Mozambique News Agency

No.210, 29th June 2001


Concrete action on AIDS demanded

Health Minister Francisco Songane has described the holding of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/AIDS as a great victory, but he added that Mozambique expects the decisions taken there to be translated into concrete actions, and not simply lead to yet more meetings.

He explained that following the meeting, Mozambique expects "concrete actions, and no more meetings of this kind, because these are difficult to organise, they take a lot of people's time, particularly from countries like ours that have not got much money and not many staff who can afford to spend their time preparing such meetings".

Speaking in New York on 26 June, on the second day of the United Nations' special session on HIV/AIDS, Songane said that the disease is now a universal problem and a threat to the security of the entire world. He described as "a victory" the simple fact that the matter was finally brought to an appropriate forum.

The meeting, that brought together about 3,500 participants including diplomats, government leaders, business people, NGO representatives and religious leaders, discussed ways and strategies to check the spread of this killer disease.

Over two decades, AIDS is believed to have affected 58 million people and claimed about 22 million lives, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. Commenting on the results of the meeting, Songane stressed that the most important achievement was the awareness of government leaders across the world. What is needed now, he added, is for the countries that have financial power to contribute to the Global Fund for the Struggle Against HIV/AIDS, proposed by UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Perhaps $10 billion needed

"Africa alone will need at least three, perhaps even ten, billion US dollars to face this problem, with particular emphasis on prevention and awareness programmes, not to mention therapeutic treatment with anti-retroviral drugs, which is a secondary aspect", said Songane.

On prevention, he said that emphasis should be placed on adolescents, in order to prevent infection and ensure that the next generation grows up healthy, which is a matter of survival of the nation, if one takes into account that the Mozambican population is mostly made up of young people.

Songane said that the scenario in Mozambique is that most people dying of AIDS are under 40, and between 65 and 70 per cent of new infections are among people aged under 30. The Health Ministry estimates that more than 1.6 million Mozambicans may die of AIDS during the next ten years, and that there are currently 1.3 million people infected with HIV.

The same estimates put the rate of daily infections at between 500 and 700, with about 100,000 dying every year.

In his speech at the opening session on 25 June, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi stressed the need to break the silence around sexuality, because taboo about this matter may jeopardise the future of the country, and called for all to observe prevention measures, including the distribution of condoms to young people.

Prime Minister Mocumbi said "we know and widely acknowledge that poverty, stigma, lack of information and weak health infrastructures hinder our quest in southern Africa to fight this epidemic. We have been less willing to acknowledge and to break our silence regarding the sexual behaviour and the gender inequalities that drive the epidemic".

Gender inequalities must be addressed

Mocumbi said that the rate of HIV infection among Mozambican girls and young women, at 15 per cent, was twice that among boys of the same age, "not because the girls are promiscuous, but because nearly three out of five are married by age 18, 40 per cent of them to much older, sexually experienced men who may expose their wives to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases".

"Abstinence is not an option for these child brides", he noted. "Those who try to negotiate condom use commonly face violence or rejection".

The key to Mozambique's national anti-AIDS policy was prevention, said Mocumbi. But Mocumbi stressed that "only if the people are adequately informed, can we succeed in our fight against HIV/AIDS".

That meant, in particular, providing women and girls with "the necessary information and skills that will empower them to protect themselves".

"We must summon up the courage to talk frankly and constructively about sexuality", he declared. "We must recognise the pressures on our children to have sex that is neither safe nor loving. We must provide them with information, communication skills, and, yes, condoms".

Mocumbi insisted the world's political leaders "must not leave for tomorrow the current unsustainable global patterns of poverty, debt and the shameful and immoral prices demanded for drugs and medicines to treat HIV/AIDS".

"Let us strive to enhance scientific research towards providing affordable means of prevention, care and treatment", he added, "including a vaccine against HIV/AIDS, and methods such as microbicides that women can use with or without the cooperation of their partners".

As for the proposed Global Fund, Mocumbi warned that this must consist of additional resources.

Drug trafficking is big business in Mozambique

The independent newsheet "Metical" on 28 June warned that drug trafficking "is now Mozambique's biggest business".

An article written by London-based journalist Joseph Hanlon, who has been researching the drugs trade, claimed that "the value of illegal drugs passing through Mozambique is probably more than all legal foreign trade combined, according to international experts".

