Mozambique News Agency

No.280, 27th July 2004


AIDS now one of main causes of death

AIDS has now become one of the main causes of death in Mozambique, and, if the epidemic continues unchecked, by 2010 one in every three deaths in the country will be caused by AIDS. This is one of the grim conclusions of the latest study of the demographic impact of HIV/AIDs in Mozambique, published by the National Statistics Institute (INE), and announced to the public at a meeting in Maputo on 23 July.

The study largely consists of projections from the HIV prevalence rate detected at 36 sentinel sites covering every province in the country, and both rural and urban areas. The sentinel sites are health units where pregnant women are routinely checked for HIV infection. There is a well-known and tried mathematical technique for extrapolating from pregnant women to the population at large.

The Ministry of Health found in 2002 that 13.6 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 49 was HIV-positive. This is a shockingly good confirmation of the prediction made by the INE in 2000, at the time of the previous epidemiological survey. Then the INE predicted that, if unchecked. the HIV prevalence would reach 13.8 per cent by 2002. The projections are the work of a team drawn from the INE, the Health and Planning Ministry, and the population unit at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University.

The study concludes that AIDS has slowed population growth, and sharply reduced life expectancy. It estimates that currently, in mid-2004, 23 per cent of all deaths in the country are due to AIDS.

Since 1999, over 400,000 Mozambicans have died of AIDS, with the cumulative death toll expected to reach over 1.2 million by 2010 - again, if no effective measures to halt the epidemic are taken. This year alone the death toll from AIDS is expected to be 97,000 people.

The AIDS crisis is not spread evenly over the entire country. It seems clear that the epidemic started first in the central provinces, somewhat later in the south, and more recently still in northern Mozambique.

In 2002, the survey found an HIV prevalence rate of 16.7 per cent in the central region, 14.8 per cent in the south, but only 8.4 per cent in the north. The figures for the centre look much worse if Zambezia province is taken out of the central region, and transferred to the north where, in epidemiological terms, it probably belongs.

The worst hit province is Sofala, with a 2002 prevalence rate of 26.5 per cent. The Sofala provincial capital, Beira, is even worse - with figures from one health post giving a prevalence rate of 35.7 per cent, and from a second of 29.3 per cent.

Introducing these figures, one of the senior doctors in the technical team, Alfredo MacArthur, said that in the central region, the disease has reached its plateau, and so the prevalence figures are unlikely to worsen: the number of people dying of AIDS cancels out the new cases, giving a picture of a stable epidemic.

The southern provinces are nearing their plateau, but the northern region has a long way to go. It is here, where the epidemic is still relatively young, that major interventions could keep down the rate of spread of AIDS.

Nationally, it is estimated that, as of mid-2004, the HIV prevalence rate is 14.9 per cent, and "without immediate and effective intervention, it is forecast that by 2009, it will reach 16.8 per cent, and then stabilise", warns the study.

Deaths from AIDS have led the INE to revise the population projections that were based on the 1997 census. The census projection was that in 2003, the Mozambican population would have reached 18,521,000. Adjusted for AIDS deaths this figure falls to 18,327,000.

The gap is growing. The initial projection for mid-2004 was a population of almost 19 million. With AIDS factored in, it drops to 18.67 million.

Without AIDS, life expectancy in Mozambique would have risen steadily. The main factor limiting life expectancy has been infant and child mortality. As medical care becomes more widely available, and nutrition improves, so infant mortality declines.

In a Mozambique without AIDS, life expectancy at birth should have risen from 43.5 years in 1999 to 46.4 years in 2004.

The study found that AIDS has turned slow growth into decline. It put real life expectancy at birth in 1999 at 41 years, and found that it has now fallen to 38.1 years.

Without AIDS, life expectancy at birth would rise to 50.3 years in 2010. With AIDS, it is likely to fall to 35.9 years - a difference of almost 14 years.

