This article offers a critique of Patrick Chabal's and Jean Pascal Daloz's 'neo-patrimonial' interpretation of elite politics in Africa. It does so through an exploration of Mozambican society and politics in the period of democratic transition. By examining the relationship between the ruling Frelimo elite and the middle class in the capital Maputo, I argue that state politics cannot be explained by elites competing with each other through vertical clientelist networks as elaborated in the 'neo-patrimonial' thesis. Instead, I suggest that the liberal transition appears to have ushered in a hardening of Mozambican class structures, with elites maintaining their position through access to political power and networks developed initially in the post-independence period, and demonstrating a high degree of internal solidarity.
Journal of Southern African Studies (2008) 34 (1) 111-125 [DOI: 10.1080/03057070701832916]