The unnamed experts cited by Hanlon "estimate that more than one tonne per month of cocaine and heroin are now passing through Mozambique". These drugs have a retail value of about $50 million a tonne. Since Mozambique is essentially a corridor for drugs, rather than a major user, most of the money ends up outside. But Hanlon suggests that perhaps 10 per cent is the take for drug dealers inside the country.

Even if it is only five percent, that would be $30 million a year. Hanlon suggests that "drug money must be one factor in Mozambique's record growth in recent years". He adds "This trade is only possible with the agreement of the Mozambican police and very senior Mozambican officials".

Hanlon argues that the trade in illicit drugs "became important in Mozambique only in the late 1990s as major drug dealers began to look for alternative routes which were less easy for the international agencies to control." With free movement throughout the country established after the end of the war of destabilisation, Mozambique was a tempting target for traffickers, partly because "the long coastline with many islands and no navy makes it easy to move drugs", while low wages and "a climate of corruption" enable traffickers to bribe police and other officials.

Hanlon identified two drug routes. He claims that heroin moves "from Pakistan to Dubai to Tanzania and Mozambique and then on to Europe". The cocaine route is in the other direction "from Columbia to Brazil to Mozambique and on to Europe and East Asia".

There is also a substantial trade in "soft" drugs such as cannabis and mandrax. The use of Mozambique as a transit centre for hashish (cannabis resin) is well known, and there have been several major seizures.

Where does the money go? Hanlon suggests that there is large scale money laundering through banks, foreign exchange houses and casinos. Hanlon suggests that the explosion of such financial services cannot be justified by the size of the legal Mozambican economy. The article also suggests that drug money is being used in the current construction boom in Maputo, including the building of a surprisingly large number of new hotels.

Phase two of MOZAL given go-ahead

Rob Barbour, the chairman of the MOZAL aluminium smelter, located at Beluluane, on the outskirts of Maputo, on 21 June announced that the company's shareholders have given the go-ahead to a doubling of capacity.

Barbour said that phase two of MOZAL would double production to 506,000 tonnes of aluminium ingots per year.

The construction cost of phase two will be $860 million. Once financial costs are included, the total investment rises to $1 billion.

Phase one of MOZAL, inaugurated in September 2000, came into production six months ahead of schedule, and $120 million under budget (costing $1.22 billion rather than $1.34 billion).

The ownership of MOZAL-2 has been aligned so that it is identical to that of MOZAL-1: the London-based metals company Billiton is the largest shareholder with 47.11 per cent. The Japanese company Mitsubishi holds 25 per cent, and the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) 24.04 per cent. The Mozambican state holds the remaining 3.85 per cent.

Barbour said that financing of the expansion is 40 per cent equity and 60 per cent debt. He added that some of the financial agreements were signed within the previous 24 hours.

The largest debt items take the form of export credit from South Africa ($250 million) and France ($150 million). The rest of the debt comes from the same bodies who financed MOZAL-1 - namely, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector lending arms of the French and German governments, PROPARCO and Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungsgesellschaft), the South African Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), and the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) of Britain. There are two new lenders, JBIC of Japan and EDC of Canada.

Commissioning is scheduled for late 2003, with full production expected six months later. The expanded smelter will consume annually a million tonnes of its raw material, alumina, imported from Australia. It will also consume 900 megawatts of electricity, provided by MOTRACO, a consortium formed by the South African, Mozambican and Swazi electricity companies (ESKOM, EDM and SEB). Although the immediate source of power is South Africa, the integration of grids is such that much of the electricity will originate in Mozambique. Barbour said that the MOZAL demand for power would stimulate the development of further hydro-electric projects in Mozambique, notably the planned dam at Mepanda Uncua on the Zambezi.

MOZAL-2 would, once in operation, add a further 500 permanent jobs to the smelter's work force. But many more jobs will be created indirectly.

The expansion of the smelter will consolidate the government's plans for an Industrial Park at Beluluane and also improve the viability of all the infrastructure built for MOZAL-1, notably the improvements made to the mineral quay in Matola port.

MOZAL is one of the lowest-cost aluminium producers in the world, thanks to its use of the most modern technology, its economies of size, and the highly competitive price of power from MOTRACO.

Funding needed for resettlement in Zambezia

The resettlement of about 85,000 people, who have been sheltered in government-run accommodation centres in Zambezia province since the floods that hit the central region of the country early this year, will cost at least $27 million, reports "Noticias" on 27 June.

The provincial delegate of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), Orlando Francisco, said that the resettlement programme includes water supply infrastructures, sanitation systems, roads, health units and schools. He said that, of the total amount, the road building programme will consume about $1 million.

