Mozambique News Agency

No.118, 24th September 1997


Mozambique eligible for HIPC status

The boards of the World Bank and of the IMF, meeting in Washington on 9 and 10 September, agreed that Mozambique is eligible for the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative.

Speaking to reporters in Maputo on 11 September, Planning and Finance Minister Tomas Salomao said that this preliminary decision was taken by the two Bretton Woods institutions by consensus. A formal, final decision to admit Mozambique to the initiative will be taken in the last quarter of this year.

Salomao said the World Bank and the IMF found that Mozambique met the three criteria for HIPC eligibility - it is an impoverished country, its foreign debt ($5.7 billion) is unsustainable, and it has shown a "good performance" in implementing structural adjustment programmes.

Although the World Bank/IMF decision is only preliminary, Salomao thought it amounted to a recognition by the international community of the efforts made by Mozambique to lay the foundations for relaunching the country's development.

The most visible results of these efforts are the sharp decline in the rate of inflation, and the impressive stability of the Mozambican currency, the metical. These are regarded as key factors for attracting foreign investment.

Growing awareness of debt burden

Creditors were now recognising that the debt burden was a severe obstacle to Mozambique's development. "Even if the country makes an effort to raise more revenue through domestic taxes and through customs duties, what happens is that this effort is neutralised by the need to pay off the foreign debt", said Salomao.

Currently debt payments devour about a third of the government's revenue, and debt service is running at 30 percent of the country's annual export earnings.

"All our efforts will be useless, really useless, if the debt problem is not solved", warned Salomao. There could be no slackening: the government would have to maintain what the IMF and World Bank regard as "good performance" until the definitive HIPC decision is taken.

Debt stock could be halved

Salomao would not give any figures as to exactly how much debt will be relieved, but said the government would be "in permanent consultation" with the Bank and the IMF on the matter.

He was optimistic that these two financial institutions would agree to slash the net current value of Mozambique's total debt to 200 per cent of export earnings, or perhaps even less. This is a better deal than Salomao dared hope for a few days before the meetings, when he expected that the best Mozambique would obtain was a debt stock of "200 to 210 per cent" of export earnings.

To put this into perspective, Salomao said that the debt stock was currently around 400 per cent of export earnings. In other words, it now looks likely that the debt stock will be cut by half.

Debate over entry point

One issue left unclear is the "completion point" - which is the moment when Mozambique actually benefits from HIPC relief. The decision to grant entry to the initiative is one thing, the completion point something else: and it could still be almost two years away.

Salomao said there was consensus on the IMF and World Bank boards that the completion point for Mozambique should be no later than mid-1999. But there are forces within the two institutions arguing for earlier dates - December 1998 or mid-1998.

Salomao said that, in the period between the definitive IMF/World Bank decision and the completion point, donors have generally agreed to provide aid to Mozambique "on exceptionally concessional conditions", so as not to add further to the country's debt.

Financial difficulties throttle judicial system

The Mozambican judicial system dare not appoint new judges for fear that it will not be able to pay their salaries.

The general secretary of the Supreme Court, Cipriano Nhane, told reporters that the personnel now existed, and could in theory be recruited "but the money is not available to ensure that their wages will be paid".

Given the difficulty of employing more magistrates, the system would have to rotate its staff. "We are studying the possibility of sending some magistrates to the places where there is the greatest congestion in the courts", he said. This had already been done in Gaza and Zambezia provinces "with good results", he added.

Nhane said the backlog of cases was such that, given that there are only 180 working days in the judicial year, "each judge should try several cases per day, which is uncomfortable or even impossible".

Nhane said that in the civil section of the Maputo City court, there are 617 cases - which means that the judge responsible for this section should be trying three cases a day. However, this target cannot be met.

Outside the capital the situation is much worse. The first criminal section of the Nampula Provincial Court has one judge and a backlog of 3,655 cases. Working at the impossible rate of 20 cases a day it would take an entire judicial year to clear this backlog.

Ten percent of judges corrupt

Out of a total of about 130 Mozambican judges, 13 were disciplined for corruption between 1994 and 1997, according to a source in the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature (CSMJ), cited in Metical on 11 September.

The CSMJ is the independent body responsible for enforcing professional ethics among magistrates, and taking disciplinary action against those who bring the profession into disrepute.

The real figure may twice as high according to the paper's source, since there are cases in which judges are suspected of serious irregularities, but shortage of funds has made it impossible to carry out investigations.

The offences for which judges have been punished include abuse of power, illicit charges (demanding bribes), illegal release of prisoners, and deliberately delaying cases.

Strategic plan for education

The Mozambican government plans over the next few years, to raise the education system's share in the state budget from the current 17 percent to between 22 and 25 percent, Education Minister Arnaldo Nhavoto said at a Maputo press briefing on 19 September.

Nhavoto said that, at this week's cabinet meeting, the government discussed a strategic plan for education into the 21st century, which considers two main scenarios.

