Mozambique News Agency

No.214, 5th September 2001


Top banker murdered at Austral Bank

Antonio Siba Siba Macuacua, the provisional chairman of the board of directors of the Austral Bank, Mozambique's third largest bank, was murdered at the bank's headquarters on 11 August. Macuacua's body was found smashed on the ground floor of the building at about 1pm.

In April the Bank of Mozambique intervened in the Austral after it became clear that the shareholders were unable or unwilling to recapitalise the bank, and Macuacua, a top economist with the Central Bank, was appointed to take the helm of the provisional board of directors of Austral.

The board of directors soon took action: it published a list of debtors and demanded that the debts - notably from the portfolio of non-performing loans - be paid, and it was preparing the bank's reprivatisation process. By 1 July the bank had recovered 60 billion meticais (about $277,450) It had also managed to attract interest in the bank for months of sifting through two reprivatisaion bids, it decided to sell it to the Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) which had been competing with BCI, a Portuguese headed bank, with a four-year presence in Mozambique.

It is believed that Macuacua was working on a report on the institution's financial account he was to submit on 13 August to the South African bankers when he was pushed down from the 14th floor where he had been working that day through the staircase's well.

It is due to the help of South African police and medical experts that it was ascertained that Macuacua had indeed been murdered.

After being notified of the death of Macuacua the Mozambican police had taken the caution of cordoning off the area until the arrival of the South African police.

Manuel Tome, the secretary general of the ruling Frelimo party, strongly condemned the murder of Macuacua. The crime was an attempt to thwart government's efforts to clean the institutions, and make them efficient, he said.

Two largest banks to merge

Mozambique's two largest banks, the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), and the International Bank of Mozambique (BIM), will merge in November.

Former Prime Minister Mario Machungo, who is the chairman of both banks, confirmed the merger in an interview published in "Metical" on 27 August.

Both banks are already controlled by the largest Portuguese financial institution, the BCP, headed by one of Portugal's richest men, Jardim Goncalves. But so far each bank has had its own separate ownership structure.

That will now end, and instead of two separate banks, the BCP will have what "Metical" describes as "a super-bank" in Mozambique.

Machungo said the merger results "from the will expressed by the shareholders". Paving the way for the merger are shareholders' meetings of BIM and the BCM, and the insurance companies linked to each bank (SIM and IMPAR respectively), all scheduled for September.

Machungo defended the merger on the grounds that the shareholders found it necessary "to take advantage of the synergies arising from joint management".

He said the operation will involve setting up a single computer system, use of the same "back office", and avoiding any duplication of investments. He claimed the merger would "reduce costs to the benefit of clients, of the market, and of banking supervision".

Mozambique demands slave trade apology

Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao has insisted that countries which benefitted from slavery and the slave trade should issue a formal apology for these crimes of the past.

Simao, who is attending the UN World Conference Against Racism in the South African city of Durban, told the Mozambican journalists covering the event on 5 September that slavery and the slave trade should be considered as "crimes against humanity".

"A mechanism for reparation and compensation for the damage caused to Africa by the slave trade, slavery and colonisation, the consequences of which are still felt today, should be created", Simao said.

For African states, a formal apology remains an indispensable moral requirement, but the United States and European countries fear the possible legal consequences of such an apology.

Portugal, Holland, Britain and Spain have prevented the European Union from making an apology in Durban. Their position is shared by the United States, which has pulled out of the conference, leaving behind only its consul-general in Durban.

The Europeans want the African nations to be content with a simple "expression of remorse", falling some way short of a full apology.

But Africa insists on an apology and means of ensuring that nothing similar ever happens again.

"Once slavery and colonialism are regarded as crimes against humanity, that's a way of preventing any repetition, since anyone who committed such practices would be committing a crime against humanity", said Simao.

Western fears, he added, were based on the fact that international law envisages very heavy penalties for crimes against humanity.

But there are also fears arising from demands from the African diaspora that the descendants of slaves, now living in the Americas, should be compensated for the evils of the past. In an attempt to unblock the situation, the African group has been holding a series of meetings at the conference trying to iron out common positions, said Simao.

