Over a hundred Mozambicans, who had once been migrant workers in the now defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR), Wednesday burst into the Labour Ministry, demanding to speak with Labour Minister Helena Taipo.
The former migrants (known colloquially as “Madjermanes”) alleged the minister had interfered with their right to demonstrate.
They claimed to have sent a letter to Maputo Municipal Council, informing the council of their intention to hold a peaceful demonstration Wednesday.
They said they were surprised when the council replied that, in the absence of an agreement from the labour minister, the demonstration could not go ahead.
The protesters said they had been unfairly treated, since the right to demonstrate is enshrined in the constitution.
Zeca Cossa, who claimed to represent the majermanes, justified the invasion of the ministry, saying all they wanted was to know why “the minister was interfering in the exercise of our civic right and why she would not allow us to demonstrate .”
A group of about 170 protesters tried to enter Taipo’s office, but were stopped by the security guards, so they decided to invade other offices on the ground floor of the ministry, including that of the permanent secretary.
As the permanent secretary was not in his office, they decided to wait there. Shortly after wards, the police showed up, including a unit of the riot police, who forced them out of the ministry.
Two of the demonstrators were arrested, allegedly because they tried to throw st ones at the police. “All we wanted was to march peacefully to protest against the way our problem was being dealt with by the government.
“We came to the labour ministry and we wanted to talk to the minister, but shortly after this, the police came and some of our colleagues were beaten up,” said Cossa.
The National Director of Planning and Statistics in the ministry, Paulino Mutombene, told reporters he did not know why the group had stormed into the ministry. “I can’t tell you what they wanted, since it was impossible to speak with them,” he said.
The former migrants said they wanted a meeting with the government to demand further payment for what they claimed had been deducted from their wages during the time they spent in East Germany.
However, the government reached a final settlement of the majermanes’ claims in December 2005, which amounted to the payment of US$ 48 million (staggered over several years).
Since there were around 16,000 majermanes registered with the labour ministry, the settlement came to an average payment of US$ 3,000 per former migrant.