The number of HIV positive people in Mozambique in 2004 is estimated at 1.45 million. These are people who, in all probability, will develop AIDS. But most of them do not know they carry the virus, and, thanks to the long incubation period of the disease, are not yet sick.

Current medical opinion is that it is not worth giving HIV positive people anti-retroviral drugs until they do start showing the symptoms of AIDS - crucially until the number of CD-4 cells (the part of the immune system attacked by HIV) falls to 200 or less per microlitre.

The number of people thought to be in this state is about 200,000. But the Ministry of Health calculates that this year it will only be able to treat 8,000 people - four per cent of those in need - with anti-retroviral therapy. It hopes to push the numbers taking anti-retrovirals up to 58,000 in 2006 and 132,000 in 2008.

Inflation slowing down and trade deficit declines

Inflation in Mozambique appears to be slowing down - but not by enough to meet the government target of an inflation rate of no more than 11 per cent for 2004.

The latest figures published by the Bank of Mozambique state that the inflation rate for the first quarter of the year, as measured by the Maputo Consumer Price Index, was 4.4 per cent. In the first quarter of 2003, inflation was 4.7 per cent.

Nonetheless, this slowdown is less than expected - mainly because prices rose in January by 2.9 per cent, whereas in the previous three years prices fell in January. The central bank blames this "abnormal" behaviour on "the great weight of public expenditure, and on the monetary expansion of the last quarter of 2003".

But when the bank's document gets down to details, other, far more concrete and credible factors are mentioned - such as the 5.1 per cent rise in the value of the South African rand against the Mozambican currency, the metical, in the first three months of the year. The strengthening of the rand contributes to Mozambican inflation because of the huge amounts of South African goods, particularly foodstuffs, that the country imports.

There were also increases in the price of petroleum products (seven per cent for petrol, 5.5 per cent for kerosene, and 5.8 per cent for cooking gas), and a 27 per cent increase in water tariffs. Grain and vegetable prices rose over the quarter, partly because of a seasonal decline in supplies.

The Bank claims that annual inflation is falling - from a peak of 17.4 per cent in January, to 15.3 per cent in February to 13.5 per cent in March. "This decline would have been greater, if oil prices on the international market had not increased", remarked the Bank.

Consumer price indices are also available for Beira and Nampula - both cities experienced sharper price rises than Maputo in the first quarter of 3004: six per cent in Beira, and five per cent in Nampula.

OECD reports on economy

Meanwhile, the Organisation of Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) has given a fairly upbeat analysis of the economy in its annual "African Economic Outlook".

It notes that Mozambique's trade deficit was reduced to 14.9 per cent of GDP in 2003 (from 16.1 per cent the previous year), and is set to fall to 8.6 per cent in 2004 and 7.7 per cent in 2005. This is due largely to the massive increase in Mozambican exports thanks to the conclusion of phase two of the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo. Aluminium ingots are now far and away the largest Mozambican export.

Also contributing to a healthier balance of trade is this year's agreement between Mozambique, Portugal and South Africa on the tariffs for electricity produced by the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi. The higher price that the South African electricity company Eskom will pay for Cahora Bassa power should significantly increase earnings from the sale of electricity.

The start of the export of natural gas down the pipeline from Inhambane province to the South African town of Secunda also helps boost the trade balance, while the completion of the construction of the gas pipeline and the aluminium smelter has led to a reduction in imports of capital equipment.

As for the Mozambican state budget, here too the deficit has fallen - from 7.9 per cent of GDP in 2002 to 2.7 per cent in 2003. But it is likely to rise to four per cent in 2004 and 4.2 per cent in 2005. The fall in the deficit in 2003 was not planned, and is far from beneficial. The OECD attributes the fall "to a contraction of capital expenditure, including expenditures allocated to poverty reduction projects. The reduction of this latter is principally attributable to delays in the implementation of local level projects, themselves resulting partly from a marked fall in donor grants". While capital spending fell, recurrent expenditure rose, including what the report calls "overruns in public sector wages".

