Mozambique News Agency

AIM Reports


No.371, 19th January 2009




Cholera not yet a catastrophic epidemic

Although the current cholera outbreaks have affected all provinces, with the exception of Gaza, in the south, the situation cannot be described as a disaster, according to the spokesperson of the Health Ministry, Martinho Djedje. Since the current outbreak began in October 2007 about 15,000 cases have been notified. Of these 170 have died which is a lethality rate of 1.1 per cent. The situation would only be regarded as disastrous if the lethality rate hit five per cent.

The province with the largest number of cases over the past 14 months has been Nampula where around 3,000 were diagnosed with the disease with over 40 deaths.

The data sent every day from health units to the Ministry indicate an increase in cases particularly in Nampula, Tete, Manica, Sofala and Maputo. This is due to the impact of the current rains on fragile urban sanitation systems. Heavy rains always favour the rapid spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera.

The health authorities are maintaining a maximum alert against cholera, given that the rainy season still has another two and a half months to run.

The Health Ministry has also assured the public that all health units throughout the country are prepared, in terms of staff and logistics, to deal with cholera, to assist victims, and prevent deaths.

Solidarity with Zimbabwean cholera victims

The Mozambican government has delivered health and water equipment worth over $200,000 to Zimbabwe, as a gesture of solidarity in the face of the cholera epidemic and the dramatic collapse of the health service.

Health Minister Ivo Garrido, who delivered the donation, told a press conference on 18 January that it consisted of medicines for cholera patients (particularly intravenous serum), oral rehydration salts, antibiotics, and food supplements for infants and children. In addition there was equipment to provide clean water, tanks that can hold 5,000 litres, and 500 boxes of soap.

Accompanied by his Zimbabwean counterpart, David Parirenyatwa, Garrido visited the main public hospital in Harare. He found it “operating well below capacity” with only a handful of remaining staff. “It’s a very difficult situation. The few staff there face a Herculean task”, he said. “They lack everything basic, all the necessary equipment for a hospital”.

The Mozambican government, added Garrido, believed it had a duty to show solidarity “with our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe, particularly the most vulnerable – the children, the women and the elderly”.

“We won our independence because we had the support of other peoples. We resisted aggression because we had the support of other peoples”, said the Minister. “It is a moral necessity for us to show solidarity”.

Garrido feared that “the tendency to speak about Zimbabwe only in political terms – who is right – obscures the collective drama of millions of people, who when they go to hospital do not receive care”.

“Mozambique should look at the problem not just through a political prism, but see what is happening to our brothers, and understand the scale of their suffering”, he urged.

Garrido rejected claims that the current cholera outbreaks in Mozambique had been imported from Zimbabwe, for cholera has been reported from all but one of Mozambique’s 11 provinces.

Reacting to a suggestion that Zimbabweans crossing the border should be screened for cholera, Garrido exclaimed “we cannot turn Mozambique into a prison and tell people where they can and can’t go. It’s bound to fail. The best weapon for preventing cholera is better health education in the border areas”.

Garrido admitted that Mozambican health education still left a great deal to be desired. An example was the recent destruction of tents in the cholera treatment centre in the northern city of Pemba, because the rumour had spread that the centre was causing cholera, not treating it.

He denied reports that a large crowd had burnt the tents down, and said that in reality only a few people were involved. “They have been identified, and they should answer for their actions in the courts”, he said.

Constitutional Council validates election results

Mozambique’s Constitutional Council on 16 January validated and proclaimed the results of the local elections held on 19 November in the country’s 43 municipalities. The Council confirmed the results announced by the National Elections Commission (CNE) on 4 December – namely that candidates of the ruling Frelimo Party had been elected mayor in 41 municipalities.

In the central city of Beira the incumbent mayor, Daviz Simango, who was expelled from the main opposition party, Renamo, in September, easily won re-election as an independent.

In the northern port of Nacala, no candidate won over 50 per cent of the votes, and so a second round must be held between the Frelimo candidate, Chale Ossufo (who won 49.84 per cent), and the incumbent mayor and Renamo candidate, Manuel dos Santos (who took 47.81 per cent). According to the electoral law, the second round must be held within 30 days of the publication of the results of the first round in the official gazette, the “Boletim da Republica”. The government, acting on the advice of the CNE, fixes the date.

