beira, June 3, 2014. According to Andreas Müggenburg, the transfer of goods was regulated due to shortages in East German production. Each foreign worker could send home a package worth 100 East German mark twelve times a year and six times a year parcels through duty-free mail, Müggenburg, “Die ausländischen Vertragsarbeiter,” 22.
The first metical depreciated rapidly during the late 1980s and 1990s, placing the currency among the least valued currency units.
Emmanuel Kreike, Re-Creating Eden: Land Use, Environment, and Society in Southern Angola and Northern Namibia (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2004), Ch. 5. Todd Cleveland, Diamonds in the Rough: Corporate Paternalism and African Professionalism on the Mines of Colonial Angola, 1917–1975 (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2015), Ch. 7; Patrick Harries, Work, Culture, and Identity: Migrant Laborers in Mozambique and South Africa, C.1860–1910 (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1994), Ch. 4.
Migrants who returned after the opening of the inner German border—which was the majority of migrants—also came back with West German goods. And even before workers had free access to Western goods, they bought Western goods in East Germany by illegally exchanging money and buying in the appropriate hard currency stores and by asking more mobile foreign students to acquire goods for them, as discussed in Chap. 4. For more about the value attached to Western goods in the former East, see David Crowley and Susan E. Reid, eds., Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010), 19.
While in many Western countries cycles of acquisition and disposal determine consumer behavior, in much of Eastern Europe as well as in Angola and Mozambique repair in the household or in formal or informal repair shops was much more prominent. For the Eastern European context, see Crowley and Reid, Pleasures in Socialism, 29.
AbdouMaliq Simone, “People as Infrastructure: Intersecting Fragments in Johannesburg,” Public Culture 16, no. 3 (2004): 407–29.
For instance, see Alfredo Mandlate, July 18, 2016, in Machava, “Os Madjermanes,” 21.
The park is situated along Av. 24 de Julho between Avenida Alberto Luthuli, Av. Romão Fernandes Farinha, and Av. Ahmed Sekou Touré. For more on the park of the madjerman see Chap. 7.
“Mozambique: Guebuza Pays Homage to National Heroine Emilia Dausse,” June 17, 2014, AllAfrica, http://allafrica.com/stories/201406171706.html accessed February 26, 2017.
Margaret Hall and Tom Young, Confronting Leviathan: Mozambique since Independence (London: Hurst, 1997), Ch.3; Benedito Luís Machava, “State Discourse on Internal Security and the Politics of Punishment in Post-Independence Mozambique (1975–1983),” Journal of Southern African Studies 37, no. 3 (2011): 593–609.
Group interview, Maputo, April 21, 2014.
One vendor goes directly to South Africa to acquire his products, the others acquire their goods via middlemen. Today, these madjerman vendors live precariously but some are more established than others; some live in reed housing in places like Boquisso—a situation they describe as temporary and undignified—others started building brick houses in which they live as they continue to build. Purchasing land and starting to build brick houses was a high priority for returnees, something that not all of them have achieved.
Group interview, Maputo, April 21, 2014.
Keith Hart, “Informal Income Opportunities and Urban Employment in Ghana,” The Journal of Modern African Studies 11, no. 1 (1973): 61–89; Keith Hart, “The Informal Economy,” The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 10, no. 2 (1985): 54–8; Tatiana Adeline Thieme, “The Hustle Economy: Informality, Uncertainty and the Geographies of Getting By,” Progress in Human Geography 42, no. 4 (2018): 529–48.
Group interview, Maputo, April 21, 2014.
Santana, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 9, 2015.
Urkunde, Textilfacharbeiter; P1040968.JPG; Juizo, 20.7.1984, VEB Malitex Hohenstein-Ernsttahl, Betrieb im Kombinat Baumwolle, P1040966.JPG; originals in Marieta’s possession.
Marieta, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 14, 2014.
See, for instance, Saise in Nacala harbor, Field Notes, Nacala, June 18, 2014, and Azaria in Maputo harbor, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique March 20, 2014. Their areas of responsibility changed over the years. Saise, for instance, trained as a crane and forklift operator and today is in management.
See, for instance, Alfredo, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 12, 2014.
Urkunde, VEB Braunkohlewerk Belzow, P1010707.JPG; Zeugnis über die berufliche Qualifizierung, P1010712.JPG; originals in Alfredo’s possession.