One is a simple continuation of the government's current five year plan (1995-1999). This would produce a "gross school admission rate" in the first grade of primary education of 86 percent, rising to 95 percent in 2006, and reaching 100 percent in the year 2010.

The second scenario is more ambitious, and would represent a significant acceleration in the expansion of access to schooling. If this option is chosen, the gross school admission rate will reach 90 per cent by the year 2000, and will hit 120 per cent by 2006.

Nhavoto said the government was resuming the expansion that had been brutally interrupted by the war of destabilisation. He recalled that, at the time of independence in 1975, Mozambique had an illiteracy rate of 93 per cent, and only 650,000 children were attending primary education.

By 1979 the post independence government had raised the number of primary pupils to 1.4 million, and by 1981 the gross school admission rate was 108 per cent.

However, schools were among the main targets for the Renamo rebels. By the end of the war in 1992, 60 percent of the primary school network had been destroyed. Crammed into the remaining 40 percent were 1.2 million pupils.

In five years of peace the government has rebuilt 96.7 per cent of the school network. Nhavoto said the figure would reach 100 per cent in 1998. He added that there were now 1.7 million pupils in first level primary education (first to fifth grades).

Nhavoto admitted that the quality of education "does not satisfy us", with high drop-out rates, and low levels of academic success.

Municipal elections face financial constraints

The General Director of Mozambique's Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), Armenio Correia, has said that promises by donors to fund the Mozambican municipal elections have not yet been met. However, he was expecting the funds to arrive this week.

He explained that the bulk of the money would be channelled through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the European Commission.

Voter registration and the ensuing municipal elections were initially budgeted at $17.7 million. However, now that the polling will be postponed into the first half of 1998, and this will incur extra costs.

As for the date for voter registration, Correia said this depends both on the availability of funds and the time frame his institution will be given to prepare the entire process. He pointed out that registration must take place this year, and the sooner the better, "since we are now entering the rainy season, which can pose difficulties if some access roads are blocked, particularly in remote parts of the country."

While the municipal elections will only be held in 33 towns and cities, the voter registration is an updating of the 1994 electoral register and covers the entire country.

Voter registration had initially been scheduled to take place from 18 August to 5 September, but had to be postponed for lack of funds.

News Round-up

Prime Minister on marketing campaign

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 12 September guaranteed that the Mozambique Cereals Institute (ICM), has enough money for an "acceptable" intervention in this year's agricultural marketing campaign.

In theory, the ICM should be a "buyer of last resort", able to buy any crops that peasant farmers have been unable to sell to private purchasers, either because private businesses simply do not come to remote areas, or because they offer prices that are far too low.

In practice, the ICM has never secured enough credit from the banks in order to fulfil this role.

This year the ICM is more crucial than ever. Mocumbi pointed to the need to build up a strategic food reserve, in case 1998 proves to be a year of drought. Meteorologists warn of likely disruption of the world's weather patterns - including drought in southern Africa - because of the "El Nino" phenomenon, the anomalous warming of surface water in the Pacific Ocean.

Prawn exports up this year

Mozambique will export around 7,000 tonnes of prawns this year, a massive increase on the 6,000 tonnes exported in 1996, according to the Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Izadora Faztudo.

She told a Maputo press conference on 11 September that the increase was possible because of the identification of further reserves of prawns on the Sofala Bank, off the central Mozambican coast, leading to the allocation of an extra quota of 1,000 tonnes.

The prawn catch this year was "exceptional", and thus companies had used up their quotas earlier than expected. Faztudo attributed this to the flooding on the Zambezi in February - silt washed into deltas by major rivers such as the Zambezi is of crucial importance as a food source for shallow water prawns.

According to the Minister, prawns now account for 41 per cent of the country's commodity export earnings.

Success in arms collection

Since 1995, the Mozambican police, in coordination with their South African counterparts, have uncovered and destroyed 11,734 firearms of various types, that had been hidden in arms caches, reports Noticias on 15 September.

The police believe, however, that many more weapons are still buried in caches throughout the country.

According to the spokesman of the Mozambican police general command, Raul Freia, the police also collected and destroyed 7,718 hand grenades and about 14,000 land mines. Over the same period, 8,039 ammunition clips, 378 boxes of assorted munitions, and over 124,000 rounds of loose ammunition were also destroyed.

Freia added that besides this weaponry, an unspecified quantity of explosives, military communication radios and other materials were also uncovered.

Africans must liberate themselves

It is Africans, and not those from outside the continent, "who bear the responsibility of covering the gap that separates us from the developed world", declared Mozambique's former prime minister, Mario Machungo, in Maputo on 9 September.

Machungo is a member of the Council of Convenors of the Africa Leadership Forum (ALF), and he was speaking at an ALF conference entitled "Africa on the eve of the 21st century".

"Just as yesterday we were able to manage the waves that swept away colonialism", he said, "so today history sets us the challenge of undertaking a new liberation war, liberation from the chains of marginalisation and underdevelopment, and acquisition of our dignity as human beings endowed with our own culture and values".