Francisco explained that some of the displaced have expressed the intention of remaining and building their new homes in the areas surrounding the accommodation centres, because they found them more fertile and safer, but about 40 per cent of the families would prefer to move, either back to their places of origin or to others of their choice.

Some of the families, from such districts as Nicoadala, Maganja da Costa, Namacurra and Mocuba, who had taken refuge in churches and schools, returned immediately after the flood waters started to subside.

100,000 hectares of crops lost

Climatic misfortunes have now been blamed for the loss of some 100,000 hectares of crops in Mozambique this year.

Most of the losses were due to flooding in the central provinces, notably in the Zambezia and Pungue basins, but ironically in parts of southern Mozambique crops were lost because there was too little rain.

This year's floods were less devastating than those of February 2000. Silvano Langa, the director of the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), told journalists that, thanks to an evaluation of the crops and food stocks carried out in the last fortnight by an assessment team, it was possible to determine that the flooding affected only about half as much farmland as was devastated in 2000.

Because many flood victims still have to be resettled, the INGC has identified 60 safe areas which are likely to house 34,000 families, Langa said.

The process has the support of Sweden and Holland which have agreed to make available the necessary $400,000 through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

He added that the international community has disbursed about $27 million for the support of the flood victims - at the height of the floods the government and the UN system in the country appealed for about $36.5 million. As for a donor conference originally scheduled for May, Langa said that it will now only take place in July pending the conclusion of a draft report on the floods.

"Agenda 2025" Committee formalised

Formalising the Committee of Councillors for "Agenda 2025" is an unequivocal gesture of the Mozambican people's willingness to work together in pursuit of the ideals of peace, stability and development, President Joaquim Chissano declared on 25 June.

The President was speaking in Maputo City Hall, at a ceremony formalising the Committee of Councillors. This is the body charged with the task of working out a vision and long term development strategies in various areas of the country's life for the next 25 years.

It consists of 14 personalities picked from various areas, including political parties, religious organisations, the business community, academics and artists.

President Chissano said that the "Agenda 2025" is important "not only because of the development strategies that it should produce, but also because it will be carried out through a national, highly participatory dialogue, and this is as important as the expected results themselves". He explained that the Committee is to work out strategies to deal with the countless challenges facing the country, including the fight against poverty, and the battle against AIDS and other endemic diseases.

The Committee includes Julieta Langa, director of the Arts Faculty of Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University; two former governors of the Bank of Mozambique, Prakash Ratilal and Eneas Comiche (the latter is also a member of the Political Commission of the ruling Frelimo Party); two prominent members of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition, Chico Francisco and lawyer Maximo Dias; conservative Moslem cleric Aminuddin Mohamad; Catholic bishop Tome Makhweliha; the vice-chancellor of the privately-owned Higher Polytechnic and University Institute (ISPU), Lourenco do Rosario; and prominent businessman Jorge Soeiro.

Eradication of absolute poverty essential

The Mozambican government's priorities are "the eradication of absolute poverty, the improvement of citizens' security and well-being, the consolidation of peace, the development of democracy, and the defence of human rights", declared President Joaquim Chissano, in a message to the nation marking the 26th anniversary of the country's independence on 25 June 1975.

President Chissano stressed that the implementation of the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty is now under way, describing it as "the central feature" of the government's 200-2004 five year programme.

The plan covers health care, education, water supply, social welfare, food security and rural development, "and stresses improving the situation of women and of children".

President Chissano said the economy had suffered setbacks with major flooding in two consecutive years. In 2000, economic growth had been slower than hoped, inflation had been higher, while the metical, had devalued sharply.

But he was optimistic that this year high rates of economic growth that had characterised the late 1990s would be resumed.

Cahora Bassa power to reach Niassa

Work to extend electric power from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi to Niassa province is scheduled to be complete by early 2004, according to Niassa governor David Simango, cited in "Noticias" on 25 June.

He said that everything is ready, and funds have been granted to start extending the transmission line from Gurue, in Zambezia province, to the town of Metangula, on the shores of Lake Niassa, about 100 kilometres from Lichinga, the provincial capital.

Currently, Niassa relies largely on generators, which are failing to cater for the growing needs. Simango believed that the electricity will enhance development in the province.

LAM to sell off its shareholdings

Mozambique's state owned airline, LAM, is to raise money by selling off its holdings in a range of other companies that have no direct connection with aviation, according to a report in "Metical" on 22 June.