East Germany was involved in Carbomoc; see Heide Künanz, “Das Steinkohleprojekt Moatize zwischen solidarischer Hilfeleistung und kommerziellem Anspruch,” in Die DDR und Afrika: Zwischen Klassenkampf und neuem Denken, ed. Ulrich von der Heyden, Ilona Schleicher, and Hans-Georg Schleicher (Münster: LIT Verlag, 1993); Iris Christina Obernhummer, “Experten der ‘wissenschaftlich-technischen Zusammenarbeit’ der DDR in Afrika. Alltag und Lebensweisen zwischen DDR-Richtlinien und angespannter Sicherheitslage in den 1970er und 1980er Jahren” (Masters Thesis, Universität Wien, 2010).
Alfredo, Nampula, June 12, 2014; CV, P1010703.JPG, P1010704.JPG, originals in Alfredo’s possession.
Group interview Anselmo, Antonio, Carlitos, and Juma, interview conducted by the author, Nacala, Mozambique, June 17, 2014; Lucía, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 12, 2016; Namalela, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 12, 2016. This returnee couple opened up a little shop and guest house next to their house.
Many of the madjerman who spend their time in the park of the madjerman live precarious existences; see Theresia Ulbrich, “Auf der Krokodilsinsel,” in Mosambikanische Vertragsarbeiter in der DDR-Wirtschaft: Hintergründe - Verlauf - Folgen, Wolfgang Semmler, Ulrich van der Heyden, and Rolf Straßburg, eds. (Münster: LIT Verlag, 2014). See also Nelson, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, March 21, 2014 and March 23, 2014; Regina, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, February 19, 2014.
Their occupational profile reflects James Ferguson’s argument that skills training is no longer productive in now primarily extractive and service-based economies. The socialist socialization into factory work practices in a context where the state was responsible for education and job placement became increasingly outdated as the Mozambican economy transitioned to a free-market economy starting in the late 1980s. James Ferguson, Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the New Politics of Distribution (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015).
Zefrino, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, March 3, 2014; Dito, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, March 7, 2014. Both were already involved with art during their time in East Germany.
Fabião, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, March 13, 2014; Nelson, Maputo, September 6, 2011; Aníbal, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, September 1, 2011. Anîbal Fernando Lucas graduated with a Licenciatura in History from Eduardo Mondlane University; his thesis was about the worker and training program; see Anîbal Fernando Lucas, “Mao-de-obra moçambicana emigrante na ex. Republica Democratica Alema, 1979–1990” (Undergraduate Thesis, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, 2002).
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), German-Mozambican Cultural Center (ICMA), and German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) were all German institutions in Maputo at the time of the interview.
Bato, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, January 27, 2014.
On Ilha de Moçambique, Abdussamimo worked as a tour guide because of his German knowledge, Field Notes, June 15, 2014. Bacar’s career with the railroad in Beira started because he was able to translate a German user guide for a machine, Field Notes, June 4, 2014.
Ilda, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, September 4, 2011.
This number is calculated based on Berger, “Annäherungen,” 38. The actual numbers of returnees might have been even smaller as some of the migrants migrated to other European and African countries as labor migrants and refugees to avoid a return to the civil war context at home. Eric Allina powerfully demonstrates the level of internal and international displacement from the sixteen year war in Mozambique, see Eric Allina, “Bright lines and fault lines: the politics of refuge in independence-era Mozambique,” Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue canadienne des études africaines 55, no.3 (2021): 457–96.
Elvas (president AEX-TAA Tala Hady), interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 9, 2015.
Birmingham, A Short History, 107; 111
Group interview with José António (President), Marcos Fuca (Vice-President), and Lopez Sebastião (Member) AEX-TAA Prenda, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, March 11, 2015.
Angola is categorized as an upper middle-income country. The GDP in 2002 was US$12,497 billion, in 2014, US$126,777 billion. In that time frame Angola gained an additional 10 million inhabitants, http://data.worldbank.org/country/angola, accessed July 15, 2017. Despite its impressive GDP growth, it remains one of the most unequal societies with a Gini index of 51.3 in 2018; https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI?end=2018&locations=AO&start=2000 accessed October 1, 2021; Mozambique’s value is even higher with a Gini index of 54 in 2014, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI?end=2018&locations=MZ&start=2000 accessed October 1, 2021. Mozambique is categorized as a low-income country. Its GDP at the end of the war was US$2291 billion. In 2014, the country had reached US$16,961 billion; during that time frame, the country gained 14 million citizens, http://data.worldbank.org/country/mozambique, accessed July 15, 2017. The life expectancy is growing in both countries and had passed sixty years by 2019.
