Mozambique News Agency

No.246, 15th January 2003


President Chissano delivers end of year message

Despite the drought that hit southern and central Mozambique this year, Mozambique recorded "advances in the struggle against hunger, illness, underdevelopment and misery", declared President Joaquim Chissano in his end of year message to the nation on 31 December.

President Chissano said that Mozambique's Gross Domestic Product had grown at a rate of 12 per cent in 2002, and that inflation and the depreciation of the national currency, the metical, are now "under control".

The grain crop this year had reached 1.7 million tonnes, he said, and the national cattle herd now stood at 750,000 head - twice the number of cattle that Mozambique had possessed at the end of the war of destabilisation in 1992.

"The production of cotton, sugar cane, sunflower, tea, and other cash crops, is reaching high levels, putting more cash into the hands of peasant farmers, increasing employment, and exports and contributing decisively to the growth of our economy", said the President. The rehabilitated sugar industry alone had created 27,000 jobs throughout the country.

The clothing industry "after a long period of lethargy", was once again putting items of clothing manufactured in Mozambique on the international market, the President added.

He noted the advance of heavy industry, as the second phase of the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo nears completion. Other major investments under way include the gas pipeline from Inhambane to South Africa, and the mineral sands projects at Chibuto in Gaza province, and Moma in Nampula.

But President Chissano passed over in silence those sectors of the economy that are in crisis. There was not a word in his speech about the destruction of the cashew processing industry. Nor did he have anything to say about the collapse of the textile industry, or the threat that the vegetable oil industry, threatened with cheap contraband oil, may be pushed into bankruptcy.

The President also noted advances in consolidating democracy and the rule of law. Efforts were being made "to consolidate the role of the courts as just, impartial and independent interpreters of the law". In particular, the country "is following, attentively and critically, the unfolding of the trial in the case of the murder of Carlos Cardoso. For the first time in independent Mozambique, the courts are attracting, in a dramatic, intense and passionate fashion, the attention of the entire people".

President Chissano said that those on trial before Judge Augusto Paulino and the Maputo City Court "are not only the murderers of Carlos Cardoso and their accomplices, but also the integrity, competence and professionalism of the men and women who form the sovereign judicial branch of state power, and the trust and credibility that they inspire among the people".

President Chissano said the fact that 60 per cent of the Mozambican population still lives in absolute poverty "is unacceptable. It violates our conscience and creates instability in our society". Reducing, and eventually eliminating, poverty "has been at the centre of our concerns", he said, stressing that agricultural development was the speediest and most effective way of implementing the government's Programme for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA).

He warned of the imperative of "winning the battle against HIV/AIDS". President Chissano pointed out that Mozambique is among the ten countries worst hit by the AIDS pandemic. Current estimates are that, at the end of 2002, over 1.5 million Mozambicans are infected by HIV, of whom 98,000 are suffering from full-blown AIDS. He put the AIDS death toll so far at 200,000, and said that 300,000 children have been orphaned by the disease.

Anti-retroviral drugs, which prolong the lives of those infected with HIV, are now available. But President Chissano warned that these drugs "are just a panacea, While this disease remains incurable, the most viable treatment is prevention". He called for "multiplication and diversification of prevention campaigns", to get the message across, particularly to young Mozambicans.

For 2003, "We have the will to win, and many tasks to undertake", said President Chissano. "We want to make our country a pleasant and agreeable place where, in a sustainable fashion, life in peace, security, stability, harmony and development is a reality". That would only be possible through "organised, coordinated and productive work", he insisted, "through the joint and complementary efforts of the private and public sectors".

Local elections to cost $25 million

The 2003 municipal elections will cost around $25 million, according to estimates from the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service.

Interviewed in "Noticias" on 1 January, STAE general director Antonio Carrasco said this sum covers updating the electoral registers, voter education, the training of electoral staff, and the materials and logistics for the voting itself.

He stressed that this budget is based on an assumption that no new municipalities will be created, and that the elections will only take place in the 33 cities and towns that already have the status of local authorities.

He warned that the budget does not yet include any funds for a second round of voting. Second rounds will be necessary in any municipality where no candidate for mayor wins over 50 per cent of the vote on the first round.

Carrasco said the municipal elections will have to be held in the second half of 2003. During the first six months staff will be trained. He estimated the total number of electoral staff involved at 70,000.

