Mozambique News Agency

No.221, 17th December 2001


Heavy rains cut off Inhambane

The southern city of Inhambane was virtually cut off from the rest of the country by road, due to flooding in the Jangamo peninsula, Radio Mozambique reported on 15 December. Torrential rains in the area have swollen local rivers, and made the only road into Inhambane impassable. Sstretches of the Lindela-Inhambane road are now under 30 centimetres or more of water, and are regarded as highly dangerous.

Meanwhile the Mozambican meteorology office has warned of the saturation of soils in parts of the southern provinces due to above normal rainfall in October and November.

The head of the weather forecasting department in the meteorology office, Mussa Mustafa, has pointed out that average rainfall in Maputo province for the October to December period is 300 millimetres. However, at the Maputo city measuring station 460.36 millimetres fell in October and November, and at Changalane, near the border with Swaziland, the rainfall for these two months was an alarming 585.8 millimetres.

"The soil is absorbing a lot of water, and if it continues like this we shall easily have water on the surface throughout the critical period of the rains from January to March", said Mustafa. With this situation, if any rivers break their banks, the saturated soils cannot absorb any more water, and major flooding could result".

Heavy rains upstream, in South Africa and Swaziland, have already substantially raised the levels of some of the major Mozambican rivers.

At Chokwe, in Gaza province, the Limpopo river went briefly above flood alert level: this was largely because of increased discharges from the Massingir dam, located on the Limpopo's main tributary, the Elephants river. subsequently the discharges from the dam have been reduced from 350 to 171 cubic metres a second.

The Incomati river has also risen, but is not yet at alert level. From Thursday to Friday the river, measured at the tow of Magude in Maputo province, rose from 4.1 to 4.26 metres. Flood alert level here is five metres.

"Maybe Enron was the problem" - PM

The Mozambican government believes that other investors can be found for the Maputo Iron and Steel Project (MISP), despite the collapse of the US energy corporation Enron, whose brainchild it was. MISP is a project for a factory on the outskirts of Maputo making two million tonnes of steel slabs a year. Its main raw material would be iron ore from South Africa and natural gas from the Mozambican province of Inhambane.

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told reporters on 13 December that the government was convinced that MISP is a sound project, and that despite Enron filing for bankruptcy protection, "others will appear who are interested".

Enron had proved singularly unable to attract other partners. Initially half the equity for MISP was to come from Enron and half from the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), but IDC dropped out of the project in 1999.

In 2000 Enron announced it had found five new partners to take over the IDC's 50 per cent. They were the Swiss steel company Duferco, Kobe Steel of Japan, Midrex of the United States, VAI of Australia, and Techint of Italy. But within a few months all these companies had also dropped out.

Prime Minister Mocumbi suggested it was not the viability of the project that they had queried. "Maybe these investors found that Enron was the problem", he said. "Maybe with the disappearance of Enron, they'd be interested again".

The Mozambican government's relations with Enron have been cool. In the late 1990s the US corporation fought aggressively for the rights to the Pande gas field in Inhambane, using dirty tricks including a smear campaign in the local and international media suggesting that the then minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, John Kachamila, was corrupt. It is now known that while Enron was hinting at wrongdoing by Mozambican officials, its own executives were hiding the company's true financial situation from its creditors and shareholders.

Mocumbi stressed that the exploitation of Mozambican natural gas no longer depended on Enron. In 2000 Enron ceded its rights to the Pande field to the South African company SASOL, which will build a gas pipeline from Inhambane to its own chemical factories in the south African town of Secunda, with a spur taking gas to Maputo.

"With or without Enron, the gas will reach Maputo", declared Mocumbi. "It will arrive in very good condition for any industry that needs gas".

Increase in harvest expected

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi said on 13 December that, despite the floods that hit the central provinces in the early part of this year, the 2001 harvest brought in 1.7 million tonnes of marketed food crops. He told reporters this was an increase of about 14 per cent on the 1.5 million tonnes figure from the 2000 harvest. A further increase in production is expected for 2002.

The prime minister noted that marketing mechanisms have greatly improved. In the past, it was often heard that peasants still had grain stored in their barns, because nobody had come to buy their crops. The complaint this year, Mocumbi noted, was quite the opposite: it was said that peasants sold too much, and left themselves without enough food stocks to tide them over until the next harvest.

Assembly of the Republic

State of the nation address - opposition walk out

All opposition members bar three walked out of the Assembly of the Republic on 6 December during President Joaquim Chissano's state of the nation address.

When President Chissano entered the Assembly chamber to deliver the address, members of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition remained seated, while deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party gave the President a standing ovation. As soon as he began reading his speech, the Renamo deputies rose from their places and trooped noisily out of the room.