In contrast, many of the African students to the Eastern Bloc came from relatively elite backgrounds and returned to assume leadership positions at home; see Marcia C. Schenck, “Negotiating the German Democratic Republic: Angolan Student Migration During the Cold War, 1976–1990,” Africa 89, no. 1 (2019):144–66; Jessica Allina-Pisano and Eric Allina-Pisano, “‘Friendship of Peoples’ after the Fall: Violence and Pan-African Community in Post-Soviet Moscow,” in Africa in Russia, Russia in Africa: 300 Years of Encounters, ed. Maxim Matusevich (Trenton: Africa World Press, 2007): 175–98.
Ulrich van der Heyden, Das Gescheiterte Experiment: Vertragsarbeiter aus Mosambik in der DDR-Wirtschaft (1979–1990) (Leipzig: Leipziger Universitätsverlag, 2019), 163f.
Letter written in German by Tamele, Maputo, Mozambique, original with Tamele. To maintain the privacy of the people involved I have changed their names.
Almuth Riedel emphasizes similar experiences regarding romantic relationships between East Germans and Algerians, which to her interviewees emerged as central to their migration experience. Eighty percent of the Algerian workers questioned had a German girlfriend and 40 percent had children, numbers she deemed exceptional among foreign worker-trainees, Almuth Riedel, “Erfahrungen algerischer Arbeitsmigranten in der DDR: ‘Hatten och Chancen, ehrlich!’” (PhD diss., Free Univeristy, 1992), 90. I do not know how many children were born from the relationships between Angolan and Mozambican men and East German women, but forty-six former Mozambican worker-trainees approached me for help with looking for a total of fifty-seven children left behind in East Germany. This would suggest a ratio of about one in every four workers with whom I interacted searching for offspring. This ratio does not include those parents who were already in contact with their children or had no interest in a search.
The term Afro-German is a self-designation of a West German movement of the 1980s. In this case, not all children of former contract workers self-identify as either black or as German or as black Germans; see Manuel, Berlin, November 2, 2014, and Adelino Hamburg, November 20, 2014. The term Afro-German serves to describe the mixed parentage of this generation, some identifying more with their German, others more with their African heritage. Yet, self-identification is but one side of the coin. Michelle M. Wright aptly reminds us that many white Germans continue to be unable to imagine black Germans, “Others-from-Within from Without: Afro-German Subject Formation and the Challenge of a Counter-Discourse,” Callaloo 26 no. 2 (2013): 297, which makes it more important to complicate narratives of a white (East) Germany.
Santana, Luanda, April 9, 2015.
For a study focusing also on the children’s view of the relationship, see Johanna Wetzel and Marcia C. Schenck, “Love in Times of Socialist Solidarity: Racism, Knowledge and Mixed-Race Relationships in East Germany,” Peripherie 165/166, no. 42 (2022): 31–55.
There is ample evidence on the negative psychological effect of the absence of one parent and a change in caregivers on children. For the Angolan context, see Cecilie Oien, “Transnational Networks of Care: Angolan Children in Fosterage in Portugal,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 29 (2006): 1104–17; Valentina Mazzucato, et al., “International Parental Migration and Psychological Well-Being of Children in Ghana, Nigeria, and Angola,” Social Science & Medicine 132 (2015): 215–24.
See group interview Maria, Beatriz, Mafalda, Irene, and Ilda, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, August 31, 2011; Lina “Die haben uns beigebracht, wie man arbeiten kann” interview by Eva Engelhardt, in Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten. AusländerInnen in Ostdeutschland vor und nach der Wende. Erfahrungen der Vertragsarbeiter aus Mosambik. Interviews- Berichte- Analysen, Ahmed Farah, Eva Engelhardt, and Bernd Bröskamp, eds. (Bremen: IZA, KKM, tdh, BAOBAB, 1993), 44; Bernd Bröskamp, “Vom Auswanderungs- zum Einwanderungsland: Die DDR, Ihre Ausländer, die deutsche Wiedervereinigung und die Folgen,” in Schwarz-Weiße Zeiten, 13–34.
For instance, Graciel, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, April 19, 2014; Lucía, Nampula, June 12, 2014; Almuth Berger, Berlin, November 17, 2014; Luzia, Luanda, April 16, 2015. No case of a mixed-raced child being born to a female former worker-trainee either in Angola or Mozambique has been brought to my attention.
Field Notes, Nampula, June 14, 2014.
Wetzel and Schenck, “Love.”
