Mozambique News Agency

No.220, 26th November 2001


Flood alert on Umbeluzi

The river Umbeluzi in Maputo province has been above flood alert level at Goba, on the border with Swaziland, according to the Southern Regional Water Board (ARA-Sul). Flood alert level at Goba is 3.5 metres, but on 16 November the river reached a height of 3.98 metres. The river has subsequently subsided, but on 19 November, it was still five centimetres above alert level. However, this flood surge down the Umbeluzi did little damage, since the water was easily absorbed by the Pequenos Libombos dam.

The dam increased its discharges from 7.1 cubic metres a second on 16 November, to 66 cubic metres a second on 18 November, and 100 cubic metres a second on 19 November. Despite the sharp rise, ARA-Sul regards this level of discharge as normal for this time of year.

ARA-Sul announced on 22 November that it is to increase, for the coming two weeks, the discharges of water from the Pequenos Libombos dam. The dam is to increase its discharges to 600 cubic metres a second. This amount will be released every day for a fortnight between 19:00 and 06:00.

ARA-Sul justifies this measure with the need to maintain the dam's holding capacity, taking into account the forecast rainfall in the Umbeluzi basin.

The head of the Pequenos Libombos technical department, Vasco Munguambe, said that because of the rainfall during the last few days, the water level in the dam has risen from the normal 45 metres to 47 metres - which means that the dam lake is completely full.

Popular musician murdered

Mozambique's music lovers are mourning the murder, on 20 November, of popular singer Pedro Langa, who was the founder and main vocalist of one of Mozambique's best known bands "Ghorwane".

The murderers forced their entry into Langa's house in Maputo through a kitchen window. Langa found three unknown men in the kitchen, and in the ensuing struggle Langa was shot in the head.

His colleague in Ghorwane, David Macuacua, told reporters that, as far as he knew, Langa had no enemies, nobody who would want to settle old scores with him.

A week ago there was an earlier attempt to break into the house. Langa's neighbours have also suffered attempted break-ins.

The police have recovered the Makarov pistol used in the murder. The gun, plus an iron bar and screwdrivers, used to break into Langa's house, were found buried at an unspecified location in the inner Maputo suburb of Malhangalene.

Echoing many voices that are complaining of growing crime in Maputo, journalist Filimone Meigos, a friend to the victim, described the latest killing as "normal" .

Langa's colleagues in "Ghorwane", say that they have been receiving messages of condolences from many sources, including from President Joaquim Chissano.

The band's spokesperson, David Macuacua, said that "we are living through a particularly difficult moment. This is the second time that this has happened to our group". Ghorwane saxophonist Zeca Alage was murdered in 1993: no-one has ever been arrested for this crime.

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, stood in silence for a minute on Thursday morning, in tribute to Langa, and to journalist Carlos Cardoso, who was murdered a year ago.

Ghorwane vocalist Roberto Chitsondzo, who is now a parliamentary deputy for the ruling Frelimo Party, paid warm tribute to his murdered friend and colleague, and urged the police to spare no effort in tracking down the killers.

Hunger hits some Inhambane districts

Deputy Agriculture Minister Joao Carrilho has said that some of the districts in the southern province of Inhambane are facing hunger, and he called for a diversification of the economy in these areas.

"There are pockets of hunger in some of the districts, which is usually chronic in terms of shortage of food, but we should not think that we will solve this hunger only by producing food. Families can produce something else that they can sell and then buy food", Carrilho told AIM.

About 300,000 people, in the districts of Panda, Mabote and Funhalouro, in the north of the province, have to resort to wild fruits and roots in order to survive.

Carrilho blamed the hunger situation on irregular rainfall in what is always a semi-arid area. "Obviously, what we have to do is to encourage an agriculture that better manages the water resources and which is resistant to drought", he said.

He added that Inhambane is one of the provinces where the authorities are encouraging the production of drought resistant crops, such as sweet potatoes and cassava.

Carrilho noted that parts of Inhambane have a considerable potential in terms of citrus fruit, and the plan is to set up small processing industries, all to "ensure food security".

Assembly of the Republic

Financial administration bill passed

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 23 November passed the first reading of a government bill on a new state financial administration system by the margin of 132 votes to one, with 102 abstentions.

