Mozambique News Agency

No.201, 19th February 2001


Flooding spreads and worsens

The Mozambican government has warned of an increasingly serious situation in the river basins in the centre of the country, due to continuing rainfall both inside Mozambique, and in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. A government statement on 17 February said that there is now an emergency situation, not only along the Zambezi, but also in the basins of the Pungue, Buzi and Save rivers.

The flood on the Pungue has now submerged six kilometres of the Beira-Zimbabwe road. Light vehicles can no longer cross this stretch. Heavy vehicles can still use the road, but only with great difficulty.

The waters of the Zambezi have flooded the town of Nhacolo, capital of Tambara district, in Manica province. A boat is being used to move Nhacolo residents to safety.

Further downstream, in Mutarara, Caia and Marromeu, some people are being evacuated for the second time. Earlier on in the drama, they were moved to areas which officials thought were safe. But as the Zambezi continues to rise, these areas too have come under threat.

Mozambican Television (TVM) reported on 17 February that the dike protecting the town and sugar fields of Marromeu from the Zambezi has been breached in four places. Attempts are under way to shore up the dike, but a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC) recognised that although the situation was currently "under control", a continued rise in the river could lead to the collapse of the Marromeu dike.

The authorities are in contact with their Zimbabwean and Zambian counterparts in attempts to persuade them to reduce discharges from the Kariba dam. The water from Kariba is pouring into the Cahora Bassa lake in Tete province, forcing the Cahora Bassa dam to open floodgates that had been closed for two days last week. As of 17 February Cahora Bassa was once again releasing 3,800 cubic metres of water a second into the Zambezi.

Currently two Puma cargo helicopters are operating in the Zambezi valley, one owned by the Mozambican Defence Force (FADM), and the other hired by the INGC. The INGC has decided to hire two more cargo helicopters from South Africa. Also available are two light aircraft, one financed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and one hired by the INGC.

There are also two smaller, passenger helicopters, one stationed in Beira, and one in Quelimane, used mainly for supervision and assessment purposes.

Mutarara, a district in Tete province at the confluence of the Zambezi and Shire rivers, continues to cause most concern. People are stranded on isolated pockets of high ground which are shrinking, as the waters of both rivers rise. On 17 February the FADM helicopter evacuated 43 people from the most isolated parts of Mutarara.

River Save in flood

The river Save, which is regarded as the boundary between southern and central Mozambique, is now in flood. Heavy rains in the Save basin have led to a sudden increase in the flow of the river, and the town of Massangena in Gaza province has been inundated.

The director of the INGC, Silvano Langa, said the National Water Board (DNA) has warned that the regions at the mouth of the Save - Govuro district in Inhambane province, and Machanga in Sofala - should be on the alert.

Langa said that about 280,000 people have been affected by the floods, of whom 30,000 have been displaced from their homes. The worst affected area is Zambezia province, where there are 23,000 displaced people, followed by Mutarara district in Tete province, with 5,000 displaced. There are also about 2,000 displaced people in Sofala.

There are varying estimates of the number of fatalities. Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao told a meeting with diplomats on 15 February that so far 28 people have died in this year's floods, but Langa put the known death toll at 15 (11 in Zambezia, three in Tete and one in Sofala).

The weather forecast is for continued rain in central Mozambique: however, there was no sign of any cyclones forming in the Mozambique Channel.

Langa said the current situation was not remotely comparable to the drama of February 2000, when every river south of Beira flooded, 700 people died, and cities such as Xai-Xai and Chokwe in Gaza province were ruined.

The current floods "are not yet beyond our capacity to respond", he said. However,a drastic deterioration was still possible, with the rainy season due to last several more weeks.

WFP food aid

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has said that there are over 3,000 tonnes of foodstuffs now available for the flood victims. Inyene Udoyen said on 12 February that "we are taking precautionary measures, such as the positioning of food aid, in coordination with the INGC and NGOs in order to minimise suffering from possible floods", adding that "according to information from the provinces, there are no food shortages yet.

Private management for district power supplies

The Mozambican government plans to hand over the power supply system of the district capitals and administrative posts in Zambezia province to private management. Barnabe Amili, the provincial director of mineral resources and energy, told AIM that the measure aims to make the system profitable and more efficient.