The only opposition members who treated the President with respect and remained to hear the address were Raul Domingos, the former head of the Renamo parliamentary group, who was expelled from Renamo last year, and two other deputies who have been suspended from the party, Rachid Tayob and Jose Lopes..

Crime and corruption

During the address President Chissano recognised that citizens have lost confidence in the police and the courts. He admitted that an alarming rise in violent and organised crime has led to a sense of insecurity and to "just and legitimate indignation".

Citizens felt abandoned and there was a general "lack of trust in the public institutions of protection, security and the administration of justice", said the President.

One of the most shocking recent episodes was the murder of Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, chairman of the board of directors of the Austral Bank, on 11 August. "Just as in the case of the journalist Carlos Cardoso, murdered on the public highway (in November 2000), everything leads as to believe that we are faced with phenomena of organised crime, perpetrated by well structured groups", said President Chissano.

The current crime wave was "an extraordinary situation that demands extraordinary measures", he continued. "Crime concerns all our society, It should not be politicised, but should be fought against vigorously by everybody".

President Chissano attacked all forms of corruption, whether flagrant or subtle, as "poisonous and pernicious". "Corruption corrodes the social fabric", he said. "It destabilises institutions, saps society's confidence in state bodies, attacks national unity, and holds back economic development".

President Chissano also warned of the threat posed by AIDS. He said that one and a half million Mozambicans were infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS, and at least 200,000 people had already developed the disease.

Strong economic growth predicted

Despite the floods in the central provinces between February and April, the Mozambican government expects a growth of 14 per cent in the country's Gross Domestic Product this year, President Joaquim Chissano told the Assembly.

"Economic growth in our country is real, and is beginning to make itself felt positively in the lives of our citizens", he declared.

President Chissano said Mozambique's battle to reduce levels of absolute poverty had won recognition from the international community, which had resulted in the cancellation of over 70 per cent of its debt stock under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative.

After reaching, in September, the "conclusion point" of "enhanced HIPC", the annual servicing requirements for Mozambique's foreign debt fell from over $100 million to $55 million.

However, President Chissano pointed out that, even with the reduction, "debt servicing is a great burden on our budget. More efforts will be needed to achieve a greater reduction in the weight of debt servicing so that we can obtain more resources for investment".

The government had been successful in attracting foreign investment, the President said, citing as examples the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo, and the rehabilitation of the Marromeu sugar mill on the south bank of the Zambezi.

Veterans rights debated

To howls of rage from opposition members of the Assembly, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Antonio Hama Thai, on 13 December reminded the former rebel movement Renamo of its past as a tool in the hands of the white minority regimes of Rhodesia and South Africa.

Hama Thai was replying to a debate on a government bill attributing rights to the veterans of the war for independence from Portuguese colonial rule.

Renamo deputies called the bill "discriminatory", and insisted that former Renamo fighters should also be covered by the benefits envisaged. Describing Renamo's previous activity as a "war for democracy", Renamo deputy David Alone declared "the fighters for democracy were just as brave as those who fought for independence".

He wanted "equal treatment for those who underwent great sacrifices in Renamo's struggle for democracy, for freedom, for peace, and for respect for human rights". "The combatants for democracy are just as Mozambican as the combatants for national liberation", added Alone.

Deputies from the majority Frelimo Party found this an immoral equivalence. It was "unpardonable to mix together those who fought to free the country and those who fought to destroy it", said Abel Safrao.

Jaime Mussesse said it was "unthinkable" to include under this bill's definition of "veterans" those who in the 1980s had blown up the Dona Ana rail bridge over the Zambezi, who had sabotaged the country's largest sugar mill, at Marromeu, or who had reduced the rail town of Inhaminga to ruins.

In his reply to the debate Hama Thai, noted that it was the Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith that had trained up the initial Renamo units. "Renamo's war was prepared and commanded by Rhodesian and South African forces", declared the Minister. "That's part of the history that Renamo doesn't want known".

He pointed out that Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama was arrested in 1976, not for any political motive, but for petty theft. "Dhlakama joined the FPLM (the Frelimo guerrilla army) in 1974", recalled Hama Thai. "He was trained by us, he was put in charge of logistics, he stole goods and he was arrested". As for Renamo's claim that their war had been necessary to bring about democracy, Hama Thai noted that Mozambique was not the only country to have switched from a one party state to multi-party democracy. Neighbouring states such as Tanzania and Malawi had done likewise, as had the Soviet Union and eastern European countries.

A vote is due to take place on the bill on 17 December

Education minister briefs Assembly

There has been an increase this year of almost six per cent in the number of first level primary schools (teaching grade one to five) in Mozambique, according to Education Minister Alcido Nguenha.

