The South African Foreign Ministry on 28 July signed a contract with the South African company Mechemen, in the context of agreements reached in March between the Mozambican and the South African governments, under which South Africa will finance demining in the southern Mozambican province of Maputo.
According to the director of the National Demining Commission, Osorio Mateus, South Africa is to grant $2.6 million for the job.
Mateus said that negotiations with the South African company to complete demining work along electricity transmission lines are in their final stages. The work is to cover the lines between Maputo and the South African border town of Komatipoort, and between Songo, site of the Cahora Bassa dam, and Matambo, on the outskirts of the western city of Tete.
The European NGO Handicap International, for its part, is finalising arrangements to start a demining project in the southern province of Inhambane, financed by the European Union and Holland, estimated at $1.5 million.
Mateus revealed that his institution is working with the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) and with the Mozambican Electricity Company, EDM, to start research and demining of certain areas in Inhambane, and in the neighbouring province of Gaza.
The Mozambican demining commission is also contacting the Austrian co-operation agency and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for mine clearance work in the central province of Sofala, estimated at $1 million.
Mateus said that at least 50,000 antipersonnel land mines and 3,000 anti-tank mines have been destroyed since 1993. He added that about 6,300 kilometres of road, 1,800 kilometres of electricity transmission line, and 2,500 hectares of land have been cleared of land in the same period.
The government's bill on environmental conservation passed its second reading on 22 July in the Assembly of the Republic without incident, and with very little debate.
The bill sets forth a number of general principles and procedures. It will need to be followed by a series of regulations and complementary legislation.Environment Minister Bernardo Ferraz told the Assembly that he hoped to submit these in the first sitting in 1998.
The new law will make life more difficult for polluters. All forms of pollution, and any practice that causes deforestation, erosion or any other environment damage "beyond the legally established limits", is prohibited.
All activities that threaten the survival of endangered species, or otherwise damage the country's biodiversity, are forbidden, and the government is charged with restoring damaged wildlife habitats.
No houses or other structures may be built where they cause "a significant negative impact on the environment", particularly along the coast, in wetlands, in places threatened with erosion, and other ecologically sensitive areas.
Activities that may cause significant environmental damage will now need a special environmental licence that will only be granted after an environmental impact assessment is undertaken. These assessments must include details on the measures that can be taken to suppress or reduce any environmental damage the activities in question might cause.
A government bill on the electricity industry passed its second reading in the Assembly of the Republic on 30 July. The bill sets out the legal framework for private companies to become heavily involved in the production and distribution of electricity.
Introducing the bill on 22 July, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, said "The epoch in which the state, either directly or through public corporations, held a monopoly on the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity is giving way to another, in which private initiatives are increasing called upon to contribute to the development of new and large projects in the areas of generation and distribution, while in general the state retains control over the transmission systems".
Studies have located over 100 possible sites for hydroelectric power stations, which would have a total installed capacity of about 14,000 megawatts, capable of producing some 75,000 gigawatt-hours per year. So far only 15 per cent of this potential has been developed, mostly represented by the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi, with a generating capacity of 2,075 megawatts.
Langa also stressed the potential of renewable sources of energy. Solar power could be exploited successfully and wind power could be used, particularly to power mills and pump water. Wave power was a further option, and Langa believed that geothermal energy would be a cheap option for rural electrification.
He noted that in the countryside firewood and charcoal remain the main sources of energy. It was imperative to electrify the countryside - but this could not be done through such conventional methods as diesel-fired generators, given the costs of the fuel, and the inability of peasant farmers to pay the high tariffs.
Meeting all these challenges, said Langa, would require "enormous investments that the state does not possess, and which can most easily be mobilised through the participation of private initiative". This dictated the need for a clear legal and regulatory framework.
The Assembly of the Republic, on 28 July rejected the remaining amendments to the government's land tenure bill moved by the former rebel movement Renamo.
Most of the Renamo amendments had been thrown out the previous week, notably ones that attempted to put "traditional authorities" in charge of land tenure rights.
The most important amendment defeated was an attempt by Renamo to suspend all pending land titles, and prohibit the issuing of new ones, until the government has issued a set of regulations complementing the new land tenure law. In addition Renamo wanted to review all land concessions granted since independence in 1975.
