Mozambique News Agency

No.179, 20th March 2000


Torrential rain causes further flooding

Torrential rain has caused further damage to Mozambique's main north-south highway. Since 14 March four new cuts on the highway have appeared, specifically at the Muari and Ripembe rivers, in Sofala province, and at Temane and Pambara in Inhambane.Access roads from the main highway to the coastal towns of Vilankulo and Inhassoro are also under water. Further flooding now seems inevitable in the Save valley, on the boundary between Sofala and Inhambane, an area that was devastated by Cyclone Eline in February.

The river Pungue, which did not flood in February, is also rising. A flood on the Pungue would threaten to cut the main road between Beira and Zimbabwe.

Work is under way in Gaza province to place metal bridges across the breaks in the main north-south highway, caused by flooding of the Limpopo river, between Xai-Xai, the provincial capital, and Chicumbane. However there are seven other in the same region, which must be repaired before traffic can resume between Xai-Xai and Maputo.

More flooding expected on the Limpopo

On 20 March the Southern Regional Water Board (ARA-Sul) issued another "maximum alert" for the Limpopo Valley, warning that there had been a major increase in the flow of the Limpopo at Beit Bridge, in South Africa.

Furthermore, the Massingir dam on the Elephants River, the main tributary of the Limpopo in Mozambique, had been forced to increase its discharges.

The result was certain to be another flood on the Limpopo, threatening once more the town of Chokwe.

North hit for first time

Flooding is now affecting parts of the north. Since 14 March heavy rains have isolated the districts of Mocimboa da Praia, Mueda, Nangade, Palma and Muidumbe, in Cabo Delgado, from the provincial capital, Pemba. The river Messalo has burst its banks and has cut the main road to Pemba. At least one village, Menguelewa, and large amounts of farmland, have been inundated.

In Mueda district, the remote area of Negomano, on the Tanzanian border, is suffering torrential rains, and the local authorities are warning residents to seek safer places for fear of floods if the Lugenda river bursts its banks.

Emergency in Tete

In the western province of Tete, an emergency situation has been declared in the districts of Zumbo and Magoe, on the Zimbabwean border, where about 6,000 people have fallen victim to flooding on the Zambezi river.

These floods have been blamed on Zambia's decision to open the floodgates on the Kariba dam. However, there has also been torrential rain in Zumbo itself. According to the INGC, 178 millimetres fell on 9 March, which caused flooding over a wide area.

Zumbo is upstream of the Cahora Bassa dam, which is holding back the waters of the upper Zambezi. Nonetheless, there is a threat of flooding on the lower Zambezi, caused by water pouring down from Malawi, along the Zambezi's main tributary, the Shire.

A rise of 34 centimetres in the level of the Zambezi was registered at Caia on 15 March. The INGC warns that there is now a serious threat of flooding in the districts on the lower Zambezi, namely Mopeia, Marromeu and Chinde.

More flooding in Umbeluzi basin

ARA-Sul on 17 March warned of the likelihood of further flooding in the Umbeluzi basin, to the west of Maputo.

The main tributary of the Umbeluzi, the Movene, is rising very rapidly and would probably burst its banks, inundating the Maputo-Swaziland road. The height rose from 2.83m on 16 March to 3.62m at on 17 March.

Furthermore, the reservoir behind the Pequenos Libombos dam on the Umbeluzi is rapidly filling. By 17 March it was 93.2 per cent full, and dam authorities might need to increase the discharges from the current level.

The river Incomati is also on the rise again. At Ressano Garcia, on the South African border, the river rose from 3.98m on 16 March to 4.3m on 17 March.

Further downstream, parts of the Incomati valley are already flooded. At Magude, the river has been well above flood alert level for more than a month. Renewed flooding on the Incomati will threaten to cut once again the main north-south highway in the Xinavane area.

Buzi flooded again

Torrential rains in the centre of the country have led to further flooding in Sofala province. On 16 March that the river Buzi has burst its banks again, once more flooding Buzi town. About 7,000 people who had ventured back to the town when the waters subsided earlier this month, are heading back to government accommodation centres.

