Mozambique News Agency

No.123, 4th December 1997


Cholera epidemic sweeps south of country

The death toll from the cholera epidemic in Mozambique has continued to grow, reaching 205 by the end of November. Epidemiologist Avertino Barreto, spokesman of the National Anti-Cholera Commission, (CNCC) told reporters on 1 December that 14 people died in the previous weekend in Maputo Central Hospital, and one in each of the mobile wards set up in tents in the suburbs of Machava and Polana-Canico.

After a slow start, significant numbers of sick people are now using the mobile wards. Barreto said that 91 people were admitted to the Machava ward, and 66 to the Polana-Canico ward, over the weekend.

Over the same period 286 patients entered the Central Hospital cholera wards, and 436 were discharged. Currently there are 274 cholera patients undergoing treatment in the central hospital. Since the outbreak began, in mid-August, the hospital has handled 4,494 cholera cases.

No further deaths were reported over the weekend from the other cholera-stricken parts of southern Mozambique. In Maputo province (mainly Boane district), there have been 335 cases and 30 deaths.

No cholera in Maputo Bay

The CNCC has denied claims that the waters of Maputo Bay are contaminated with cholera.

"The bay of Maputo is not contaminated with the cholera bacterium, as some private institutions have been claiming" Avertino Barreto told reporters.

Institutions such as the consultancy company "Ernest & Young", and the insurance firm "Impar", in their own campaigns against cholera, have been urging people to avoid eating sea food from the Maputo bay, claiming the bay is contaminated with the disease. But they did not consult the Health Ministry before launching such alarmist claims.

Prime Minister criticises city council

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi has stated that it had been "a mistake" for Maputo City Council to tolerate the proliferation of informal markets selling foodstuffs under unhygienic conditions.

His remarks follow an offensive over the last week to close down the informal market in cooked food, regarded as a contributory factor to the current outbreak of cholera.

Asked whether the closure of stalls selling food would not worsen unemployment and crime in Maputo, the Prime Minister said "What we are trying to do is impose discipline. When food is prepared improperly, the price is human lives. We have to choose - we either pay with lives, or we oblige people to carry out their activities under hygienic conditions".

Cholera spreads in other provinces

There have been reports that cholera cases are growing in other provinces.

In Gaza province, the number of cases has risen to 83, but there has only been one death. In the neighbouring province of Inhambane only one case has been reported. This is a child, who travelled from Maputo, and was admitted to the Inhambane provincial hospital.

"Inhambane province is on alert. It has stocks of rehydration solution, disinfectants and other health care materials", said Barreto.

So far the Health Ministry has no confirmation of a radio report of two cholera cases in the northern province of Nampula.

Health units elsewhere in the country are on the alert, as the authorities take preventive measures to cope with any possible spread of the epidemic.

Spain donates medicines

Spain has announced that it is to donate intravenous rehydration solution, medicines and other hospital materials valued at $80,000 to help fight against the cholera epidemic.

The Spanish International Cooperation Agency (AECI), will also donate 24,000 scientific and technical books for the Eduardo Mondlane University.

Portugal donates cholera serum

The first consignment of 30 tonnes of serum donated by the Portuguese government arrived in the Mozambican capital on 22 November.

Portugal has pledged 70 tonnes of serum, used to rehydrate cholera victims. The donation is valued at $185,000.

The virulence of this strain of cholera is such that Maputo Central Hospital is using 13 litres of serum for each cholera patient. In the last major outbreak, in 1992, only six litres per patient were needed.

President warns of dangers of deforestation

President Joaquim Chissano, during his visit at the end on November to the northern province of Niassa, expressed his worry over the danger of deforestation in the country, as a result of reckless agricultural practices.

President Chissano commented favourably on the Mosagrius agricultural programme being implemented in Niassa by Mozambican and South African farmers. "What worries me most is not this programme", he said. "It is that the province is rich in natural resources, particularly forests, but because it is rich there may be negligence. There may be failures in planning for the preservation of the forests and the appropriate use of the land. When we try to correct the mistakes, it will be too late".

He pointed out that it is necessary to combine plans for agriculture and housing with those for the preservation of the forests.

In its first stage, the Mosagrius programme has been allocated 100,000 hectares for agriculture in Majune district, 100,000 hectares for livestock, in Sanga district, and a further 20,000 hectares for eco-tourism in an area not yet specified.

Three Mozambican farmers and seven South Africans have already been installed in the district of Majune, and seven Mozambicans and nine South Africans are in Sanga.

As for the demarcation of areas for the peasant family sector, to avoid possible conflict with Mosagrius, the Mozambican mapping and surveying directorate, Dinageca, has already concluded its work, and is presently busy marking out areas for the commercial sector.

Asked whether the fears of land conflicts in Niassa had been overcome, Chissano said that "so far, there have been none, but it is necessary to do our best so that in the future there are no conflicts".

"That is why it is necessary to maintain a permanent dialogue, a follow up and a deep understanding of what the programme is, and what the intentions of both parties (Mozambique and South Africa) are", he added.

