Agriculture Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario warned on 30 October that if the drought feared for this agricultural season in southern and central Mozambique materialises at least three million people could be seriously affected. He said crop failures could lead to displacement of people, as they moved to wherever food might be available.
Drought in southern Africa is predicted by meteorologists because of the "El Nino" phenomenon, an anomalous warming of the surface waters in the southern Pacific, which disrupts world weather patterns. "El Nino" correlates strongly with exceptionally dry conditions south of the Zambezi.
Rosario said that the government's multi-sectoral plan envisages establishing operational food reserves to assist those at risk. If drought strikes, an estimated 550,000 tonnes of grain will be needed, both for free distribution to destitute rural families, and for sale through the normal commercial network, mainly to the urban population.
The operational reserve stock should consist of at least 95,000 tonnes of maize and 5,000 tonnes of beans, which is costed at around $27 million. Rosario also suggested a renewable financial reserve, so that stocks could continually be topped up until the likely deficit is fully covered.
Drought could ruin livestock farmers. The government estimates that 120,000 head of cattle are at risk. It is drawing up plans to buy the animals from farmers in high-risk areas and move them to other, safer parts of the country.
These purchases, plus fresh supplies of seeds, tools, and other agricultural and veterinary equipment, are costed at $17.4 million.
A further $12.85 million will be needed to purchase grain from the food surplus areas in the north of the country, which are unlikely to be affected by drought, and move it to the food deficit areas in the centre and south.
Ironically, the government is discussing drought during an exceptionally wet and cool Maputo October. But the fact that it has rained heavily in October is no guarantee of what may happen in November and December.
The Assembly of the Republic, on 29 October rejected a government bill seeking to establish a High Authority Against Corruption. The bill, presented by the Minister of State Administration, Alfredo Gamito, sought to set up a body of five people, empowered to investigate and report upon all signs and complaints of corruption.
The chairperson of this High Authority would be appointed by President Joaquim Chissano, while the other four would be elected by the Assembly, but from lists of citizens of good repute supplied by trade unions, NGOs, churches and other organisations of civil society.
The High Authority would have no decision making power: it would merely channel its findings to the relevant legal bodies. Its members would be well paid, earning the salary of a minister. The costs of the High Authority would come out of the state budget.
Three of the Assembly's specialised commissions gave written opinions on the government's bill; all advised against creating new bodies rather than strengthening existing ones.
The Legal Affairs Commission pointed out that bodies such as the Administrative Court, the Attorney-General's Office, and the State Inspectorate, already have clear legal powers to deal with corruption.
"These bodies should be empowered so that they can effectively carry out their legal vocation", it urged, warning against "the multiplication of bodies all with the same purpose without giving them the resources needed to do their job".
"The Criminal Investigation Police must function effectively and impartially, and the courts must judge impartially and speedily", it urged, adding that "the cancer of corruption" was already eroding these bodies which should be in the forefront of the anti-corruption battle.
The Commission suggested that the Assembly look into establishing the post of ombudsman to help protect citizens' rights.
When parliamentary chairman Eduardo Mulembue asked if there was consensus that the bill should not have a second reading, the vast majority of deputies shouted "yes".
Mozambique and Finland signed an agreement on 31 October in Maputo, under which Finland will grant more than $3 million over the next four years to support the Chimoio Agrarian Institute, in the central province of Manica. Under the terms of the agreement, the money is to be used to work out an improved training programme. Mozambique will contribute 8.715 billion meticais (about $700,000).
The Mozambican and Norwegian governments signed an agreement in Maputo on 27 October under which Norway will provide 12 million Norwegian crowns ($1.7 million) for rural rehabilitation and development. The agreement intends to promote sustainable rehabilitation and development in the rural areas.
Among the activities it envisages is increasing the effectiveness of provincial and district governments and improving their abilities to prepare and implement short and medium term development plans in Gaza, Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces.
It hopes to modernise and improve the professional competence of district administrators and of heads of administrative posts. Much of the work will be done in Cabo Delgado, where it is planned to stimulate consultative forms of governance at district level.
Cabo Delgado districts will also be equipped so as to gain experience in identifying, planning and implementing micro-projects. Finally, the agreement hopes to stimulate agricultural production and increase rural income in Cabo Delgado.
Mozambique and Sweden signed on 20 October in Maputo two cooperation agreements under which Mozambique is to receive about $14.5 million in aid. Of this sum, $10 million is to support the Mozambican balance of payments, while the remaining $4.5 million is to finance the installation of a rural electricity network in the northern province of Nampula.
The funds for the balance of payments will be channelled through Mozambique's Foreign Debt Relief Fund.
Sweden thus becomes the fourth country to support this fund (the others are Holland, Denmark and Norway). Contributions to this fund are used to pay off some of Mozambique's debt service obligations to multilateral bodies, thus releasing money from the state budget which will be used to support programmes in the areas of education, health, and rural water supply.