In the municipal assemblies Frelimo won an absolute majority in 42 assemblies. Only in the Beira assembly will Frelimo have to negotiate with other parties where Frelimo has 19 seats against Renamo’s 17: the balance of power is held by the independent Group for Democracy in Beira (GDB), which has seven seats. The Independent Party of Mozambique (PIMO), and the Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD) have one seat each.

In only one municipality did the Constitutional Council make any material changes to the results announced by the CNE. This was Milange, Zambezia province, where, in the municipal assembly election, the CNE had mistakenly transferred 104 votes from the Mozambique National Union (UNAMO) to the PDD.

The Constitutional Council rejected UNAMO’s demand to annul the election in Milange, but it took the UNAMO complaint seriously enough to check the CNE’s figures, and discovered the mistake. The end result was that UNAMO now has two of the 13-member Milange assembly rather than one. Frelimo still dominates the assembly, but with 10 rather than 11 members. The 13th member is from Renamo.

The Constitutional Council president Rui Baltazar strongly criticized the CNE for its failure to respect deadlines set by the law. Thus the CNE had tried to disqualify the Renamo candidates for mayor in three municipalities (Manica, Dondo and Gorongosa), even after their names had appeared on a supposedly definite list of candidates. The CNE’s decision was illegal and the Council was forced to reinstate the three candidates – even though they failed to meet the residence requirements stipulated in the law.

Baltazar insisted that all disqualifications of candidates must take place before the definitive lists are produced up to 30 days prior to the polling. Once a definitive list has been produced, it really is definitive and there can be no further verification, rejection or replacement of the candidates.

The electoral bodies, he said, were obliged to act “in strict obedience” to the law, because only that could guarantee “legal predictability, certainty and security which are essential for the legal order in general and for the electoral order in particular”.

The CNE had also violated the law when it drew lots for the positions of candidates on the ballot papers, but the Council had been unable to correct this since none of the contending parties had appealed.

Baltazar said that the CNE had unjustly favoured the parties standing in all 43 municipalities (Frelimo and Renamo) by putting them as numbers one and two on all the ballot papers. The CNE had acted as if these were national elections instead of 43 separate municipal elections. It had discriminated against candidates who were only standing in one of the municipalities (as was obviously the case for independent groups formed just for one town or city). The Council thus believed that lots should have been drawn separately for each municipality for places on the ballot paper. “Although the competing forces did not react, this incorrect procedure must in future be avoided”, warned Baltazar.

The Council also criticized the police for arresting the Renamo candidate for mayor of the town of Mandlakazi, Sarmento Malombe, preventing him from campaigning for several days. This violated the clause in the electoral law which states no candidate may be held in preventive detention unless caught in the act of committing an offence punishable by two years or more in jail.

But the Council only learnt about the case through the media - Renamo did not raised the issue with the Council.

Baltazar warned that it was illegitimate to close polling stations while there are still people outside in the queue waiting to vote. This happened in several municipalities, particularly on Mozambique Island. “The fact that at the time scheduled to close the polls (18.00), there are still queues of citizens waiting their turn to vote was due, as a rule, to the organisation of the elections, and should not have prejudiced the right of citizens to vote”, he said.

Allowing people in the queues to vote was an imperative, and no decision of the polling station staff or of anyone else could overturn that. Baltazar said that in future “measures must be taken to ensure rigorous compliance with these provisions”.

There were four appeals against the election results – three from Renamo and one from Unamo. The Council rejected all of them, either because they were delivered too late, or because the objections they referred to had not been protested at the time. Baltazar stressed the principle of “prior objection” – which means that candidates or parties must protest against irregularities when they occur, and not days later.

But it was not only the candidates who ignored legal deadlines. The Council noted that in some cases the CNE itself decided on complaints, or notified candidates of its decisions, late. This had an impact on the whole appeals process because the Council can only act as an appeals body once the CNE has taken a decision and notified the candidates concerned.