President Chissano said "the basis for mistrust is ignorance of what the programme is. People often talk of a programme of South Africans whereas it is a programme of both Mozambicans and South Africans for the development of Mozambique, in the first place, with certain advantages for the South Africans, as well".

Chissano insisted that the Mozambican government is giving priority to upgrading the skills of Mozambican farmers so that they could play a leading role both in management and in financial terms. "The government has every interest in supporting the Mozambican participants to the maximum", he said.

In Niassa, Chissano also assessed the implementation of the government's five year programme in Majune, Maua and Mecula districts.

He expressed satisfaction at progress, particularly at the local people's self-confidence, and urged the provincial government to support local initiatives in the reconstruction of economic and social infrastructures.

"Reconstruction work is enormous and the whole country needs a lot of money for reconstruction. People should build schools and hospitals and the government will support them with medicines, nurses, teachers and desks. People should take advantage of the existing materials to improve bridges. We have a lot of wood here in Niassa", said Chissano.

Smuggled cigarettes seized

The Mozambican customs authorities on 23 November, at the town of Moamba, some 60 kilometres northwest of Maputo, seized 13 tonnes of cigarettes packed into hundreds of boxes in an armoured railway wagon.

A customs source told the press that the merchandise was apprehended after the engine driver tried to disconnect the loaded wagon in the town of Moamba, where there is no customs post.

According to the source, the cigarettes were accompanied by forged papers in the name of the "Mozambique Commercial Company". To try and mislead the authorities, the cargo had travelled from the South African port of Durban to Zimbabwe, then before entering Mozambique along the Limpopo corridor that links Zimbabwe to Maputo.

"Because we believe that this is neither the first nor the only case of tax evasion using the same route, we will intensify inspection in that area, although the resources available to our work do not help us to be more efficient in our operations", said the source.

He explained that, because of the stricter control on the usual borders between Mozambique and South Africa and Swaziland, namely at Ressano Garcia and Namaacha, smugglers have now turned to the border with Zimbabwe at Chicualacuala, in the southern province of Gaza.

The seized merchandise has been kept in the Frigo customs depot. Since the "Mozambique Commercial Company" to which the goods were addressed does not exist, and there is evidence that there was attempted tax evasion, the product is considered state property.

Meanwhile, the British company, Crown Agents, which has been running the Mozambican customs services since May, says the fact that Mozambique's borders are among the longest in Africa is one of the major problems it has to face.

They acknowledge that there is still smuggling into the country, through border posts where control is still not effective, such as Megaza, between the central province of Zambezia and Malawi, and Chicualacuala, in Gaza.

News Round-up

US Peace corps to work in Mozambique

The United States quasi-governmental organisation, the Peace Corps, is to work in training and recycling teachers of English, and in health care in Mozambique, as from October 1998.

According to Peace Corps official Brenda Bowman, head of programming and training of specialists in Africa, the organisation hopes that this will enable quality teaching of English to be provided to secondary level students.

The Peace Corps intends to invest $53 million in 27 African countries. The total costs of the Mozambique programme has not yet been estimated.

Initially the Peace Corps will work in three provinces - Inhambane, Sofala and Nampula.

Six die in landmine explosion

Six people died, and a further seven were wounded, two of them critically, when a tractor hit a land mine in the district of Funhalouro, in the southern province of Inhambane. The incident occurred on 24 November, 22 kilometres from Funhalouro town.

The tractor, which belonged to a local timber business, was driving along a dirt road that had not been used since the end of the war of destabilisation in 1992.

Although mine clearance operations have been under way in the province since 1995, Funhalouro district has yet to benefit from them.

Mozambique to tax maize exports

Mozambique is to impose an exceptional surtax on exports of maize during the current agricultural year, according to a source in the Agriculture Ministry.

The export tax will be set at 50 per cent of the CIF price of the maize, and is designed to discourage exports at a time when the country may face serious food shortages if the drought predicted by meteorologists does indeed grip southern and central Mozambique in early 1998.

Drought is not predicted in the fertile north of the country, and so, in principle, grain surpluses from the northern provinces could be used to cover a food deficit in the south.

The 1998 agricultural marketing campaign is being carefully prepared. All the materials needed (such as bags and the chemical products used in conserving foodstuffs) will be in place by May.

Funding is also guaranteed for the state marketing body, the Mozambique Cereals Institute (ICM), so that it can constitute a food reserve.

Current forecasts are that 180,000 tonnes of maize will be marketed from the 1998 harvest, of which the ICM will buy up 60,000 tonnes.

Japan donates vehicles

The Japanese government on 28 November donated seven 4x4 Toyota Hilux pick up trucks to Mozambique, to be used in a joint project between the Mozambican government, the World Bank and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), entitled "Reconstruction and rehabilitation in rural Mozambique". The trucks are valued at $140,000.

WFP says that the project aims to build 900 primary schools, 240 health centres and health posts, and 3,300 houses for education and health workers over a five year period. The project will rely on World Bank funding, and on WFP support for food-for-work schemes.

