Mozambique News Agency

No.180, 5th April 2000


Government updates Assembly on floods

Currently, the total number of people directly or indirectly affected by flooding in Mozambique, is 2,035,340, half of whom are in need of food aid, according to Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao.

Briefing the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 30 March on the flood situation, Simao said that the known death toll stands at 640, with a further 95 people missing. The number of people displaced from their homes is 491,317.

Simao said that the government had set up 121 accommodation centres to provide shelter, food and medical care for the homeless. This number has now fallen to 117.

The Minister put agricultural losses at 140,000 hectares of cultivated land, which is 22 per cent of the farmland in the five provinces affected. Over 124,000 households had lost their crops and their agricultural tools.

A significant number of cattle, goats, smaller ruminants and poultry had fallen victim to the floods, but a complete survey of these losses was still being undertaken.

Perhaps the most serious blow to agriculture was in irrigation. Major irrigation schemes are heavily concentrated in the south of the country, notably in the Limpopo Valley, and were devastated by the huge flood on the Limpopo in late February. Simao said that more than 90 per cent of the country's operational irrigation infrastructures were damaged.

Serious damage was done to industries in Matola, adjoining Maputo, and in the Limpopo Valley cities of Chokwe and Xai-Xai. As for the trading network, 880 shops and 118 wholesalers were damaging, effectively paralysing the normal patterns of trade in flood-affected area. As a result supply had slumped and prices soared.

Normal overland communication between the north and south of the country had been interrupted when the flood waters washed away several stretches of the main north-south highway. Simao said the damage to the road in Sofala and Inhambane provinces has been repaired, and brigades "are working flat out" to restore the link from Maputo to Xai-Xai.

The emergency repairs to all roads and bridges damaged in the floods are costed at $58 million, said Simao, while damage to the electricity grid comes to $14 million.

Simao thanked the international community for its support, and told the Assembly that at the height of the rescue operations donors made available 59 aircraft and 182 boats.

Simao summarised the response to the government's emergency appeal of 24 February. The aid requested by the government was costed at $65.7 million, and by 21 March the response had been $56.6 million in kind, and $1.4 million in cash.

In certain areas, the government received more than it had asked for: $7.1 million of food aid was requested, and donors provided $8.2 million dollars worth; the goods for shelter and rescue that donors provided are valued at $5.4 million as against only $1.5 million initially requested.

In other areas there were shortfalls. The largest component of the appeal was the repair of infrastructures: the government asked for $44.3 million, and by 21 March had received $36.1 million.

Mozambique requests further $100 million

When it had a clearer idea of the devastation, the government updated the appeal and asked for a further $100 million. Aid has continued to arrive at a pace never before seen in the country's history. Simao's figures have therefore already been overtaken by events.

The government on 22 March launched an update of its emergency aid appeal and asked for a further $100 million from donors. United Nations agencies are fully backing the updated appeal, and the UNDP Resident Representative, Emmanuel de Casterle, declared that "what is in this document is what we need".

Introducing the updated appeal document, Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao said that since the 24 February appeal, the situation had worsened, with many more people affected by the floods and a massive increase in infrastructural damage.

The most expensive item in the updated request is emergency food aid for these 650,000 people over the next six months. A further $27.3 million is needed under this heading. Second on the list is shelter: $22.4 million is still needed to provide the displaced with tents, blankets and resettlement packages. $13.2 million is required to provide the seeds, tools and other agricultural inputs that will allow 122,600 rural households to resume farming.

Health and nutrition accounts for $3.9 million of the additional requests, with the main threats in the flood affected areas being malaria, cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases.

Repairing water and sanitation systems accounts for almost $3 million, and there is an education component of $1.6 million to support the 657 primary schools (with 210,000 pupils) affected by the flooding. There are also appeal components for the repair of power lines, child protection, gender equity, mine action (because many land mines may have been shifted by the waters), and coordination.

In one area, however, donors' pledges fully cover the estimated needs. This is road repairs and the rehabilitation of damaged public buildings, costed at slightly more than $36 million. This component is already fully covered by contributions from Denmark, Germany and the World Bank, which is diverting money left over from its ROCS (Roads and Coastal Shipping) II credit.

World Bank assessment of flood damage

Replacing the losses caused by the recent flooding in southern and central Mozambique will cost between $270 million and $430 million "depending on the standards used for reconstruction", according to a World Bank press release.