LAM holds shares in three major Maputo hotels - it owns 20 per cent of the prestigious Polana hotel, 14 percent of the Rovuma Carlton, and 12 per cent of the Cardoso.

In addition LAM owns 40 per cent of the Concor construction company, 49 per cent of the Maputo Avis rent-a-car, and 25 per cent of the printing company Grafic.

The chairman of the LAM Board of Directors, Jose Viegas, told "Metical", that the sale of these holdings could bring the company $6 million. LAM made a loss of $2 million in 1999.

Austral Bank names debtors

Mozambique's third largest commercial bank, the Austral Bank, on 19 June published a list of names of 1,273 of its debtors, in an advert in the Maputo daily "Noticias".

The Bank's director for credit, Benigno Parente, said that here had been a "very positive" response from the bank's debtors to the drive to recover the credit. Since the current Board of Directors had taken office in April, "over 100 billion meticais" (about $4.55 million) had been recovered.

The current three member board was appointed by the central bank, after a shareholders' meeting in early April, when the private shareholders, a consortium headed by the Malaysian Southern Bank Berhard, refused to take part in recapitalising the bank, and pulled out. The result is that, after three and a half years of private management, Austral has reverted to state ownership.

Austral made losses of over 1,370 billion meticais ($65.3 million) in 2000, essentially because of the provisions required to cover non- performing loans after the bank's credit portfolio had been correctly reclassified. As of early 2001, 34 per cent of the credit portfolio consisted of non-performing loans.

There are very few names of politicians among those summoned by Austral. Scanning the lengthy list, AIM could find no names of members of the government (or of their families), or of the top leadership of either the ruling Frelimo Party, or of the main opposition party Renamo.

The list does contain the names of a few members of parliament (such as Salome Moiane and Ana Rita Sithole of Frelimo, and Rahil Khan of Renamo, as well as the company Flotur, owned by Raul Domingos, former head of the Renamo parliamentary group, currently sitting as an independent).

The list does not only include clients who took out loans since privatisation in 1997. Austral is also trying to recover credit that dates from the days of state management. Some of these loans were made to bodies that no longer exist. Perhaps the most extraordinary name on the list is the Ministry of Security, a body that was abolished over a decade ago.

Vaccination against Hepatitis B

The Health Ministry will add vaccination against hepatitis B to the national immunisation programme as from July, according to Ministry spokesman Jorge Barreto.

Barreto said children would receive a combined vaccine against diphtheria, whooping cough and hepatitis B. Diphtheria and whooping cough are already among the diseases targeted by the vaccination programme. Data indicate that 10-15,000 people die in Mozambique every year from acute liver infections caused by the hepatitis B virus.

Mozambique is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of hepatitis B in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) regards seven per cent as a "high" level of hepatitis B infection: in Mozambique, 15 per cent of the population are infected with hepatitis B. The application of this vaccine in Mozambique is being financed by the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunisation (GAVI).

Cardiac Institute inaugurated

President Joaquim Chissano on 27 June inaugurated the Cardiac Institute in Maputo. Mozambique becomes the second country in the southern Africa region, after South Africa, with the capacity to undertake open heart surgery. The Institute was set up with aid from France, Switzerland, Portugal and Britain. A private, but non-profit making body, it hopes to concentrate on children from poor families.

One in 7,000 children born in Mozambique suffers from heart malformations. Larger numbers of children of school age (two per cent) suffer from rheumatoid fever, and its most dangerous complication, rheumatic carditis, can also be fatal.

Even before the official inauguration the Institute had started work. According to its director, Mozambican cardiologist Beatriz Ferreira, on 26 June specialists operated on four children who had suffered cardiac problems since birth. Another eight patients, mostly children, will have operations in the coming days.

Teams of French, British, Portuguese and Swiss doctors are carrying out this work. It is the second such mission foreign cardiologists have undertaken in Maputo within the space of three months.

Ferreira said that most of the patients are from poor backgrounds. In western Europe, and even in South Africa, patients are charged $20,000-$30,000 for heart surgery. But the Mozambican Cardiac Institute charges what she regarded as a "symbolic fee" that varies from $1,500 to $3,000. This sum is still beyond the reach of most households, so the Institute is subsidising heart treatment for the poor.

The Institute, which has 24 beds, eight of them for intensive care, cost about $5 million for construction and equipment.

The foreign teams will visit the Institute every three months, and each mission aims to operate on between 100 and 150 people. In the current phase, the Institute depends heavily on European cardiologists, while more Mozambican specialists are gradually trained.

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