Mozambique News Agency

No.257, 14th July 2003


President Chissano closes AU summit

Addressing the closing session of the African Union summit in Maputo on 12 July, President Joaquim Chissano described the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) as "the motive and guiding force for the development of Africa". He said that NEPAD started from the assumption "that it is we Africans who have the task of leading this process".

President Chissano stressed the importance of the NEPAD voluntary Peer Review Mechanism, and urged all AU member states to sign up for it. The Mechanism is supposed to be a means of checking progress in democracy and good governance.

He said that the summit had approved the structure of the AU Commission, which "meets our aspirations for an African Union resting on a modern, operational and sustainable structure, endowed with highly qualified human resources". Vacancies in the new structure of the Commission should be filled by "the best cadres of our countries". However, financial constraints meant that recruiting for the over 700 jobs involved would have to be undertaken on a gradual basis.

The Second Summit of the African Union opened on 4 July, with the AU heads of state meeting from 10 to 12 July. The summit was unanimous in declaring peace and stability as "basic conditions for ensuring the harmonious and sustainable development of Africa", President Chissano stressed. "We have the great mission of finding a lasting solution to the tensions and conflicts which still prevail in our continent, if we want to transform Africa into a region that attracts investment, and to implement NEPAD activities successfully".

He pledged that, in the 12 months during which he will be the chairman of the AU, he will "act with a high sense of responsibility, and do my best to ensure implementation of the principles and objectives enshrined in the Constitutive Act of the Union".

President Chissano said he intended "to establish close relations with each and every member state of the African Union so that the decisions we take are put into practice successfully".

AU Commissioners sworn into office

President Joaquim Chissano on 12 July swore into office the Chairman of the AU Commission, former Malian president Alpha Konare, and the Deputy Chairperson, Patrick Mazinhaka, who is a former Rwandan minister.

The oath of office commits Commission members to placing the interests of the union before all else - including any instructions they may receive from their own countries. They swear they will not take orders from any member state of the union, or from any outside body.

Three of the other eight Commissioners were present in the conference chamber and also took the oath of office - they were the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Said Djinnit (Algeria), the Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Elizabeth Tankeu (Cameroon), and the Commissioner for Infrastructures and Energy, Bernard Zoba (Congo-Brazzaville).

Also elected, but not physically present, were the Commissioners for Political Affairs, Julia Joiner (Gambia), for Social Affairs, Gawanas Philomina (Namibia), for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Saida Agrebi (Tunisia), and for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Rosebud Kurwijila (Tanzania).

That leaves one post unfilled, that of Commissioner for Economic Affairs. President Chissano announced that the AU Executive Council (foreign ministers) hopes to fill the job by February. Given the regional balance on the commission, the candidates must come from southern Africa.

Conflicts dominate AU discussions

Much of the proceedings at the Maputo heads of state summit of the African Union (AU) on 11 July was dominated by discussions, behind closed doors, of the conflicts that have raged in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Ivory Coast and others.

The AU protocol on peace and security envisages the establishment of an African peacekeeping force - but it seems that this could be the subject for an extraordinary summit. Mozambican Transport Minister Tomas Salomao told reporters that both the inter-African force, and how to apply the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), have been remitted to ministerial meetings. He said it was the Angolan President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, who had called for "a more profound debate" on these themes.

Salomao said the idea was for defence ministers to assess the impact, in operational terms and in terms of cost, of creating an African force. As for the separate meeting proposed on NEPAD, this should look at several economic areas, including agriculture, water supply, energy and trade.

Crown Agents contract renewed

The Mozambican government has decided to extend the contract with the British company Crown Agents to manage the country's customs services until the end of next year, reports "Noticias" on 27 June.

The decision was taken on the grounds that Crown Agents has shown a good performance, translated into a growth of about 23 per cent a year in the collection of customs duties, and also because it was found that it would take a long time for a new company to adjust to the existing system in order to do the job efficiently.

The British company has been working with the Mozambican government since 1997 and, in 2000, customs under Crown Agents management collected the equivalent of $150 million. In 2001 the figure rose to about $179 million, and to about $225 million in 2002. The annual collection of revenue is expected to reach about $275 million by the end of 2003.