Outlining the aims of the conference, Machungo said it hoped to contribute towards "building a broad-based consensus on African ability to initiate and manage change as part of the preparatory mechanism for the challenges of the next millennium", and towards "identifying a new and innovative funding mechanism for internationally agreed programmes on Africa".

It would also suggest "practical and innovative modalities for cultivating new forms and levels of leadership in Africa", and discuss collective security.

Anti-landmine demonstration at US Embassy

Members and supporters of the Mozambican Campaign against Landmines (CMCM) demonstrated outside the US embassy in Maputo on 9 September, protesting against the United States' failure to halt the production and use of anti-personnel mines.

200 protesters, some of them in wheelchairs or otherwise disabled, carried placards urging the US government to sign, with no reservations, the anti-landmine treaty that will be presented at a conference in Ottawa in December.

Among the slogans on the placards were: "For an Africa free of landmines", "Think of human suffering", and "Bill Clinton, abandon your warmongering".

The United States was initially opposed to a land mine treaty, and preferred to remit the issue to the interminable negotiations at the UN conference on disarmament in Geneva. Essentially, the US was not prepared to abandon landmines unless Russia and China did so as well.

President dismisses provincial governor

President Joaquim Chissano has dismissed Jorge Muanahumo from his post as governor of the northern province of Cabo Delgado. The decision takes effect as from Friday, 12 September. No reason has been given for the decision to dismiss Muanahumo.

Muanahumo, has been governing Cabo Delgado since May 1995.

Experts discuss effects of El Nino

Southern and central Mozambique may suffer negative effects from the meteorological phenomenon known as El Nino, between December 1997 and March 1998, when rainfall is expected to be below normal levels.

A study presented on 15 September in Maputo, during a seminar to discuss ways of minimising El Nino's impact, warned of the likelihood of drought, south of the Zambezi.

However, north of the Zambezi, the picture is very different. According to Filipe Lucio, of the Mozambican Institute of Meteorology, "during that period (December to March) normal or even above normal rainfall is expected in the northern regions of the country".

Although the hottest period of El Nino began in March 1997, considerable reductions in rainfall in Mozambique are expected only as from November.

Because the phenomenon may affect some of the sectors of the national, regional and world economy, experts have been advising preventive measures in agriculture, water supply, health and other areas, in order to reduce the impact of the phenomenon.

El Nino is the anomalous warming of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean, which disrupts weather patterns in much of the world.

The experts gathered in Maputo think it is still too early to forecast exactly the effects of the 1997 El Nino on Mozambique. They recommended that society should keep alert to updated weather forecast information in order to take measures that can minimise the impact of any drought.

The two day meeting is organised by the Mozambican Environment Ministry, in coordination with the Goddard Institute of the North American Space Agency (NASA) and the International Resources Institute, of New York's Columbia University.

Renamo on brink of collapse

The former rebel movement Renamo, "is on the brink of collapse", according to Luis Gouveia, head of the office of Renamo president Afonso Dhlakama.

In a remarkably frank interview, published in the weekly paper Demos, Gouveia accused the party's secretariat of being "inactive". There's no well thought-out intervention, said Gouveia. "Contact with the grass roots is virtually zero. The secretariat is not rooted in day to day reality".

The spirit of sacrifice has been lost, added Gouveia, suggesting that city life was corrupting the Renamo leadership.

He insisted that he remained faithful to Dhlakama, but that the Renamo leader was "adrift", and "isolated, surrounded by ambitious scoundrels who want to see the party die".

"We have to tell society and the world what we are, and dispel the idea that we are an authoritarian party", he said. Gouveia believed this was the duty of the secretariat, in which it was failing badly.

"Renamo must redefine its political strategy and see whether we have the right people in the right places", he added. "Otherwise we run the risk of falling into total anarchy".

The functioning of every Renamo body other than Dhlakama's own office was questionable, said Gouveia. "There is a great lack of coordination between the secretariat and the various other sectors of Renamo, including the parliamentary group. There's a lack of harmonisation, and it seems as though the party is being towed along behind the parliamentary group".

He stressed that he had no intention of leaving Renamo and did not regard himself as a dissident. He had gone public, because there had been no changes when he had raised the issues within Renamo's own structures.

Delays in Mosagrius programme

The lack of up to date maps of the province of Niassa is holding up the Mosagrius programme, under which South African farmers are to set up agricultural projects, reports 10 September issue of the Maputo daily Noticias.

The chairman of the Mosagrius Development Corporation (CDM), Antonio Muacorica, said that the areas where the South Africans will set up their farms, in Majune and Sanga districts, are still being mapped and surveyed. Only after this work is completed with the farmers settle there and begin production.

Muacorica did not say how long the surveying would take, but stressed it was being dealt with as a matter of urgency.

He revealed that discussions are being held with Mozambican associations of peasants and private farmers, in order to select those Mozambican farmers who will participate, alongside the South Africans, in the Mosagrius programme.

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