The flooding in the Buzi valley is likely to worsen, since the Chicamba dam on the river's main tributary, the Revue, has been forced to open its floodgates, discharging 400 cubic metres of water a second.

Because of the continuing rains it is not yet possible to repair the north-south highway in the Sofala district of Chibabava. About 500m of the road is under water.

Chokwe needs 900 tonnes of seeds

The district of Chokwe, in the southern province of Gaza, needs more than 900 tonnes of seeds for this year's second planting season. Chokwe lost 26,000 hectares of farmland in the floods in February.

According to the Agricultural and Rural Development district director, Custodio Macame, Chokwe will need 500 tonnes of rice seeds, 400 tonnes of maize seeds, and 900 kilograms of vegetable seeds, namely onions, tomatoes and cabbages.

There is now some semblance of life in Chokwe as the local population starts a timid and risky return to their houses. Chokwe, home to the country's largest irrigation scheme, was overwhelmed by the waters of the Limpopo river in the catastrophic flooding of late February.

The majority of Chokwe's population fled the raging waters at the height of the disaster, and are now housed in accommodation centres.

There is an increasing movement of mini-bus taxis as petty informal traders try to bring supplies into the town - shops and other social and economic infrastructure were destroyed.

The drinking water supply was partially restored on 15 March. Health Minister Francisco Songane said that the priority is the treatment and distribution of water.

Although there is light in the streets, the houses are still in darkness because the waters destroyed most of the electrical infrastructure - authorities say that the infrastructure will either be repaired or replaced depending on the gravity of each case.

Efforts are being undertaken to put some services back into operation. The country's largest bank, the BCM (Commercial Bank of Mozambique), hopes that its Chokwe branch will open to the public on 20 March, if power and telephone lines are re-established.

Compounding the destruction were acts of looting by thieves who took advantage of the forced absence of the population, and the disappearance of the police, to clear out everything that the waters left in good condition.

Chokwe irrigation scheme seriously damaged

The irrigation system and its respective equipment and other infrastructures, in Chokwe have been seriously damaged by the floods.

Flood waters destroyed the protective dikes and that the channels have been choked by logs, broken vehicles and heaps of rubbish swept in by the waters from far away.

As yet, it is difficult to make any full estimate of the damages caused by the floods to the irrigation system because, although the waters are subsiding, they still cover large areas of the district.

At the Chokwe Agriculture Station, an institution linked to the National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), a variety of equipment, including pumps and office furniture, were also under water.

Soares Chirindza, an INIA official, said that "all our experimental plants were washed away by the waters", so making it difficult to continue the research work that had been started. "We have also lost all our technical and scientific documents", he added.

The irrigation system at Chokwe, a district once described as the country's granary started to deteriorate during the 1980s because of the abuse of fertilisers and the war of destabilisation. Over the last two years, the system had been under rehabilitation, a process that has suffered a severe setback with the floods.

Assistance needed for at least three months

Deputy Transport Minister, Antonio Fernando, said in Maputo on 17 March that the country will need emergency aid for at least another three to four months, because of the extent of the damage caused by floods to social and economic infrastructure.

Fernando said that the Mozambican government is presently working, in cooperation with donors, to assess the extent of the damage and estimate the amounts needed for the necessary repairs or reconstruction.

The Deputy Minister said that what the Mozambican government can do at the moment is small scale repairs, and that more substantial reconstruction will only be planned after the meeting between the government and the donor community, scheduled to take place in Rome on 26-27 April.

Fernando summarised the international community's aid so far, received by the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), as having consisted of 40 helicopters, 15 planes, 182 boats, $8.7 million worth of various equipment, $2 million in foodstuffs, $790,000 worth of medicines, and $1.379 million in cash.

Germany grants $13 million

Germany has granted $13 million for relief operations and in the rehabilitation of infrastructures destroyed by the floods.

The German Minister of Economic and Development Cooperation, Heidemarie Wieckzorek-Zeul, also announced the writing off of $30 million of Mozambique's bilateral debt to her country. Germany had already granted $4.6 million for the victims of the flooding.

The German government has supplied two planes and seven helicopters for the relief operations, and 275 tonnes of emergency relief goods as well as transporting 79 sickly people who needed urgent medical treatment.

