Mozambique News Agency

No.176, 15th February 2000


Emergency appeal launched following flooding

The Mozambican government on 10 February launched an emergency appeal for $2.7 million for rescue operations and immediate relief for the victims of catastrophic flooding in the south and centre of the country. So far, it is estimated that 48 people have died - 21 in Maputo province, 14 in Sofala, six in Manica, four in Inhambane, and three in Gaza. A further 15 people - 10 in Maputo and five in Gaza - are missing, presumed dead. It is feared that the death toll could rise sharply, once information is gathered from those flood-stricken areas that are currently isolated and without communication.

Presenting the emergency appeal at a meeting with donor representatives, Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao said that the immediate priority was to save the lives of people trapped by the floods.

The top item in the appeal is therefore a request for 100 inflatable rubber dinghies that can be used to navigate along the swollen rivers, rescuing people at risk of drowning. The government is also requesting 1,000 life-buoys, and 2,000 life-jackets.

Other items in the appeal include tents and tarpaulin to provide shelter for the tens of thousands of people made homeless, and generators to provide electricity for the accommodation centres.

Currently many homeless people in Maputo and Matola cities are accommodated in schools. But they will have to be evacuated very soon so that lessons can restart. Hence the urgent need for tents.

Simao stressed that these were merely the most pressing needs. They do not include either food for the displaced (which the government is obtaining through arrangements with the UN World Food Programme), or any work on restoring the roads, bridges and other infrastructure damaged by the floods.

Long-term help needed

Finance Minister Luisa Diogo told the meeting that reconstruction work will cost vastly more than the $2.7 million the government has requested for the immediate humanitarian needs.

In Maputo city alone, an initial estimate is that repairing the flood damage, and particularly holding back the erosion that is threatening the city, will not cost less than $15 million.

There are, as yet, no estimates of the cost of rebuilding the roads and bridges destroyed in Maputo province, or in Sofala in the centre of the country. Diogo noted that some of the bridges swept away by the floods were recently rebuilt under the ROCS road programme largely financed by World Bank loans, "and now they must be rehabilitated again".

Diogo also noted that the largest industrial park in the country, in Maputo's sister city of Matola, has been severely affected by the floods. This would have an inevitable effect on industrial production, and hence on the state finances, since Matola's industries account for a large slice of the country's tax revenues.

Diogo promised that special customs treatment and exemptions from duties would be granted to goods imported in response to the flood appeal. The customs service, she said, was already working closely with the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), which is coordinating relief efforts.

Rescue operations continue

Four motor boats arrived in Chibuto district, in the southern province of Gaza on 14 February, to assist in operations to rescue victims of the massive flooding on the Limpopo river.

At least 2,700 people were rescued from flood waters on 14 February. 2,000 people were picked up in Chibuto district, from the administrative posts of Chaimite and Malehice. With the aid of three helicopters, a further 700 people were rescued from Guija district.

The flood on the Limpopo moved towards the Gaza provincial capital, Xai-Xai. The peak of the flood was expected to hit the city on 15 February.

Meanwhile, the Southern Regional Water Board (ARA-Sul) has warned of a fresh surge of water from South Africa, down the Limpopo and Incomati rivers, which is bound to worsen matters still further in Gaza and Maputo provinces.

Prime Minister appeals for help with flood crisis

Currently, all the Mozambican government's attentions are directed to the crisis arising from the massive flooding in the south and centre of the country, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi said on 11 February.

"All our work is dedicated to intensifying the operations to save lives and property, and provide humanitarian assistance to the victims", he declared.

He expressed the government's "great appreciation" for the various forms of national and international solidarity with the flood-stricken areas, and praised the "individual initiatives" taken by citizens to help those less fortunate than themselves.

The Mozambican media have reported many examples of such initiatives, ranging from families cooking meals for children whose homes have been destroyed in the floods, to boat enthusiasts offering their boats to be used in the rescue operations.

Prime Minister Mocumbi said that the most serious situation in the south remains in the Incomati valley. "Our main concern right now is to rescue people who are completely surrounded by water in Ilha Josina Machel, in Manhica district", he said.

The flood on the Incomati has cut the main road from Maputo northwards. This means that Gaza and Inhambane provinces can no longer receive consumer goods from the capital.

