Minister of State Administration, Alfredo Gamito, said on 10 October that the earliest possible date for Mozambique's first municipal elections is now the first week of April 1998. Voter registration has been fixed for the period 10 to 30 November. This will be followed by any complaints and corrections to the electoral registers, which must be displayed on public view. Only on 29 December can the registers be definitively closed.
Once the number of voters is known, the National Elections Commission (CNE), the independent body in charge of running the elections, must announce how many seats there are in each of the municipal assemblies - the local election law establishes a formula whereby the number of seats in any assembly is proportional to the number of registered voters.
Once this is done, there must be a period of 75 days for political parties and independent groups of citizens to present their candidates, and for the CNE to check whether they meet the requirements stipulated by law. Any disputes that arise at this stage must be resolved by the Supreme Court.
All this, said Gamito, meant that it would not be possible to hold the municipal elections before early April.
However, the former rebel movement Renamo has demanded that these elections be held in mid-February. Gamito remarked that Renamo could only take this position "out of ignorance of the law, or failure to interpret it properly".
The minister said that money was now available to hold the elections: indeed donors had provided more than the government had requested. The initial budget for voter registration and for the local elections themselves was $17.7 million, but the amount available was now $18.6 million.
The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral arm of the Mozambican civil service, on 13 October launched a nation-wide voter education campaign to ensure mass participation in the updating of the electoral register.
The campaign would last 45 days, with the aim of persuading people who are first time voters, who have changed their address, or who have lost their voter's card, to register. The voter registration period itself runs from 10 to 30 November.
The campaign will consist of advertisements on radio and television, and in the newspapers, and the mass dropping of leaflets from helicopters.
Voter registration brigades will operate from exactly the same places as during the 1994 registration for the country's first multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections. The voter's cards issued in 1994 remain valid: thus most of the electorate will not need to register this time around.
Those who should register are the half million or so Mozambicans who have attained the age of majority (18) since 1994, about a million voters who did not register in 1994 (because they were refugees, displaced, or for other reasons), and anyone who has mislaid their voter's card.
Silva said that 1,770 voter education agents have been trained. They will work in schools, markets and other places where people gather, to persuade voters to register.
United Nations agencies and other foreign aid donors said on 16 October in Maputo that they are ready to support Mozambican efforts to counter the possible effects of the El-Nino phenomenon.
Meteorologists fear that El-Nino (an anomalous warming of the surface waters in the south Pacific) will cause drought in southern Africa from November. Mozambique, south of the Zambezi is likely to be affected.
Representatives of various donor organisations said during a meeting organised by the Mozambican emergency relief department (DPCCN) that they are working out support plans, and some of them have even forwarded aid funds.
A spokesperson for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said this organisation has set aside $25 million earmarked for the acquisition of foodstuffs.
The European Union, for its part, although not mentioning any figures, said it has worked out a food security support programme and a regional action plan to face the likely effects of El-Nino.
A representative of the Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries tabled in the meeting the country's additional needs in terms of inputs (seeds and tools) for agriculture, and extra costs for livestock and agricultural marketing.
According to this report, the agricultural sector will need at least $4.43 million, livestock raising requires $12.51 million, and a further $12 million are needed to boost agricultural marketing.
The representative of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism said that his institution is paying special attention to ensure the country has sufficient food stocks. Some money is already available for this purpose, and further funding is under negotiation. But he added that so far there is no reason for concern, because there is no sign of stocks running out.
During the same meeting, the National Water Board also presented its report on the situation of the country's dams, and the programmes for the opening of new wells.
A representative of the Ministry of Health talked of the precautions to be taken against diseases (such as cholera and dysentery) that might be spread should drought force people to resort to unsafe sources of water.
The Irish government is to continue financing social programmes in Inhambane and Niassa until the year 2000. Ireland has been financing education, agricultural and health programmes in those provinces since 1996.
The Irish government will grant $12 million up until the year 2000, six million for each province. The funds are aimed at supporting the implementation of the government's five year programme concerning the expansion of the school network, agricultural programmes, and the building of new health centres.
Ireland has disbursed $300,000 for the building of four first level (grades one to five) primary schools in Inhambane in 1997, two in the district of Mabote, and the other two in the district of Massinga.
It has also granted $300,000 for the upgrading of 219 teachers in teaching methods in that area of the country, and another 700 will be retrained by January 1998.
In the health sector, Ireland will invest $460,000 in 1997, $300,000 for the building of three health centres in the districts of Mabote, Funhaloro and Govuro, and $160,000 for the rehabilitation of existing centres.
