Mozambique News Agency

No.191, 18th September 2000


Government revises plan figures downwards

The Mozambican government has revised its plan and budget and will present the new figures to the next sitting of the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, due to begin in mid-October.

At a Maputo press briefing on 14 September, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi confirmed that projections for economic growth this year have been cut from a target of between six and eight per cent to below four per cent.

He said that when the government's economic and social plan for the year 2000 was presented to parliament in April, "it was based on how the economy had performed the previous year, and on a preliminary diagnosis of the impact of the February floods. It was impossible to quantify the destruction immediately".

"The impact of the floods was worse than we thought at the time", he admitted. "Now we are looking at the economy sector by sector, to see where we can generate economic growth". A sectoral analysis showed a sharp decline in agriculture, and in transport due to the havoc caused by the flooding in the southern road and rail systems.

Prime Minister Mocumbi added that some of the decline in the transport sector was not caused by natural disasters, but by the economic collapse in neighbouring Zimbabwe. There used to be an average of up to six trains a day carrying goods between Zimbabwe and Mozambican ports. By the end of August this figure had fallen to three a day, and recently there has been an average of less than one train a day.

As for the funding for Mozambique's post-flood reconstruction, the Prime Minister said that of the $452.9 million pledged by donors at a conference in Rome in early May, $227 million for the public sector and $27.5 million for rehabilitating private companies, has been confirmed. All the documents for this money have been signed, and actions to disburse the funds are under way.

Dr Mocumbi said that inflation remains under control, but admitted that by December the yearly rate of inflation might exceed ten per cent. "It will be difficult to keep inflation to a single digit", he said.

As for the current high price of oil, Dr Mocumbi said "we are hopeful, in the light of the OPEC decision to increase output by 800,000 barrels a day. If OPEC keeps its promises, we shouldn't be too alarmed. OPEC expects a price fall in October to $27 a barrel. This will influence the price of oil in our market". (Over the past fortnight the world price of oil has sometimes reached more than $35 a barrel.)

The Prime Minister was optimistic that the government would have an "easy dialogue" with an IMF team currently in the country, preparing the next three year programme between the government and the Fund. "We know exactly what we want to do", said the Prime Minister. "We have our five year programme, we have designed a plan of activities, and this is the basis for discussion with the IMF".

32 die in bus crash

The governor of the Sofala province, Felicio Zacarias, has ordered an enquiry into the causes of the road accident involving a passenger bus and a loaded truck, that killed 32 people and left 21 injured, on 6 September.

Commenting on the circumstances of the accident, Transport Minister Tomas Salomao, who visited the injured in their hospital beds, said that preliminary findings shows that the crash was caused by a series of mistakes by the driver of the bus, owned by the transport company "Oliveiras". The driver, Joao Paulo, was overworked and tired, since he had been at the wheel for around 48 hours.

The owner of the bus has denied claims that the bus driver was tired and overworked. In a letter published in "Noticias" on 9 September, Antonio Abrantes de Oliveira, blamed the truck. Oliveira claimed that the bus did not leave Maputo until 08.00 on 4 September, that the driver had a night's sleep in Vilankulo (slightly more than half way between Maputo and Beira), and that he left Vilankulo at 05.30 on 5 September.

The driver, continued Oliveira, arrived at Beira at 15.00, and did not start driving again until 05.30, half an hour before the accident.

Parliamentarians in road crash

Judite Macoo, a Frelimo parliamentary deputy, died on 12 September in a road accident in the locality of Jantigue, about 11 kilometres south of the town of Chibuto, in the southern province of Gaza.

The five other passengers in the vehicle, also deputies, were seriously injured in the accident, and were flown to Maputo Central Hospital.

The five injured deputies are a former deputy foreign minister Salome Moiane, and Ana Rafael, both of the Frelimo group, and Henrique Mulieca, Celina Salomone and Jose Palaco, members of Renamo-Electoral Union.

The deputies, all members of the parliamentary Commission on Social, Gender and Environmental Matters, were travelling to Inhambane province on parliamentary business.

Food aid until year 2001 for 160,000 people

At least 160,000 people in the areas of southern and central Mozambique affected by the February and March floods will still need food aid until March next year, six months longer than the government's emergency appeal period, that expires at the end of September, reports "Noticias" on 14 September..