The general director of customs. Barros dos Santos, told "Noticias" that Crown Agents will not stay forever in Mozambique, but only long enough to allow the country to build up the necessary sustainability.

Human Development Report launched

"Poverty is no longer inevitable, yet we face a development crisis, with more than a billion people - a third of them in Africa - languishing in absolute poverty", declared the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mark Malloch Brown, in Maputo on 10 July.

Malloch Brown was launching the 2003 edition of the UNDP's annual Human Development Report at the opening session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the African Union.

He stressed that there is nothing impossible about the UNDP's "Millennium Development Goals" - which include halving poverty, putting every child on the planet in school, reducing the under-five mortality rate by two thirds, and cutting the maternal mortality rate by three quarters, all by the year 2015. This could all be done, "if today Africa and the world make the commitment of will and resources".

But the current overall picture in Africa is grim. "Nearly one in every six children die before the age of five - unchanged from a decade ago", said Malloch Brown. "Overall primary school enrolment is still below 60 per cent. On current trends the goal of halving poverty will not be met until 2147".

Yet in some countries encouraging changes had occurred - several (including Mozambique, Tanzania, Mauritius and the Seychelles) "have achieved sustained GDP growth rates close to the 7-8 per cent needed to meet poverty targets", said Malloch Brown. "Swaziland and Malawi both increased school enrolment by over 20 per cent in the past decade. Senegal and Uganda have shown the way to stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS. Egypt, the Gambia, Cape Verde and Tunisia reduced child morality by a third or more".

"How do we make these success stories not the exception but the rule?", he asked. One thing was very clear - however desirable good governance and open markets may be, they were not sufficient.

Malloch Brown argued they had to be supplemented by "addressing deeper structural handicaps such as geographic isolation, undiversified commodity-dependent economies, impractically small, unjoined markets, conflict, exclusion of women, and a deterioration of Africa's top soils that is undermining the agricultural base".

He praised countries such as Mozambique where "President Chissano and his government are transforming what was not long ago one of the poorest countries in the world into a dynamic model for Africa".

But no matter how many democratic elections they hold, developing countries cannot meet the Millennium Development Goals on their own. The rich world must also play its part - which it conspicuously failed to do in the 1990s. That was a decade, Malloch Brown recalled, "when development assistance plummeted by a third, trade barriers remained high, and debt relief elusive".

Some donors have played an honourable role, and the UNDP singled out Ireland which "has blazed a trail by growing its foreign aid at over 30 per cent a year and pledging future increases on a similar scale, all with a clear focus on the neediest countries".

Malloch Brown noted that Ireland, Belgium and France have committed themselves to specific dates by which to join Denmark, Luxembourg, Holland, Norway and Sweden "who have already met the internationally agree Development Assistance target of 0.7 per cent of GNP". He passed over in silence those much larger economies - most obviously the United States - who make no attempt whatever to meet that target.

Malloch Brown said that new donor commitments should, if honoured, reach $16 billion by 2006 - which is nowhere near the $50 billion additional aid needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

He also demanded progress towards a level playing field in trade. "What is the purpose if what is given in aid is taken away in trade barriers?", he asked. "Cotton in the United States secures for itself subsidies three times the amount that the US provides in assistance to Africa. Protected cotton markets in the US and Europe cost small farmers in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Togo an estimated $250 million a year".

Chairing the meeting, President Chissano said that the sombre image of Africa painted in the Human Development Report demanded not only a deep reflection, but also immediate action by African leaders.

He called for "creative and lasting solutions" that would guarantee the full implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

Glowing praise from IMF

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Horst Kohler, on 11 July heaped praise on the Mozambican government for its poverty reduction programme.

Speaking at a Maputo press conference Kohler declared "it is our conviction that the government, under the leadership of President Joaquim Chissano, has done a fine job in defining and implementing the fundamentals for growth and for reducing poverty".

"We think the government has a very viable strategy for fighting poverty in this country, and I have no doubt that the strategy is paying off for the poor", added Kohler.

"We now have to develop the next generation of reforms for Mozambique", he said, "and the headline for this is strong growth with job generation".