STAE has drawn up a detailed timetable for the electoral preparations - but cannot implement it without the go-ahead of the National Elections Commission (CNE), the political body that is in overall charge of elections. The problem is that the CNE does not yet exist. Eighteen of its members have been elected by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic (10 appointed by the majority Frelimo Party, and eight by the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition). But the 19th, the chairperson, is to be an independent figure chosen by civil society.

Summing up in Cardoso murder trial

The Maputo city court has set 31 January as the date for verdict and sentencing in the case of the murder of Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso. Judge Augusto Paulino set the date on 13 January after listening to the summing up from prosecution and defence lawyers, and final statements from the accused themselves.

Judge Paulino stressed that the only people on trial are the five men in the dock - plus the fugitive, Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), who was illicitly released from the Maputo top security jail on 1 September. The judge was thus alerting the public that, although accusations have been made against several other people, notably businessman Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano, they are not on trial, and can thus neither be found guilty nor acquitted.

Prosecution demands maximum sentence

Giving his summing up, public prosecutor Mourao Baluce said that the guilt of all six men had been proven during the trial, which began before the Maputo City Court on 18 November.

He demanded the maximum sentence for first degree murder (a 24 year jail term) not only for the three members of the death squad - Carlitos Rashid Cassamo, Manuel Fernandes, and the fugitive Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho") - but also for the three men charged with ordering the killing, Ayob Abdul Satar, owner of the Unicambios foreign exchange bureau, his brother, the notorious loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), and former bank manager Vicente Ramaya.

Baluce said that the murder had been plotted in a series of conspiratorial meetings in a room at the Rovuma Hotel, as from July 2000. Anibalzinho, Nini Satar, Ayob Satar and Ramaya all took part in one or more of those meetings.

Baluce argued that the initial purpose of the meetings was to assess why the November 1999 attempt on the life of Albano Silva, the lawyer for what was then the country's largest bank, the BCM, had failed, and to plot a further assassination attempt. But the plan to murder Silva was shelved, in favour of eliminating Cardoso first.

The motive cited by Baluce was the 1996 fraud, in which 144 billion meticais ($14 million at the exchange rate of the time) was stolen from the BCM. The fraud took place at Ramaya's BCM branch, using fraudulent accounts opened in the names of members of the Abdul Satar family.

Silva had been pursuing this case relentlessly, and Cardoso had been writing about it. "Carlos Cardoso was a serious, incorruptible, investigative journalist who would not allow the BCM case to be forgotten", said Baluce. "His work inconvenienced the criminals." Cardoso was the main problem for those who defrauded the bank - for they could be sure that, if they murdered Silva first, then Cardoso would not rest until they had been brought to justice. Baluce pointed out that the difference between the activities of a lawyer and of a journalist ensured that "Carlos Cardoso's work came to the work of many more people than those aware of Albano Silva's procedural battles".

The Satars and Ramaya had attempted to present themselves as legitimate businessmen, but Cardoso "exposed the false nature of this public image".

The major problem for the prosecution has been that a key witness, Osvaldo Muianga ("Dudu"), who claims to have been present at the Rovuma meetings, has changed his story several times. The defence has tried to discredit him, and claims that the meetings are a figment of his imagination.

Baluce argued that the instability of Muianga's story was due to the pressures put upon him and his family by some of the defendants and their relatives. Throughout the trial, the court has heard of how the Satar family threatened, cajoled and bribed witnesses. These tactics were successful, in that Muianga's mother, Fatima Razaco, persuaded him to retract his original statements in February 2002. But later in the year, he retracted the retraction.

A final version, told on the witness stand, was that the Rovuma meetings had taken place, but had solely discussed murdering Albano Silva, and had not mentioned Cardoso.

Baluce argued that Muianga had been telling the truth in his initial statement. He noted that the defence made much of the fact that Muianga claimed the meetings had happened in rooms 105 or 106 - when there are no rooms with those numbers in the Rovuma.

He pointed out that "initially Dudu said he didn't know the room numbers. Only after pressure did he mention numbers 105 and 106. He probably took the lift to the bar, and then went into a room on the first floor after the bar".

As for the defence's objection to Muianga, and to several other witnesses, because they have been charged with other crimes, Baluce remarked "the same can be said of the defendants".

He noted that Ramaya's wife and the sisters of Ayob and Nini Satar were among those who had tried to bribe witnesses. "Can innocence be purchased?", he asked. "Innocent people cooperate with the court, and do not lie. Innocent people do not need to spend vast sums of money to buy their innocence".