Mocumbi said the government was seeking alternatives, possibly by moving supplies in the opposite direction - southward from Beira towards Inhambane and Gaza, now that the break in the main road in Chibabava district, Sofala province, has been repaired.

As for the Sabie river, the main tributary of the Incomati, Mocumbi said the waters have now receded sufficiently to allow helicopters to land in Sabie town.

The Prime Minister said continuing rescue efforts were needed in the Sofala district of Buzi, where the Buzi river has inundated the district capital, and cut the road to Beira.

Three towns on the banks of the Save river, which is the conventional boundary between southern and central Mozambique have been flooded - these are Massangena in Gaza, and the two towns in the river delta, Machanga in Sofala, and Nova Mambone in Inhambane.

There was some good news. Mocumbi said that flooding to the west of Maputo has not destroyed bridges on the roads to Swaziland and South Africa, as had initially been feared. It was merely the access ramps from the roads to the bridges that had been swept away. These will be much easier to repair that the bridges themselves, said Mocumbi.

Mocumbi was also convinced that prices in Maputo and Matola could be stabilised, now that the new Maputo-South Africa motorway, although unfinished, has been opened to traffic as an emergency measure.

Prices had risen sharply in the city markets earlier this week. With the roads to the normal suppliers in South Africa and Swaziland cut, there had been a sudden rush of consumers to the markets to stock up, and prices had risen.

Mocumbi stated that the price of kerosene, the fuel of the poor, which had risen to 5,000 meticais (about 30 US cents) a litre (more than twice its official price of 2,300 meticais), was now falling because the road between Maputo and Matola was back in operation, and thus supplies of fuel, stored in Matola, could resume.

As for cooperation with neighbouring countries, Mocumbi said the Mozambican authorities had received "regular and trustworthy" information from South Africa, about the level of the rivers, and discharges from dams.

British support for flood victims

The British government is to grant aid worth more than $800,000 to Mozambique in support of the victims of the current flooding in the south and centre of the country, according to a press release from the British High Commission.

The aid includes the supply of 400 tents, to be distributed through the Red Cross, as shelter for people who lost their houses to the floods.

The British government will also grant $215,000 in cash to the Red Cross, earmarked for the emergency actions in the country, and UNICEF will receive about $400,000 as a response to its call for support to Mozambican victims of floods.

The British Department for International Development (DFID) has sent two experts in disaster management to Mozambique to help assess the situation, and advise the British government on the kind of further aid that Mozambique may need.

Italian equipment being sent

The Italian government announced on 14 February that it will send equipment to assist the victims.

The equipment includes rubber dinghies, electric pumps, generators, water purifiers and kits of health equipment and medicines, enough to cater for about 20,000 people during a three months period.

US aid given immediately

The United States, through its Embassy in Maputo, has granted $25,000 to support the victims of floods in Maputo city and province. This is an "initial response to the devastation caused by recent floods in Maputo city", and is to help people who were forced to abandon their homes.

This money was available immediately and handed to the Belgian branch of the humanitarian organisation "Medecins sans Frontieres" (Doctors Without Borders).

UNICEF supply medicines to flood victims

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is to supply the flood victims with medicines. The medicines are being sent by air from its warehouse in Copenhagen.

The first batch, worth more than $160,000, includes medicines and equipment for the treatment of dysentery and malaria, and is due to arrive later this week. It also includes 500,000 sachets of oral rehydration salts.

Responding to requests from several Mozambican ministries for assistance in the flood emergency, UNICEF has solicited $1.25 million from donors in efforts aimed at expanding health activities, supporting the supply of water and sanitation, and re-establishing the primary education network in areas affected by floods, as well as helping resettle those displaced from their homes.

UNICEF is to provide technical and material support to help the government coordinate emergency activities, under the overall leadership of the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC).

HCB donates $10,000 to disaster fund

The Cahora Bassa Hidroelectric company (HCB) has donated $10,000 for the flood victims .

The chairman of the company's board, Veiga Anjos, said his institution could not be indifferent to this huge catastrophe, and to the suffering of the victims.

"The donation expresses the solidarity of HCB and of all its partners, who want to contribute to minimise the difficulties that thousands of people are facing", said Anjos.

