Mozambique News Agency

No.196, 5th December 2000


75 suffocate in police cell horror

At least 75 people suffocated to death in a massively overcrowded police cell in Montepuez on 21 November. At the time of the deaths 96 people were held in a cell measuring 7 metres by 3 metres. The prisoners had been arrested following clashes in the town between Renamo and the police on 9 November, during which 7 police officers and 18 Renamo supporters died.

Autopsies by Mozambican and South African doctors established that the prisoners died of asphyxiation. The doctors also found that most of the bodies they examined showed no signs of having eaten for at least three days.

The Sunday newspaper Domingo reported that shortly before the deaths the district police commander entered the cell waving a pistol and told the prisoners "I'm going to kill all of you". Domingo claimed that police vengeance for the riot of 9 November, and a deliberate refusal to obey orders were the key factors leading to the deaths.

According to the report, on 18 November an official from the General Command of the police was in Montepuez, and ordered an end to the overcrowding - but the Cabo Delgado director refused to carry out the order.

Domingo reported that during the 9 November riot, the Montepuez district police commander was attending a training course in Maputo. The commander believed that he was on a list of people to be killed by Renamo on 9 November, and only escaped death because he happened to be in Maputo that day.

Measures against those responsible

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 30 November stressed that the government will take criminal and disciplinary measures against those responsible for the deaths.

The Prime Minister told a press briefing that "policemen and other officials are being interrogated to establish who was responsible. Measures must be taken to ensure that nothing like this ever happens in our country again".

Mocumbi insisted that the government "is fully assuming its responsibilities". That meant turning any state official accused of responsibility for the Montepuez deaths over to the courts.

The parliamentary groups of both Renamo and Frelimo have expressed deep concern at the deaths. The two parliamentary groups met - separately - on 1 December, and both demanded that the government explain as rapidly as possible the causes of the deaths.

Lutero Simango, interim spokesman for the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, declared "compatriots of ours have died in several prisons in the country because of torture and ill- treatment inflicted by the police on the orders of the government" He argued that the deaths were a deliberate tactic "to silence witnesses who might testify against the police during an investigation into the deaths that occurred during the demonstrations of 9 November".

The spokesman for the Frelimo group, Edgar Cossa, praised the government for its speedy response to the tragedy. "We believe that those responsible for this slaughter will not go unpunished", he declared.

Suspension of arrests

The attorney's office in the northern province of Cabo Delgado has ordered a suspension in the arrests of people accused of taking part in illegal demonstrations organised by Renamo on 9 November.

Provincial Attorney Arone Nhaca said the decision was taken because of overcrowding in the prisons. Nhaca also recognised that many of the arrests in Cabo Delgado were illegal, since they were made without any warrant, either from his office or from a court.

Furthermore, those accused of minor public order offences are being released, and can await their trials at home. In compliance with this order, the police have been told to release 375 people - 250 in Montepuez, 70 in the provincial capital, Pemba, and 65 in Mocimboa da Praia.

He also said that his office had urged the government "to establish ventilation conditions and the regular supply of foodstuffs and items of hygiene to prisoners".

Police arrests

Meanwhile, three policemen were arrested in Montepuez, on orders from the provincial military attorney's office accused of facilitating the 9 November riot.

One of them is a deputy superintendent, Angelo Romeu, who had volunteered to go and strengthen the small police unit in Montepuez, and a second is Albino Adelino, who was wounded in the clashes and is still in hospital.

These two police officers are accused of ordering their men not to respond to the gunfire from the Renamo supporters who were attacking and occupying the town.

Three other policemen, including the interim commander, were arrested in mid-November on suspicion of collaborating with the rioters. But there are still no reports that any policeman or other official has been detained in connection with the prison deaths.

Shock as journalist assassinated in Maputo

One of Mozambique's most prominent journalists, Carlos Cardoso, was shot dead in central Maputo on 22 November. Cardoso, editor of the independent daily newsheet Metical, was ambushed in his car, and gunned down by unknown assailants near his office.

So far there are no clues as to the identity of the assassins - but the exposures carried in Metical have earned Cardoso powerful enemies.

The Mozambican government has instructed the police to work with Interpol and with regional police forces to pursue all avenues of investigation.

In the first government reaction to the murder, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told TVM that he was "deeply shocked" by the murder. He praised Cardoso as "a journalist who has fought tirelessly for freedom of the press".