The ruling Frelimo Party's parliamentary majority ensured that the bill was passed. Just one member of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition, Jeremias Pondeca, voted against, while the rest of his colleagues abstained.

The bill seeks to modernise the state's system of financial administration, replacing archaic legislation, some of which is over a hundred years old.

Introducing the bill the previous day, Finance Minister Luisa Diogo had said its aim was to establish "a just, transparent, reliable, credible and modern system".

The three Assembly working commissions that examined the bill were all strongly in favour.

The Plan and Budget Commission (CPO) noted that piecemeal reforms in the financial system since 1997 might deal with certain specific problems, but also ran the risk of distorting the whole system. A complete overhaul was therefore required. The CPO said that the current system was characterised by "a wide variety of scattered legal norms, excessive red tape, incoherent operations, poor quality of data for management, and weak control systems". Much of the financial data was still processed manually, rather than by computer.

Among the many changes envisaged, the CPO pointed out, are a switch to internationally accepted accounting methods, including double entry book-keeping, and an alteration in state payment methods. These will be simplified, allowing for greater use of cheques and bank transfers.

Perhaps the most radical change is the replacement of about 2,000 existing state bank accounts by a "single account", with a large number of "sub-accounts". The single account is a "virtual account" that will allow the government to see, at any moment, the exact position of the state's finances.

During the debate, Frelimo deputies backed the government to the hilt, while opposition ones claimed that the state finances could never be put in order as long as Frelimo remained in power.

"The problem is not the law. The problem is Frelimo and its monstrous system of corruption", claimed Francisco Rupansana.

His colleague Sergio Safane alleged that Frelimo had taken advantage of obsolete legislation to divert state funds into its own election campaigns, and into unnamed private companies. "This contributes to the absolute poverty of the country", he declared.

Renamo seemed unsure how to approach Luisa Diogo herself - Pondeca called her a "political commissar" of a "self-proclaimed and illegitimate government". But Luis Gouveia (who was the agent for Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama in the 1999 presidential election) praised Diogo as "a serious and honest person, who belongs to the generation of dialogue within Frelimo".

In her concluding remarks at the end of the debate, Diogo accepted the Renamo critique that the entire reform depended on support from donors, but noted this was true of pretty well everything in the public sector. "This country depends on foreign aid - that's the reality", she said. "Look at this building (the Assembly's own premises) and ask how much state money was spent on it". (The Assembly building was thoroughly rehabilitated with support from donors, including China and Denmark.) Diogo said she did not believe that the financial reforms would lead to mass redundancies - but if there were civil servants who rejected the reforms, then they would be dismissed.

Post-flood resettlement discussed

Deputies to the Assembly of the Republic on 20 November expressed disquiet at the slow pace of resettlement following the flooding in the central provinces in the first quarter of the year.

A delegation from the Assembly's Social Affairs Commission visited the flood stricken provinces of Sofala, Zambezia, Tete and Manica in October, and reported back to the Assembly plenary on 20 November.

The commission found that resettlement was slow, and had started late, due to the poor state of the access roads leading to the resettlement areas.

In only one place visited by the delegation, Guara-Guara in the Sofala district of Buzi, was resettlement complete. This was the sole place in 14 districts visited where the conditions for the flood victims "are those that are desired".

625 two room houses, each with an improved latrine, a school, 10 boreholes for water supply, and an electricity transmission line had been built. There would have been a health centre too, but the contractor did not meet deadlines and the contract was rescinded.

Elsewhere, the picture was very different. In the two resettlement centres in Caia district no houses had yet been built. The Commission noted "the people are living in tents which have outlived their usefulness, and difficulties can be envisaged in the coming rainy season".

In Zambezia, the resettlement areas needed 100 water sources, but the company hired was digging just one well a week. When officials realised that this meant the job would take two years, they hired a more efficient company instead, which could work at the rate of one well a day.

In Tete province, plots of land should have been distributed to 10,772 households who had lost their homes to the floods. But by the time the Commission visited, only 908 plots had been distributed.

One problem the delegation noted was that in several resettlement areas, even if the plots were distributed, the families were reluctant to build houses. They regarded this as the government's job.

Other complaints the delegation heard from the flood victims concerned the lack of safe drinking water, shortages of agricultural inputs (seeds and tools) so that they could start farming again, and inadequate access to arable land. People living in the resettlement areas also demanded mosquito nets, health posts, and shops.

