Mozambique News Agency

No.251, 10th April 2003


Mozambique vulnerable to natural disasters

Mozambique remains extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, which have possibly been worsened by global climate change, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi declared on 2 April. Speaking at the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Prime Minister Mocumbi warned that large-scale investment would be needed to prevent future disasters, as well as for relief work.

This is the second consecutive year of severe drought in much of southern and central Mozambique. In addition two major tropical storms have battered parts of the country. At the turn of the year, tropical depression Delphina struck Nampula, Zambezia and Cabo Delgado provinces. In early March cyclone Japhet rampaged across Inhambane, Sofala and Manica. The cyclone brought severe flooding to the Save river, inundating the two towns near the river's mouth, Nova Mambone and Machanga.

While the occurrence of droughts or cyclones could not be avoided, measures could be taken to mitigate their effects. Prime Minister Mocumbi said that, in the medium to long term, efforts would be made "to identify the factors of vulnerability in each area, so that we can then draw up structural solutions, including the building of new water storage infrastructures, coordinating better management of international river basins, and mapping zones of risk".

"Cyclical floods and droughts are not exogenous shocks to the economy. These are not occasional and entirely unpredictable events", he argued. "Economic models must take this reality into account. Each sector, and each province and district, must take into account the negative impact of these natural phenomena on their plans, by better preparing to mitigate their effects on the economy and on the life of the people".

"The battle against disasters is the task of us all - the government, civil society, deputies, private business, all of Mozambican society", said Mocumbi. "Only thus can we guarantee the normal and sustainable development of our country, and reduce the levels of absolute poverty that affects the majority of our population".

Detailed account of recent disasters given

In a detailed account of recent disasters, and the government's response, Public Works Minister Roberto White said that Delphina had cost the lives of 58 people - most of these victims had either drowned, or died when houses built of flimsy material collapsed. 300,000 people had been affected, over two thirds of them in Nampula province. Of these people, 63,000 still need urgent humanitarian assistance.

Delphina destroyed about 50,000 homes, White said. The storm swamped 23,000 hectares of crops, and uprooted over 28,000 cashew trees. 10 bridges were destroyed, and 18 roads in Nampula were temporarily impassable. The railway from the port of Nacala to Malawi was impassable for about a month. Losses to the rail and port company CFM because of this stoppage are now put at $3.5 million.

Delphina also destroyed 496 classrooms, and damaged a further 240. Six Nampula health units were destroyed, and four others damaged. Four electricity pylons on the line from the Cahora Bassa dam were knocked down, depriving much of Nampula of power for a fortnight.

As for cyclone Japhet, White put the death toll at 17, with 74,000 people affected. 15,800 homes were destroyed, and 23,400 hectares of crops were lost. 577 classrooms were destroyed, mostly in Inhambane province.

Flooding on the Muari and Ripembe rivers, in Sofala, led to cuts in the country's main north-south highway. At the height of these floods, the water covering the main road was 1.5 metres deep along a three kilometre stretch.

White blamed the drought in southern Mozambique on the El Nino weather phenomenon (the warming of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean). Six southern African countries are affected by the drought, with a total of 15 million people at risk. White said that 655,000 of these were Mozambicans, living in 57 drought affected districts.

Between May 2002 and February 2003, the government had distributed about 31,000 tonnes of food to drought victims - or less than half the 70,000 tonnes estimated as the needs for the years May 2002-April 2003.

White said that this effort, mainly through the "Food for Work" programme, was combined with activity to produce vegetables and drought resistant crops.

$300,000 had been made available to drill 60 new wells and boreholes in central Mozambique, White added, and contractors were being hired to start the work. A further $250,000 was being negotiated for similar work in the southern provinces.

White pledged that the government will continue its efforts to normalise the areas hit by Delphina and Japhet, particularly by repairing access roads and river crossings "to restore accessibility to all areas".

Situation in Beira normalises amid fear of epidemics

The municipal authorities in the city of Beira say that the situation is gradually returning to normal after the flooding of several city neighbourhoods, caused by heavy rains, but there are also fears of the spread of disease.

The torrential rain hit the city between 26 and 28 March caused at least three deaths and left about 15,000 people homeless. The rain was measured at 106 millimetres on 26 March and 162 over the next two days. At the height of the storm the water was about a meter deep in the streets and homes in some of Beira suburbs.