The Bank's assessment is that losses of crops and livestock and damage to agricultural infrastructure and equipment amount to $66 million.

Damage to the road network is costed at $47 million, and to the railways, particularly to the Limpopo line from Maputo to Zimbabwe, at $7 million. Repairing damaged electricity transmission lines will cost $14 million.

The bank adds that the Ministry of Health estimates the damage to health units at $16 million. Another $4 million will be required for essential drugs, equipment, furniture and other supplies.

The school network also suffered heavily, and the direct costs of the flooding to the education system are estimated at $29 million.

Damage to water supply systems is costed at $7 million, and to sanitation systems at $6 million.

It is much more difficult to estimate the damage to private property. Most of the dwellings swept away were peasant huts, on which it is difficult to put a precise value. The World Bank opts for a figure of $29 million for the damage to housing and other private property.

As for losses to private businesses, including fisheries, industry, trade and tourism, these are put at about $50 million.

But the World Bank admits that this figure is not necessarily accurate. "As the private sector consists of numerous actors who compete with one another, and are not required to make public disclosures of their financial positions, these estimates have a higher degree of uncertainty than the estimates of public sector losses", it says.

President Chissano meets tree child

President Joaquim Chissano, meeting with the woman who achieved media fame by giving birth in a tree, while awaiting rescue during the floods on the Limpopo river, said that she and her baby symbolise the suffering of women and children caused by the worst flooding in living memory.

Speaking in the presidential gardens in Maputo, on 23 March, President Chissano said that meeting 23 year old Sofia Chiure, and her baby, Rosita, means meeting all women who are suffering at this moment, with neither shelter nor bread to give their children, since all they had saved in their lives was washed away by the flood waters.

"When I look at her happy face, I can see that she is a woman full of hope and determination, representing the image of Mozambican women, who know that it is possible to overcome their difficulties", he said.

President Chissano said that he felt touched when he received the news of a woman who had given birth on top of a tree, because he was the one who discovered this group of stranded people, when he was overflying the Xai-Xai and Chokwe areas in Gaza province.

Rosita received a gift of clothes, blankets and other items from President Chissano. The president said that the state will monitor the growth of this child, who will have the right to a bank account to pay for her studies up to university. The child's parents will be given a house, built by the government.

"We will open a bank account to assist in her education, and even clothes, and this government's gesture will also allow her to know how to help others when she grows up", said Chissano.

Sofia, the child's mother, said that the baby was lucky because when she went into labour, on top of the tree, she was accompanied by her mother-in-law, and it was she who helped deliver Rosita.

"I am happy with the President of the Republic, I had never expected, in my life, to talk to him, and I thank him for all that I have received, and for what they promised to give me", said Sofia.

Gaza children malnourished

About 15,000 children under five years old in accommodation centres for flood victims in the southern province of Gaza are feared to be malnourished, according to a United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) source.

"Based on the number of children present in camps and isolated areas in Gaza, and from what we know from previous years about the nutritional status of the province, we estimate that 30 to 35 per cent of the children under the age of five are malnourished", said Ian Macleod of UNICEF.

The malnourished children will need 24-hour intensive care, and will be fed using special high energy milk to supplement their diet. He disclosed that a consignment of three metric tonnes of powdered milk is on its way.

Cholera wards admit hundreds

More than 700 people have been admitted to various cholera wards in the Mozambican cities of Maputo and Matola for treatment for acute diarrhoeas, which caused at least two deaths on 26 and 27 March, reports "Noticias".

Of this number, 197 are in the Mavalane hospital, whereas another 173 are in the Jose Macamo hospital, in Maputo. As for Matola, where there is a new cholera ward, Maputo provincial health director, Margarida Matsinhe, said that 366 patients had been admitted with diarrhoeal diseases.

"This is a situation that worries us greatly", she said, adding that, as for malaria, the situation is not yet alarming, inasmuch as there are enough medicines to deal with the disease, at least for the coming three months.

Not every case of acute diarrhoea will be caused by cholera, but the health authorities are not taking chances, and are treating all such cases as possible cholera victims.

IURD may face court charge

The Brazil-based cult, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), may be taken to court, accused of causing one death and five injuries at the Chihaquelane accommodation centre, in Gaza province, according to a source in the local administration.