The commission criticised the size of the plots of land distributed. These were usually 15 by 30, or 20 by 40 metres. This gave the families insufficient room for such activities as breeding chickens in their back yards.

Delays in providing basic services, such as health care and water supply, did not encourage people to stay in the resettlement areas. The commission noted that some people just turned up at the centres to collect handouts of food - and then returned to their original home areas in the river valleys.

The Social Affairs Commission called on the government to put more money into resettlement, and to urge the families concerned to build themselves strong houses that could resist the elements. It also wanted the government to step up distribution of agricultural hand tools, and basic health equipment such as mosquito nets.

The Commission condemned unnamed NGOs "who bring projects without any coordination with government bodies, which just ends up in creating confusion and misunderstandings and sometimes hindering the government's work".

The Commission report was approved unanimously by all 15 Commission members - eight from the majority Frelimo Party, and seven from the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition.

Nonetheless, during the debate opposition deputies attacked it, calling it "inconsistent", and claiming that it "does not reflect the real situation".

Interior minister claims successes

Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje has claimed that in the first six months of this year the police dismantled 170 gangs of criminals, some of which were trafficking in drugs and stolen vehicles.

Responding to questions from deputies of the Assembly of the Republic, Manhenje said that in this period the police had also seized 41 arms caches, and destroyed the weapons they contained. Manhenje claimed that the clear-up rate for all crimes notified during this six month period was 63 per cent.

Manhenje urged ordinary citizens to cooperate with the police in the fight against crime, and to avoid dealings with criminals. Nobody should buy a vehicle or spare parts, or electrical items, in the street without asking where they came from, he said.

Bridge over Zambezi a priority

Building a new bridge over the Zambezi river linking Sofala and Zambezia provinces "is a fundamental priority for ensuring national unity, and guaranteeing a greater circulation of people and goods throughout the country", Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi declared on 14 November.

He was responding in the Assembly of the Republic to a question from deputies of the majority Frelimo Party, who asked what measures are under way to ensure that the bridge is indeed built.

Mocumbi recalled that plans for the bridge, from Caia on the south bank of the river to Chimuara on the north bank, date back to the colonial period.

Work on the bridge began in the late 1970s, but was interrupted because of the war of destabilisation: smaller bridges on the access roads to Caia and Chimuara were blown up by Renamo rebels.

Immediately after the peace agreement signed with Renamo in 1992, the government set about seeking finance for the bridge - but only Sweden expressed an interest.

A new viability study was undertaken by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), since new technologies in bridge building meant that the initial plans of the 1960s were now out-of-date.

Mocumbi said the final report from SIDA was delivered to the government in July, and presented two possible options for the bridge - one budgeted at $67 million, and a more expensive one costed at $87 million.

The Prime Minister said that other funding agencies were now willing to finance the bridge, and the sums mentioned covered about 60 per cent of the needs. "Negotiations are under way to find solutions to advance the project, and to obtain the additional funding", Mocumbi said.

But before the bridge could be built, the roads on either side of the river had to be rehabilitated. Work on the north bank road, a 165 kilometre stretch from the Zambezi to the town of Nicoadala, was completed in June.

Mocumbi pointed out this had involved building five bridges, of which the most important was a bridge over the Chiraba river, replacing one which Renamo had destroyed many years previously.

On the south bank, repairs to the 240 kilometre road between Gorongosa and Caia will not be complete until December 2002. this is largely because a 67 kilometre stretch in the middle of this road needs complete rebuilding.

The total cost of these roads was about $100 million, provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Mocumbi said that some "practical solutions" were envisaged before work even started on the Zambezi bridge. These included bringing in new ferries, and improving the ramps on both banks, so that the ferry service across the river can be improved.

"Thus we hope that next year we will have solved part of this problem that will ensure a much better quality operation until the bridge is operational", he added. He did not expect work on the bridge to start until 2003.

Irrigation scheme inaugurated

Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia on 22 November inaugurated an irrigation scheme at Mangunza, in the Maputo district of Boane, which in its first stage will benefit some 22 peasant farmers.

Muteia said that the irrigation scheme would bring a new outlook to the region's agriculture since the peasant farmers will no longer need to depend on the rainy season for planting.