Baluce warned that, if the defendants are allowed to go free "they will continue their criminal activities", and demanded "exemplary punishment" by the maximum limits envisaged by the law.

Family's lawyer sums up

Carlos Cardoso was murdered "because he was a journalist who denounced abuses, who did not shut up, who would not forget any matter, who insisted on following what he regarded as most important, and who would not allow any of the illegalities he had written about to fall into oblivion", declared the Cardoso family lawyer, Lucinda Cruz, on Monday.

Presenting the summing up of the private prosecution in the Cardoso murder trial, Cruz said that, for those affected by his writings, "Carlos Cardoso was a pain, he was obstinate, he was really inconvenient. The only way for any criminal to go on practising crimes with impunity was to silence Carlos Cardoso. And the only way to silence Carlos Cardoso was to kill him".

But for three of the accused, the members of the death squad, Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), Manuel Fernandes and Carlitos Rashid, the motive was not political: they killed because they were paid to do so. She expressed revulsion at the behaviour of the confessed assassins, Rashid and Fernandes, "who have come into this room countless times, laughing and very pleased with themselves, as if taking a human life had not the slightest importance".

For those charged with ordering the murder - Ayob Abdul Satar, Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), and Vicente Ramaya - Cruz had no doubt that the main motive for the crime was the fraud which had seen 144 billion meticais syphoned out of the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM).

Cruz stressed that the Cardoso family did not rule out other motives and other people who may also have ordered the killing. "For the assassination of a person such as Carlos Cardoso, there need not be just one motive", she stressed.

The accusations made in court against other people - notably against Nyimpine Chissano - "deserve to be investigated seriously", said Cruz. "But these accusations were made late. This means that Nyimpine Chissano is the subject of a separate case file, which has not yet come to trial, and so he can neither be sentenced nor acquitted here".

Civil society and the mass media, she urged, should ensure that the accusations against Nyimpine Chissano and several others "are not forgotten, and that this case does not join the heap of other cases that have ground to a halt in the various stages of criminal investigation".

Cruz noted that the defence lawyers had often criticised the poor police work in investigating the murder. She agreed with them - in fact, it had been Cardoso's family and friends who were the first "to denounce the apathy and incapacity of our police.

In the more than 5,000 pages in this case file, there are countless examples of obstructing justice and of failure to cooperate with the judicial system".

She believed that there was now enough evidence, as a result of the investigations and trial, to open over a hundred new cases, "concerning crimes and illegalities committed by public and private institutions, and by individuals". Again, it would be up to civil society to oblige the public prosecutor's office to take its job seriously, and pursue all these cases.

Despite his physical absence, this trial, broadcast live on Mozambican radio and television, "could be regarded as the last and greatest report of the journalist Carlos Cardoso. At this trial, a vast number of crimes have been denounced before all of us, including money-laundering, usury, the illegal transfer of foreign exchange, car thefts, bank frauds, trafficking in influence, illegal loans, and corruption in its most varied forms, including corrupt relations between police officers and prisoners".

"The live broadcasts of this trial have achieved what Carlos Cardoso was unable to do while alive", Cruz added. "It has carried his voice to the most remote parts of Mozambique. And it has made us aware that we were losing the moral values that are universally recognised, regardless of political regime or religious creed".

Defence lawyers sum up

Lawyers for the defendants urged the Court to acquit their clients, or, in the cases of those who confessed to the assassination, to show clemency in the light of "mitigating circumstances".

Portuguese lawyer Eduardo Jorge, representing the loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini") admitted his client's character defects - Nini, he said, was indeed arrogant, loved money, and had committed usury. But if he was as powerful, and influential as some people claimed "then how come he is in prison and not outside?"

Jorge had to face the awkward fact that last year Nini Satar had tried to involve the judge, Augusto Paulino, and senior police officers, including Antonio Frangoulis, former head of the Maputo Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), in an alleged conspiracy to extort a million dollars from him. "Nini erred - out of despair - when he went after the judge and the police officers", said Jorge. "Did he do it on purpose? I don't think so".

He claimed that the prosecution had produced "no serious evidence" that his client had ordered the murder of Cardoso. It was true that he had made payments to the man who recruited the death squad, the fugitive Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho") - but he had claimed not to know what these payments were for, and the prosecution had not proved otherwise, Jorge said.