In the Assembly of the Republic, deputy Luis Videira read out a declaration on behalf of the parliamentary group of Frelimo, expressing condolences to Cardoso's family and to the country's journalists

Sergio Vieira, Minister of Agriculture and later of Security in Samora Machel's governments, and generally regarded today as the leading voice of the Frelimo left, on 3 December paid homage to Carlos Cardoso as "one of the noblest voices in Mozambican journalism, of unequalled quality".

Vieira recalled Cardoso's denunciations of the World Bank dictated destruction of Mozambique's cashew processing industry. "He described the misery of the unemployed, who in the cashew industry and in other sectors, were thrown onto the streets by the despotism of the Bretton Woods institutions and the arrogance of their agenda".

"In the Frelimo symbolised by Samora, he found the parameters of his ideals, and he often attacked Frelimo because, in his view, it had moved away from those values", Vieira added.

Wreaths laid at murder site

On 29 November hundreds of people gathered to lay wreaths at the site of the murder, on Avenida Martires de Machava, in the suburb of Polana.

Cardoso's widow, Nina Berg, his two children, Ibo and Milena, the staff of Metical, and many friends and well-wishers marched the short distance from the Metical offices to the spot where his car was ambushed, and where two gunmen shot him at point blank range.

One by one, mourners laid wreaths and flowers. On the wall behind them banners read "Down with gangsterism !" and "Let us not be intimidated - let us go forward".

A family friend, Wenke Adam, led singing of the song "Gracias a la Vida" (Thanks to Life), by the Chilean songwriter, Violeta Parra.

Graca Machel, widow of the country's first president, Samora Machel, comforted Nina.

Among those present were several figures who had been ministers in Samora Machel's governments - such as the country's first information minister Jorge Rebelo, its first health minister Helder Martins, and Jose Oscar Monteiro, who had held the posts of interior minister and minister of state administration.

From the current government, Finance Minister Luisa Diogo was there, accompanied by her husband, prominent lawyer Albano Silva, who survived an assassination attempt a year ago.

Abdul Carimo, deputy speaker of the Mozambican parliament from 1994 to 1999, and one of those who organised Cardoso's funeral, distributed posters bearing Cardoso's portrait and the words: "We demand justice. We do not want to live in fear".

At 18.40, the time at which Cardoso had been assassinated a week earlier, as the rain fell gently on the crowd, the country's best-known writer, Mia Couto, called for a minute of silence, before the mourners quietly dispersed.

President pays homage

President Joaquim Chissano on 24 November paid warm tribute to Carlos Cardoso.

Addressing the funeral ceremony at Maputo City Hall, President Chissano acknowledged many disagreements with Cardoso. "We were used to arguing with Cardoso", he said. "We argued with him because he raised pertinent problems that demand the attention of all of us. He forced us all to think".

"We want a free mass media", stressed President Chissano, "and Carlos Cardoso often voiced his belief that in our country we have succeeded in building up a free press".

At the funeral ceremonies, the four main figures of state were present - President Chissano, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, chairman of parliament, Eduardo Mulembue, and President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze.

Mia Couto demands government action

"You must discover and punish those who killed, and, above all, those who gave the orders to kill". Thus did Mia Couto, often regarded as the foremost of modern Mozambican writers, urge "the honest and patriotic men in the Mozambican government", as he addressed the funeral.

The Cardoso family had asked Couto to deliver the main funeral speech on their behalf.

"They did not just kill a Mozambican journalist. A good man was murdered, a man who loved his family and his country, and who fought for others, who were poorer than he", Couto began.

Couto recalled Cardoso's great admiration for the country's first president, Samora Machel, and the longing, shared by both, for a utopia "in which we dreamed to be our own masters, without having to beg from the world crumbs for our survival".

"We now have the feeling that we are being besieged by savagery, by the absence of scruples of those who enrich themselves at the cost of everything and everyone", he said. "Of those who accumulate fortunes through drug running, theft, money laundering and arms trafficking. And they do so frequently under the passive gaze of those who should guarantee order, and punish barbarism".

"What country do we want to leave to our children ?", Mia Couto asked. "A country that is not viable, a nation governed by fear ? Or do we want a nation of peace in which it is worth while being just and honest. For if we want this other nation, then something has to change. And change radically".

"This death puts the rulers of this country to the test", he said. "They are the ones who must respond with actions, investigating not just this crime, but the other crimes that have been left unpunished. And they must investigate in the same upright manner that Cardoso researched his writings".