He wanted to see "deeper reform" in the financial sector, particularly in how to finance businesses (who regularly complain that extortionate interest rates deny them access to bank credits). Kohler also called for a stronger, "more predictable" justice sector.

He made no comments about the near collapse of the country's two privatised banks, BCM and Austral, in 2000 and 2001. Even when a journalist raised the issue, and pointedly mentioned the "reckless lending" the two banks had undertaken (a euphemism for the systematic looting of the banks), Kohler dodged the question.

Kohler insisted that there is no IMF dictation to the government. The Mozambican economic programme "is based on a strategy defined and implemented by the government itself. It's not the IMF's prescription", he claimed.

Finance Minister Luisa Diogo, however, admitted that IMF "conditionalities" still exist. "We find there is progress in dealing with the IMF", she said. "We are working so that the conditionalities become softer, and that the programmes become the property of the countries concerned. We believe we can do more, and so we want to improve the dialogue".

AIDS hits police force

The Mozambican police force is losing men at an alarming rate due to the impact of the lethal disease, AIDS.

According to figures reported in "Noticias" on 9 July, the police lost 735 members of its staff last year for a variety of reasons, including death, retirement, expulsion from the force, and desertion. A total of 457 policemen died in 2002, and the great majority of these - 375 - were victims of AIDS.

128 people left the police for disciplinary reasons. According to the national director of Security and Public Order, Custodio Zandamela, these people were expelled for behaviour incompatible with the conduct expected from members of the police.

He estimated that the police will continue losing about 700 members a year until 2010, and more than 1,000 a year as from then.

Zandamela revealed that the police is currently about 21,000 strong, which he described as way below what would be desirable. The police had a target of reaching 40,000 members by 2005, but this is quite impossible. Indeed, the police is currently losing members faster than it is recruiting them. Last year just 526 newly trained police emerged from the Matalane Training Centre.

It is expected that about 1,100 new staff will be trained at the centre each year until 2008, and 3,000 a year from then until 2012.

Malaria remains main cause of death

Health Minister Francisco Songane reaffirmed on 7 July that malaria remains the single largest cause of death in the country. Songane was speaking in Maputo at a meeting between Ministry of Health specialists and cooperation partners under the "Roll Back Malaria" (RBM) programme. RBM has brought together the Health Ministry, religious bodies, companies and practitioners of traditional medicine in activities to combat malaria.

The Ministry's figures indicate that about 30 per cent of all hospital deaths are caused by malaria: the death toll is particularly high among children and pregnant women who contract the disease. About 60 per cent of hospitalisations are due to malaria.

"The data we have indicate that malaria is the main cause of death among the Mozambican population, even though many people are infected with HIV/AIDS", said Songane. "All forms of prevention, both of malaria and of HIV, must be rigorously followed".

He urged Mozambican businesses to produce mosquito netting. Currently the nets used to protect against mosquito bites are all imported. "If some industrial units produce fishing nets, why can't they produce mosquito nets?", asked Songane. He thought that the manufacture and marketing of the nets, at accessible prices, would allow communities to adapt to this proven method of preventing malaria.

Anti-retroviral treatment "no magic wand"

Health Minister Francisco Songane has stressed that the government's recently approved plans for medical treatment of people suffering from HIV/AIDS should not be seen as any "magic wand" but as just one component in the fight against the epidemic.

Speaking to the press on 4 July about the government's new anti-AIDS initiative, in which its main partner will be the Clinton Foundation, set up by former US President Bill Clinton, Songane warned against any euphoria over increased availability of treatment with anti-retroviral drugs. This was certainly not the end of the battle, and there is still no cure for HIV, he stressed.

In the strategic plan against AIDS approved recently, the government seeks to upgrade the skills of workers in the national health service, so that they can provide integrated, good quality care to people suffering from the disease. This marks a shift from the previous strategy which concentrated almost exclusively on prevention. The five year plan sets out to assist, through the public health system, 350,000 HIV-positive people: a fairly modest target, given that an estimated 1.4 million Mozambicans are carrying HIV. Over 125,000 of the target group will receive what is described as "Highly Active Anti-retroviral Treatment" (HAART).

The initiative will also give advice on how infected people can remain healthy, particularly through appropriate nutrition.