The government hopes that the initiative will boost the socio-economic development of the catchment areas where there are already small industries such as carpentry workshops, welding and flour mills, said Amili.

In most cases the supply of power to consumers in district capitals is poor, owing mainly to the district administrations' lack of the managerial skills needed to run electricity systems.

Currently, the provincial government is expanding the power network to the district capitals, and it is expected that by 2003 the towns of Mopeia, Morrumbala and Nante, the area surrounding Zalala beach, and the Inhassunge region will have power supply systems - the government has already disbursed about 8.8 billion meticais (about $490,000) for the project.

Efforts are under way to bring power from the Cahora Bassa dam to the greatest possible number of towns, and in others alternative power supplies such as powerful generators will be set up.

At the moment only the provincial capital, Quelimane, and the towns of Mocuba, Gurue and Alto Molocue are supplied from Cahora Bassa. There is also a plan to build a transmission line from Cahora Bassa to the northern province of Cabo Delgado from Zambezia.

Wounded attorney was investigating corruption

The Maputo newsheet "Metical" on 16 February links the gun attack on Assistant Attorney-General Albino Macamo on 14 February with two inquiries into corruption in the Attorney-General's Office.

Macamo, who has a reputation for honesty, was promoted from Inhambane provincial attorney, to assistant Attorney-General in December. But even before this, Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira had put him in charge of an inspection into the workings of the provincial attorneys' offices, in order to weed out corrupt attorneys.

At a meeting of the Supreme Council of the Attorney- General's Office in December, Macamo announced that this inspection, in five provinces, had found "evidence of corruption", involving certain of the provincial attorneys. But the names of these attorneys were not revealed, nor was it stated which provinces Macamo was referring to.

This week, it was announced that four provincial attorneys are leaving their posts (Paulo Lilanda, from Niassa; Jose Joaquim, from Zambezia; Jose Castigo, from Tete; and Nazarinho Mourinho, from Sofala). New provincial attorneys are due to take office today, in what is described as "reorganisation" ordered by Madeira.

Macamo was also involved in a commission of inquiry set up jointly by the Attorney-General's Office and the Supreme Court to investigate the activities of the former Sofala chief attorney, Diamantino dos Santos.

Dos Santos has become notorious for his role in the country's largest bank fraud - the theft of 144 billion meticais (about $14 million at the exchange rate of the time) from the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM) in 1996.

The investigation was in the hands of dos Santos, who is accused of concealing evidence and disorganising case papers, so that the suspects could never be brought to trial.

The commission of inquiry also found firm evidence of criminal behaviour by dos Santos in Sofala. In particular he is accused of stealing tonnes of fuel from a boat that was seized and held in Beira port, on the orders of a local court. He is said to have sold the fuel and pocketed the proceeds (believed to amount to $200,000).

In January it was decided to arrest dos Santos. Only a very small group of people attended the meeting that took this decision - Madeira, the President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze, and two other Supreme Court judges, and Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje.

However, when, a brigade carrying the arrest warrant arrived in Beira, dos Santos was no longer there. His status is now that of a fugitive.

Arms into hoes in northern provinces

The "Arms into Hoes" project (TAE) of the Christian Council of Mozambique, the umbrella body for the country's main Protestant churches, has secured donor support for expansion into the northern provinces of Nampula and Niassa, according to "Noticias" on 12 February.

TAE is an updated version of the biblical motif of "swords into ploughshares". It involves collecting weapons that are illegally held, no questions asked, and exchanging them for productive equipment such as agricultural tools or sewing machines.

The project started in the south of the country, and later undertook some operations in the central province of Zambezia, but it was always been hampered by lack of funds.

However, the German, Canadian and Swedish embassies have informed the Christian Council that they will continue supporting TAE this year, which should allow it to begin work in the northern provinces.

The Council's general secretary, Lucas Amosse, said that in 2000 the project was able to collect over 20,000 firearms and other items of military equipment. Some of these had been buried in arms caches, and others were in the illegal possession of individuals.

He claimed that the local population in the areas where TAE has operated are enthusiastic about the project, because of its role in reducing violence and "establishing a culture of peace, concord and understanding".

Amosse added that "the consolidation of peace in Mozambique also involves greater openness to dialogue, tolerance and the spirit of reconciliation among the Mozambican people".