According to "Noticias" on 3 April, the Beira health authorities have announced an increase in the number of cases of cholera, which they blame on the fact that wells and latrines were swamped by the floods and water supplies have become contaminated. Municipal official Jacob Maite said that the people displaced by the floods are gradually returning to their abandoned residences as the flood waters subside.

The municipal authorities hope that those people will heed the warning to occupy the plots identified in safer areas, and that are to be allocated to them in the next few days.

The municipal structures, in coordination with the Mozambican relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC) hoped to complete on 2 April the assessment of the number of potential beneficiaries of emergency assistance. A preliminary assessment was that about 15,000 people had been affected.

Italy supports fight against cholera

The Italian government, through its cooperation agency, has granted $700,000 worth of equipment and medicines for 40 Cholera Treatment Centres (CTC) in various provinces in Mozambique, as part of "Cholera Emergency-2002".

The agency has acquired 100 tents, at a cost of $140,000, to be distributed to provincial health directorates to serve as cholera treatment centres, three water purifying mobile machines, three pick up trucks for the transport of medicines and of those machines to wherever they are needed.

The equipment is to benefit Sofala province in the centre of the country, and Nampula and Cabo Delgado in the north. According to the manager of the Italian Cooperation programme in Mozambique, Luisa da Barca Petris, the tents are for setting up CTCs, particularly in the rural areas.

Besides these resources, the Italian cooperation agency has also granted $60,000 for the provincial health directorates to acquire medicines and other materials, and also to finance civic education campaigns on cholera awareness.

For these campaigns, the Italian agency has been also carrying out a mobile cinema project, named "Cinemarena", that covered several districts in Sofala and Manica provinces. Because of its proven good results, this is set to be extended to southern provinces of Inhambane, Gaza, and Maputo.

In the context of "Cholera Emergency-2002", the Italian agency is also rehabilitating and re-equipping the CTC of Mavalane general Hospital in Maputo, the sole cholera treatment centre that, so far, has been serving Maputo and the adjoining city of Matola.

Economic growth lower than expected

Mozambique's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew much less than expected in 2002, according to the Council of Ministers which puts the final figures for last year's growth rate at eight percent.

This is less than the provisional figure given in December by Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. He had announced that a final growth rate for the year of 12 per cent was expected.

Accumulated inflation from January to December was 9.1 per cent, and the country's currency, the metical, had devalued by 2.3 per cent against the US dollar over the year. Export earnings for 2002 were $680 million.

The drought hitting southern and central Mozambique affected a total of 48 districts in 2002, causing the loss of 84,000 hectares of crops, and plunging over half a million people into a situation of food insecurity.

MOZAL expansion produces first ingots

The shareholders in the MOZAL aluminium smelter, on the outskirts of Maputo, have announced that the extension to the smelter produced its first ingots on 7 April. The British company BHP-Billiton, speaking on behalf of all the shareholders, announced that this first metal was produced five months ahead of schedule.

The speed with which the smelter extension has come into production also means substantial savings. BHP-Billiton thought the final cost of the extension will be much less than the $850 million initially budgeted. BHP-Billiton said that 60 Mozambican companies were involved in the project, and that, as a result, $80 million was spent locally.

The construction team worked 14.6 million man-hours, and recorded a figure of three million continuous man-hours without any accidents that caused interruption to the work.

The chairman of the aluminium division of BHP-Billiton, Mike Salomon, said that "as has happened before with the other BHP- Billiton aluminium projects in southern Africa, the MOZAL expansion surpassed both the time and the financial targets".

The expansion doubles MOZAL's capacity from 253,000 to 506,000 tonnes of aluminium ingots per year.

The other MOZAL shareholders are Mitsubishi of Japan, the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa, and the Mozambican state.

Frelimo election candidates not yet chosen

Armando Guebuza, General Secretary of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party, told reporters on 5 April that Frelimo has not yet chosen its candidates for the local elections due to be held on 28 October.

"Our party's statutes stipulate that the candidates must be chosen through internal elections", he said. "Those internal elections will be held shortly, now that the date of the local elections has been published. Now we shall begin to work for the election of our candidates".

Guebuza said that Mozambican citizens would face a wider choice of candidates than was the case in the first municipal elections in 1998, which were boycotted by the former rebel movement Renamo, and by most other opposition parties.