Funding available for new power supply for industry

International funding agencies are prepared to support the Mozambique Transmission Company (MOTRACO), a joint-venture between the Mozambican electricity company EDM, its South African counterpart ESKOM, and the Swaziland Electricity Board (SEB), aimed at supplying power to the MOZAL aluminium smelter, to be built in the district of Boane, 30 kilometres west of Maputo. The building of the power lines is estimated to be $130 million.

A conference on funding held in Maputo on 25 and 26 November exceeded the organisers' expectations, with banks offering loans of $300 million.

Among those willing to fund MOTRACO are the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

The enthusiasm of the banks is linked to the fact that MOTRACO, although established by three public corporations, takes the form of a limited liability public stock company, open to participation from private investors.

The final communique from the meeting stated that final commitment from the funding agencies, the communique says, will be dependent on concluding the various agreements between MOTRACO, the three electricity companies, and the Mozambican government, which will set the legal framework for MOTRACO operations. Other factors the banks are waiting for include the company registration of MOTRACO, and "improvement of project returns".

ESKOM, EDM and SEB intend to move ahead with project tendering, in consultation with the financiers, once tender documents are finalised in January. Construction is due to begin in the second quarter of 1998.

MOTRACO will consist of two lines from South Africa to Maputo, one running through Swaziland, which will supply MOZAL with 400 kilovolts of electricity.

The aluminium smelter will cost $1.2 billion to build. It will create, directly and indirectly, 4,000 jobs.

German aid for Mozambique

The Mozambican and German governments signed an agreement in Maputo on 24 November, under which Germany is to grant 35 million marks (about $20 million) to support the structural adjustment programme under way in Mozambique for the past ten years.

Somali refugees claim Mozambican roots

Over 10,000 Somali refugees in camps at Dadaab in Kenya are demanding the right to live in Mozambique, on the grounds that their ancestors came from Mozambique as slaves.

A five member Mozambican delegation, headed by Fernando Fazenda, director of the Refugee Support Nucleus, visited Dadaab to investigate in early October.

Fazenda has told AIM that the delegation is finalising a report on what it found for the use of the government. He said that the three Dadaab refugee camps housed a total of 122,288 refugees, of whom 10,036 are referred to as "Somali Bantus", or "Mushungulis". These are the people now claiming Mozambican nationality.

Slaves were taken from east Africa, including the territories that now form Mozambique, and marched northwards into Somalia during the 19th century. Even after the formal abolition of the slave trade, this activity continued clandestinely.

Cultural and linguistic links found

Fazenda's delegation found that the "Mushungulis" did indeed share some cultural and linguistic affinities with certain Mozambican ethnic groups. Thus they were able to talk to an old man (who claimed to be 102), named Mahomed Yere, in the Yao language, spoken in parts of northern Mozambique. He claimed that his grandparents had come from Inchinga - which is today's Lichinga, capital of the Mozambican province of Niassa.

Another "Somali Bantu" was able to speak Makua, the most widespread language of northern Mozambique.

The culture of these refugees seemed clearly Bantu, and some of their dances were reminiscent of Mozambican ones - Fazenda's delegation detected similarities with the "chioda" and "tufo" dances of northern Mozambique, and with "zore", a dance from the southern province of Inhambane.

But Fazenda pointed out that, although the Mushungulis' ancestors may have come from Mozambique, most of the refugees no longer speak Mozambican languages. The Yao and Makua speakers are exceptions: most speak a creole language called Mzigua, which appears to be the result of mixing Bantu languages such as Makua, Yao and Nyanja with Swahili and Somali.

Furthermore at the time their ancestors were sold into slavery, the current political entity known as Mozambique did not exist. The borders of what was often referred to as "Portuguese East Africa" had not been defined. Indeed, Portuguese control was tenuous, and several pre-colonial states still existed.

Fazenda noted that the Tanzanian authorities have already categorically refused to allow the Mushungulis to resettle in Tanzania, on the grounds that there was never any link between Tanzania and Somalia via the slave trade. Historical sources indicate that this Tanzanian argument is untrue.

All the Mushungulis are peasant farmers, all are Moslems, all are illiterate, and all are desperately poor.

Fazenda clearly felt great sympathy for these refugees, but he pointed to the political, social, and financial implications of allowing them to settle in Mozambique. He believed that the Mozambican government should only accept the Mushungulis if the international community paid the costs involved.

Entry refusal likely

Judging from remarks made by Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi at a press briefing on 28 November, the government has already decided not to allow the Mushungulis in.

Mocumbi did not believe that the history of the slave trade could be used to claim citizenship of a modern African nation. "How many American descendants of slaves can claim Mozambican ancestry?", he asked.

He pointed out that the criteria for Mozambican nationality are laid down in the constitution, and anyone claiming to be Mozambican had to satisfy those criteria.

When one reporter remarked that the Somali refugees are desperately poor, living under extremely miserable conditions, Mocumbi retorted "We have plenty of people here already who are living in misery. Misery is not a criterion for nationality".

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