Manuel, interview conducted by the author, Berlin, Germany, November 2, 2014; Adelino, interview conducted by the author, Hamburg, Germany, November 20, 2014; Peter, interview conducted by the author via Skype, Berlin-Inhambande, November 7, 2014; Aniko in “Papa wo steckst Du: Auf Spurensuche in Afrika,” in 24 Stunden My Story; Wetzel and Schenck, “Love.”
Manuel in his Father’s Footsteps—Documentary by Jens Vilela Neumann, Paradise Garden Productions, 15:57min, http://vilelaneumann.com/english/?projects=manuel-in-his-fathers-footsteps-documentary, accessed April 20, 2017.
Writing about East German black adolescents before 1989, Peggy Piesche reveals that few identification possibilities with Africa were available while growing up in a relatively homogenous and closed East German society. These East German adolescents often had German names, lived within white families, and were part of white-majority everyday life. Piesche concludes: “The black color of their skin made them special, while the context of their lives seemed to attest to successful integration,” Peggy Piesche, “Black and German? East German Adolescents before 1989: A Retrospective View of a ‘Non-Existent Issue’ in the GDR,” in The Cultural After-Life of East Germany: New Transnational Perspectives, ed. Leslie A. Adelson (John Hopkins University: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies 2002): 39. She defines the black German minority that she studies as the children of German mothers and fathers from one of the contract states, Piesche, “Black and German?” endnote 8, 57.
Adelino, Hamburg, November 20, 2014.
Peter, Berlin-Inhambande, November 7, 2014. Peter’s sentiments about growing up German are expressed by many Afro-Germans who grew up in East Germany; see Peggy Piesche, “Black and German?” 39. This case also illustrates that not all families were separated in 1990; some were already separated earlier.
“Papa wo steckst Du: Auf Spurensuche in Afrika,” documentary, in 24 Stunden My Story.
The German embassies in Maputo and Luanda and other German institutions receive inquiries from both sides. Facebook and the Internet also play a role to varying degrees. An organization called Reencontro familiar (family reunification), with which I also registered the searches I collected, registers searches from within Germany and from Mozambique: in the Angolan context Mr Elvas, the President of AEX-TAA Tala Hady, also voiced an interest in his organization becoming active in connecting fathers and children.
Santana, Luanda, April 9, 2015.
Field Notes, Reunion in Pemba, June 21, 2014; group interview Incubeque, Basilio, Josina, Sufo, Abrão, Alberto, and Selemana, Pemba, June 20, 2014.
Augusto, Luanda, April 12, 2015.
Anita Grandke, Die Entwicklung des Familienrechts der DDR (Berlin: EDOC, 2010), 92, 106.
João Baptista Lukombo Nzatuzola, “Gender and Family Life in Angola: Some Aspects of the Post-War Conflict Concerning Displaced Persons,” African Sociological Review 9 (2005): 106–33.
Oien, “Transnational Networks of Care”; Mazzucato et al., “International Parental Migration,” 216; Valentina Mazzucato et al., “Transnational Families between Africa and Europe,” International Migration Review 49 (2015): 144; Jennifer Cole and Christian Groes eds., Affective Circuits: African Migrations to Europe and the Pursuit of Social Regeneration (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016), 20. While some workers chose to return home rather than stay with their new East German families, others consciously decided to stay in East Germany to remain close to their children. José grew up without a father and did not want his daughter to experience the same fate; see José, interview conducted by the author, Hamburg, Germany, November 20, 2014.
Returnees approached me with search requests for children, former romantic partners, and occasionally guest families in Germany. I collaborated with Reencontro familiar to locate individuals.
Private collection of a Mozambican worker who wishes to remain anonymous. Field Notes, Maputo, May 10, 2014.
Lícino Azevedo, “Adeus RDA,” documentary Ébano Mulitimédia, Maputo, Mozambique (1992).
Informal conversation with the Director of ICMA, the German Cultural Center, Birgit Plank-Mucavele, Maputo, Mozambique, January 28, 2014.
Guimarães, José. Miboba, RM, 2000.
The FRELIMO government’s “forgetting” of its socialist past has thus far not extended to Maputo’s road map. M. Anne Pitcher, “Forgetting from above and Memory from Below: Strategies of Legitimation and Struggle in Postsocialist Mozambique,” Journal of the International African Institute 76 (2006): 88–112.
Nadine Siegert, “Luanda Lab—Nostalgia and Utopia in Aesthetic Practice,” Critical Interventions Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture 8 (2014); 176–200; Nadine Siegert “Nostalgia and Utopia: On the (Post-)Socialist Condition in Angolan Contemporary Art Practice,” in Red Africa: Affective Communities and the Cold War, ed. Mark Nash (London: Black Dog Publishing Limited, 2016), esp. Ch. 5, 116.