But he believed the fact that Frelimo has been in power for the past five years in all 33 municipalities would be an advantage. This experience "will prove important", he said, "since we shall be able to present the voters with programmes that respond better to their needs".

Guebuza was speaking at Maputo International Airport shortly after returning from a trip to Italy and Britain. He described his discussions in Rome and London as "fruitful".

"I had important contacts with members of governments, parliamentarians and party leaders to whom I transmitted the message that Mozambique remains committed to the development and expansion of democracy, and also to attracting investment so that we can fight against absolute poverty", he added.

Voter registration to cost $22 million

Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) has estimated the cost of updating the electoral registers ahead of this year's local elections at $22 million.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference on 4 April, CNE spokesman Filipe Mandlate said the CNE had put two scenarios before the government. One envisaged updating the electoral registers throughout the country, and the second only in the 33 cities and towns where the municipal elections will be held.

The second option is certainly much cheaper - it would only cost $12 million. But it happens to be illegal. Under the law on voter registration the registers should be updated, nationally, every year.

The government, Mandlate said, has thus opted to spend $22 million on a full update. Since 1994 Mozambican law has envisaged the annual updating of the registers, removing the names of those who have died, adding those who have reached voting age (18), and switching from one register to another those who have changed address.

In fact, this regular, methodical updating has never happened. The entire electorate was registered in 1994, ahead of the first multi-party elections, held in October that year. The registers were not touched again until late 1997, when they were updated with the 1998 local elections in mind. It was then discovered that many of the registers had been badly conserved: water, rats and insects had damaged many of them, and some had gone missing.

Thus the entire electorate had to be re-registered in 1999, for the second presidential and parliamentary elections. This time the data were all carefully computerised. But there was no follow-up: largely because Renamo refused to appoint its members to a new CNE set up in 2000, there was no functioning electoral commission, and so nobody to supervise updating the registers.

Now the government has opted to obey the law, and see to it that updating the registers becomes a routine activity. Mandlate said that, by carrying out a nationwide exercise this year, the government hoped to simplify considerably next year's update of the registers, ahead of the third multi-party general elections.

The $22 million estimated by the CNE is not a definitive figure. Mandlate said the figures are currently being revised downwards: it was hoped to cut the cost of transport and computer equipment by borrowing resources belonging to other state departments.

Mandlate said it is thought that the updating will add about 2.5 million names to the registers. These are people who have turned 18 since 1999, or who, for whatever reason, did not register that year. In addition, people who have lost their voting cards will be able to apply for new ones. This problem affects a large number of citizens who lost all their possessions in the floods of 2000 and 2001. Mandlate promised that special attention will be paid to the flood victims.

Once again, Mozambicans living abroad will not be registered. The CNE had decided that "the technical and material conditions" for registering the emigrants do not yet exist. This is a concession to Renamo which has always denied voting rights to Mozambican emigrants.

Mandlate confirmed that the CNE has decided that the restructuring of its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), will be gradual, and that the jobs of the top STAE management will not be advertised before the municipal elections of 28 October.

He said the current priority is to structure STAE at district level. There exist provincial offices of STAE, but so far no district ones.

Mandlate also urged the two major parties, Frelimo and Renamo, to appoint their members to the provincial election commissions, so that these bodies could begin working. Each of the 11 provincial commissions consists of five members appointed by Frelimo, three by Renamo, and an independent chairperson chosen by civil society.

Matola assembly discusses rubbish collection

The Municipal Assembly in the southern city of Matola on 4 April passed a resolution instructing the City Council to use all the revenue raised through the garbage collection fee, on activities to improve the Matola environment, and particularly the rubbish collection services.

The resolution, passed unanimously, also authorised the City Council to treat the city cleaning services as an autonomous unit. The idea is to improve garbage collection, by ensuring that the fees citizens pay for this service cannot be diverted to other items of municipal expenditure. Currently, garbage collection services only exist in the modern, cement part of Matola. The Assembly urged the council to establish means of extending garbage collection into the poorer, outlying suburbs.