Citing the director of the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), Silvano Langa, the paper says that this institution will be catering for about 550,000 people until the end of September, but this figure will drop to about 160,000 after that, according to estimates made jointly with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

Langa said the districts most at risk of hunger during the first months of 2001 are Chokwe and Guija, in Gaza province, Machanga and Buzi, in Sofala, and Machaze in Manica province.

He said that existing food stocks will suffice only for the next two months but, in response to an INGC appeal, some donations are being received and more are expected to flow in over next few months.

Among the incoming donations Langa mentioned from some Japanese NGOs, and from the United States, which has pledged to send about 2,000 tones of grain.

Food aid will be dispensed under "food for work" schemes, as a means to encourage food production and the reopening of access roads.

Seed distribution to start soon

The agricultural authorities are to formally start handing out seed kits to 97,478 families affected by the floods, for the coming planting season. Apart from the seeds, the families are to receive agricultural hand tools.

Joaquim Cuna, coordinator of the Emergency Operations Group in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, told AIM that dozens of trucks loaded with seeds imported from South Africa and Zimbabwe have reached the provinces affected by the floods, namely Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane in the south, and Sofala and Manica in the centre, as well as the western province of Tete.

The authorities have already started preparing kits of maize, sorghum, millet, rice and ground-nut seeds to distribute to the families.

Maputo province, where the Incomati, Umbeluzi, Movene and Maputo rivers devastated vast areas of farmland, is to receive the largest share: 39,400 kits. Gaza families will receive 24,474 kits, while Sofala is to get 12,100 kits. Manica, Inhambane and Tete will receive 12,000, 7,900 and 700 kits, respectively. The river that did the most damage in Gaza was the Limpopo, while in Sofala it was the Buzi that wreaked havoc. The Save river, that marks the boundary between southern and central Mozambique, caused floods in four provinces - Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala and Manica.

The import of seeds and tools was carried out under a contract signed by the Mozambican government and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which is funding the project. The seeds and tools will be distributed by the Mozambican NGO Kulima.

The post-flood reconstruction needs of the agriculture sector are estimated at about $63.3 million, including the rehabilitation of irrigation channels and seed distribution. About $7.9 million will be needed for the purchase of seeds.

Meanwhile, the multi-national seed giant Monsanto has offered about 267 tonnes of hybrid maize seed. The seeds will be sent to the provinces as soon as the necessary import documents are concluded.

According to the ministry, about 26 per cent of cropland, estimated at about 215,400 hectares, was seriously affected at the height of the floods. 47 per cent of the land affected belongs to the peasant family sector, 27 per cent to the commercial sector, and 26 per cent to the public sector, said a source in the National Directorate of Agriculture.

The animal husbandry sector lost about 167,000 head of cattle - 70 per cent of the total figure - 277,000 head of other ruminants, and 180,000 chickens and other poultry, the source added.

Mozambique to relaunch sisal farming

The Mozambican government is to relaunch the farming of sisal in the coastal district of Angoche, in the northern province of Nampula.

Farming of the crop in Angoche was abandoned many years ago, after the only sisal processing factory in the area closed its doors in 1975. Sisal used to be produced in large quantities in the locality of Natir, and the re-introducing the crop will take place in parallel with the rehabilitation of the processing factory.

Already a South African technician, contracted by the government, is in Angoche to relaunch sisal production and conduct a study for the rehabilitation of the factory, which once belonged to the "Companhia Colonial de Antonio Enes" (CCA), owned by Swiss nationals who abandoned it at the time of independence.

In its initial stage sisal production will employ 400 workers, and in the second stage it will employ 800 over an area of 3,500 hectares.

Prime Minister clarifies position on log exports

Despite the ban on the export of unprocessed wood through the port of Beira, imposed by the governor of Sofala province, Felicio Zacarias, it is not in fact illegal to export logs, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi confirmed on 6 September.

Dr Mocumbi said he had not yet received a report from Sofala, and so could not comment specifically on the action taken by Zacarias. He thought the governor might have acted against one "unauthorised export", rather than against the export of logs in general. (But from the media coverage, both in the Beira paper "Diario de Mocambique", and on Mozambican Television, it seemed clear that the ban was to cover all unprocessed timber.)

Prisons found unfit for humans

The President of the Mozambican Bar Association, Carlos Cauio, on 13 September visited three Maputo prisons - and declared that none of them meet the basic conditions for housing human beings.