Dhlakama blames Frelimo

Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama on 24 November pinned the blame for the murder on the shoulders of President Joaquim Chissano and Frelimo.

Dhlakama linked the death of Cardoso with the 9 November demonstrations organised by Renamo, which led to clashes in which over 40 people died.

"As far as I'm concerned, Cardoso was killed because after the demonstrations he clearly said that he held Frelimo and Chissano responsible for the massacres of the demonstrators", declared Dhlakama.

At the funeral Renamo was represented by several senior members of its parliamentary group.

Metical pledges to continue

Colleagues of Carlos Cardoso on his daily paper Metical have pledged that they will not be silenced, but will continue his work.

In an emergency issue of the paper on 23 November, the Metical staff wrote "the assassins who ambushed him wanted to shut Cardoso up, and indirectly to shut the mouths of all those who have fought on the same barricades of freedom, decency, honesty and public service. But they will not achieve this goal".

"They have silenced an honest and courageous man, but they have not silenced Metical, and they have not silenced all the other voices of a society that wants a decent country where people can live in peace and prosperity".

Radio Mozambique journalist attacked

On the same night that Carlos Cardoso was murdered, a second journalist, Custodio Rafael of Radio Mozambique, was attacked by unidentified assailants.

According to a report on the radio, three men attacked Rafael as he was walking to his home in the suburb of Zimpeto. He recalls being surrounded by three men, one of whom declared "You talk too much".

He was struck on the head, fell to the ground and lost consciousness. He does not remember the rest of the attack, but it seems that the assailants tried to mutilate him, and perhaps even to cut out his tongue.

Carlos Cardoso: Obituary by Paul Fauvet

Carlos Alberto Cardoso, editor of Metical, who was murdered on 22 November, was born of Portuguese parents in the central city of Beira in 1952.

He studied in South Africa, where be became involved in radical, anti-apartheid student politics, which earned him expulsion from the country.

Back in Maputo, he identified with the revolution against Portuguese colonial rule, although he never became a member of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo).

His exceptional talents as a writer ensured a rapid rise in the world of journalism. He worked first on the weekly magazine "Tempo", then briefly on Radio Mozambique, before he was appointed chief news editor of the Mozambique News Agency (AIM) in 1980.

There were often tensions between the open and outspoken brand of journalism practiced by Cardoso, and the altogether more cautious approach followed by the Frelimo leadership and by the Ministry of Information.

In 1982 this clash resulted in the sudden imprisonment of Cardoso, apparently because an opinion article he wrote in the daily paper "Noticias" violated an obscure government guideline on covering the war. Six days after his arrest he was released and he was fully reinstated at the head of AIM.

Cardoso was deeply affected by the death of Machel in a plane crash just inside South Africa, on 19 October 1986. He followed the story of the plane crash with tenacity, and built up a picture of the likely causes of the crash - deliberate electronic interference by the Apartheid military.

In the late 1980s, Cardoso found himself in conflict with Information Minister Teodato Hunguana, leading to his resignation.

In 1990, Cardoso was among a group of journalists campaigning for the inclusion of a specific commitment to press freedom in the new constitution. The clauses on the media in the 1990 constitution, and the follow-up press law of 1991, are among the most liberal in Africa.

In 1992, Cardoso and a dozen others founded a journalists' cooperative, Mediacoop, launching Mediafax. A dispute in Mediacoop in 1997 led to Cardoso leaving the cooperative to set up Metical.

Cardoso campaigned tirelessly against what he regarded as the disastrous recipes for the economy imposed by the World Bank and the IMF, championing the fight of the cashew processing industry and later of the sugar industry, against liberalisation measures.

In 1998 Cardoso stood as an independent candidate for the Maputo municipal assembly. The independent grouping, known as "Juntos pela Cidade" won 26 per cent of the vote, and became the opposition in the city assembly. Cardoso then threw himself into municipal politics.

Among the scandals Cardoso had been investigating in the last months of his life, one stands out above all others. This was the largest banking fraud in the country's history.

In 1996 a well-organised criminal network stole the equivalent of $14 million out of Mozambique's largest bank, BCM. Although the names of the main suspects were known there was no prosecution and no trial.

That this was dangerous territory became clear in November 1999, when the BCM's lawyer, Albano Silva, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.