For a full explanation of the term, see the introduction, Endnote 1.
Kohl means cabbage in German. Group interview Januário, Rute, Francisco, Manuel, and Fernando, conducted by the author, Beira, Mozambique, June 4, 2014.
Santana, Luanda, April 9, 2015.
Bernardo, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 2, 2015.
Dagmar Herzog, Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), 188, 92.
In Angola, children can be registered outside of marriage since 1987. Legal marriage remains limited and polygamous relationships continue to be practiced in urban and rural settings across social classes. With regard to parenthood both mothers and fathers share responsibilities and rights. Nzatuzola, “Gender and Family Life in Angola,” 107–8.
Adriano, interview conducted by the author, Nacala, Mozambique, June 18, 2014.
Alves, interview conducted by the author, Nacala, Mozambique, June 18, 2014.
Alfredo, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 12, 2014.
Donna Harsch, “Communism and Women,” in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, ed. Stephen Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 488–503.
Herzog, Sex after Fascism, 188.
Herzog, Sex after Fascism, 218–19; Josie McLellan argues that much of the positive interpretation of sexuality in East Germany is an expression of nostalgia; see Josie McLellan, “Did Communists Have Better Sex? Sex and the Body in German Unification,” in Remembering the German Democratic Republic: Divided Memory in a United Germany, David Clarke and Ute Wölfel, eds. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 119–30. Regardless, to the workers from Angola and Mozambique the difference between the treatment of women in their home and host contexts was noticeable.
Regina, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, February 21, 2014.
Herzog, Sex after Fascism, 203; Josie McLellan, Love in the Time of Communism: Intimacy and Sexuality in the GDR (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 144f. Saskia Köbschall examines the colonial origins of FKK culture and life reform in (East) Germany; see “German, Natural and Naked? The Colonial Entanglements of the Life Reform,” Art Education Research 10, no. 15 (2019): n.p.
Herzog, Sex after Fascism, 202–3; Josie McLellan, “‘Even under Socialism, We Don’t Want to Do without Love’: East German Erotica,” in Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc, David Crowley and Susan E. Reid, eds. (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2010), 223f.
Regina, Maputo, February 21, 2014.
Field Notes, Namaacha, Mozambique, February 26, 2014.
Workers use xiça, or chiça in Portugal, to express pain and dissatisfaction when they get hurt or things go wrong.
Marrabenta refers to a popular Mozambican music style. “País Da Marrabenta” by the Mozambican rap group Gpro Fam. The song was launched as an advanced single, part of the first Mozambican hip hop album Um Passo em Frente. Translation: Inês Alves. Thank you to Janne Juhana Rantala for introducing me to this music.
“País Da Marrabenta” Gpro Fam (2003), “A minha geração” by Azagaia ft. Ras Haitrm (2013), and “Sistema tá fudido” by Tira Temas ft. Shackal (2008).
Fernando Agostinho Machava, “Echoes of the Past,” 207.
Savana, Suplemento Humoristico do Savana, No. 1014, de Junho de 2013, 2.
See, for instance, Hana Bortlová-Vondráková and Mónika Szente-Varga “Labor Migration Programs Within the Socialist Bloc. Cuban Guestworkers in Late Socialist Czechoslovakia and Hungary,” Labor History 62 no. 3 (2021): 297–315. This issue remains understudied and further inquiries need to be made into how deferred payment systems for foreign workers functioned across the Eastern Bloc.
Apart from a few newspaper articles, studies about the Angolan reintegration process and anti-government protest have not been written.
For academic literature, see Héctor Guerra Hernández, “Ma(d)jermanes: passado colonial e presente diasporizado: reconstrução etnográfica de um dos últimos vestígios do socialismo colonial europeu” (PhD diss., Universidade Estadual de Campinas Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas, 2011); Lucas Xavier Canjale, “O fórum dos extrabalhadores da ex-RDA na cidade de Maputo (1999–2006)” (Undergraduate Thesis, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane, 2007); Isabella Laura Sophie Kern, “Nachwirkungen der DDR-Vertragsarbeit am Beispiel der mosambikanischen Remigranten” (Undergraduate Thesis, Hochschule Fulda, 2011). The demonstrations have also inspired artists to visually document the protest movement; see Malte Wandel, Einheit, Arbeit, Wachsamkeit: Die DDR in Mosambik (Germany: Self-published, 2012); Annett Bourquin, Madgermany (Lisboa: DPI - Cromotipo, n.d). An in-depth historical analysis of the protests since the early 1990s read against the various responses from the German and Mozambican governments is yet to be written.