The scheme was built with Italian funds and the involvement of the local community, and is budgeted at some $37,000. The irrigation scheme has a catchment area of 4.5 hectares and has the Umbeluzi river as its source.

German aid for Mozambique

The German government has pledged 89 million marks (about $43 million) to Mozambique under the cooperation programme for 2001/2002. The German authorities made the pledge during bilateral negotiations in Bonn which ended on 23 November.

54 million marks is for financial cooperation, and 35 million for technical cooperation, in the areas of rural development, education, economic reform, and developing a market economy in Inhambane, Sofala and Manica provinces.

The current financial cooperation programme with Germany also involves support for the Bank of Mozambique, for the publicly-owned electricity company EDM, for industry and trade, ports and railways, mineral resources and energy, transport and communications, public works, and the promotion of small and medium sized companies. German technical cooperation includes support for rural development, education, the Eduardo Mondlane University, the finance, labour and state administration ministries, and the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

The German government also announced a further grant of 3.53 million marks ($1.7 million) for food aid and emergency relief. Germany has also agreed to support activities in the area of "public security". No details were given, but this presumably refers to support for the government's plans to reform, retrain and re-equip the police force.

Central Government will not pay for garbage

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 22 November denied that the central government would pay for Maputo City Council's rubbish collection.

Mounds of foetid rubbish dot the streets of Maputo, with the City Council claiming that it does not possess enough garbage trucks to cope with the crisis. The city had hired a private company, Interwaste, to collect the rubbish - but Interwaste scrapped the contract after the Council failed to pay it for two months.

Council spokesman Vasco Matha told AIM that the Council's plan involves the central government paying 70 per cent of the costs of rubbish collection. The government, he said, should help the Council not only in acquiring machinery, but in paying the wages of the staff involved in garbage disposal.

Asked to comment on this at a Maputo press briefing, Prime Minister Mocumbi said such council officers should find out what the laws on local authorities say on the matter, and what the obligations of municipalities are.

The whole point about setting up municipalities, Mocumbi said, was "to involve citizens in solving their own problems, and bring citizens closer to their local governments".

He said the government has already intervened, in that it has sent a group to work with the City Council. The government could not ignore the rubbish crisis, since "it puts people's health at risk". "There is a threat of cholera", Mocumbi added, "and we can't just sit and watch".

One reason that the City Council has no money for rubbish disposal is that it is not charging Maputo residents any garbage collection fees. As for including the garbage collection fee on the monthly electricity bill, in the same way as radio licence fees are collected, Mocumbi said "When we are asked about this, then we shall analyse it".

Quelimane port dredged

The port of Quelimane, in the central province of Zambezia, is being dredged, after 10 years during which it has been gradually silting up, reports "Diario de Mocambique" on 20 November.

The work, that started on 14 September, is being handled by the state-owned dredging company Emodraga, with a planned removal of about 349,000 cubic metres of mud.

This first stage of the work will deepen the port and the access channel to four metres, when measured at low tide, and is estimated to cost about $1 million.

The Emodraga delegate director Simoes Tomas Francisco told reporters that the second and third stages will deepen the port to between five and seven metres.

Italian support for PROAGRI

Italy has pledged $4 million to support Mozambique's five year National Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI), according to Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia.

Muteia was speaking on 20 November to journalists soon after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Mozambican and Italian governments, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Under the agreement the funds will be channelled towards agricultural production, rural extension, irrigation, forestry and agricultural research.

Budgeted at $202 million, PROAGRI was launched in 1999 but has so far spent only $49 million of its total budget.

Long jail terms for Pakistani drug traffickers

The Inhambane Provincial Court in southern Mozambique on 23 November sentenced five Pakistani citizens to 18 years imprisonment, and four others to 17 years, for drug trafficking.

The case concerns a consignment of the drug hashish, which was being carried down the Mozambique Channel in June 2000. But the boat developed a fault, and drifted helplessly for some days, before running aground on rocks near the island of Bazaruto, off the Inhambane coast.

About 16 tonnes of hashish, contained in coffee tins, came ashore on Bazaruto. The nine Pakistanis escaped the shipwreck in a rubber dinghy, and made it to the mainland, on the coast of Govuro district.

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