As for rural electrification, the idea is to improve electricity infrastructures between Ribaue and Iapala in the west of Nampula province, supplying electricity to about 1,000 houses, and 25 small and medium sized industries.
Canada is to grant one million Canadian dollars (about $USD715,000) to Mozambique to support the country's first municipal elections, due to be held in the first half of 1998.
An agreement on the issue was signed on 2 November in Maputo by Mozambican deputy Foreign Minister Hipolito Patricio and Canadian Cooperation Minister Diane Marleau.
The money is to be channelled through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)'s "Trust Fund", and is meant for the acquisition of equipment for voter registration, due to take place from 10 to 30 November.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 31 October promised that the government would seek mechanisms to provide peasant farmers with access to credit.
Peasants were not asking for large sums of money. Mocumbi said that the credit they were seeking was of the order of 300,000 meticais ($25) each. "Unfortunately, no institution in the current banking system is prepared to make loans of less than $1,000", he added. "Small loans are not profitable for a commercial bank".
"We have to find alternative means of financing for people who can increase their production with sums as small as $25 or $30", said Mocumbi.
He said he was prepared to discuss mechanisms for rural credit with the banks, and thought that NGOs involved in rural development might be able to play a valuable role.
Asked about the prospects for debt relief, Mocumbi said that Mozambique needed to benefit urgently from the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative. However, the World Bank and the IMF are currently insisting that Mozambique will have to wait until mid-1999 before it can benefit.
"The weight of foreign debt is extremely negative for economic and social development", he said. "We can't talk of sustainability until we deal with this question. While we have to pour resources into debt repayment, we will have difficulty in finding resources for investment, particularly in those areas that most affect people's lives, such as education, health and water supply".
The government's five year development programme "obviously suffers from this heavy debt", Mocumbi added.
The Democratic Union (UD) coalition, the smallest of the groups represented in the Assembly of the Republic, on 29 October attacked the main opposition force, Renamo, for being "infiltrated" by "opportunists" and by "agents of SNASP" (the paramilitary security body abolished in 1991).
The head of the UD parliamentary group, Antonio Palange, had been infuriated by Renamo criticisms of the UD the previous day, when it jointly sponsored a bill amending local authority legislation so as to allow the country's first municipal elections to be held within the first six months of 1998, rather than in 1997 as initially planned.
Irritated at finding their habitual allies lining up with Frelimo for a change, several Renamo deputies accused the UD of "snuggling up" to Frelimo.
So on 29 October Palange used the period "before the order of the day", reserved for political declarations unrelated to matters on the parliamentary agenda, to launch a stinging attack on Renamo.
In parliament, Renamo was "represented by opportunists and infiltrators", he accused. "The SNASP assassins of yesterday have now declared war against the UD". (As frequently mentioned by Frelimo spokesmen, several Renamo parliamentarians worked for SNASP in the 1970s and 1980s.)
"We will persuade those members of the international community who sympathise with Renamo to change their minds", he threatened. "We will tell them that Renamo never ceased to be a gang of unscrupulous bandits. Renamo longs to go back to war".
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, has announced his intention to sack the Renamo general secretary, Jose de Castro.
In September, Castro led a group of armed bodyguards in an attack on Renamo's own radio station, Radio Terra Verde, in central Maputo, and expelled the administrators of the private company Greenland Television Mozambique (GTM), who were managing the radio under a five year contract with Renamo.
Interviewed in the latest issue of the independent weekly "Savana", Dhlakama said the he had given no instructions to Castro to storm the radio. Castro had acted on his own initiative. Dhlakama told "Savana" he would have to sack Castro because of repeated complaints from Renamo members at the bureaucratic and insensitive way Castro runs the party.
Dhlakama did not say when he intended to remove Castro from his position, only that he would certainly be sacked before the next Renamo congress, scheduled for the first half of 1998.
A further problem for Renamo is that Castro is one of the three people nominated by Renamo to sit on the National Elections Commission (CNE), which will organise both next year's local elections and the 1999 general election. CNE members cannot be sacked, however much the Renamo leadership may come to regret putting Castro on the Commission.
The Ministry of Transport is to submit draft legislation to the government, to reduce the carnage on the country's roads. Deputy Transport Minister Antonio Fernando, speaking on 23 October, during the closing session of a Maputo Seminar on Road Safety, stressed that among the new regulations would be compulsory third party insurance.
The law as it currently stands does not oblige motorists to insure their vehicles: there is thus no mechanism to compensate innocent people who suffer injury or loss of property in traffic accidents. A further proposal is for regular compulsory checks on the road worthiness of vehicles.
The government is interested in allocating funds to change the present situation, in which 1,000 people a year die because of road accidents.
The seminar recommended stricter measures to control drunken driving, including the establishment of maximum blood alcohol levels. Statistics from the National Traffic Institute show that 23 per cent of the total of road accidents in the country are caused by drunken driving.
The British company Intertek Testing Services (ITS) has claimed that its work on pre-shipment inspection of imports to Mozambique has boosted customs revenue by at least $26 million.