It will seek to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS, who do not yet need HAART, receive counselling and treatment for the opportunistic infections that seize on bodies whose immune systems have been weakened.

The plan includes expanding the treatment of pregnant women, so that they do not pass HIV on to their unborn children (this involves administering the highly effective anti-retroviral drug, nevirapine).

"This is an integrated approach to strengthen the response capacity of the National Health Service (SNS), the public sector, and not directly the private sector and the NGOs", said Songane.

Thus for the first time the SNS is taking firm control of the anti-AIDS programme, and will no longer be a mere facilitator for others. NGOs which previously had their own AIDS projects must now integrate them into the strategy led by the SNS.

"This is an operational programme for Mozambique which seeks to strengthen the basic health service, so that we can handle anti-retroviral therapy", declared Songane. "We believe that the possibility of treatment will motivate people to take the HIV test, since for the first time it brings hope to those suffering from the disease. I think this will reduce the stigma attached to the disease".

In the first phase of the programme (2004-2005), anti- retroviral treatment will be available in 19 "day hospitals", with at least one in each of Mozambique's 11 provinces.

By the end of the five year period, in 2008, it is hoped that each of the 128 districts in the country will have a health unit capable of offering anti-retroviral therapy.

The funding required for the five year plan is expected to reach $330 million.

French aid for fight against AIDS

The French government on 10 July made available €5 million (about $5.5 million) to strengthen the battle against HIV/AIDS in Mozambique.

To this end, a memorandum of understanding was signed in Maputo between the governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Adriano Maleiane, and the French Minister for Cooperation, Pierre Andre Wiltzer.

This French contribution is part of the programme of transforming Mozambique's debt to France into development projects. It is the second time that France has contributed to the national plan against HIV/AIDS.

Of the money involved, €2 million will be used to increase the availability of the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs; €2 million will go to the common fund for the running costs of the Health Ministry; and €1 million will finance activities of the various NGOs fighting against the epidemic.

Maleiane said that the French support would help minimise the acute shortages faced by the health sector. The French support was particularly important, he added, because it would help save the lives of people already infected by the HIV virus.

Wiltzer declared "We know that one of the main obstacles to Mozambique's development is HIV/AIDS. So we hope that through this gesture we can contribute towards reducing the suffering of people infected, and contribute towards the country moving definitively onto the path of sustainable development".

Donation of medicines from India

The Indian government on 30 June donated to Mozambique medicines valued at around $100,000.

To this end, a memorandum of understanding was signed in Maputo by Deputy Health Minister Aida Libombo and Indian High Commissioner Avinash Grupta.

Libombo told reporters that the donation would help minimise the severe shortages of medicines faced by the health service. "These medicines will be immediately channelled to the country's main hospitals, in order to ameliorate the suffering of the population", she said.

She added that this aid was one of the results of a request made by President Joaquim Chissano, who asked for increased medical assistance when he visited India in May.

Libombo recalled that when massive flooding devastated southern and central Mozambique in February 2000, India was one of the first countries to offer medical assistance. "So this is not the first time that India has expressed its solidarity with the suffering of Mozambicans", she said.

Norwegian aid for health sector

The Mozambican and Norwegian governments signed in Maputo on 9 July an agreement under which the Norwegian authorities are to provide 175 million crowns (about $24 million) for the Mozambican General Health Fund.

The funding covers the 2003-2006 period, and will be used for projects and activities that the Mozambican health ministry regards as of strategic importance.

Signing the agreement were Deputy Foreign Minister Frances Rodrigues, and the Norwegian ambassador, Henning Stiro.

Norway has also contributed $3.5 million for reproductive health programmes for the 2002-2004 period. It has also joined other donors in contributing to two other common funds in 2001-2003 - it has paid $14 million to the "Common Pool Fund", and $4 million to the Budget Support Fund.

Despite drought, grain harvest increases

Despite drought and cyclones, Mozambique's grain harvest increased by about 2.8 per cent this year, according to figures given to AIM by Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia.

Total grain production from the 2003 harvest is currently estimated at 1,811,000 tonnes, which compares with 1,767,000 tonnes from the 2002 harvest.

