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Protesting in Maputo. [Photo: DW]
Virgilio Simbine had a good life as a railway employee in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). But in 1990, he was forced to return to Mozambique, where he says he was discriminated against and never got a job.
Virgilio Simbine lived in Berlin for six years in the 1980s, working for East German railways (Deutsche Reichsbahn) in the framework of relations of cooperation and friendship with Mozambique.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall, he and his colleagues were forced to return to their country of origin, where, theoretically, they would have applied and developed the experience gained in Germany.
But Virgilio did not want to leave. He feared a lack of opportunity for those who had spent time abroad. “I used to work in the Deutsche Reichsbahn,” he says. “I lived in Berlin, and we lived well. When the news arrived to return to Mozambique, I did not want to return. I was one of the last people to pack my things in the container.”
“In Mozambique, I have never worked for anyone”
When he returned to Mozambique, Virgilio could not get a job in either the state or private sector, and took to making small repairs and fixing cell phones to earn some money.
He soon however passed the job on to his son, and instead devoted himself to agriculture, cultivating basic foodstuffs such as tomato, piri-piri, cabbage, lettuce and onions for the local market. But again he had little luck, the effects of climate change, already felt in the country, putting many agricultural projects at risk.
After all these failures, Virgilio has been unemployed since returning to Mozambique. Like so many other Madgermanes, he supports his family through various small deals. “We went on living, each one on his own luck. We never had state employment; we were always humiliated.”
Being a former GDR worker did not help, he said. “In any part of the state, if we applied for a job, when they realized that you are a ‘Madgerman’, you are just discounted. In Mozambique, I have never worked for anyone.”
Regret and an appeal
In an interview with DW Africa, Virgílio appealed to the authorities to refund the money that was deducted from him while he was working in the former GDR.
“What we ask is for the state to sit down, organize its documents, and refund what was deducted from our salary in Germany,” he explains. “We had social security deducted and also 60% of our salary, which they said we would one day get back in Mozambique. I regret [my decision to return] very much and I am not well.”
Like Simbine, many Mozambican workers in the former East Germany continue to demand that the Mozambican government refund the amounts deducted and sent by the German authorities to the Government of Mozambique on the understanding of them later getting the deductions back in their entirety.Source: Deutsche Welle