Italy supports second season planting

The Italian government is to grant 60,000 kits of seeds and agricultural utensils to be distributed among those people who have lost all their first season crops and food stocks to the floods, so that they may undertake a second season planting between March and April.

The Mozambican National Disasters Management Institute (INGC) says that this donation will benefit 46,502 people who were recently identified as being isolated by the floods in Inhambane, Sofala and Manica provinces.

Mine clearance restarts

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the NGOs Handicap International and Norwegian People's Aid are helping the INGC work out an emergency mine clearance programme. It is feared that the floods have moved land mines into areas that previously had no land mines, or even to areas that had already been cleared of these devices.

US to spend $37.6 million on military relief

The United States government has authorised $37.6 million to be used by its military personnel in the on-going relief operations in Mozambique.

The US joint task force has about 150 personnel in the country, divided into two units: 110 in the central port city of Beira, and the remainder in Maputo. It has deployed seven C-130 cargo planes in Beira, several of which have been modified to fly with on-board cameras (Keen Sage) which give instantaneous pictures, and six helicopters some of which have the capacity to refuel aircraft while in flight.

Sweden donates $20 million

Sweden has so far made about $20 million available, including a combination of new funds, re-allocated funds, and funds made available earlier than planned. This sum includes $2.75 million worth of humanitarian aid to the flood victims.

WHO grant for malaria and cholera

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has granted $50,000 to the Mozambican Health Ministry for the programmes against malaria and cholera in the areas affected by flooding.

The plan drafted by the Health ministry in cooperation with WHO is for the next three months and its total cost is estimated at about $177,000. The main objective of the programme is to help improve the quality of the health services rendered to the people in accommodation centres and in residential areas in Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces in the south, and Sofala and Manica in the centre of the country.

The Mozambican Health Ministry's Technical Information Coordination Centre says that a total of 402 cases of suspected cholera have been reported in Maputo since the beginning of the year, 337 of them were notified in the last two weeks alone.

As for malaria, the number of cases has also been increasing. Between January and late February 22,207 cases were reported, compared with 9,546 notified over the same period last year.

Sugar companies hit by floods

With the exception of the Marromeu company in the central province of Sofala, all of Mozambique's operational sugar companies have been badly affected by the devastating flooding. This has severely compromised the government's target of producing 310,000 tonnes of sugar by 2005.

The Director of the National Sugar Institute, Arnaldo Ribeiro, said that the Mafambisse sugar company, in the Sofala district of Dondo, hit by Cyclone Eline on 22 February, will suffer an output deficit of 10 per cent.

Ribeiro added that the Xinavane sugar company in Maputo province was affected by the flood on the Incomati river, but "luckily, the water was drained. But the company will also have a production loss of 10 per cent".

"The most serious situation happened at the Maragra sugar company where all the agricultural work done these last two and a half years was completely lost. The Maragra sugar company went back to square one as regards its agriculture", he said.

As for the Marromeu sugar company in Sofala, Ribeiro said that "the company was practically unaffected. There was some high wind but it didn't cause any problems".

SADC extraordinary summit in Maputo

An extraordinary summit of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) convened in Maputo on 14 March to analyse, among other things, the effects of the flooding and cyclone "Eline" cyclone that hit the region in general, and Mozambique in particular.

President Joaquim Chissano, who is also the chairman of the organisation, said the initiative to hold the meeting came from the SADC deputy chairman and President of Namibia, Sam Nujoma.

The Heads of State called on the international community to cancel all foreign debts owed by Mozambique. This measure is aimed at ensuring that the country channels all available resources to the reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure and property.

It was also agreed that a regional institutional mechanism for disaster preparedness and management which would provide a timely response to similar situations should be established.

In Mozambique alone some two million people have been affected by the floods, including one million in need of assistance; about 330,000 people were displaced or left homeless; and the known death toll has risen to 492. This figure continues to rise as more bodies are found in the receding flood waters.

Assembly of the Republic

Third day of Renamo boycott

For the third day running, deputies of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition walked out of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 16 March.