IURD, through its Christian Beneficent Association (ABC), is accused of responsibility for the death and injuries because it refused to cooperate with the authorities in the distribution of the food and clothing it was donating.

Instead of an orderly distribution, the IURD simply threw packages of goods from trucks into the middle of a hungry crowd and a stampede resulted, with tragic consequences.

Miners held up by flooding

Hundreds of Mozambican miners with contracts with South African gold mines are unable to return to work owing to the flooding that has affected southern and central regions of the country since early February. These miners were on holiday, in their home districts, when the floods struck.

The flooding caused cuts to the main north-south road, and many people found themselves stranded north of the breaks in the road, and thus unable to travel overland to Maputo, and thence to South Africa.

About 47 per cent of the Mozambican miners working in South Africa are from the southern province of Gaza, the part of the country worst hit by the floods; 26 per cent come from Inhambane; and the remainder are from Maputo city and province.

Machanga residents to reopen access road

Residents of Machanga district, in the central province of Sofala, are to work on the reopening of the 60 kilometre stretch of road that links Machanga town to the main north-south highway, according to government sources. This road was destroyed by cyclone Eline in February.

About 500 people will be recruited for the job, under the "food for work" project. The idea is to make feasible the overland supply of goods to the victims of floods in that district, since the American and German teams who were airlifting the supplies from Beira started leaving on 26 March, having completed their mission.

Machanga was severely affected by both the floods on the Save river, and by the cyclone. The majority of the district's residents have lost their houses and all their belongings.

During the airlift Machanga district has been benefiting from daily humanitarian assistance of about 30 tonnes of foodstuffs. The district has also been supplied with medicines, water pumps and other goods.

In Sofala and the neighbouring province of Manica, about 300 tonnes of goods were distributed during the last four days, to the districts of Machanga and Buzi in Sofala, and Mossurize and Machaze in Manica.

Metical falling

The value of the Mozambican currency, the metical, is continuing to fall, despite hopes that it would stabilise at around 15,000 meticais to the US dollar.

For a few days in mid-March it seemed to have settled at about that rate. But the slow slide has now resumed: in the legal foreign exchange houses (the so-called "secondary market") the exchange rate has slipped to 15,600 to the dollar. On the illegal, parallel exchange market the rate goes up to 15,800 to the dollar.

This means that the metical has suffered a 13 per cent devaluation since the start of the year. According to the independent newsheet "Metical", the exchange rate on the parallel market on 31 December was 13,900 meticais to the dollar.

The official, Bank of Mozambique rate on Tuesday was 14,500 to the dollars. Thus the official and the parallel rates are drifting further apart. The spread between the two rates used to be around two per cent, but now it has widened to nine per cent.

Theft of pylon parts increasing

Towns in the central province of Sofala run the risk of one day going without electricity if the theft of metallic parts of pylons goes on unchecked.

The places likely to be affected are the port city of Beira, and the districts of Dondo and Nhamatanda which are supplied by a line from the Mavuzi hydro-electric dam in the neighbouring province of Manica, according to the Beira daily "Diario de Mocambique".

"Diario de Mocambique" reporters visited Nhamatanda with Alberto Simango of the publicly-owned Mozambican electricity company, EDM, and found uprooted pylons, some of them along the Beira-Nhamatanda road, without their metallic parts. Some were bent and could fall at any time.

He said that the metallic parts are used in making such objects as bed parts, and hand-propelled carts.

Because the thieves remove the parts at the lower end of the pylons, this concentrates a lot of pressure on the upper end, meaning that the structure becomes unsafe - soon or later the pylons end up falling down, and the thieves' task becomes even easier.

Because EDM incurs high losses arising from the theft of pylon parts, its branch in Manica has been replacing metal pylons with wooden ones over a 27 kilometre stretch of line.

But the wooden pylons have their drawbacks: Agostinho Mugoda of the Manica branch said that the wooden pylons demand a lot more in maintenance than the metal ones.

Mazula will not sign UFICS agreement

The Vice-Chancellor of Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University, Brazao Mazula, declared on 30 March that he will not sign any agreement with the lecturers of the Social Science Faculty (UFICS) who ended a nine day old strike the previous day.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference, Mazula said he saw no reason for any such formal signature because "there is no state of war" between the Vice-Chancellor's office and UFICS.