Under its contract with the Mozambican government, since early 1996 ITS has been inspecting, in the country of origin, any imports to Mozambique valued at over $2,500.
ITS says that, from the start of its contract until September 1997, it processed more than 47,000 import licences and carried out more than 29,000 inspections. One in three of these inspections resulted in alterations of some kind to the importers' documents.
The purpose of these inspections is to make sure that the goods imported are not under or over-invoiced, and to protect the country against the import of substandard, defective or dangerous goods.
ITS has detected under-invoicing on $46 million worth of goods. When the reclassification of goods that had initially been given the wrong customs tariff code is included, the amount of extra money that ITS has raised is $26 million.
Mozambique is "particularly vulnerable" to corruption, President Joaquim Chissano admitted on 1 November. Addressing the annual forum of the Global Coalition for Africa, held in Maputo, the President blamed this vulnerability on the recent war of destabilisation "which led not only to generalised impoverishment, but also to the subversion of values and the deterioration of the social fabric".
He warned that this did not mean that only the poor should be regarded as corruptible. "In fact, in all countries we see that the most flagrant cases involve those with sufficient wealth to live well", he said.
The Assembly of the Republic, on 3 November voted in favour of reintroducing military conscription - a decision which led the main opposition party, Renamo, to walk out of the chamber in protest.
The bill establishes a semi-professional military service, with one component consisting of volunteers, and a second component consisting of conscripts.
The bill does not state what proportion of the armed forces should consist of conscripts, leaving it up to the government to decide, on a year by year basis, how many people will be recruited to the armed forces, and how many of those will be volunteers.
The bill states that, in the year they reach 18, all citizens must register for military service. In the year that they reach 19, they will called for tests to determine their physical and psychological fitness for military service. Those who are declared fit may then be recruited.
Although the bill does not state so explicitly, only a small percentage of those who register will be called on to take the tests. This is because the current size of the armed forces is only 12,000, and about 75,000 young men attain the age of 18 every year.
Once recruited, the conscripts will stay in the army for two years. Citizens may delay taking the fitness tests if they are studying, if they are legally residing abroad, if they already have a brother serving in the army, or if they are suffering from a prolonged illness.
Citizens may request exemption from military service if they are the sons or brothers of people who have died while serving with the army, or if they are the sole breadwinner in the family.
Renamo had attempted to delay the vote on the first reading of the government's bill on military service, but its request for an extra 60 minutes of debate, made on 30 October, was turned down.
Unable to continue the debate by normal means, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Raul Domingos, used the period "before the order of the day" to reiterate Renamo's arguments against conscription.
The refusal to give more time to the debate, he accused, was an attempt to silence critical voices. "Criticism is not lack of patriotism", he pointed out. "Putting alternatives is not rebellion. Disagreement is not treason".
He rejected accusations that Renamo, by opposing conscription, was somehow also opposing national unity, was being unpatriotic, and was in thrall to foreign advisers. "We are not against designing norms for military service", said Domingos. "But we are against making that service compulsory. We want a non-partisan, professional and small armed forces that have great mobility and combat readiness. Such armed forces must be scaled in accordance with the economic difficulties of the country".
"We want the FADM (Mozambican Defence Force) to be characterised by discipline, and identified with the society in which it is rooted", he continues. "But Frelimo wants an army of disgruntled conscripts, who are indisciplined, hungry and in rags. They want an army of the poor commanded by the rich and by Frelimo. They want an army recruited by force".
Domingos also claimed that the government bill was a carbon copy of the Portuguese law on military service. For good measure, he accused those promoting the bill "of never doing military service, either as conscripts or as volunteers".
He urged the government to withdraw the bill in order to allow a full scale national debate on conscription, or even a referendum on the subject.
This plea fell on deaf ears, and in the subsequent vote the bill passed its first reading with 124 Frelimo votes in favour, 103 Renamo ones against, and eight members of the third parliamentary group, the Democratic Union (UD), abstaining.
The rapporteur of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Sergio Vieira, justified Frelimo's vote on the grounds that "the defence of the motherland is the responsibility of all citizens, hence the logic that military service should be compulsory".
As the bill moved into its second reading, when deputies attempt to amend it article by article, the entire Renamo group walked out of the chamber. Frelimo and the UD continued without them.
This guaranteed a dull, low-key debate. The only significant issue over which Frelimo deputies disagreed among themselves was whether private companies should be prohibited from employing workers whose military duties have not been "regularised".
One far-reaching amendment to the bill went through without any debate at all. This was the conscription of women.
The government bill only envisaged conscripting men: women could join the armed forces as volunteers. But the Legal Affairs Commission solemnly declared that this was unconstitutional, and the entire Frelimo group seemed to agree. Thus women are to be forced into the armed forces in the name of sexual equality.
Mozambique News Agency
Fenner Brockway House
37/39 Great Guildford Street
London SE1 0ES
Tel: 0171 928 5657,
Fax 0171 928 5954
Return to index