The Renamo deputies took their seats at the opening of the session (collecting their day's pay), but left immediately after the "period before the order of the day".

This is the period during which deputies may make political statements that are not directly related to the subjects on the day's agenda. Renamo has used this period every day of this parliamentary sitting to claim that the current government is illegitimate, and to raise its demand for a recount of the votes cast in the December general election.

The walk-out left Frelimo to debate the government's five year programme without any opposition.

Prime Minister presents government programme

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 15 March presented the government's programme for the five year period 2000-2004, the major target of which is to reduce levels of absolute poverty by at least 30 per cent.

Prime Minister Mocumbi said the programme also aims at continued rapid economic growth, building on the successes of the previous five years. However, he admitted that the government's plans had suffered "a powerful blow" in February, with the floods and cyclone that had hit the south and centre of the country.

The Prime Minister stressed that the five year programme is aimed at satisfying the majority of the population: that meant targeting the programme at the poor, at the countryside, at women, and at the young, all of whom, in one way or another, formed a majority.

Mocumbi promised that the government would act so as to create "an economic environment favourable to the development of a strong business sector, able to act effectively and efficiently in the context of the globalisation and regionalisation of the world economy".

This favourable environment involves "removal of red tape and simplifying procedures, the establishment of a just and balanced fiscal system, the maintenance of a good macro-economic climate, and the search for funding for productive activities, safeguarding the free functioning of the financial market".

In the agro-industrial sector, the government proposes "to guarantee the food security of the population, and to supply raw material to national industry, thus contributing to import substitution, to improving the country's balance of trade and to expanding the national supply of manufactured goods".

As for land tenure, the Prime Minister said the government would work to ensure that all Mozambican citizens enjoy the right to use land. There would be further revision of land tenure legislation.

The Prime Minister stressed that the government is committed to strengthening the rule of law and to respecting human rights. This involves strengthening the courts, and guaranteeing their independence, and ensuring that all citizens can have access to justice.

Demand for investigation of electoral offences

Attorney-General, Antonio Namburete, came under attack on 14 March for his failure to deal seriously with the various offences committed during the general elections.

The report Namburete gave to the Assembly of the Republic devoted only a few lines to the elections, much to the annoyance of Sousa Munhaua, a deputy who is also first secretary of Frelimo in Zambezia province.

Munhaua said he wanted "more substantial and detailed information" than that given by Namburete, and then gave a long list of electoral offences, allegedly committed by members of Renamo, mostly in Zambezia and Nampula.

Namburete had no details to give the Assembly on any of these cases. He claimed that he was only learning about some of the alleged offences now, from Munhaua

He said that in known cases of electoral offences, the Public Prosecutor's office had brought charges where it thought appropriate.

Enron finds partners for steel factory

The United States corporation Enron has announced that it has found five partners to work with it on a proposed factory to manufacture steel slabs in Maputo.

MISP (Maputo Iron and Steel Project) seemed in trouble last year when Enron's original partner, the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) pulled out.

Enron announced on 16 March that 50 per cent of the project will be owned by the Swiss steel company Duferco, Kobe Steel of Japan, Midrex of the United States, VAI of Australia and Techint of Italy.

The raw material for MISP is magnetite from Phalaborwa, in South Africa, and natural gas from Pande, in Inhambane province, which will be used in the iron reduction process. Enron holds the rights over the Pande gas field.

According to Enron, MISP will cost about $1 billion to build, with the pipeline to bring the gas from Pande to Maputo budgeted at a further $500 million.

The factory will need 67 million litres of water a day. The government has ruled out the use of the Umbeluzi river, which supplies Maputo with its drinking water.

Mozal receives raw materials

An Australian ship, carrying the first 6,300 tonnes of raw material for the production of aluminium, is now moored in the Matola aluminium terminal at Maputo port.

The terminal, built in partnership between Mozal, the company that owns the aluminium smelter being built on the outskirts of Maputo, and the publicly owned ports and railway company, CFM, was inaugurated on 16 March.

The building of the smelter is about 80 per cent complete and the first ingot of aluminium should be cast by the third quarter of the year. The factory will have been built in 26 months and will cost less than the planned $1.3 billion.

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