Fiscal revenues improved in 2003, reaching 12.9 per cent of GDP, compared with 12.5 per cent in 2002 and 11.8 per cent in 2001. The report attributes this to the new, modernised taxes on personal incomes and profits, as well as measures to limit tax exemptions for investors.

The report notes that, in the 2004 budget, the government is committed to reducing total expenditure - but it predicts that, if this happens, "it will be principally the result of a lower level of capital spending than that envisaged in the budget, while public sector wages will probably progress at a higher rate than that fixed by the budget".

The likely rise in the budget deficit over the next couple of years is blamed on a decline in grants from donors. The OECD predicts that foreign aid to Mozambique will consist of "more loans and less grants".

The report notes strong growth in the production of food and cash crops, particularly of sugar, thanks to heavy foreign (Mauritian and South African) investment in rehabilitating the sugar mills.

Low prices for other crops (such as cashew nuts) have persuaded more peasants to grow sugar cane. In 2002, 60 per cent of the land planted with cane was in the hands of the major sugar companies, and 40 per cent was held by small farmers (who would then sell their cane to the companies). The report puts the growth of the sugar sector in 2002 at 130 per cent, and in 2003 at a further 30 per cent.

Cotton production rose from 11,251 tonnes in 2000 to 25,000 tonnes in 2002. But growth then stalled, thanks to the low cotton prices on the world market.

As for manufacturing industry, the report says it has benefited "from lower import tariffs on intermediate and capital goods, as well as from more efficient customs procedures". However, major obstacles still face Mozambicans wishing to invest in industry, including "a shortage of domestic capital, high borrowing costs, excessive bureaucracy and inadequate infrastructures".

Taking Africa as a whole, the OECD is predicting a reasonable level of growth in 2004 and 2005, but warns that the continent is still a long way from meeting the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000.

The report puts last year's economic growth in Africa at 3.6 per cent and predicts that it will be the same this year and rise to four per cent in 2005. But this is far from sufficient to meet the target of cutting by half the number of people living on less than a dollar a day by the year 2015.

Majermanes want independent commission

The Mozambicans who worked in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the 1980s want an "independent commission" to mediate in their dispute with the Mozambican government. It is now clear that the demand for such a commission was key to ending the occupation of the German embassy by a group of 41 former migrants (colloquially known as "majermanes") on 16 July.

The end of the occupation, which had been underway for four days, was mediated by a group, essentially of academics, headed by Brazao Mazula, the Vice-Chancellor of the Eduardo Mondlane University (the country's largest higher education institution), and Alice Mabota, chairperson of the Human Rights League (LDH).

Establishing an "independent commission" was a condition set by the majermanes for ending the occupation, and agreed to by Mazula and Mabota.

Such a commission would work with the Ministry of Labour - but, according to a report in "Noticias", the majermanes want to exclude those Ministry officials who have dealt with the problem in the past.

The former migrants are demanding huge sums of money from the government which they allege, against all the evidence, to have been sent from Germany to Mozambique in the 1980s. The government has agreed to repay, in instalments, the 50 per cent of their social security contributions that was sent to Maputo.

The government calculates that this amounts to around $10 million for the 15,477 majermanes who have registered with the Labour Ministry.

The deal that Mazula's team struck with the 41 majermanes is that they would leave the embassy, none of them would be arrested, dialogue would continue with the government - and, crucially, they would be allowed to continue their gatherings in public places.

The majermanes have used the 28 May garden, a large public space in the central Maputo neighbourhood of Alto Mae, as their meeting point. They have also staged weekly demonstrations through the streets of Maputo, demanding the money they claim the government owes them. But in recent months the police have banned the street marches, and even the meetings in the 28 May garden. Such blanket bans are illegal and unconstitutional. All citizens have the right to hold peaceful gatherings and demonstrations.

