2.01 Internationalism: Angola

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2.01 Angola. Catholics make up 46% of Angola's 9 million (1988) population. They have been part of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola, MPLA) since its founding in December 1956 in Luanda, the capital. Among the MPLA leadership, a majority are Catholic. [John Marcum, The Angolan Revolution: The Anatomy of an Explosion, 1950-1962 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1978), vol. 1, p. 35]. These include Fr. Joaquim da Rocha Pinto de Andrade and Joao da Cruz Chisseva-Kalutheho.

Andrade is a Mestico (mixed African and European parentage), who was born on July 22, 1926 at Golungo Atto. He attended the seminary at Luanda (1940-1948) and Gregorian University in Rome (1948-1953). While chancellor of the archdiocese of Luanda in 1960 he was arrested by the Portuguese government for his work in behalf of the MPLA. In 1962 while in Aljube Prison in Lisbon he was chosen as the honorary president of the MPLA. (Marcum, The Angolan Revolution , vol. 1, p. 300). He was kept in prison for 14 years until released by the 1974 communist revolution in Portugal. At its September 1974 congress the MPLA chose Fr. Andrade to be its vice president. [John Marcum, The Angolan Revolution: Exile Politics and Guerrilla Warfare, 1962-1976 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1978), vol. 2, p. 249]. Fr. Adrade's brother, Mario de Andrade, is another Catholic in the liberation struggle. As a leader in the Angolan Communist Party ( Partido Communista de Angola , PCA), he helped establish the MPLA and served as its president until 1962. [James Martin, A Political History of the Civil War in Angola, 1974-1990 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Pub., 1992) p. 80].

Like Fr. Andrade, Joao da Cruz Chisseva is an MPLA member who was educated in a Catholic seminary. He attended Christ the King Seminary at Nova Lisboa for 9 years. In 1950 he and some of his fellow seminarians started organizing Bible, public hygiene and racial equality classes in the villages near the seminary. They published anti-Salazar leaflets and painted anti-colonial slogans on the walls. Under the influence of Patrice Lumumba, Chisseva left the seminary in 1954 to work full time in the Young Christians Movement ( Juventude Crista de Angola , JCA). He and several other ex-seminarians were jailed on January 11, 1960. In prison Chisseva met MPLA members and joined a MPLA cell called Bairro Operario (Branch No. 7) on April 2, 1962. (Marcum, The Angolan Revolution , vol. 1, p. 129).

The MPLA is an offshoot of the Angolan Communist Party (PCA), which itself was established in October 1955 as an offshoot of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP). (Martin, A Political History , p. 46; Marcum, The Angolan Revolution , vol. 1, p. 27). Starting in the 1940s the PCP led the liberation struggle in Luanda and Angola's other urban centers. (Marcum, The Angolan Revolution , vol. 1, pp. 17-18). Its members were arrested and sometimes killed by the Portuguese police. The MPLA's military activity began on February 4, 1961 when it stormed a Portuguese prison and freed the MPLA prisoners. The warfare against Portugal and its NATO allies continued in northern and eastern Angola until the MPLA's victory in 1975. some 50,000 people were killed by Portugal's mass terror campaign. Whole villages were massacred. Prisoners were tortured and executed. Some 300,000 were forced into exile.

After the Portuguese were defeated, the MPLA was attacked by South African and U.S. capitalism. In this struggle the MPLA had the help of the the Cubans (including 35,000 combat troops), Soviets, Vietnamese, East Germans, North Koreans and internationalists from other African nations. In 1977 the MPLA became a Leninist party (the Movimento Popular de Libertacao de Angola--Partido de Trabalho , MPLA-PT). (Martin, A Political Histor , p. 77). By 1988 because of the international embargo the South African Defense Force's (SADF) air power was no match for Angola. On the ground 3,000 SADF troops were defeated in March 1988 at the Battle of Cuito Cwanavale. With mutiny among its troops, the SADF was forced to withdraw from Angola. Two years later in 1990 Angola forced the SADF to give independence to Namibia. Namibia is on Angola's southern border.

In September 1992 the MPLA won a legislative majority in multiparty elections. Jose Eduardo dos Santos of the MPLA was elected president. Between October 1992 and January 1994 100,000 Angolans died in the battle between the MPLA and the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). UNITA is based among the Ovimbundu tribe in Southern Angola and was backed by the SADF until the SADF's defeat.