Accompanied by other lawyers, and by journalists from AIM and Mozambican Television (TVM), Cauio visited the Civil Prison, in the heart of the capital, the Central Prison and the top Security Jail (commonly known as the "B.O") in the outlying suburb of Machava.

The Central Prison was built for 800 inmates, but currently it houses 1,493. Furthermore the infrastructure of the jail has deteriorated sharply.

Cells originally designed for two inmates are now housing five or six, causing hygiene problems. In addition the prison sewer system is highly defective.

The Civil Prison has a capacity to hold 250 people, but currently 560 inmates are living there. A prison official told AIM that the poor state of this prison meant that it was no longer really capable of providing decent conditions even for 250 prisoners.

The Maximum Security Prison is the only one of the three that is operating below its installed capacity. Under Portuguese colonial rule, this jail was run by the secret police, the PIDE, and could house 600 people. Currently it has 352 inmates.

While the inmates may have more room in the Maximum Security Prison, they face serious health problems. When it rains the roof of the building leaks, and the sewers have not worked for a long time.

Cauio condemned the "complete abandonment" of the buildings of the jail. "I deplore the way the infrastructures here have been left to rot".

Apart from the physical problems of the jails, Cauio noted that in all three prisons illegalities are committed: the legally established time limits for preventive detention are not respected, and the prisoners are denied their constitutionally enshrined right to be represented by a defence lawyer.

Talking to some of the prisoners, AIM found cases in which they claimed they had been detained for over two months without the legalisation of their imprisonment.

For most offences, the police cannot hold a citizen for more than 48 hours before submitting the case to a magistrate, who must decide whether to authorise continued detention. If the detention is authorised, a formal charge sheet should be drawn up within at most 40 days. A trial should take place within four months of the legalisation of the detention - but given the huge backlog of cases in the courts, this rarely happens.

Prisoners serving sentences are outnumbered by those in preventive detention awaiting trial. Thus, of the 352 inmates of the Maximum Security Prison, only slightly more than a third - 123 - have actually been found guilty of anything and are serving sentences imposed by a court. The others are all pre-trial detainees.

Cauio caught one police officer in the act of committing a gross illegality. This member of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) was interrogating a detainee without the presence of defence counsel. Under no circumstances is PIC allowed to do this. Detainees always have the right to a defence lawyer in any interrogation. If the detainee has no lawyer, then an official defender should be appointed on the spot who can at least take notes.

Cauio blamed the police for not informing them of the existence of the Legal Aid Institute (IPAS) which exists to assist penniless people accused of crimes.

After concluding his visit, Cauio said that, in order to deal with prison overcrowding and illegal detentions, both PIC and the Public Prosecutor's Office "must carry out their duties properly". He also promised to convey all his observations to Justice Ministry, the Supreme Court and the Attorney-General.

Relaunching cashew production in Cabo Delgado

The local authorities in Cabo Delgado province have selected eight districts along the coast, and in the valley of the Rovuma river, which forms the border with Tanzania, to relaunch the production of cashew nuts.

The provincial director of agriculture, Carlos Mugoma, said that the provincial government has decided to invest heavily on reviving cashew production, as part of a master plan drawn up by the central government budgeted at $16 million to upgrade the cashew orchard.

In Cabo Delgado, the strategy has two fundamental components: to increase the planting of new trees, and to care for the existing ones.

Mugoma said that peasant farmers, aware of the importance of cashew as a cash crop, have asked for further support from the government and from NGOs so that they can increase their yields.

According to Mugoma, the rural extension network in Cabo Delgado will be strengthened in order to ensure the transfer of new technologies for cashew cultivation. At the same time commercial plantations of highly productive cashew varieties will be established.

The second component is to take care of the existing cashew orchard, cleaning the trees and spraying them. Many of the estimated 26 million cashew trees in Mozambique are now old, and suffering from a fungal disease that drastically reduces their productivity.

The pioneer area for the introduction of chemical treatment of the trees is along the south bank of the Rovuma. Mugoma said that, because of their proximity to Tanzania, where such treatment has been commonplace for years, peasants have been eager to use this technology.

The government hopes that implementation of the cashew master plan will lead to a sustainable increase in the production of cashew nuts, and an improvement in quality.