In agriculture, it granted $100,000 in 1997 to increase the cultivation of cassava (a drought resistant crop), stimulate cashew harvesting and open wells in Funhaloro and Mabote.
Ireland has also supported fishing with $120,000, that were used to provide credit to fishermen in the coastal district of Inhassoro.
The Mozambican and Norwegian governments on 10 October signed an agreement in Maputo under which Norway will provide 150 million crowns (about $21 million) to Mozambique's debt relief fund. Half the money will be disbursed this year and the rest in 1998.
The debt relief fund was set up in 1996 as a method whereby sympathetic donors could pay off some of Mozambique's debts to multilateral institutions. This releases money from the state budget which can then be spent on the social sectors.
The first contributions to the fund came from Denmark and Holland in October 1996, totalling $24 million, used to meet payments falling due to the IMF.
The Swedish government, through its International Development Agency (SIDA), granted on 14 October in Maputo, $125,000 to the Mozambican Christian Council (CCM), for its "arms into hoes" (TAE) project.
The project, that consists of encouraging people to hand over weapons that are unlawfully in their possession, in exchange for useful equipment such as sewing machines, tractors, bicycles, etc., was launched in October 1995. The weapons are subsequently destroyed.
With this funding, the project is to be extended to the southern provinces of Gaza and Inhambane and, at a later stage, to the centre of the country, starting in Zambezia province.
Education Minister Arnaldo Nhavoto on 10 October called on cadres of his ministry to be vigilant against any "irregularities" in the coming end of year examinations.
The education system has regularly been rocked by serious instances of academic fraud, whereby exam papers are leaked and sold in advance.
Speaking at the end of a meeting of his ministry's Coordinating Council in Maputo, Nhavoto urged education officials to take action as from now to ensure that the entire exam process was "transparent".
"The exam procedure is about to start, and we must we attentive to what is happened as the exams are prepared and held, and during the phase of exam correction", said the minister. "We must take preventive measures to avoid any possible irregularities".
Nhavoto said that 1998, the penultimate year of this government's term of office, would be crucial for all sectors of activity, including education. "It is imperative that we make a profound assessment of what has been achieved in the plans of all sectors", he declared.
A judge in Nampula city has warned that serious measures will be taken if the former rebel movement Renamo continues to incite its members and sympathisers to defy decisions taken by the courts.
Last month the Nampula provincial court found 14 Renamo supporters guilty of participating in an illegal demonstration in May. Each was given a two year suspended prison sentence, and ordered to pay a small fine and legal costs.
The Renamo leadership, however, has claimed that the sentences are "null and void". A judge on the provincial court, Lopes Samurera, cited in "Noticias", said this attitude was "a serious affront" to the law. He pointed out that people who do not pay fines or costs ordered by a court go to jail - there is no option.
At least 25 people have died in the Maputo-Matola conurbation during the current outbreak of cholera, blamed on the consumption of contaminated water, and the general lack of hygiene in much of the city, where huge piles of rubbish accumulate in the streets.
According to a source in the Maputo office of the World Health Organisation, most of the cases of cholera have been reported from the suburban areas, where sanitation conditions are particularly poor.
The Ministry of Health has launched a health education campaign to cope with the outbreak. Brigades are being sent door to door to explain the risks and tell citizens how to avoid catching the disease.
WHO warns that cholera cannot be regarded as a problem merely for the Health Ministry. The WHO source said that civil society in general should improve conditions of hygiene in the city.
The Mozambican government has received $4.5 million in compensation for damages resulting from the spilling of thousands of tonnes of fuel oil by the Greek tanker Katina P in Mozambican waters, in April 1992.
Mozambique had claimed $10.7 million, but has accepted $4.5 million. Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, John Kachamila, said that the government had received as much as legally possible.
Mozambique's lack of experience in cases of this nature, and the fact that at the time of the oil spill the country had not signed up to key conventions of the International Maritime Organisation, contributed to the relatively small amount of compensation.
Kachamila said the only option left open to Mozambique had been the voluntary compensation scheme operated by the oil industry itself, and known as TOVALOP.
The details of the case showed horrific negligence by the owners and captain of the Katina-P. The ship was old, unseaworthy, and was being taken to Bangladesh to be sold for scrap.
Despite this, after the ship had set out from Rio de Janeiro on what was supposed to be its last voyage, and was crossing the Atlantic, it was called back and told to pick up 66,000 tonnes of fuel oil from Venezuela and ship it to Fujirah in the United Arab Emirates. This aspect of the affair is still unexplained: it is hard to see why anyone in the Persian Gulf should import oil from Latin America.
There has been a suspicion that the fuel oil was a cover-up, and that the ship was carrying something else in its holds.