Meanwhile President Joaquim Chissano, interviewed on the matter by a Mozambican Television (TVM) crew during a visit to the northern province of Nampula, stressed that it was utterly exceptional to repay social security contributions.

Normally people have to wait until they retire to receive benefits from their contributions, in the form of an old age pension. The government, however, had decided that the majermanes' circumstances were such as to justify the extraordinary measure of giving them back the social security money that had been transferred to Mozambique.

But the President made it very clear that nothing else would be paid to the former migrants. He attacked the claim made by majermane leader Alberto Mahuaie that the true figure owed to the migrants was "$22 billion" (or over a million dollars for each majermane). President Chissano pointed out that, at the height of Mozambique's indebtedness to foreign creditors, the country's total debt stock was only $6 billion.

Four per cent rise in recorded crime in 2003

The number of recorded crimes in Mozambique rose by four per cent in 2003, according to statistics presented at a meeting of the police consultative council, and reported in "Noticias" on 19 July. The police recorded 40,630 crimes in 2003, compared with 39,061 in 2002.

25,576 of last year's crimes were classified as crimes against property, 13,858 as crimes against persons, and 1,196 as crimes against public order.

Broken down by regions, 23,395 crimes were reported in the southern provinces, 12,912 in the central region, and 4,323 in the north.

But this is unlikely to reflect any real differences between the regions. The statistics look alarming for the south, because over a quarter of all recorded crime occurred in Maputo city (11,646 crimes). More crime is recorded in Maputo than anywhere else because the city is the most heavily policed part of the country, and police stations are within easy reach of all the city's residents.

The police recorded 940 murders in 2003, a decline on the 976 homicides of the previous year. To put this in perspective, according to South African police statistics, there were 21,738 murders in South Africa in 2002. Mozambique has a long way to go before it catches up with that level of violence.

The police claim they dismantled 392 gangs of armed robbers in 2003, and recovered 448 vehicles stolen in various parts of the country. They also dismantled 39 arms caches, from which they removed 396 guns, and over 117,000 rounds of ammunition.

The number of suspects charged in 2003 was 32,546 - 18,488 were charged with crimes against property, 12,736 with crimes against persons, and 1,322 with crimes against public order.

Prominent businessman assassinated

Unidentified gunmen on 14 July murdered a prominent businessman of Asian origin, Mohamed Jawed Hashim, owner of the Mozambican recording company J&B. Jawed was shot eight times as he left the Coimbra restaurant in downtown Maputo at 22.55.

J&B Recording has now lost both of its main owners. Jawed's partner, known simply as Babu, was gunned down in the Pakistani city of Karachi, about five months ago. J&B is best known for its recordings of popular Mozambican singers - but it was also a politically committed company, which openly supported the ruling Frelimo Party.

According to the newspaper "Savana", Jawed was under police investigation, allegedly for drug trafficking. He and four other businessmen are the suspects in a case in the Maputo attorney's office that is still sub judice.

Jawed was also one of those in the Asian business community opposed to the powerful Abdul Satar family. Members of this family were the key movers in the country's largest bank fraud, in which 144 billion meticais ($14 million at the exchange rate of the time), were stolen from the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM) on the eve of its privatisation in 1996.

Jawed was one of those attacked in letters published in 2002 by Momad Assif Abdul Satar ("Nini"), one of those found guilty not only of the BCM fraud, but of the murder of Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.

Derelict hotel purchased

A Mozambican consortium, formed by the Mozambican Tourism Company (SOTUR), and the private real estate firm IMOBCI Ltd, have purchased a majority stake in the derelict Four Seasons Hotel, overlooking the Costa do Sol beach in Maputo. According to a report in the weekly paper "Zambeze", the consortium has purchased 80 per cent of the shares in the hotel, while the government's National Tourism Fund (FUTUR) retains the other 20 per cent.