Regional transborder park to open in November

Mozambican Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Helder Muteia has said that the Gaza/Kruger/Gonarezhou transborder park between Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe is to be opened in November 2001 in order to allow the unhindered movement of wildlife through the area.

Muteia was speaking on 13 February in Skukuza in South Africa, moments after receiving the Golden Ark Award of the Peace Parks Foundation from the hands of Prince Bernhard of Holland.

Prince Bernhard also bestowed the same award on South African Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa, and Zimbabwean Environment and Tourism Minister Francis Nhema, in recognition of the efforts the three are carrying out for the conservation of nature, particularly through the signing last year of the agreement on the transborder park.

"We will bring down that wall of iron and steel erected between Mozambique and South Africa in the area of conservation so that the animals can move freely about, in other words so that the ecosystem is not constrained by political and administrative borders", stressed Muteia.

He said that fears that Mozambican citizens would illegally flock into South Africa once the fence was brought down had been allayed, and "we believe that the way forward is open".

To discourage any "sudden influx of illegal immigrants", teams of monitors would be strategically positioned along the area, and the local community would be involved in a coordinated effort to thwart the feared "invasion".

"That is what will allow for rigorous control. As you saw, nobody goes into the Kruger Park area without paying fees. And that's what will happen there also, that is, those who are in the conservation area in Mozambique will have been identified and will have paid the fees, and they can move inside South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique since there'll be no border in the conservation area", said Muteia.

He added that the park will be opened this year, and that there are already a sizable number of Mozambican businessmen interested in investing in tourism in the area covered by the park.

Work on erecting a fence on the Mozambican side in order to demarcate the park, and the construction of some infrastructure are to start shortly, and it is hoped that they will end in November when the park opens.

Muteia said that entrance to the park on the Mozambican side will be in the Massingir area in Gaza, and "we want to transform part of Massingir town into a kind of capital inside the park area such as has been done in Skukuza".

The town is divided into two parts, on either side of a river, and only one side will be inside the park. According to Muteia, "that's where we'll start improving the infrastructures in order to have the park operating this year".

As regards the award, Muteia though that it was important since it was a recognition by part of the international community of the concept of transborder parks, an initiative that is gaining currency in the region.

Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe only "kickstarted" the project which is a regional dream, he said.

The transborder park is considered the biggest conservation area in the world and "that makes us proud", said Muteia. "That's what made this body (the Peace Parks Foundation) award us the prize. It's difficult work since it envisages the opening of the borders between the three countries".

Catholic priest who exposed war crimes dies

Domingos Ferrao, a Mozambican catholic priest, who during the colonial period courageously authored a damning report on the massacre carried out at Wiriamu bythe Portuguese army, died on 8 February in Lisbon aged 64.

He penned various liturgical books in Xinhungue, one of the languages spoken in Tete, but his masterpiece was the report on the Wiriamu massacre, one of the worst of colonial war crimes, which was published by the British priest Adrian Hastings in the London paper "The Times".

The massacre, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Mozambicans, took place on 16 December 1972, but the act was only denounced months later in London by Hastings. For political reasons, Father Ferrao could not claim authorship of the report, so attributed it to Hastings.

The report gave graphic details of the deaths and even listed many of the names of the victims. The Portuguese not only massacred those in Wiriamu, but also the population of the nearby villages of Chawola and Juwau.

The massacre was publicised on the eve of the visit to Britain by the head of the Portuguese colonial-fascist regime, Marcelo Caetano. The revelations undoubtedly boosted the anti-Caetano demonstrations that dogged the dictator wherever he went in Britain.

Many countries reacted with anger to the massacre and the United Nations General Assembly appointed a commission comprising representatives of Germany, Honduras, Ireland, Madagascar and Nepal to go on a fact-finding mission to Mozambique.

The findings of the commission led by Nepalese Shailendra Upadbyay confirmed Ferrao's report.

Ferrao himself spent time in the maximum security jail in the Maputo suburb Machava during the colonial era due to his unswerving patriotism. He played a significant role in recruiting young Mozambicans to the ranks of the liberation movement, Frelimo.

Ferrao's body will be taken to Tete, where he will be laid to rest, Virgilio Ferrao, a relative of the priest and former governor of Tete, told AIM.