Briefing the Assembly of the Republic on 13 December on the work of his Ministry, Nguenha said that the number of such schools had risen from 7,072 in 2000 to 7,480 this year, and was expected to rise to 7,840 in 2002.

As for second level primary schools (teaching grades six and seven), there were 522 of these in 2000, and 685 now - an increase of 31 per cent. The number of these schools should reach 819 in 2002.

Nguenha said there had been a substantial increase in the number of girls attending school. In first level primary education, 44 per cent of all pupils were girls - but this number fell to 40 per cent in secondary education, and 36 per cent in pre-university education.

Another major challenge was the very structure of the country's education sector. Nguenha said there are about three million pupils in primary education - but only 130,000 in secondary schools (including mid-level institutes), and about 12,000 in higher education.

Furthermore, there was a serious problem of late entry into school. The official age for enrolling in first grade is six. But in reality only 19 per cent of pupils in first grade are aged six - the rest are aged anywhere between seven and 15.

Nguenha said his ministry is concerned to improve the quality and relevance of education, through revising the curriculum, ensuring that books and other educational materials are available, and through improved teacher training. He noted that there are still large numbers of pupils who drop out of school or who repeat years - which reveals a low level of internal efficiency of the system.

Nguenha said the state education system employs a total of 64,218 staff - which is 52 per cent of the total number of public servants in the country.

Mobile phone market liberalisation

The Assembly on 11 December passed a government bill opening the mobile phone market to competition.

Previously, just one company, TMM (Mobile Telecommunications of Mozambique, better known as M-Cel), had the right to operate mobile phone networks in the country. TMM is a subsidiary of the publicly-owned telecommunications company, TDM.

The new law will allow licences to be sold to other operators, who will also have access to the international gateway. The government has already issued an international tender for two new mobile phone licences, and over 20 companies (including well-known names such as Vodacom and Orange) have bought the tender documents.

Winding up the debate, Transport and Communications Minister Tomas Salomao said it was imperative to open the market, since M- Cel does not have the financial capacity to expand the mobile phone network to cover the entire country.

The bill enjoyed the support of both the ruling Frelimo Party, and the opposition. Only one Renamo deputy, Jeremias Pondeca, voted against the bill.

UNESCO to set up radio stations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is to set up by March 2002 eight new community-based radio stations under the organisation's Media Development Programme for Mozambique, according to the programme's coordinator, Tomas Vieira Mario. The project will cost $5 million.

The first stations were set up on 15 December in Chimoio, Homoine and Cuamba. The remaining community radio stations will be installed in Metangula, Dondo, Milange, Bagamoyo and Boane.

The new radio stations are intended to serve the communities where they are installed, with a range of informative, cultural, sporting, educational and commercial programmes.

The UNESCO Media Project for Mozambique began in 1998, and has also undertaken training courses, support for the independent print media, support for Radio Mozambique, and studies and seminars on Mozambican journalism.

State extends broadcasting

The Mozambican government's Mass Communications Institute (ICS) is planning to install about 20 new community TV and radio stations in rural areas by the second half of February 2002.

Making the announcement on 10 December, during a meeting of the ICS Coordinating Council, the Institute's director, Sofia Ilale, said the project is part of a programme to expand those community services across the country.

She said that when this project, funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is completed, "the country will be minimally empowered to meet the growing demand for media, which will contribute to development and, consequently, to the reduction of absolute poverty among the Mozambican people".

She explained that her institution defines rural TV and radio stations as the "backbone" for the country's communication capacity, hence the need to revive it and expand it to cover all the target communities.

French and Portuguese debt relief

The Mozambican and French governments signed an agreement in Maputo on 30 November under which 29.8 million euros (about $26 million) of Mozambique's debt to France is to be cancelled.

Under the agreement these funds from debt servicing will be redirected into programmes to relieve absolute poverty in which an estimated 70 per cent of the Mozambican population is living.

The contract is for three years, but France hopes to follow it with further contracts until the entire debt ($95 million) is wiped out.

The funds released by this agreement will be channelled according to the priorities set forth in the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA).

Meanwhile, Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama on 28 November stated that his country has cancelled $150 million of Mozambique's bilateral debt.

Central Committee respects Chissano's decision

The Central Committee of Frelimo has accepted the decision announced by President Joaquim Chissano in May that he will not stand as the Frelimo presidential candidate in the 2004 elections.

A press release issued on 9 December at the end of a three day Central Committee meeting, declared that President Chissano's decision was "a gesture of great dignity and political wisdom, the gesture of a great statesman with a vision of the future for his people and for the country".

The Central Committee said it accepted "as its own" President Chissano's decision not to seek a further term of office.