African attentions are also focused on the form that any future compensation should take. Many countries, including Mozambique, argue for increased Western development aid for Africa.

"The question is one of helping African countries do what they did not do in the past because of colonialism", said Simao.

"No-one is claiming that African countries have not made mistakes. But the major reasons they are not developed have to do with colonialism". "Development opportunities were lost because of slavery, the slave trade and colonisation", argued Simao. "We want a mechanism for repairing this damage. This is the African position, which is a position to be negotiated with everybody else".

President Chissano visits Catembe

The Mozambican government intends to draw up a new plan for expanding Maputo southward, from the settlement of Catembe, on the other side of the Bay of Maputo.

Revealing this during a meeting with Catembe residents on 5 September, President Joaquim Chissano made clear that the government has discarded the original colonial scheme for Catembe, which was drawn up in 1972, three years before the country's independence.

To reach Catembe often involves lengthy waits for a ferry, with the boat trip itself lasting 10 to 15 minutes. The government is convinced that Catembe cannot be developed properly while the ferry remains the only way of getting there.

It is therefore in contact with international funding agencies for the construction of a bridge spanning the bay. The indications are that China is interested in building such a bridge. The Minister of Public Works, Roberto White, who accompanied President Chissano to Catembe told residents that when he visited China recently the Chinese authorities assured him that they were willing to finance the bridge. Preliminary studies are now under way into exactly how the money is to be raised and used.

President tours Maputo

President Joaquim Chissano said on 3 September that the problems faced by the country's capital, Maputo, derive from the way in which the city was designed.

"This city looks very attractive to the eyes of visitors", said President Chissano, but in reality it was "full of defects".

He was speaking at a meeting with the Maputo city council and municipal assembly, at the start of four days of intensive work in the city suburbs, where the President will be looking at problems that are not obvious in the tree-lined avenues of the centre of Maputo.

President Chissano said that Maputo had been designed for a certain number of people, and initially no plans had been made for expanding the city. Hence its current state of overcrowding, and poor sanitation.

Furthermore, part of the city was built on top of a swamp, which is why downtown Maputo, near the port, is regularly flooded during the rainy season.

Under colonialism suburbs were allowed to spring up in unsuitable areas which presented serious problems of stormwater drainage.

"That is why, ever since the transitional government (of September 1974 to June 1975) the question of drainage has been one of our main concerns", said the President. Drainage programmes for the periphery of the city were begun in the immediate post- independence period, but have yet to be concluded.

President Chissano also criticised the lack of public lavatories, of car parks, and of green spaces such as municipal gardens. There are beautiful and well-kept botanical gardens in the centre of the city, but he thought these were now too small for the demand from citizens to visit them.

US support for anti-poverty programmes

The United States government on 29 August granted $41 million to support various development programmes in Mozambique, in a bid to help the country reduce absolute poverty and become more fully integrated into the world economy.

The aid package was covered by five agreements signed in Maputo by Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao, by the United States Ambassador, Sharon Wilkinson, and by the director for Mozambique of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Cynthia Rozell.

Of the money pledged, $16.5 million are earmarked for activities contributing to the improvement of productivity in rural areas, namely the rehabilitation and maintenance of rural roads, the expansion of companies and financial services in rural areas, and credit for the peasant household sector.

About $5 million will go towards supporting the state budget, particularly the Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI).

Another $1.8 million are intended to support the Democratic Initiatives Project, aiming at empowering Civil Society.

A total of $15 million will be spent on strengthening mother-and-child health care programmes, and on increasing resources for the control of malaria and the fight against AIDS.

About $362,000 will be used in technical assistance to the government and to the private sector for the development of economic policies, investments and telecommunications.

$1.6 million will finance training programmes, studies and seminars, among other activities.

In the central province of Sofala, USAID funds are being applied to rebuild the road between Inchope and Caia, which is a key part of the main north-south highway.

Danish government to stop funding toxic waste projects

The Danish government has said that it will cease funding any project aimed at the incineration and export of toxic waste from Mozambique. However, it will continue to disburse between five and six million dollars per year in support of the country's environmental clean-up programmes.