Field Notes, History of the Majerman according to Majerman leadership, Maputo, 2014; Lina Gronau, Thomas Kunze, “Das Wohnzimmer im Park. Ehemalige DDR-Vertragsarbeiter in Mosambik,” in Ostalgie International: Erinnerungen an die DDR von Nicaragua bis Vietnam, Thomas Kunze and Thomas Vogel, eds. (Berlin: Ch. Links Verlag, 2010), 80.
Group interview, Maputo, April 21, 2014.
Group interview, Momade and anonymous, interview conducted by the author, Nampula, Mozambique, June 13, 2014.
Field Notes, Berlin, Germany, September 6, 2021.
Staatssekretariat für Arbeit und Löhne, Ordnung zum Ablauf des Transfers von Lohnanteilen mocambiquanischer Werktätiger, Neufassung vom 8. Mai 1987, Anlage 4a, https://vertragsarbeit-mosambik-ddr.de/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Transferordnung.pdf, accessed January 27, 2022.
Cindy Hahamovitch compares slavery, indentured labor, and guest worker programmes, “Creating Perfect Immigrants: Guestworkers of the World in Historical Perspective,” Labor History 44, no.1 (2003): 70–2.
Lisa Yun, The Coolie Speaks: Chinese Indentured Laborers and African Slaves in Cuba (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007), 69; Lisa Yun and Ricardo René Laremont, “Chinese coolies and African slaves in Cuba, 1847–1874,” Journal of Asian American Studies 4, no. 2 (2001): 99–122; Sunanda Sen, “Indentured Labour from India in the Age of Empire,” Social Scientist 44, no. 1/2 (2016): 35–74; Evelyn Hu-DeHart “Opium and social control: coolies on the plantations of Peru and Cuba,” Journal of Chinese Overseas 1, no. 2 (2005): 169–83.
Group interview, Nacala, June 17, 2014.
Corinna R. Unger, International Development: A Postwar History (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 80.
Group interview Salimo Abdussamimo, Abudo, Suatico, and Musa, interview conducted by the author, Ilha de Moçambique, Mozambique, June 15, 2014. For workers’ experiences with forced labor in the Mozambican context, see, for instance, Eric Allina, Slavery by any other name: African life under company rule in colonial Mozambique (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012).
ATMA is a countrywide organization representing returned worker-trainees. Enough madjerman continue to be committed to the fight to organize active protests. However, Maputo is the only location with open demonstrations, and even they have become irregular.
Juma, interview conducted by the author, Maputo, Mozambique, March 13, 2014.
AEX-TAA is an abbreviation of Associação dos Ex-Trabalhadores Angolanos da Extinta RDA, the association of former Angolan workers in the extinct GDR. I draw on interviews with the leadership groups and worker-trainees in Luanda as well as Angolan, German, and international newspaper articles for the analysis of the Angolan case. The press coverage by Voice of America (VOA) and Deutsche Welle (DW) but even in local newspapers is overwhelmingly in favor of the worker-trainees’ demands, who are perceived as having been “‘exported’ to the former GDR”; see Orlando Ferreira, “Ex-trabalhadores angolanos na RDA recebidos pela 9.a Comissão da Assembleia Nacional,” Agora, March 9, 2013, 16.
José António; see group interview, March 11, 2015; I received José António’s contact via journalists writing for Voice of America Português; see João Santa Rita, email message to author, October 24, 2014.
Elvas, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 9, 2015. This contact I received through the Angolan Labor Ministry, MAPTSS, Ministério da Administração Pública, Trabalho e Segurança Social (Ministry of Public Administration, Work, and Social Security); also called Ministério da Administração Pública Emprego e Segurança Social, MAPESS.
The president of AEX-TAA Tala Hady spoke of about 2500 returned workers that his association is representing, Elvas, April 9, 2015. According to the acting President of AEX-TAA Prenda, José António, and the Vice-President, Marcos Fuca, the organization had 1676 members in Angola and about 300 in Germany in 2015; see group interview, March 11, 2015. More than a decade post return, the idea emerged of founding an association representing the interests of the workers, and AEX-TAA was founded possibly in response to the madjerman protests in Mozambique. The delay can be explained also by the fact that the content of the agreements between East Germany and Angola remained unknown to the workers.