President criticises "selfish" north over AIDS

President Joaquim Chissano on 1 December denounced the "selfishness" displayed by the developed countries when it comes to assisting the developing world fight against the lethal disease AIDS.

Speaking in the western city of Tete, at ceremonies marking the World Day of Struggle against AIDS, President Chissano said "there is a great deal of wealth in the world, but it is only used for a few". That was a situation which simply did not allow poor countries such as Mozambique to carry out successful programmes against a disease for which there is so far no cure. Condoms are widely recognised as a vital means of preventing the spread of the HIV virus that causes AIDS. "But we even have to import condoms, and the transport has to be paid for".

As for the anti-retroviral drugs that prolong the lives of HIV-positive people, these are far too expensive for most developing countries. Without the support of the rich north, countries such as Mozambique could not obtain these drugs, said President Chissano.

"Neither developed nor developing countries will survive, if there is no solidarity between peoples", he declared.

"In combatting AIDS, we should also struggle against poverty", said the President. "The struggle against poverty is also a contribution to the struggle against AIDS. It is no accident that Africa is the continent suffering most from AIDS - it's because it is also the poorest continent".

President Chissano also mentioned Mozambique's national plan to combat AIDS. This is budgeted at $261 million. The plan was discussed at a round table with donors on 30 November - but so far only $105 million has been pledged.

Demographic impact of AIDS

The Mozambican authorities have warned that the AIDS epidemic could cut average life expectancy of the population by 14 years, according to a recent publication.

This document on the demographic impact of AIDS, produced jointly by the National Statistics Institute (INE), the Planning and Finance Ministry, the Health Ministry, and the Population Studies Centre of Eduardo Mondlane University, has concluded that, without AIDS, life expectancy at birth would have risen from 42.3 years (the figure in the 1997 population census) to 50.3 years in 2010.

But with AIDS, life expectancy is likely to collapse to 35.9 years by 2010. Indeed, the epidemic is probably already making inroads into life expectancy. This should have been 43.5 years in 1999 - the INE publication, however, estimates it at 37.7 years.

The INE believes that by 1999 there were 257,000 orphans in the country whose mothers had died of AIDS.

By 1999, the HIV prevalence rate was around 10 per cent in Maputo, but approaching double that figure in the central region. The only figures from the north are from a rapid survey undertaken in Nampula province in 1999 - which found 5 per cent HIV prevalence in Nampula city, and 6.1 per cent in Monapo district.

Heavy rains hit Zambezia

Heavy rains accompanied by strong winds and hail caused serious damage in the district of Milange, in the central province of Zambezia.

According to a report on Radio Mozambique, a one year old child died and his mother was seriously injured when the wall of a shop collapsed.

The report said that 80 percent of the houses built with local materials, and four built with conventional materials, were completely destroyed in the locality of Molumbo.

Heavy rains in Mozambique and in the neighbouring countries are also affecting the southern region of the country, particularly Maputo and Gaza provinces.

BCM hid losses for years

Mozambique's largest bank, the BCM (Commercial Bank of Mozambique), has been deceiving the public for years about its state of health, according to a leading economist.

BCM finally published its 1999 accounts last on 1 December. The bulk of the huge losses that BCM shareholders had admitted for that year (the equivalent of about $127 million) appears under the one word "provisions".

AIM's source said these "provisions" were necessary to cover likely bad debts - loans granted by the BCM which it was unlikely ever to recover. But there is no way such a huge amount of bad debt could accumulate in a single year.

Interviewed on Mozambican Television (TVM) on Sunday, the new chairman of the BCM board, former prime minister Mario Machungo, said that for years the bank had not made the provisions that should have been made. Now it all had to be done at once.

What this meant, according to the economist, was that "the profits announced in the past were fictitious. The BCM has been lying to the public".

The false picture of the bank given in 1998 was painted by a management dominated by the Portuguese Mello Bank - which headed the consortium that took 51 percent of the bank's shares when the BCM was privatised in 1996.

The Mello Bank was taken over by the largest Portuguese bank, the BCP of Jardim Goncalves, in late 1999. The BCP thus disclaims all responsibilities for any losses prior to the year 2000.

There is, of course, no list of non-performing BCM loans. AIM's source suggested that much of the problem comes from World Bank money, channelled via the BCM, in order to support small and medium sized enterprises, which then failed to repay. A detailed breakdown of the ownership of these enterprises would make interesting reading.

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