Zambia may use the Nacala Corridor, the railway across northern Mozambique linking the port of Nacala to landlocked Malawi, for some of its exports and imports as from next year.
The Mozambican publicly-owned ports and rail company, CFM, has highlighted the time and cost advantages that Nacala has for eastern Zambia, compared with Dar es Salaam or South African ports.
Gerry Chabwera, chairman of the Zambian Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said he was impressed at the Nacala Corridor infrastructures. He believed that annually Zambia could export 500,000 tonnes of goods and import 150,000 tonnes through Nacala.
The main goods for export would be cotton, tobacco and grain, to European and other markets. Imports would include fuel and fertiliser.
Chabwera said that the Nacala Corridor was more competitive than the alternatives, such as the route to Durban.
President Joaquim Chissano has inaugurated a new tourist complex at Zonguene, in the province of Gaza.
The "Zonguene lodge" is a beach resort near the mouth of the Limpopo river, about 160 kilometres north of Maputo. The company that owns the lodge, the "Agencia Turismo Concha de Mocambique", is itself 85 per cent owned by the South African company "Xefina Investment", while the other 15 per cent are held by Mozambican businessman Fernando Chicolowe, who is the director of the lodge. The total investment in the lodge is 11 million rands (about $2.5 million).
Chicolowe described the new lodge as an "eco-tourist" undertaking, which would employ 70 workers. It has 60 beds, in 20 cottages, a conference centre, an airstrip, a swimming pool, and facilities for fishing and water sports.
Chicolowe pledged that the minimum wage at the complex would be 700,000 meticais a month, which is more than twice the statutory monthly minimum of 311,794 meticias ($27).
In a short speech at the inauguration ceremony, Chissano said tourism in Mozambique was now "not just a potential, but a reality. We can now invite tourists to see the diversity of attractions that we have on offer".
Gaza provincial governor Eugenio Numaio said the new lodge fitted in with the government's five year plan and with the Gaza provincial authorities' master plan for the development of tourism. He said that similar projects were under implementation elsewhere along the Gaza coastline. "We shall ensure that this undertaking offers quality tourism", said Chicolowe, adding that the price list will shortly be submitted for approval by the National Tourism Board.
The Agro-Industrial and Commercial Association in the northernmost province of Niassa (AGICONI) has selected ten Mozambican farmers who will work alongside 24 South Africans on land allocated to the Mosagrius Development Corporation (SDM) in the Lugenda Valley in Majune district.
One of the Mozambican partners of the South African farmers is a prominent Niassa parliamentarian deputy for the ruling Frelimo Party, Fernando Jorge.
Mosagrius is a joint venture between the Mozambican state and the South African Chamber for Agricultural Development in Africa (SACADA). Its initial capital is to be $1 million, half provided by each of the partners.
However, according to the chairman of the SDM board, Antonio Muacorica, the Mozambican government has not yet made its half a million dollars available.
Muacorica said the South African government was providing 10,000 rands (about $2,300) in start up funds for each Mozambican farmer, while awaiting for the Mozambican state to make its contribution to Mosagrius.
Of the 100,000 hectares of agricultural land that Mosagrius will eventually occupy, 70,000 have now been formally demarcated, thus making it possible for work to start this season.
Provincial government sources are optimistic that in the first year the Mosagrius programme will provide 2,500 jobs, as well as professional training for the Mozambican participants.
The American millionaire James Blanchard III has begun restocking the Maputo Elephants Reserve, south-west of the capital, with wild animals. The reserve is a key part of the eco-tourism project that Blanchard's company, Blanchard Mozambique Enterprises (BME) is implementing in Matutuine district.
The first 25 animals, all kudos, arrived on 15 October. They had been purchased for 1,800 rands ($410) each from the Groblesdal private reserve in the South African province of Mpumalanga. 20 waterbuck purchased for the reserve are due to arrive soon.
BME also hopes to bring in rhinos, buffalos, leopards and lions, among other species. There used to be a small herd of white rhinoceros in the reserve, but they were poached to extinction in the early 1980s.
BME admits that poaching is a major headache, given the small number of game wardens available. "Our main discussion at the moment is how to protect them", said Blanchard's representative, Antonio da Rocha.
Rocha thought it was necessary to persuade the local population that the animals are worth more to them alive than dead, since they will gain from the employment prospects that the tourism project opens. Rocha added that fencing the reserve will be concluded by the end of October, a month behind schedule.
Blanchard's project envisages luxury hotels, golf courses, a new steam railway down the coast, and floating casinos. Matutuine will be promoted as a holiday destination for rich Americans offering both a rich diversity of wildlife and a chain of unspoilt beaches.
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