There was pressure from within Frelimo for President Chissano to change his mind, expressed strongly at the Frelimo National Cadre Conference held in Beira in September. President Chissano's response was that he would only rethink his position if it could be proved that a substantial majority of the population - and not just of Frelimo - wanted him to run again.

The Central Committee meeting has put an end to this debate, and the Frelimo Eighth Congress, scheduled for June 2002, will have to decide the party's candidate for the 2004 elections.

Cholera raging in Zambezia

Cholera continues to rage in the central province of Zambezia, particularly in the provincial capital, Quelimane. The first cases in Quelimane were reported in October, and currently between 25 to 30 patients are being admitted to the local cholera ward every day.

The chief doctor in Quelimane, Leonardo Chavane, said 1,599 cases of cholera had been diagnosed in the city, 11 of whom had died. Cholera has been reported from 12 of the 17 Zambezia districts. In all, the province has recorded 3,543 cases of the disease, resulting in a known 48 deaths, which is a 1.3 per cent lethality rate.

Maputo city is another of the affected provinces, but here the health authorities describe the situation as relatively stable. In the capital, the health authorities have recorded, since the beginning of the year, 26 deaths from cholera, among the 3,434 cases notified.

Programme to support agricultural markets

The Mozambican government is to spend $26.6 million over the next seven years in the implementation of an Agricultural Markets Support Programme (PAMA). This is a programme established by the government, aiming at improving productivity and food security among peasant households by improving their market integration.

The bulk of the money, $22.8 million, has been granted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), while the remaining $3.8 million will come from the government.

The programme will be implemented gradually, and in the first stage it will benefit peasants in the northernmost provinces of Cabo Delgado and Niassa, and in Maputo province.

New production line for pasta

Mozambique's largest food processing company, the Companhia Industrial de Matola (CIM), on 7 December inaugurated a new production line for pasta, which will enable it to satisfy completely the national demand for spaghetti.

According to the CIM marketing director, Stephan Schafer, the line, using equipment manufactured in Italy, is the most modern anywhere in southern Africa. CIM has invested $2.5 million in the new line, which will produce more than 1,000 tonnes of spaghetti a month. Previously production was only 220 tonnes a month.

CIM was privatised in 1995, and is 90 per cent owned by private interests (South African, Mauritian and Mozambican". The Mozambican state has a residual holding of 10 per cent. Since privatisation the shareholders have invested $14 million, and sales rose from 36,000 tonnes in 1996 to 140,000 tonnes in 2000.

New national park created

The Mozambican government has elevated a game reserve in the southern province of Gaza, Coutada 16, to the status of a national park, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told reporters in Maputo on 29 November.

This new "Limpopo National Park" will be Mozambique's contribution to a gigantic cross-border park, which also includes the Gonarezhou Park in Zimbabwe, and the Kruger National Park in South Africa. Prime Minister Mocumbi stated that the official opening of the cross- border park has been delayed. He expected that it would open some time in the first half of 2002.

There are about 20,000 people living within the Limpopo National Park. They would be allowed to stay within the park boundaries, but no newcomers would be allowed to settle.

The Prime Minister also announced that the government has expanded the Bazaruto National Park. This was set up by the Portuguese colonial regime in 1971, but only covered three of the five islands in the Bazaruto archipelago, off the coast of Inhambane province.

The government has now expanded the park to cover the entire archipelago and the surrounding seas. These are the habitat for a rich variety of marine life, including turtles, dolphins, and one of the rarest of marine mammals, the dugong.

Chokwe development strategy

The Agriculture Ministry has presented for public debate a draft strategy for the development of the fertile district of Chokwe, in the southern province of Gaza.

This strategy aims at significant increases in agricultural and livestock production in the district in order to reduce reliance on neighbouring countries for agricultural produce. It also intends to take full advantage of the district's agricultural potential through the attraction of local and foreign public and private investment, using as a lynchpin the cultivation of rice.

Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia who chaired the presentation, and moderated the debate on the strategy on 13 December, said that, if interest in Chokwe continues, the district could within the next three years plant some 11,000 hectares of rice. 11,000 hectares could result in 40,000 to 50,000 tonnes of the crop.

Chokwe is home to the largest irrigation scheme in the country, covering some 22,000 hectares. But much of this area was swamped during the catastrophic floods on the Limpopo river in February 2000, and the irrigation infrastructure was ruined. However, half of the Chokwe irrigation area has subsequently been rehabilitated.

Muteia said it was fundamental that the roads linking the district to its main markets in Maputo be fully rehabilitated as well as the road across the Limpopo to Guija where water pumping infrastructure for the irrigation scheme is located. Second on the list of priorities would be the rehabilitation of access roads, he added.

Drawing up the strategy cost around half a million dollars, and was financed by the Portuguese state though its Portugal-Africa Foundation.

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