The story of Paulo Candonga (b. 1949) is illustrative of the MPLA's rank and file Catholics. Candonga's guerrilla name is Mawinji. At the time his story was recorded in 1977, he had been a guerrilla for 11 years. [Paulo Candonga, "Autobiography of a Guerrilla," The Revolution in Angola: MPLA, Life Histories and Documents , eds. Don Barnett and Ray Harvey (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976), pp. 153-182]. His family were Mbunda farm workers in Moxico, a province in eastern Angola. Starting at age 11 he attended a Capuchin Fathers mission school in Lumbala for several years where he learned to read and write Portuguese. His religion combined Catholic and traditional cultic practices, which included a 10 month circumcision camp for the village 13 year-olds. The camp taught the necessity to work hard in order to make a living, to think about and prepare for the future and the immortality of theft. At age 15 in 1964 Mawinji went to work in the mines of Johannesburg. For 14 months of labor (6 days/week) he made $78. After his mining contract ended, he returned to Angola and worked as a farm laborer and fish seller for a year.

In 1966 Mawinji set off to work in Zambia, which is on Angola's southeastern border. But soon after crossing the border he ran into a friend from the Capuchin school. The friend was part of the MPLA resistance. Mawinji decided to become a freedom fighter on the spot. He later related the reasons why he joined. The colonial government worked only to extract Angola's wealth. The Angolan people were made both to pay taxes in hard currency and to do labor services (three months/year) without receiving benefits. Trade unions and collective bargaining were suppressed by the police. The people were drafted into the colonial army which was used to keep down their own people. (Candonga, "Autobiography" pp. 154-155). The whites and mesticos (5% of the population) had the right to vote; the 95% majority had no voice in the government. This and the struggle against it had been going on since the 16th century when the Portuguese first entered into the slave trade by military force. There were continuous rebellions.

For Mawinji the liberation struggle is more important than money. (Candonga, "Autobiography" p. 172). His first job in the MPLA was to return to eastern Angola as a political educator to prepare the village people for the armed struggle that was about to open up there. His work was easy, as the villagers, except those in the pay of the Portuguese, needed no convincing to made revolution. As an educator, Mawinji emphasized internationalism and class struggle: the MPLA did not speak for one tribe or ethnic group but for all Angolan working people. The MPLA was not against religion, only the obscurantism, witchcraft, and tribal customs that were used by the Portuguese and their local allies to hurt the people.

When the armed struggle came, Mawinji became a guerrilla as well as an educator. Over the next 10 years he and his comrades drove the Portuguese and their African allies out and replaced them with a communist system. Under Portuguese rule there had been no public education and few social services. Ninety percent of the population was illiterate. In liberated areas the MPLA established multiracial elected governments, elementary schools, medical aid stations and a communist economic system that emphasized centralization, mechanization and collectivization. [John Marcum, "The People's Republic of Angola" Afro-Marxist Regimes: Ideology and Public Policy , eds. Edmond Keller and Donald Rothchild (Boulder: L. Rienner Pub., 1987), p. 76]. Large coffee and sugar plantations and farms owned by European companies and individual colonialists were nationalized. Until the MPLA established them, village workers had only African remedies and no modern medicines or hospitals to treat the widespread tuberculosis, intestinal diseases, malaria and yaws. (Candonga, "Autobiography" p. 155).

In Mawinji's view, Catholicism is not an obstacle to class struggle and internationalism. It was a Catholic school friend that recruited him into the MPLA. The Catholics in Angola who have trouble with the revolution are some, but not all, of the bishops. While the bishop of Malanqu in 1959 took the side of the people and spoke against the "get rich quick" psychology of the Europeans, other bishops are caught up in being landlords and servants of the colonial power. (Marcum, The Angolan Revolution , vol. 1, p. 149). The schools, hospitals and radio station which the bishops owned were taken over by the MPLA and made to serve not only the white colonialists but all the people without charge. (Martin, A Political History , p. 37). Mawinji as an internationalist has no bias against the bishops or Portuguese nationals in Angola, only against those who can not get beyond their own narrow self-interest. He commented:

We are not fighting against whites or against skin color, but against the enemies of Angolan liberation, against those who side with the Portuguese tyranny. So African traitors are as much our enemies as the Portuguese soldiers. The African traitors think only of themselves. They are always hanged. There is no use wasting bullets, which are better used for fighting against the Portuguese. (Candonga, "Autobiography" p. 180).

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