"When we had drought in the south, followed by torrential rains and flooding in the north, I was rather worried", admitted Muteia. "But it has been shown that, despite these adversities, we managed good levels of production in the centre and north of the country". Parts of the central provinces of Tete, Manica and Sofala did experience drought, but the overall results from central and northern Mozambique were excellent, "and thanks to this production has grown", said Muteia.

Breaking the figures down, Muteia said that in the central province of Zambezia, a total of 781,000 hectares were sown, of which only 1,105 were lost to drought or to excessively heavy rains. The province produced 266,000 tonnes of maize, 55,000 tonnes of vegetables, and 1,965,000 tonnes of cassava.

The main constraint on production in Zambezia was a shortage of seeds and agricultural hand tools, despite the distribution of 163 tonnes of seeds and 24,000 hoes, axes, machetes and sickles by the government and by some NGOs.

In Tete, 332,000 hectares were sown. About five per cent of this (15,900 hectares) was lost to drought. 221,000 tonnes of grain (mostly maize) were produced as well as 22,000 tonnes of vegetables and 7,800 tonnes of cassava.

In the neighbouring province of Manica, 291,000 hectares were sown, and 12 per cent (37,000 hectares) were lost. The results were 211,000 tonnes of grain, 2,700 tonnes of vegetables and 7,700 tonnes of cassava.

There was a surprisingly good result from Sofala, which Muteia attributed to the rains of January-March, compensating for the dry spell of the previous months.

248,000 hectares were sown in Sofala, resulting in 157,000 tonnes of grain, 12,000 tonnes of vegetables, and 82,000 tonnes of cassava.

Despite the torrential rains brought to the northern province of Nampula by tropical depression Delfina at the start of the year, Muteia considered the harvest here to be a "great success". 2,221,000 tonnes of cassava, the staple food in the province, were produced, as well as 257,000 tonnes of grain and 67,000 tonnes of vegetables.

In Cabo Delgado in the far north, the availability of agricultural inputs met the peasants needs, and an area of 465,000 hectares was sown. 4,900 hectares were lost due to late weeding, or invasions of wild animals. Cabo Delgado produced 202,000 tonnes of grain, 52,000 tonnes of vegetables and 1,203,000 tonnes of cassava.

In the neighbouring province of Niassa, 297,000 hectares were sown, none of which were reported lost. Total production was 232,000 tonnes of grain, 30,000 tonnes of vegetables, and 179,000 tonnes of cassava. The southern three provinces, however, saw their agriculture severely damaged by drought for the second year running. Total grain production south of the Save river was only 106,000 tonnes - 42,000 tonnes in Inhambane province, 45,000 tonnes in Gaza, and 19,000 tonnes in Maputo.

As for cash crops, Muteia was particularly enthusiastic about sugar. From this year's cane harvest "we're going to produce more than 240,000 tonnes of sugar, of which 120,000 tonnes will be for export", he said.

Municipal elections delayed

The Mozambican government on 8 July announced the postponement of the country's second municipal elections from 28 October to 19 November.

The decision was taken on the basis of a proposal from the National Elections Commission (CNE), which could see no other way of readjusting the electoral timetable following the delays that have plagued its work.

The updating of the electoral registers started three weeks late (on 26 rather than 4 June), and the CNE was unable to make up for this lost time.

CNE spokesperson Filipe Mandlate noted that the delays had been worsened by "constraints" faced during the first week of voter registration, including financial restrictions.

Mandlate pointed out that the CNE and its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), are working exclusively with money provided by the government from the state budget. None of the money promised by foreign donors has yet arrived.

Meanwhile, the police have arrested seven people in the central province of Sofala for trying to register as voters more than once, and for falsifying documents. According to "Noticias", one of these men, Moises Paulo, was found to have five separate voting cards on his person. He was arrested when trying to register for a fifth time in Beira.

The provincial director of STAE, Jonito Jone, said "I really don't know what advantages these individuals think they can gain from registering two or more times. There is no possibility of anyone voting twice". (This is because at the polling stations each voter must dip his finger in indelible ink. Nobody whose finger is already inky is allowed to vote - no matter how many voting cards he may possess.)

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