“Executivo pagou mais de 4 biliões de kwanzas aos ex-operários angolanos na antiga RDA,” Semanário Angolense, August 23, 2014, 4; group interview, March 11, 2015; Elvas, April 9, 2015.
Both presidents corroborate these numbers; see Elvas, Luanda, April 9, 2015; José António in “Mantêm-se o braço de ferro entre MAPTSS e membros da AEX-TAA” by Moreira Mário, Manchete - Jornal de Angola Democrática, February 27, 2015, 29. In addition, the members have a right to professional training and entrepreneurial starter kits as well as to micro credits through the Banco de Poupança e Crédito (BPC). Those who were physically injured and are unfit to work get signed up for early retirement; see Manuel Vieira, “Luanda chega a acordo com antigos trabalhadores angolanos na ex-RDA,” DW, February 21, 2011; Moreira Mário, “Executivo não cumpriu com a dívida dos ex-trabalhadores angolanos na antiga RDA,” Manchete, September 5, 2014, 10.
This amounted to US$ 41,207,400, using Oanda.com, with the exchange rate as of August 23, 2014, the date of the publication of “Executivo pagou,” 4.
Elvas, Luanda, April 9, 2015.
President AEX-TAA Garcia Samuel Manuel, quoted in Manuel José, “Trabalhadores da ex RDA dizem que vão manifestar-se,” VOA, January 13, 2014.
Group interview, March 11, 2015.
Angola Fala Só, José António: “Angolanos devem lutar pelos seus direitos,” podcast, VOA, October 17, 2014.
Mário, Interview with José António, 29.
Angola Fala Só, “Angolanos devem lutar pelos seus direitos.”
An anonymous comment in response to “Trabalhadores na ex RDA manifestem-se em Luanda,” VOA, March 27, 2014.
Wangolano comment responding to “Trabalhadores na ex RDA manifestem-se em Luanda,” VOA, March 27, 2014. See “Continua braço-de-ferro entre antigos trabalhadores da ex-RDA e MAPESS” by Kim Alves, n.d., no journal information.
For instance, the vigils in front of the labor ministry in February and March 2013. See Orlando Ferreira, “‘Dinheiro alemão ainda não foi pago,’” Agora, February 23, 2013, 17; Kim Alves, “Antigos trabalhadores na ex-RDA querem intervenção do Presidente,” Semanário Angolense, April 27, 2013, 6; Kim Alves “Continua braço-de-ferro entre antigos trabalhadores da ex-RDA e MAPESS,” n.d, n.s.
The associations that defend the interests of former Angolan workers in Germany are called “Angogermany” and Associação de ex-trabalhadores angolanos na extinta RDA residents na diaspora, ASSOEXRTRA e.V. The organizations in Angola and Germany work independently, are registered separately in Germany and Angola respectively, and represent the diverging interests of the diaspora vs. returnees. Both in Angola and in Germany, the existing organizations split into those who were satisfied with the 2011 key agreement, including payment and pension (Angogermany, AEX-TAA Tala Hady), and those who continue to fight for more money (Assoextra and AEX-TAA Prenda). Interview with Miguel Cabango, President of Angolan workers in East Germany, in Lisa Optiz, “Haben die Hoffnung nicht aufgegeben,” TAZ, July 24, 2014.
Nádia Issufo, “Trabalhadores angolanos da ex-RDA voltam a manifestar-se em Berlim,” DW, December 5, 2014.
From the point of view of the Angolan Embassy in Berlin, Angogermany and the Embassy agreed upon payments according to the 2011 contract signed between the government and AEX-TAA. Angogermany was subsequently dissolved. Therefore, they regard ongoing demonstrations as inappropriate. See Christine Vieira Teixeira, “Antigos trabalhadores de Angola na ex-RDA reivindicam maior compensação,” DW, May 8, 2014.
Movement for peace and democracy in Angola, Movimento para a paz e a democracia em Angola (MPDA), “Três manifestantes dos ex-trabalhadores da extinta RDA preso em Luanda,” MPDA, February 11, 2011.
Based on what is available on YouTube and in the press, MPDA, “Três manifestantes”; Issufo, “Trabalhadores angolanos”; Teixeira, “Antigos trabalhadores de Angola”; Lisa Optiz, “Haben die Hoffnung nicht aufgegeben,” TAZ, July 24, 2014; “Grande marcha dos ex-trabalhadores angolanos na RDA, 06 03 2015,” uploaded by Mpda Eu, YouTube, March 8, 2015; “Grande marcha dos ex-trabalhadores angolanos na RDA, 06 03 2015, 3,” uploaded by Mpda Eu, YouTube, March 8, 2015.