Thomas Schjerbeck, the Danish ambassador in Maputo, said that this measure in view of the fact that the objectives of a project to export obsolete pesticides had not been complied with completely.

Through the assistance from the official Danish aid agency (DANIDA), the Mozambican government collected some 900 tonnes of toxic waste, and planned to incinerate it in a cement factory in the southern city of Matola.

But this caused a public backlash. Matola residents and environmentalists opposed the measure, and Greenpeace and the South African Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF) wrote a protest letter to the Danish government.

In the face of growing opposition, the Danish government agreed to foot the bill for the export of the toxic waste to be incinerated in Europe.

But Schjerbeck argued that the measure was taken because there had been a resistance to the establishment of an internal capacity in the country for the incineration of toxic waste as is done in Denmark and other countries.

Denmark, he said, incinerates about 100,000 of waste a year in a process more or less equal to what was supposed to be done in Mozambique, he stressed.

"I think that the fight carried out by some Mozambican NGOs to oppose the creation of an internal capacity to deal with toxic waste was counterproductive. They fought against the solution of a problem that the country will go on living because there're still many pesticides spread throughout the country", he said, adding that the "adopted alternative of exporting pesticides as a last resort shows clearly that Mozambique still doesn't have a solution for the problem".

He completely ruled out the possibility of his country giving support for future projects related to obsolete pesticides, arguing that Mozambican should find its own solution.

For its part, the Mozambican government has said that it will start drafting projects to collect and destroy pesticides with the support of non-identified partners.

Pio Rafael of the Ministry for Environmental Co-ordination said that some steps have been taken with the Agriculture and Rural Development to identify some toxic waste places.

WHO supports health programmes

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is to grant Mozambique $7 million to support its health programmes for the 2002/03 period. This sum is over $1 million more compared to the 2000/01..

WHO representative in Mozambique, Solange Kouo Epa, said that $3.7 million will come from the organisation's regional budget, and the remainder will be raised from different WHO partners.

The programmes include the fight against transmissible diseases, safe maternity, the strengthening of the national health system and the development of human resources, mental health, the environment and children's health, among other areas.

Power agreement signed

Mozambique, Norway and Sweden on 23 August signed an agreement in Maputo under which the two Nordic countries are to disburse $20.7 million for the expansion of the power line from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi to the northernmost province of Niassa.

The funds will be used between 2001 and 2004, and it is hoped that the project will improve the living conditions of the population.

Meanwhile, Mozambique also signed on 22 August a formal agreement with Germany intended for a viability study on expanding the use of the Zambezi river. Under the agreement Germany will enable Mozambique to obtain funding from its Reconstruction Credit Institute (KfW) to the tune of 3.6 million marks ($1.7 million).

Results of agriculture and livestock census

There are over three million farms in Mozambique, the great majority of which are less than 1.3 hectares in size.

This is one of the findings of the National Agricultural and Livestock Census carried out by the Mozambican statistics Institute (INE) between September 2000 and March 2001. The results of the census were unveiled at a ceremony on 31 August, attended by President Joaquim Chissano.

The President noted that the census showed very clearly how Mozambican agriculture "is based on the use of rudimentary production technologies. We must find ways of balancing new technologies with the rudimentary ones, improving the latter in a sustainable fashion which takes into consideration the preservation of the environment".

Between them, the INE and the Ministry of Agriculture had provided a wealth of information on the agricultural sector which would prove "decisive for drawing up development strategies in this area", stressed Chissano.

Now it was firmly established, he added, not only that the country had three million farms, but that these farms only cover 10 per cent or so of the 36 million hectares of arable land in Mozambique.

The census did not attempt to visit every farm in the country. Instead the researchers visited all the large farms, 7.5 per cent of the medium sized farms, and 0.7 per cent of the small farms. (The definitions used are that large farms have more than 50 hectares. If they are livestock enterprises, they have more than 100 cattle, or more than 500 sheep, pigs or goats, or more than 20,000 poultry. Small farms have less than 10 hectares, or less than 10 head of cattle.)

Summary of findings

There are 3,064,715 farms - and 99.7 per cent of these (3,054,106) are classified as "small farms".