When this was defeated by 125 votes to 99 with seven abstentions, Renamo deputy Jeremias Pondeca claimed that huge tracts of land "have been granted to leaders of Frelimo and its government and this should be suspended".
Claiming that the real purpose of the bill was to give land "to Frelimo, not to the Mozambican people", Pondeca also mounted an irrelevant attack on the country's original constitution, of 1975, claiming that those who drafted it (the Frelimo Central Committee) had "betrayed our national independence".
For Frelimo, Salome Moiane said her parliamentary group had voted against the amendment because "we are for development and against paralysis".
Mozambique's first co-operative of journalists, Mediacoop, which has so far restricted its activities to the print media, is now planning to set up a radio station.
Speaking on 18 July at the ceremony where the co-operative's newly elected leadership took office, Salomao Moyana, chairman of the Mediacoop General Assembly, said that the project to establish a radio station was at an advanced stage.
The radio will bring to four the number of Mediacoop ventures. The co-operative started its activities in 1992 with the daily news-sheet "Mediafax", the first publication in Mozambique to be distributed by fax.
The profits from "Mediafax" underwrite the best known Mediacoop publication, the weekly paper "Savana", which Moyana edits. The third publication is "Mozambique Inview", a paper in English, concentrating on economic matters that appears irregularly.
At the ceremony Moyana admitted that the co-operative has been through a period of crisis. Differences between "Mediafax" editor Carlos Cardoso and the rest of the co-operative led to a split. Cardoso and most of the "Mediafax" staff left and founded a new fax paper "Metical".
After six days the Mozambican fire brigade has finally extinguished a blaze in the Maputo port coal terminal on 19 July.
The flames were finally doused thanks to the use of two mechanical diggers, and a powerful pump that sucked up enormous quantities of water directly from the harbour.
No estimate of the damage done by the fire, which is believed to have started spontaneously, is yet available. When the fire broke out the terminal contained 5,000 tonnes of South African coal awaiting shipment. It is known that the firemen were able to save at least 2,700 tonnes.
The chairman of the board of directors of the publicly-owned Mozambican ports and railway company (CFM), Mario Dimande, died on 20 July of a heart attack, in a plane of the Portuguese airline TAP, during a flight between Lisbon and Johannesburg.
According to CFM sources, Dimande died shortly before the plane landed in Johannesburg. He was returning from Lisbon, where he had spent about a week's leave.
Rents charged by the Mozambican state housing agency, APIE, will rise by between 28 and 29 per cent for houses and flats, and by 25 to 26 per cent for buildings used for production, distribution or services, as from 1 August.
The minimum monthly rent for a residential building or flat will go up from 23,200 meticais (about $2) to 29,600 meticais, and the maximum rent will be 479,000, instead of the current 371,000 meticais.
As for buildings for other uses, the minimum rent will increase from 236,000 meticais to 298,000 meticais, and the maximum from 15.2 million to 19 million meticais.
With the increase, an average rent will eat up about seven per cent of the statutory minimum wage of a civil servant.
Norway, Sweden and Switzerland on 24 July pledged support of $4.2 million for the Planning and Finance Ministry's institutional capacity building plans. The donation is being split equally between the three European countries and covers the period 1997-99.
Three bilateral agreements were signed concerning this grant between Finance Minister Tomas Salomao, the Norwegian and Swedish ambassadors, Sigurd Endresen and Helena Oldmark, and the Swiss Embassy's co-ordinator for development co-operation, Gregor Binkert.
The capacity building programme involves the creation of a new study office that will boost the Finance Ministry's ability to draft macroeconomic policies and assess the country's economic growth.
The new office will co-ordinate closely, not only with the rest of the ministry but with other state institutions, with the Bank of Mozambique, and with Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University.
The supply of electrical power from the Cahora Bassa dam to South Africa is to start in early August, when the setting up of the first of the two transmission lines will be completed, according to Oliveira Costa, marketing director of the dam operating company, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB).
Meanwhile, teams of experts from the Mozambican electricity company EDM, from its Zimbabwean counterpart ZESA, and from HCB are inspecting the 127 kilometre long power line from Songo, the site of the Cahora Bassa dam, to Zimbabwe.