Maputo Council looks at resettlement needs

Maputo City Council needs to mark out at least 25,000 plots of land in suitable areas on the city's outskirts to resettle all those made homeless by flooding.

According to the councillor in charge of this work, Alexandre Panguene, a space for 350 plots has been identified in the suburb of Magoanine, but this is "insignificant" given the huge of number of people who need to be resettled.

Some of the areas flooded, such as parts of Polana-Canico and Luis Cabral neighbourhoods, were always unfit for habitation, and the City Council wants to remove people from these areas once and for all.

Meanwhile, the Maputo and Matola water supply is far from normalised. Despite the flooding of the water treatment station on the Umbeluzi river, the water company, Aguas de Mocambique, was able to restart pumping on 9 February - but only at 50 per cent of the normal rate.

The distribution of water through the network of city water mains resumed early on 10 February - but it could not reach everywhere, because there are suburbs where the water mains were smashed by the weekend mudslides.

The Maputo and Matola electricity network has also been severely disrupted. The publicly-owned electricity company, EDM, estimates that it will require at least $2.6 million to repair the damage.

The Maputo bus company, TPM, has announced that it is suspending services on nine routes within Maputo and Matola because of the state of the roads.

About 110,000 people were seriously affected by the floods in Maputo province, with massive loss of crops, and the situation seems to be worsening.

According to the governor of Maputo province, Soares Nhaca, by 10 February about 18,000 people in Xinavane, in the district of Manhica, about 90 kilometres north of the capital, had sought refuge from the raging waters of the Incomati river, many of them on top of their houses.

The greater part of Xinavane town was under water. The navy made available two boats to save the lives of people trapped by the flood waters.

The plantation of the Xinavane Sugar Company was submerged, but he thought the situation at the sugar mill itself was "under control due to efforts undertaken to divert the waters by using sand bags".

WFP needs $20,000 for utensils

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) needs about $20,000 to purchase domestic utensils.

Inyene Udoyen, the WFP information officer in Maputo, told AIM on 11 February that there is an immediate need for domestic utensils, chiefly pots to support the flood victims in Maputo and Matola.

The utensils will facilitate and complement the on-going distribution of foodstuffs that the WFP is undertaking in various accommodation centres set up in Maputo and Matola.

The WFP also announced that it has about six tonnes of foodstuffs, namely 3,300 of maize, 1,700 of beans, 475 of vegetable oil, and 454 of sugar to distribute countrywide.

APIE Director sacked

The Minister of Public Works and Housing, Roberto White, has sacked the general director of the state housing agency (APIE), Silva Chiziane, according to a report in the daily paper "Noticias" on 14 February.

At the time of his sacking, Chiziane had been suspended for two months, accused of mismanagement of public funds, among other misdemeanours.

White acted on the findings of a commission of inquiry charged with the task of investigating Chiziane. The outcome of these disciplinary proceedings is not only that Chiziane has lost his job at APIE, but that he is definitively expelled from the ranks of the civil service.

Fuel prices rise

The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy announced on 15 February rises in the prices of liquid fuel of up to 20 per cent, taking effect immediately.

The Ministry release decreed a 14.5 per cent rise in the price of petrol, which increases from 6,620 to 7,580 meticais a litre (at current exchange rates, there are 13,700 meticais to the US dollar).

A litre of kerosene now costs 2,780 meticais, compared with the previous price of 2,350 meticais, an increase of 18.3 per cent. Jet fuel rises by 19 per cent, from 3,231.5 to 3,844.1 meticais a litre.

The highest increase fell on diesel, which rose by 20 per cent, from 4,340 to 5,210 meticais a litre.

The only product that showed a drop of price was cooking gas, which fell by 0.6 per cent, from 7,204.4 to 7,157.9 meticais a kilo.

The prices decreed by the Ministry are for petrol stations in and around the country's main ports (Maputo, Matola, Beira and Nacala). Elsewhere distributors may add transport costs to the price of fuel.

The Ministry explained that, since the last price adjustment, last October, there had been a general increase in oil prices on the world market. Furthermore, the metical had devalued by 2.3 per cent against the dollar.