The total area under cultivation in 2000 was 3,925,324 hectares - 95.2 per cent of this area (3,736,619 hectares) was accounted for by the small farms. The average size of a Mozambican farm is 1.28 hectares. For small farms, the average is 1.22 hectares, for medium farms 6.65 hectares, and for large farms (of which there are only 429 in the entire country) 282 hectares. Only 3.9 per cent of farms (both of farms as a whole and of small farms) use irrigation, while 4.5 per cent (again, both of all farms, and of small farms) use chemical fertiliser.

11 per cent of all farms and 10.8 per cent of small farms use animal traction, while 7.2 per cent of all farms, but only 2.7 per cent of small farms use pesticides.

In 2000, 80.3 per cent (3,152,034 hectares) of cultivated land was occupied with basic food crops. By far the most important of these were maize (40.23 per cent) and cassava (20.24 per cent). A further 200,927 hectares was devoted to vegetable production, and 202,372 hectares to cash crops.

64.87 per cent of cash crop land was occupied by cotton, 17.44 per cent by sugar cane, and 13.16 per cent by tobacco. The only significant cash crop which is mostly produced by large plantations is sugar cane.

The census also tried to count the number of cashew trees in the country. It found that rather more than a third (1,274,143) of all farms had cashew trees, and estimated the total number of trees at over 53.86 million. The great majority of trees are to be found in just two provinces - Nampula, in the north, with 22.27 million, and Inhambane, in the south, with 15.9 million.

As for livestock, the census found that the country has 722,199 head of cattle, reared in 133,447 farms.

There are slightly more than five million goats in the country, on 851,771 farms, while 602,404 farms breed pigs (with the total number of pigs put at almost 2.4 million).

The majority of farmers have at least some poultry. 2,130,425 farms breed chickens, while 662,277 breed ducks. The total number of chickens is put at 22.6 million, and of ducks at almost 4.1 million.

Micro-credit scheme for farmers

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Helder Muteis has said that the government is to spend $400,000 on an agricultural micro-credit scheme in the southern provinces of Maputo and Gaza. The funds are for credits for farmers hit by flooding in February 2000 to relaunch their activities.

He said that government wanted to show via the micro-credit scheme that agriculture is viable, and that people can pay their debts because "in this stage it's necessary to build up the trust that was eroded due to the difficulties we've been facing throughout the years".

The initiative falls within the context of the country's Agricultural Development National Programme (Proagri).

He said that government hoped the scheme would also show the banking sector that agriculture was a viable business.

Soldiers repair protection dikes

The repair by Mozambican soldiers of protection dikes in the agricultural area of Manhica, about 80 kilometres north of Maputo, is taking place at a satisfactory rhythm, according to Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia, who visited Manhica on 27 August.

The work consists of sealing a number of breaches opened by the floods that hit the region in February 2000.

Ten days after work on the dikes was launched by the Agriculture Ministry, in coordination with the Defence Ministry, seven of the 15 identified breaks have been repaired.

Before proceeding with the repairs, the 334 soldiers involved in the work, in cooperation with a group of local residents, had to clean up about 20 kilometres of the dikes that protect Manhica agricultural areas from the Incomati river.

The completion of the work may eventually take three or four more than the 15 days initially planned, but the end result should be that about 1,000 hectares of land will soon be available for cultivation by the local peasant farmers.

Work to repair damaged dikes is also to be undertaken in Marracuene district, about 30 kilometres north of Maputo, and in Matutuine, the country's southernmost district, with the involvement of about 1,000 military plus local inhabitants.

Marromeu sugar mill reopens

The first grains of sugar were ground on 15 August at the Marromeu sugar mill in the central province of Sofala, following 15 years of paralysis.

The mill has been rehabilitated by the Sena Company, a Mauritian consortium, in an operation costed at $70 million.

By the end of 2001, it is hoped that the mill will produce 40,000 tonnes of sugar.

The Sena company expects to refine 30 per cent of the sugar and export it to the European Union, and sell the remaining 70 per cent locally.

Within two years, when working at full capacity, the mill should be able to produce 100,000 tonnes of sugar per year.

Currently, Marromeu employs a 3,350 workforce which is expected to grow to about 7,000 within two years.

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