Renamo sacks Angoche delegate

Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has sacked its political delegate in the northern coastal district of Angoche, Alvaro Chale, reports "Noticias" on 10 February.

Chale has been accused of responsibility for the riot in May last year when a group of Renamo supporters attempted to attack the police station in the small town of Aube. When the police opened fire on the attackers four people died.

Chale was briefly detained for his supposed part in organising the riot. He was released on bail, and his case has not yet come to trial.

He also threatened that, if President Joaquim Chissano, or other government figures, were to visit Angoche, they would only leave "in coffins". (Despite this threat, President Chissano did visit Angoche last year, a meeting of the entire cabinet was held in Angoche town, and no violent incidents took place.)

The Renamo Nampula provincial delegate, Issufo Momade, denied that the sacking of Chale had anything to do with the Aube events. It was, he said vaguely, part of "a series of measures" which would shortly "be extended to other levels". He said that Chale remains "a senior party cadre", and would shortly be transferred to Maputo where he would undertake "other tasks of great responsibility".

The ruling Frelimo party did not hide its delight at Renamo's decision to remove a man whom it regarded as unhinged. "The dismissal of an adversary is always welcome, particularly when he is not in his right mind, as was the case with Alvaro Chale", said Mufia Jamala, the Frelimo provincial secretary for mobilisation. "He didn't know what he was doing".

Government approves MOZAL expansion

As expected, the Mozambican government has given the green light to phase two of the MOZAL aluminium smelter at Beluluane, on the outskirts of Maputo.

At its first ordinary meeting of 2001, the Council of Ministers on 6 February approved the Investment Project Authorisation (IPA) for phase two, one of the necessary legal steps before the smelter expansion can go ahead.

Phase two would double MOZAL's production from 250,000 to 500,000 tonnes of aluminium ingots per year, and would involve fresh investment of about a billion US dollars. Phase one of MOZAL, inaugurated last September, cost $1.2 billion, making MOZAL far and away the largest private sector investment in Mozambique.

The smelter expansion would create around 6,000 jobs in the construction phase. Once the new facility is operating, it should create some 250 new jobs for Mozambicans (in addition to the 750 or so workers currently employed to operate phase one of the smelter).

The government expects a further 1,000 jobs to be created indirectly, in the industries providing goods and services for MOZAL.

Critical to the expansion decision will be mobilising the finance. The success of phase one - which came into production six months ahead of schedule, and $100 million under budget - will doubtless encourage lenders.

MOZAL expects the shareholders to take a final decision on phase two by May. The shareholders are Billiton (with 47 per cent of the equity), the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan (25 per cent), the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (24 per cent), and the Mozambican state (four per cent).

Short strike at MOZAL

A strike at MOZAL ended on 13 February after discussions involving Labour Minister Mario Sevene, and national, provincial and local officials of the Engineering Workers Union, SINTIME.

According to Peter Cowie, MOZAL's director for Mozambique affairs, the afternoon shift went in to work as usual. The strike affected just 200 or so workers on the morning shift.

The deal struck, at the union's suggestion, he added, was that no disciplinary action will be taken against the strikers, and the notices threatening them with suspension were withdrawn. Instead the strikers will lose a day's wages.

Cowie believed that the SINTIME officials had accepted the company's argument that the strike was illegal - though the union has not made this explicit.

He said that further discussions of the workers' grievances (which mainly concern wage disparities between the Mozambican and foreign employees of MOZAL) would take place at an unspecified time in the future.

Youngsters ignore conscription

So far only about 13,000 young Mozambicans have registered this year for compulsory military service, reports "Noticias" on 7 February.

The registration period runs from 2 January to 28 February, and is supposed to cover all those who turn 18 this year, plus people who should have registered in previous years but, for whatever reason, failed to do so.

According to the 1997 census there are 335,121 18 year olds in Mozambique. Under the legislation on military service, all these people should register. Yet the Ministry of Defence has set itself a registration target of just 50,000.

The armed forces (FADM) are only 12,000 strong, and are unable to absorb vast numbers of new recruits. Since compulsory military service was reintroduced, only 1,000 recruits have undergone training and are currently serving.

A further 2,000 are supposed to be recruited this year, out of people who registered in 1999.

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