The city councillor for infrastructures and the environment, Pedro Bambo, told AIM that improving rubbish collection would have to involve partnerships with other private and public institutions, since the money obtained through the garbage collection fee is "insignificant". He put the money raised at between 290 and 300 million meticais (about $12,500) a month. The fee is only 15,000 meticais per household per month, a sum that Bambo regarded as derisory. Furthermore the fee is only charged to those households who benefit from electricity.

Bambo was not impressed by the resolution from the Municipal Assembly, since the measure it proposed is, in practice, already in place. Indeed, not only has all the money raised through the garbage fee been spent on the garbage collection services, but money raised under other headings has gone towards this service, he said.

Bambo complained that Matola council is desperately short of garbage removal equipment. He said the council needs at least seven garbage collection trucks (four of them with compacting equipment), but it currently only has two, one of which it is hiring from the private company Neoquimica.

Promise of $70 million port investment

The Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC), which is taking over the management of Maputo Port on a 15 year lease, on 27 March reiterated that it will invest around $70 million in rehabilitating and modernising port infrastructures over the next three years.

The MPDC Chief Executive Officer, Alec Don, told a Maputo press conference that new equipment will be brought in, including tugs, mobile cranes and other cargo handling equipment. Investment will also be made in dredging, port security, information technology and staff training.

He stressed that a new access road will be built into the western end of the port, providing a direct connection onto the Maputo-South Africa road, and onto Mozambique's main north-south highway. This access road is to be entirely funded by Mozambique's publicly-owned port and rail company, CFM.

Transport Minister Tomas Salomao said "concluding the lease on the port is a great gain for Mozambique and for the region. Concluding this project shows that Mozambique is an attractive market for inward investment, and can form strong and creative partnerships with major private sector investors, which will benefit the development of the Mozambican and southern African economies".

He hoped that the private sector participants in the MPDC consortium would have sufficient skill "to carry through the project successfully so that Maputo can compete with the nearby ports".

Salomao said that currently the port is handling about four million tonnes of cargo a year. With modernisation, he hoped that it would return to the figures of 1973, when Maputo was handling 15 million tonnes of cargo a year.

MPDC has already paid the Mozambican state $5 million for the lease. Over the next five years it is to pay a fixed rent of $5 million a year, plus a fee of 10 per cent of gross port revenue. In years six to ten, the variable fee rises to 12.5 per cent of gross revenue, and in years 11 to 15 to 15 per cent.

51 per cent of the shares of MPDC are in the hands of a private sector consortium headed by the British Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, and also including Skanska of Sweden and Liscont of Portugal. 33 per cent of the shares are owned by CFM, and the remaining 16 per cent by the Mozambican government. MPDC will take over full responsibility for port operations as from one minute past midnight on 14 April.

Further Danish support for agricultural sector

Mozambique and Denmark signed in Maputo on 31 March a memorandum of understanding for further cooperation in the area of agriculture, particularly for the National Agriculture Development Programme (PROAGRI).

The Danish programme to support Mozambican agriculture is budgeted at 278 million Danish Crowns (about $79 million) to be used over the 2000-2004 period.

PROAGRI is, by far, the largest beneficiary, with 129 million Crowns, to be invested in Tete and Manica and Cabo Delgado provinces, in the institutional development of the Agriculture Ministry itself, and in central level activities related to production and research.

56 million Crowns is being spent on road rehabilitation in rural Tete and Manica, while another 40 million are earmarked for supporting the private sector in agriculture. The rest of the Danish money is to cover studies and programme management, among other areas.

The memorandum was signed by Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia and the Danish Ambassador, Thomas Schjerbeck.

President Chissano authorises troops for Burundi

President Joaquim Chissano has issued a dispatch authorising the participation of a company from the Mozambican Defence Force (FADM) in the African force that will supervise implementation of the cease-fire agreement in Burundi.

President Chissano's dispatch says that Mozambique feels an obligation to participate "considering the objectives of the African Union in building peace and stability on the continent, and the fact that Mozambique currently chairs the SADC organ for cooperation in politics, defence and security, and will take over the chairmanship of the African Union in 2003".

No date has yet been fixed for the departure of the Mozambican unit. Initially the African peace-keeping force will stay in Burundi for 12 months: any extension will depend on an assessment of the situation on the ground.

Mozambique's previous experience of peace-keeping missions has been with military observers rather than with entire units of troops. Thus Mozambican military observers have operated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in East Timor. The other members of the African force for Burundi are South Africa and Ethiopia.

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