The activities under way cover around 4.5 million trees. The target is to improve yields from the current average of three kilos of nuts per tree, to seven kilos in the first five years of the programme, and to ten kilos after ten years.

Renamo enters "dialogue" with civil society

A debate is raging within the country's main opposition force, the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, as to whether it should abandon its tactic of boycotting the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Assembly whenever government ministers speak or a government bill is under discussion.

The debate came into the open on 12 September, when members of the coalition's parliamentary group held a dialogue with media professionals as part of a Renamo drive to ask civil society what it thinks of the performance of opposition parliamentarians.

The Renamo approach to the media meeting was conciliatory, and the habitual hostility to the media that has so frequently characterised Renamo in the past was not in evidence.

"We want journalists' opinion of our parliamentary group and its failings", declared Dionisio Quelhas, the chairperson of the meeting, while Maximo Dias, the Electoral Union's foremost jurist, insisted "we want to receive your criticisms and suggestions". One of the major criticisms raised by reporters was precisely Renamo's refusal to recognise the government, and its subsequent tactic of boycotting the Assembly.

Abandoning the proceedings was equivalent to handing the entire parliament over to the ruling Frelimo party. One participant pointed out that the largest banking fraud in Mozambican history, and the apparent connivance of members of the Public Prosecutor's Office in the fraud, were brought to public knowledge in the Assembly not by Renamo, but by a Frelimo deputy (Eneas Comiche), and at a session that Renamo was boycotting.

Dias made no secret of his personal disagreement with the boycott tactic - but he claimed this was overridden by coalition discipline. The boycotts had been decided upon, he said, as "a political strategy of revulsion against what happened in the elections". "This strategy produced, in relative terms, the effects we wanted", he claimed, "but it also produced negative effects". He was sure that at the next sitting the coalition would adopt "a new posture" in the Assembly.

However, on 14 September, the leader of the Electoral Union parliamentary group, Renamo deputy Ossufo Quitine, went to the newsroom "Noticias" to deny that Dias' position represented that of the coalition.

According to Noticias, Quitine said that Dias was speaking only for his own party, MONAMO (Mozambican Nationalist Movement), one of the ten minor parties in the coalition, which holds just two parliamentary seats.

But Dias was not alone at the Electoral Union meeting with journalists. and was not contradicted by the meeting's chairman, Dionisio Quelhas.

Quitine claimed that Renamo's attitude during the February- May Assembly sitting was correct and had been "widely applauded" by the public. He promised that Renamo would carry on as before.

If Dias wanted to recognise the government, Quitine added, he was free to do so "but he should not push the whole parliamentary group to this position". He accused Dias of "sometimes being a friend of Frelimo", and of having "no parliamentary experience".

In a further development, a prominent Renamo leader on 15 September threatened to divide the country in two, and promised that Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama would "take power" before the end of the year.

Manuel Pereira, the Renamo political delegate in the central province of Sofala, told a press conference in the port city of Beira that Renamo would erect a barrier at the Save river, so that nothing could go from the central provinces to the south of the country. "Those from the south will stay in the south, and those from here will stay here", he declared. He also insisted that Dhlakama would be installed as head of state in the near future.

He warned that Renamo would be organising anti-government demonstrations in the near future, and wanted to see a national referendum on whether the people wish to continue being governed by the ruling Frelimo Party.

He claimed that Renamo members are being harassed by the police, district administrators and other authorities. He said that anyone who maltreated a Renamo member "should also be tied up and beaten. They should suffer".

Victory over colonialism commemorated

Mozambique commemorated on 7 September the 26th anniversary of victory in the war against Portuguese colonialism in a wreath-laying ceremony in Maputo from which, as in past years, most prominent figures of the opposition were absent.

It was in Lusaka, on 7 September 1974, that the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) and the Portuguese government signed the agreement ending the war, and paving the way for full independence nine months later. The date is celebrated as "Victory Day" and is a public holiday.

After laying a wreath at the Monument to the Mozambican Heroes (where the first leader of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane, and the country's first president, Samora Machel, are buried), Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi said that the victorious conclusion of the ten year independence war brought to the country's citizens "the pride of being Mozambican".


In AIM Reports no.190, we referred to participation in the Maputo Iron and Steel Project (MISP) of VAI of Australia. In fact VOEST Alpine Industries is an Austria company.

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