Cirilo Fabiao, the EDM representative working with Linjebygg, the Norwegian contractor building the line, said that the two points are now linked. The work is somewhat delayed, due to the mountainous nature of the terrain through which the line must pass.
"The construction of the transmission line is presently in its final stage", said Fabiao, adding that the cables have already been set up along the whole length, with only a few details left to complete, along a five kilometre stretch. It is expected that on 11 August the line between Songo and Zimbabwe will be ready to be switched on.
Fabiao said that the line will have a capacity to transmit 500 Megawatts, but in the initial stage would only transmit 300 Megawatts.
Mozambique's newly formed National Elections Commission (CNE) on 21 July met with representatives of the country's political parties to present them with the timetable for the first municipal elections, to be held on 27 December 1997.
The electoral timetable hinges on the date chosen by the government for the election of mayors and municipal assemblies in 33 cities and towns.
The CNE has fixed a three week period for voter registration - from 18 August to 5 September. From 9 to 18 September the electoral registers will be on display for correction of any mistakes. Since the voters' cards issued for the 1994 general elections remain valid, only a minority of the electorate will need to register.
Political parties and coalitions should inform the CNE of the intention to run in the elections between 29 September and 1 October. Independent candidates will register afterwards, from 1 to 3 October.
Independents need the explicit backing of at least one per cent of the electorate of the municipality concerned before their candidature can be accepted. The law imposes no such condition on political parties: it is sufficient that they are already registered with the Ministry of Justice.
Most parties secured this registration in 1993, ahead of the 1994 parliamentary elections. Registration required just 2,000 signatures from anywhere in the country, and there were no serious checks on the veracity of these signatures.
Lists of candidates must be formally presented to the CNE between 6 and 13 October, and their eligibility for office will be checked between 13 and 27 October.
The candidates will draw lots in the various municipalities to determine their places on the ballot papers between 27 November and 2 December, and broadcasting time on radio and television will be allotted between 5 and 12 December. The electoral campaign itself will run from 12 to 24 December.
The results will be officially proclaimed on 11 January 1998: but, assuming the same counting procedures as in 1994, they should be known unofficially a day or two after the elections.
But the government is already under pressure to postpone the elections. Although opposition parties demanded that the voting take place this year, they are deeply unhappy about the choice of 27 December. Furthermore, officials of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the civil service, to whom AIM has spoken believe that the date is quite impracticable.
Changing the date will mean amending the law on municipal elections, and that can only be done at the next session of parliament, due to begin in October.
The Mozambican and Swedish authorities on 29 July signed three co-operation agreements in Maputo, covering human rights and democracy, decentralised support for agriculture, and the general conditions for Swedish co-operation over the next five years.
Under the first of these, Sweden pledged to support the Higher Institute of International Relations to assist the Mozambican activities of the Association of European Parliamentarians for Southern Africa (AWEPA), and to fund voter education for the forthcoming local elections.
In addition Sweden would also finance the "Arms into Hoes" campaign of the Mozambican Christian Council. In this updated version of the biblical swords-into-ploughshares motif, the churchmen are collecting guns held illegally, and exchanging them for agricultural tools or other useful implements. The Christian Council has been unable to carry the campaign to the whole country because it is short of funds.
For these activities, Sweden is making $2 million available over the 1997-98 period.
As for agriculture, this agreement stipulates that $400,000 will be spent from 1997 to 1999 on studies and consultancies "to prepare the ground for decentralised assistance to the agricultural sector".
What might prove the most important of the three agreements does not mention any money at all. It is described as an "Accord on the general terms and conditions for the development of co-operation between 1 October 1997 and 30 June 2002".
The purpose of this accord is to establish the conditions that will be applied in all Swedish co-operation projects and programmes in Mozambique, as well as in the regional projects financed or co-financed by Sweden. It also covers research projects, and programmes involved Swedish and Mozambican companies.
Signing the three agreements were Mozambique's Deputy Foreign Minister Frances Rodrigues and Swedish ambassador Helena Oldmark.
Mozambique News Agency,
52-54 High Holborn,
London WC1V 6RL,
Tel: 0171 404 3230, Fax 0171 404 3231
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