Baltazar stressed that the rights to contest the results, to protest and to appeal are “fundamental pillars of the electoral system, and in order to exercise them legal deadlines must be rigorously observed both by the competing forces and by the electoral bodies”.

Renamo “will not respect municipal bodies”

Renamo announced on 16 January that it would not cooperate with the municipal authorities formed as a result of the 19 November local elections.

Speaking to reporters immediately after the Constitutional Council validated the election results, Renamo national spokesperson Fernando Mazanga said that his party did not recognise the results, and accused the ruling Frelimo Party of committing massive fraud.

He claimed that the fraud began when the election laws were passed in December 2006, by the votes of the Frelimo parliamentary group in the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. Mazanga argued that electoral laws should only be passed by consensus.

Mazanga claimed that the local election results were rigged by Frelimo bringing in people from outside the municipal areas who had no right to vote. “We are not going to respect these results, we shall not respect anything done by the electoral bodies”, said Mazanga.

Despite the talk of not recognising the elections, Mazanga confirmed that Renamo will take part in the second round of the mayoral election in the port of Nacala, where no candidate won over 50 per cent in the first round and less than 1,000 votes separated the Frelimo and Renamo candidates.

Frelimo celebrates

The huge victory of Frelimo in the municipal elections “is the unequivocal demonstration that this is the party of the people, a party committed to the well-being of municipal citizens”, declared the mayor-elect of Maputo, David Simango, on 17 January.

Simango was speaking at a Frelimo victory rally held in a central Maputo garden after the Constitutional Council validated the election results, confirming that Frelimo candidates have been elected mayor in 41 of the 43 municipalities.

Simango thanked the several hundred people at the rally for voting for him and for the Frelimo slate for the municipal assembly. Frelimo will hold 58 seats in the new Maputo municipal assembly, while the main opposition party, Renamo, holds just nine, and the independent citizens’ group “Juntos Pela Cidade” two.

“We are here to express our gratitude to all those who made these elections a moment of democracy”, said Simango. Simango concluded by inviting Maputo citizens to take part in the “participatory and inclusive governance” which he promises for the city.

Flooding threatens islanders

Despite repeated warnings during the Zambezi valley floods of 2007 and 2008, some people have returned to live in the most dangerous and flood-prone parts of the valley – the islands in the middle of the river.

About 50 people, all members of an evangelical Christian sect, are refusing to leave Resende Island, in Caia district, apparently for religious reasons.

Officials from the country’s relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), have warned them to leave the island because of the rise in the level of the Zambezi. At Caia town, the Zambezi on 14 January was measured at 5.7 metres, well above the five-metre flood alert level.

Over 1,500 people, mostly peasants and fishermen, have been evacuated from other low-lying areas of the Zambezi valley.

Despite the flooding on the Zambezi, and further south on the Pungue, the INGC believes that so far there is no reason for alarm. INGC general director Joao Ribeiro described the situation in the Pungue and Zambezi basins as “medium sized floods, where rivers reach their alert levels, and flow slightly outside of their banks”.

So far this rainy season, 25 people have been swept to their deaths, mostly while trying to cross swollen rivers with strong currents.

Ribeiro did not regard the current floods as constituting a disaster. On the contrary, the heavy rains were welcome, because they would guarantee a good 2009 harvest.

Ribeiro was more worried that the high January temperatures might generate cyclones in the Indian Ocean that would strike at the Mozambican coast.

Demining to continue until 2014

Newly identified areas containing landmines has postponed the date for clearing the country until 2014. The new areas identified in 2008 cover 12 million square metres. Mozambique currently has the capacity to demine two million square metres a year. So the newly identified areas alone would take six years to clear.

Faced with this problem, Mozambique was obliged, under the Ottawa Treaty outlawing anti-personnel landmines, to request an extension of its demining period. The request was made in December, and accepted by the co-signatories of the treaty. Mozambique now has up until 2014 to complete the demining work.

According to Fernando Mulima of the National Demining Institute (IND), only in the four provinces north of the Zambezi – Cabo Delgado, Niassa, Nampula and Zambezia – has demining been completed. The newly identified mined areas are scattered around the other six provinces in the centre and south of the country.