Manuel José, “Trabalhadores angolanos da antiga RDA manifestam-se em Bruxelas,” VOA, June 4, 2015; N.a. “Antigos trabalhadores na ex-RDA manifestam-se em Bruxelas,” VOA, June 5, 2015. This latter article was cross-posted on the Mozambican blog “Moçambique para todos,” indicating some cross-fertilization of the goings on in Angola and Mozambique. There is, however, no concerted or institutionalized effort to keep the two movements informed of each other.
Miguel, interview conducted by the author, Luanda, Angola, April 27, 2015.
Comunidade Moçambicana na Alemanha e.V., Mozambican Community in Germany.
CMA meeting in Berlin in December 13, 2014; CMA President Tito Truvinho, interview conducted by the author, Berlin, Germany, November 7, 2014. Most of these initiatives do not seem to have resulted in tangible outcomes.
Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic organization, led the negotiations between RENAMO and FRELIMO leading to the 1992 peace agreement in Mozambique. Also instrumental are the Lothar-Kreyssig-Ökumenezentrum of the protestant church of middle Germany (EKM) and the Federal Foundation for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Eastern Germany, as well as the Commissioner for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship in Saxony-Anhalt.
The conference resulted in the Magdeburger Memorandum,“Magdeburger Memorandum der Tagung ‘Respekt und Anerkennung’ für mosambikanische Vertragsarbeiter*innen, Madgermanes und Schüler*innen der ‘Schule der Freundschaft’ im 30. Jahr der Friedlichen Revolution,” February 24, 2019.
The international conference “Respect and Acknowledgement” took place in Magdeburg, Germany, from February 22 to 24, 2019.
Dr. António Frangoulis, speech delivered for the conference “Respect and Acknowledgement,” Feb. 22–24, 2019, https://vertragsarbeit-mosambik-ddr.de/konferenz_video/konferenz-video-1/, accessed January 1, 2021.
Günter Nooke, speech delivered for the conference “Respect and Acknowledgement,” Feb. 22–24, 2019, https://vertragsarbeit-mosambik-ddr.de/konferenz_video/die-position-der-bundesregierung/, accessed January 27, 2022.
Julião Armando Langa, speech delivered for the conference “Respect and Acknowledgement, Feb. 22–24, 2019,” https://vertragsarbeit-mosambik-ddr.de/konferenz_video/grussworte-der-mosambikanischen-botschaft/, accessed January 27, 2022.
MP Dr. Diaby (SPD), debate on May 20, 2021, https://www.bundestag.de/mediathek?videoid=7523226&url=L21lZGlhdGhla292ZXJsYXk=&mod=mediathek#url=L21lZGlhdGhla292ZXJsYXk/dmlkZW9pZD03NTIzMjI2JnVybD1MMjFsWkdsaGRHaGxhMjkyWlhKc1lYaz0mbW9kPW1lZGlhdGhlaw==&mod=mediathek, accessed January 27, 2022. MP Matthias Höhn (Die Linke), MP Katrin Budde (SPD) debating 30 years of German reunifaction on September 18, 2020; see https://vertragsarbeit-mosambik-ddr.de/2020/11/26/test-beitrag-1/, accessed January 10, 2022.
See the short documentary DDR-Vertragsarbeiter warten auf Lohn, Heute in Deutschland, 2 min, June 1, 2021, ZDF. Further research is needed on the exact modalities of the transfers and the debt relationship between Mozambique and East Germany, but the argument could tentatively be made that since East Germany profited from the labor power of foreign contract workers like the Mozambicans, it was richer on unification than it would have been, had it paid full wages, social security, and pension contributions to each foreign worker. This wealth can thus also be seen as benefiting unified Germany, making modern Germany also a beneficiary of the schemes and therefore complicit. Following this argument, this is more than a moral question.
At the time of writing, the open letter “Für Entschädigungszahlungen an die sogennanten Madgermanes” is still open to signatures.
The impact of the former migrants and their diaspora organization is but one way in which mobility constitute a process that continues to shape Mozambique; see Sheila Khan Pereira, Maria Paula Meneses, and Bjørn Enge Bertelsen, eds. Mozambique on the Move: Challenges and Reflections (Leiden: Brill, 2018).
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Schenck, M.C. (2023). Return, Fall, and Rise of the Madjerman: The Afterlives of Socialist Migration. In: Remembering African Labor Migration to the Second World. Palgrave Macmillan Transnational History Series. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-06776-1_6
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