Mazula's refusal to sign the agreement negotiated with the strikers delayed the end of the strike by two days.

The agreement contains two main points - that elections for a new faculty director should be held within 15 days, and that there will be no reprisals against anyone who took part in the strike.

The strike arose because of Mazula's dismissal of Terezinha da Silva as UFICS director. He replaced her with Eduardo Sitoe, who did not enjoy the confidence of the faculty staff.

But on 30 March Mazula described Sitoe as "interim director", and said he had been appointed "to guarantee classes in the faculty and to speed up the election".

He added that he had lost confidence in Silva because she did not inform him of what was happening in the faculty. "She never gave me explanations about what was going on", said Mazula.

He suggested that behind the strike was a project of the UFICS lecturers to make their faculty autonomous from the rest of the university. Mazula said that while he favoured decentralisation within the university, there could never be full autonomy for an individual faculty.

Directors sacked over water shortage

The shareholders of the privately-owned water company, "Aguas de Mocambique", which is managing the state's water assets in five of the country's major cities, have sacked two of the company's directors following an acute water crisis in Maputo and its satellite city of Matola, which have been facing a serious shortage of drinking water since 29 March.

The sacked men, Jean-Pierre Hardy, the managing director, and Eugenio Oliveira, the technical director, have been blamed for the company running out of water treatment chemicals, aluminium sulphate, at the Umbeluzi water treatment station.

Assembly of the Republic

Renamo demands parliamentary inquiry into elections

Renamo and its allies in the Electoral Union coalition on 30 March moved a motion in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, seeking to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the counting of votes from the December elections.

The motion proposes a nine-member commission which would be given a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 45 days to investigate the election results.

Introducing the motion, Maximo Dias, general secretary of the Mozambican Nationalist Movement (MONAMO), one of the minor partners in the Electoral Union, claimed that the final results were based on falsified computer diskettes from the provinces, and criticised the Supreme Court for supposedly failing to check the original polling station notices against the computerised versions.

He claimed that this alleged computer fraud, plus the votes contained in the polling station notices rejected for "insuperable errors" were enough to change the results.

But Dias, who is an experienced lawyer, admitted that there can be no appeal against Supreme Court rulings. "Legally the situation cannot be changed", he said. "But knowledge of the real results could bring about political change".

He claimed that the Renamo motion was a disinterested move, and that the Electoral Union would accept whatever result a recount of the votes turned up. "We will accept anyone who wins fairly. If Frelimo did win, we will congratulate them", he said.

Dias added that "If Frelimo doesn't agree to set up a commission of inquiry, it's because it is afraid that it will be definitively unmasked".

But the head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Armando Guebuza, made it very clear that Frelimo has every intention of "firmly, categorically and definitively" rejecting the Renamo motion.

He argued that the proposed commission would be entirely unconstitutional, since "all citizens and all institutions, including this Assembly, are subject to the law, and nobody is above the law".

Article 163 of the constitution, he pointed out, states that court decisions must be complied with by all citizens "and prevail over all other authorities". Once the highest court in the land has decided an issue, there is no way that any other body can take a different decision.

As for electoral fraud, Guebuza said that, in reality, those frauds uncovered had all been committed by Renamo members. He listed several instances.

Even if the Assembly were to violate the constitution and set up a commission of inquiry, it would be "a useless exercise", he said, since if the results were not to its liking, Renamo would refuse to accept them, just as it refused to accept the CNE's results and the Supreme Court's ruling.

Assembly rejects Renamo aid proposal

The Assembly of the Republic on 29 March threw out a proposal from the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union to set up an ad-hoc parliamentary commission to supervise relief aid for victims of the catastrophic flooding that has hit southern and central Mozambique.

Renamo had called for a nine-member commission which would be "exclusively dedicated" to monitoring all the activities of Mozambican and foreign agencies involved in relief and resettlement operations.

The majority Frelimo Party argued that such a commission would be completely superfluous, since the mandate of the Assembly's existing Social Affairs Commission already covered flood relief operations.

When the vote was taken the Renamo proposal was defeated by 129 to 105.

Mozambique News Agency
Fenner Brockway House
37/39 Great Guildford Street
London SE1 0ES

Tel: 0171 928 5657,
Fax 0171 928 5954

Return to index