Construction of the Four Seasons began at the end of the colonial period. The initial scheme involved a four or five star hotel. But the building was left unfinished at the time of Mozambican independence in 1975. There were colourful stories of deliberate sabotage - it was said that cement had been poured down the lift shafts, and that Portuguese architects had run off with the plans. What is certain is that the building planned as the largest hotel in Mozambique has never accommodated a single guest. For three decades it has been little more than a gigantic eyesore towering over the beach.

Over the years several investors have expressed an interest in completing and operating the hotel - but all have given up. Occasionally it has been suggested that it would be better simply to demolish the structure. This time the investors have put some money up front.

Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana said that the cost of the 80 per cent holding taken by the consortium is $2.7 million, and the investors immediately paid the first instalment, which is 11 per cent ($297,000). The rest is to be paid over ten years. The consortium has also promised to invest over $39 million in completing and running the hotel. The consortium now has up to 180 days to start work on the hotel.

New air company based in Nampula

A new air company, Air Corridor, will start operations in Mozambique as from August, according to its commercial director, Cesar Mahumane.

Air Corridor is based in the northern city of Nampula, and will start operations with one aircraft, a Boeing 737-200, with 115 seats (98 in economy class, and 17 in business class).

The company will operate domestic flights between Nampula, Quelimane, Beira and Maputo. After this initial phase, it will also fly to Pemba, in the northernmost province of Cabo Delgado. In the longer term, the company hopes to acquire a second Boeing 737, and expand into the southern African regional market. It also hopes to obtain small planes to fly to airstrips in Mozambican district capitals.

Air Corridor has an initial equity of five billion meticais (about $220,000), and is owned by what Mahumane called "a group of Mozambican partners". It will employ 100 workers, mostly Mozambicans.

Air Corridor is competing against the state-owned airline LAM, which dominates Mozambican domestic routes. Mahumane said Air Corridor would rise to this challenge through the quality of service offered to passengers.

Procedures for candidates announced

Political parties running candidates for Mozambique's parliamentary elections, scheduled for 1-2 December, must present their nomination papers between 17 September and 7 October, according to an announcement on electoral procedures published on 23 July by the National Elections Commission (CNE).

Each candidate must present photocopies of their identity card and voter's card, each authenticated by a public notary, plus their criminal record certificate, and a signed declaration agreeing to be a candidate.

Each political party or coalition must present copies of its statutes, as well as its full name, acronym and symbol, plus proof that the relevant party body has decided to take part in the elections. In the case of coalitions, the documentation must include proof that each of the member parties has agreed to join the coalition.

As soon as the deadline is over, the CNE will fix the lists of candidates, arranged by constituency, at the entrance to its premises, so that they may be consulted.

But the lists only become definitive once the CNE has checked them all, ensuring that all the candidates are eligible. The CNE must then announce which candidates are been accepted and which rejected.

Not enough gas in Savane

Prospection for natural gas at Savane, in the central province of Sofala has concluded that there are not enough reserves of gas there to justify its industrial exploitation. This conclusion was reached after the completion of the first well bored by the Norwegian oil company Det Norske Olje-Selskap (DNO) early this month. The well was thus closed, and the company is planning to continue its prospection work at the locality of Chinapamimba, in the district of Muanza, also in Sofala.

DNO general director Aasmund Erlandsen said that the drilling in Chinapamimba is scheduled to start by mid August, after the completion of the preparatory work, that includes rehabilitating the access road to the site, land mine clearance, and deforestation. He expressed hope that the preliminary results of the Chinapamimba site would be known by the end of August.

Erlandsen believes that there is a higher chance of finding significant quantities of gas in Chinapamimba than in Savane, where he had estimated the probability at under 20 per cent.

He explained that the infrastructures built around the site in Savane, including the water wells will be offered to the local residents, and the deforested area may be used to build social infrastructures. "Unfortunately there is nothing else we can do in Savane. At this moment we are removing all our equipment to Chinapamimba", lamented Erlandsen.

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