Domingos Arouca, lawyer for Nini's brother, Ayob Abdul Satar, claimed that Ayob's company, the foreign exchange bureau Unicambios, "never made illicit payments". The post-dated cheques for 1.29 billion meticais (over $50,000) shown to the court "are a personal deal between Nini and Nyimpine Chissano (oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano). They are not in the name of Unicambios, and Nyimpine said he doesn't even know Ayob. At no time did Nini inform Ayob of these payments".

Simeao Cuamba, lawyer for Anibalzinho, and for one of the confessed assassins, Manuel Fernandes, claimed that there was no attempted murder of Cardoso's driver, Carlos Manjate, because the bullet that struck him in the head was not intended for him.

Abdul Gani, lawyer for Vicente Ramaya, seemed the only one who had taken the trouble to read Cardoso's work thoroughly. The fraud at the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), where Ramaya had been a branch manager, and which involved the theft of 144 billion meticais could not have been the motive for the murder, because Cardoso had written much more about other subjects, Gani claimed.

He had counted five articles or editorials on the BCM in "Metical" in 1999, and 20 in 2000, prior to Cardoso's death. But in the same period there had been 59 articles on the cashew processing industry. There had been 32 articles on the introduction of Value Added Tax (to which Cardoso was opposed) in 1999, and there had been 37 articles on the customs service in 2000. Ergo, the BCM was not a key issue.

The defence lawyers tried hard to discredit key defence witnesses, particularly Osvaldo Muianga ("Dudu"), who had testified to meetings in the Rovuma hotel, attended by Anibalzinho, the Satar brothers and Ramaya, at which murder was planned.

Arouca claimed that Muianga was so distinctive (a very short man wearing moslem clothes) that the hotel staff would have recognised him if he had really been to the Rovuma.

Samuel Valentim, lawyer for Carlitos Rashid, the man who admits firing the shots that took Cardoso's life, had the easiest task. He merely asked the court to take account of his "free and spontaneous confession" as a mitigating circumstance. He claimed that Rashid committed the crime because of his poverty (he was having difficulty paying the rent on his house) and because of "bad company" such as Anibalzinho.

Inflation returns to low levels

After two "abnormal" years, due to the floods of 2000 and 2001, inflation in Mozambique has returned to the relatively low levels of 1999, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 16 December.

Struggling to make himself heard above the din of opposition deputies blowing whistles and hooters, and thumping on the tables with their shoes and with any other object that came to hand, Prime Minister Mocumbi said that inflation from January to November this year was six per cent - or about three percentage points lower than for the same period in 2001.

The Mozambican currency, the metical, had been stable during the year, devaluing by only 3.4 per cent against the US dollar and 3.8 per cent against the South African rand between January and October. The Prime Minister said this stability was comparable with 1999, and he attributed it "to the increase in the supply of foreign currency generated by exports, and the continued support of the donor community to our balance of payments".

Despite the drought that hit much of southern and central Mozambique, the government estimates that agricultural production has risen by eight per cent this year.

Prime Minister Mocumbi put the growth in manufacturing industry this year at six per cent, and the growth in the production of electricity at 19 per cent. This was a result partly of growing industrial production, and partly of rural electrification. The capitals of ten rural districts were electrified in 2002, said Mocumbi.

But easily the biggest growth in 2002 was in the construction sector. Here the expansion was 108 per cent. The Prime Minister said this was due to the rebuilding of roads and other infrastructures destroyed in the floods of 2000 and 2001, and also to mega-projects such as the second phase of the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo, and the gas pipeline from Inhambane province to South Africa.

Almost no growth at all is expected in the fisheries sector, due largely to measures to conserve stocks of prawns, Mozambique's main fisheries export product.

Outlining the government's plan for 2003, Mocumbi said the target was for a GDP growth rate of seven per cent, and for continued low inflation. He added that the government intended "to continue establishing conditions that make investing in Mozambique attractive, while ensuring correct management of the environment".

Contingency plan presented

The government's Disaster Management Coordinating Council on 10 January presented its contingency plan for the 2002/03 agricultural year, which envisages expenditure of up to $46 million for activities intended to minimise the effects of natural disasters.

Addressing representatives of the donor community and of civil society, the director of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), Silvano Langa, stressed that the main problem facing the country remains drought over much of central and southern Mozambique.

Currently an estimated 587,000 people are in need of food aid because of the failure of last year's rains. Continuing drought is liable to increase the number of people at risk to 1.4 million.