Renamo give ultimatum to government

Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, on 11 February gave the Mozambican government 10 days to recount the votes of the December general elections or agree to new elections, failing which Renamo will unilaterally declare a parallel government in the central and northern regions of the country.

This is the second time Dhlakama has given the government such an ultimatum. Nothing happened when the first 10 day ultimatum, given in January, expired.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference Dhlakama said that "there will be fighting if the constituted government tries to hinder Renamo's governance" of the six northern and central provinces where it won a majority of votes.

He argued that a parallel government is what people in those regions demanded from him when he made a tour there in late January, to thank his electorate for voting for him and for Renamo.

Confronted with the fact that his demands violate the existing constitution, Dhlakama said "we have nothing to do with the constitution". To justify acting illegally, Dhlakama claimed that the country's laws are only invoked "when they are not favourable to the opposition".

Dhlakama also attacked the Supreme Court for validating the elections. "How could the Supreme Court swear in Chissano who did not win the elections?", he asked.

Renamo did appeal to the Supreme Court, but on 4 January, the Court found against Renamo. There is no appeal against Supreme Court decisions, and hence no legal way in which a recount can be held.

Questioned by AIM as to whether the parallel government would have its own institutions, such as a police force and an army, Dhlakama answered that this is an issue to be dealt with when the government is set up. He also said the parallel government would collect taxes and prevent the existing central government from doing so.

Dhlakama attacks Maximo Dias

Tensions are showing in the Electoral Union coalition between Renamo and ten minor parties, with some of Renamo's allies refusing to go along with the increasingly extremist positions taken by Afonso Dhlakama.

On 11 February Dhlakama strongly criticised one of the electoral Union's moderate figures, Maximo Dias, leader of the Mozambican Nationalist Movement (MONAMO).

Dias has distanced himself from Dhlakama's claim that he, and not Joaquim Chissano, is the real president, and from Renamo's plans to set up a parallel government.

Dhlakama said that Dias ought to apologise for the voters of Zambezia, his home province, and the constituency which elected him to parliament on the Renamo-Electoral Union ticket. He added that Dias "talks a lot", and that he was tired "of defending a political leader who claims to be a doctor". (Dias is a fully qualified lawyer, which, under the Portuguese language system of titles, allows him to call himself a doctor.)

"Some people have come to the conclusion that he (Dias) is a lackey of Frelimo", accused Dhlakama.

President appoints further ministers

President Joaquim Chissano on 14 February appointed two more ministers and 15 deputy ministers to his new government (see AIM Reports no.175 for previous list).

For the new job of Minister of Fisheries, Chissano appointed Cadmiel Muthemba, a former governor of the western province of Tete, and a former member of the secretariat of the ruling Frelimo Party's Central Committee.

As Minister of Veterans' Affairs, he appointed Antonio Hama Thai, who was deputy defence minister in the last government. Prior to the first multi-party elections in 1994, Hama Thai was chief of staff of the armed forces.

Among the deputy ministers, several have been reappointed. Others used to be senior civil servants in their ministries. Thus Manuel Chang, former director of the treasury, who has headed Mozambican technical teams in negotiations with the IMF, becomes deputy planning and finance minister. Aiuba Cureneia, formerly national director for the civil service, becomes deputy minister of state administration. The new deputy minister of environmental coordination, Francisco Mabjaia, used to be the secretary general of that ministry, and the new deputy health minister, Aida Libombo, was formerly national director of health.

Joao Carrilho, the former head of the National Rural Development Institute (INDER), is now deputy minister of agriculture and rural development. Historian Luis Covane, formerly head of the cultural heritage department, becomes deputy minister of culture.

The newly announced Deputy Ministers are:

Foreign Affairs and Cooperation: Frances Rodrigues, Hipolito Patricio
Defence: Henrique Banze
Planning and Finance: Manuel Chang
Justice: Eduardo Munete
State Administration: Aiuba Cureneia
Agriculture and Rural Development: Joao Carrilho
Mineral Resources and Energy: Esperanca Bias
Transport and Communications: Antonio Fernando
Health: Aida Libombo
Culture: Luis Covane
Environmental Coordination: Francisco Mabjaia
Labour: Adelaide Amurrane
Public Works and Housing: Henrique Cossa
Fisheries: Alfredo Massinga

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