According to Mulima, the southern province of Inhambane has the largest number of known mined areas – 251 areas covering 3.7 million square metres. Sofala, Gaza, Manica and Maputo provinces also have severe land mine problems.

The IND’s target for this year is to demine 82 areas, corresponding to two million square metres. Its other priorities include assistance for land mine victims, and continued training of civic education agents whose task is to warn communities of the danger of mines.

Mulima said that in 2008 only three land mine accidents, with seven victims, were recorded. The previous year there were 11 accidents with 24 victims.

Todinho shot dead by police

The Mozambican police have announced the death of Luis de Jesus Tomas “Todinho”, one of the three assassins who escaped from the cells of the Maputo City Police Command on 7 December.

Todinho, who was accused of the October 2005 murder of the director of the Maputo Central Prison, Jorge Microsse, met his own death on 5 January. The police announced that he was killed in a shoot-out with the police, but some have argued that this is far from the whole story.

According to the police, on 5 January a criminal gang was reported to be ambushing citizens in the central Maputo neighbourhood of Coop, stealing their mobile phones and other possessions at gunpoint. When a police patrol car intervened, the gang opened fire on it, wounding two police officers.

A car chase across Maputo then followed, until the gunmen abandoned their vehicle, a stolen Mitsubishi Pajero, in the peripheral neighbourhood of Malhapsene, and continued their getaway on foot.

The police claim that on 8 January they discovered Todinho’s body near the spot where the car had been abandoned. They deduced that Todinho had been in the car, and had been seriously injured in the shoot-out. His accomplices then left him, dead or dying, in Malhapsene.

However, there are serious problems with this version of events. Could a body really lie unnoticed for three days (particularly since it would certainly have decayed very rapidly in the high temperatures of last week, attracting scavengers, and announcing its presence to the nose of any passer-by)?

An alternative version of Todinho’s death was aired by the private television station, STV. Two security guards at the site where the body was found told STV they heard three shots fired at 23.15 on 8 January. They told their employer, who in turn contacted the police. When they arrived 15 minutes later, they discovered Todinho’s body with two bullets in the chest and one in a leg.

The STV newsroom received an anonymous phone call at 23.20 from a man claiming to be a police officer, announcing that the police had just executed Todinho.

There is still no sign of the other two murderers who escaped with Todinho. One of them, Anibal dos Santos Junior (“Anibalzinho”) is the man who recruited and led the death squad that assassinated the country’s finest investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, in November 2000. He was serving a 30-year sentence for this crime.

The third fugitive is Samuel Januario Nhare (“Samito”), one of the right hand men of the country’s most wanted gang leader, Agostinho Chauque, responsible for a string of armed robberies and murders of police officers.

New district attorneys sworn in

Twenty six new district attorneys took office on 15 January at a ceremony in Maputo, as part of the efforts to strengthen the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

With the new district attorneys, the public prosecutor’s office now has representatives in 90 of Mozambique’s 128 districts. Several districts and the provincial capitals have more than one attorney.

“We still have a deficit”, said Paulino, “since we still have some districts with courts, but without prosecutors. Furthermore, as we expand, we have to authorize some of our attorneys to continue their studies, since they do not yet have law degrees”

Maputo Council plans to ban plastic bags

Maputo Municipal Council plans in the near future to ban the production and use of plastic bags in the city, according to the City Councillor for Health, Joao Schwalbach.

With this move, Maputo will join a growing number of cities and countries that have declared war on the menace of the plastic bag. China, for example, has banned the use of plastic shopping bags, and the Chinese authorities have calculated that this will save 37 million barrels of oil a year.

Once viewed as simply a convenient way to carry purchases, the plastic bag is now an eyesore, littering the streets of Maputo. After any strong wind, large numbers of plastic bags end up draped over trees. They are a menace to wild life, and can kill the creatures that accidentally ingest them.

Banning plastic bags will reduce the costs of cleaning Maputo, and will help stop drains from becoming clogged with bits of plastic every time it rains.

Schwalbach said that the municipality has set up a plastics recycling factory, Recicla, which is fully operational and employs 20 people, 10 men and 10 women, whom the council had recruited from among the garbage scavengers living and working amidst the filth of the municipal rubbish dump.


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