The southern provinces of Inhambane, Gaza and Maputo, and the western province of Tete are the areas most vulnerable to drought. But there are also pockets of droughts in parts of the northern provinces of Nampula and Cabo Delgado, made worse by the brown streak disease that has hit the cassava crop, the main staple food in this part of Mozambique.

Coping with drought will absorb most of the resources under the contingency plan. Drought mitigation measures are budgeted at more than $32 million. Measures to deal with possible cyclones are costed at $9 million, and flood mitigation efforts at $4.8 million.

The current drama in Nampula, and the neighbouring province of Zambezia, where thousands of people have lost their homes, was caused by the torrential rains brought by tropical depression "Delfina" a week ago. Langa said that efforts are under way to provide tents, blankets, food and medicine for the victims.

The government has now made a further billion meticais ($42,000) available for health requirements in Zambezia and Nampula, in the wake of "Delfina", with the greater part allocated to Nampula.

According to deputy national health director, Avertino Barreto, this is the province most at risk of epidemics of diseases such as cholera, particular because rains and mudslides have destroyed much of the drinking water systems in urban centres in Nampula.

Storm damage

The number of deaths in Nampula province caused by "Delfina" stands at six. Four of these deaths occurred in the coastal town of Angoche, one in Nametil and one in Nampula city.

The disaster has affected directly about 100,000 people, who now need urgent humanitarian assistance. This is on top of the 80-100,000 people who were already facing food shortages before the storm struck. Ironically these shortages were caused by drought in the coastal districts of Nampula.

Between two and three thousand hectares of crops (mainly cassava and beans) were swamped by "Delfina". Large numbers of livestock are missing, and many cashew trees, and other trees that can provide farmers with income, were submerged or uprooted.

Over 20 bridges, of various sizes, collapsed, thus cutting off Nampula city from much of the rest of the province, and of the country. However, emergency rehabilitation work on the bridge over the Meluli river made it possible to reopen the main road south, and the 100 or so vehicles that had been trapped on the banks of the river could finally continue their journey.

Assembly closes early due to Renamo disruption

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, closed its last sitting of the year on 17 December, two days early, in the midst of uproar, as the deputies of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition made every effort to sabotage proceedings.

This was the fifth day running that Renamo's contribution to the debates has consisted of blowing on whistles and hooters, banging on the tables and chanting slogans.

Renamo posters displayed during the near riot read: "Mulembue (Eduardo Mulembue, the chairperson of the Assembly) we want our five seats". The five seats concerned belong to Raul Domingos, Rashid Tayob, Jose Lopes, Almeida Tambara and Chico Francisco - deputies who have all left or been expelled from Renamo.

Renamo demands that, since they were elected to parliament on a Renamo ticket, they must now give up their seats. The majority Frelimo Party has argued that there is no legal basis for this demand: nothing in the law obliges a deputy to resign from parliament just because he is no longer in good standing with his political party.

Renamo presented a motion demanding the replacement of the five deputies, it was duly defeated, but Renamo is now trying to impose its will by making it impossible for the Assembly to function normally.

The Assembly should have been debating the government's plan and budget for 2003. These documents were presented and passed their first reading on 16 December. But no debate was possible with Renamo continually banging on the tables, and so the second reading became the Frelimo benches simply passing without discussion the plan and budget.

It took less than 20 minutes for Mulembue to go through the two documents, article by article, asking if there were any objections, with the Frelimo deputies responding each time "It passes! It passes!"

The documents were passed by 128 votes to zero, since the Renamo deputies refused to take part in the vote.

Mulembue then called for a half hour interval. But, as has become habitual, the interval dragged on for two and a half hours. He then returned to the plenary simply to announce the end of the plenary.

Eduardo Mulembue described the chaotic events in the Assembly as "a sad ending to this sitting" At a brief speech at the close of the sitting, Mulembue called on the deputies to remember that they were "elected by the people, and to serve the people".

"It is sad that our people cannot have what they elected you for", said Mulembue, lamenting the opposition's behaviour in parliament over the past week.

According to commentators, Renamo sabotage, Mulembue's lax chairing, and the habitual lethargy of the Assembly meant that much of the agenda for the sitting was not discussed, with only 13 out of 30 agenda points debated. Among the important issues not debated were a new family law, alterations to the antiquated penal procedural code, and bills on class action, and on the status of the opposition.

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