The electoral campaign for the municipal elections, which will be held on 30 June, ended at midnight on 27 June. According to the electoral law, the election campaign only lasts for 13 days: it begins 15 days and ends two days before polling.
The campaign went smoothly countrywide, except for a few incidents, in which citizens were beaten up, in the western province of Tete, by Renamo supporters, whose President, Afonso Dhlakama, has been touring the country trying to persuade the electorate to abstain.
Renamo has been threatening to disrupt the elections in some areas, and the National Elections Commission (CNE) says it is working with the government to ensure safety to all voters.
As for the voting material, it is now being distributed in the 23 cities and 10 towns where the municipal elections will take place.
The Labour Ministry has announced that 30 June will be a public holiday in all 33 municipalities affected.
Despite the declared intention of the three party opposition coalition, the Democratic Union (UD), to withdraw its mayoral candidates from the local elections, their names will still appear on the ballot papers.
The CNE rejected six out of the 11 UD mayoral candidates because they did not present enough supporting signatures. Under Mozambican electoral legislation, any candidate for mayor must show that he or she has the support of at least one per cent of the municipal electorate.
Angry at the rejection of their candidates, the UD pledged to withdraw the remaining ones. This needed each candidate to send his own letter of withdrawal, with his signature recognised by a notary, to the CNE.
Three of the UD candidates did this - Antonio Muedo in Quelimane, Jose Meque in Chimoio and Amano Marrengula in Inhambane - but too late for their names to be removed from the ballot papers.
The electoral law says that any requests for withdrawal must be received by the CNE at least 10 days before polling. But the letters from the three UD candidates arrived on 23 and 24 June.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 23 June unveiled its country cooperation framework for Mozambique for the period 1998-2001. Under the four year framework, the UNDP hopes to mobilise $120.2 million for Mozambique. The programmes the funds would include poverty eradication, support for good governance, natural resource management and environmental conservation, and economic and financial management.
The country framework document states that these are to be "sustainable programmes that build indigenous capacity for management and help create an environment for expanded participation at local level".
Of the $120 million, only 21 per cent will come from the UNDP's own funds, while the rest will be mobilised from a variety of donors. The Mozambique programme is the largest that the UNDP has in Africa.
The UNDP began its operations in Mozambique shortly after independence in June 1975. The first series of programmes ran from 1978 to 1981 and cost over $22 million.
The second "country programme", from 1992 to 1996 was budgeted at $42 million, while the third, from 1987 to 1992, cost $91 million. This was dwarfed by the fourth programme, from 1993 to 1997, which was budgeted at $183 million.
The switch from a "country programme" to a "country cooperation framework" involves a cut in funding via UNDP - from an average of $36.6 million a year over the 1993-97 period, to slightly more than $30 million a year in the four year country framework period.
Mozambique's relief agency, the Disasters Control Office (DPCCN), plans to make 500 of its staff redundant, leaving only 300 working for the institution. As for the DPCCN's assets, about 600 trucks and tractors owned by the institution, and used in the past to transport food aid, are to be sold off to private businesses.
According to DPCCN director Silvano Langa, in any future food aid operation, it is private business, and not the DPCCN itself, that will provide transport.
The United Nations is providing $700,000 for training and recycling DPCCN staff, while the World Food Programme (WFP) is financing a project to modernise DPCCN management to the tune of three million dollars.
An ugly incident marred the final day of campaigning in Maputo, when Frelimo supporters threw stones at vehicles full of supporters of Philippe Gagnaux, one of the independent candidates for mayor of the capital.
The incident occurred as the convoy of Gagnaux vehicles was passing through the neighbourhood of Chamanculo, near where Frelimo candidate Artur Canana was holding a rally.
A crowd of hostile Frelimo supporters lobbed stones at their opponents, injuring at least one young woman.
The chairperson of the Human Rights League (LDH), Alice Mabota, launched her campaign as an independent candidate for mayor of Maputo on 18 June.
Mabota is standing at the head of a group calling itself METRACIM - an acronym standing for "Woman for the Transformation of Maputo City".
She launched her campaign at the Maputo suburb of Minkadjuine, gathering supporters, wearing T-shirts worded "vote METRACIM", and "Maputo city is not an orphan, its mother is Alice Mabota".
Throughout, her enthusiastic followers sang in local languages (Ronga and Shangaan): "hi ta ku vota mi Mabota" (we will vote for you Mabota), and "you are the solution to the city's problems".
If she wins in the elections of 30 June, Mabota has promised to give priority to the sectors of housing, education and health. "Concerning housing, I plan to build low-cost residential neighbourhoods, with efficient sanitation", she said.
She described the opposition parties that pulled out of the electoral race as "cowards", because "someone who believes in what he is fighting for never turns his face the other way".
Alice Mabota has accused men in Mozambican politics of being "male chauvinists", who "use women as instruments". She said she was concerned that women "only make an appearance to support candidates, and never to stand for the position themselves on an equal footing with men".
Apart from Mabota, the only woman mayoral candidate anywhere in the country is Laura Tamele, Frelimo candidate in the small town of Manhica, 80 kilometres north of Maputo.
The situation is much better in Mozambique's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, where 26 per cent of the 250 members are women. Only seven countries in the world have a better gender balance than this in their legislatures. It was achieved because of Frelimo's policy that a third of all places on its lists for the parliamentary elections would be held by women.
Incumbent mayor Artur Canana accepted an invitation to speak at a religious ceremony on 19 June. The organisation holding the service is the controversial Brazilian evangelical group, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), noted for its suspicious wealth, its claims to faith healing, its exorcisms, and its antipathy for other religions.
Another candidate, Neves Serrano, running as an independent, has been cited as saying that the IURD supports him. He is certainly using the IURD symbol (a dove superimposed on a heart) in his propaganda material.
But an IURD spokesman categorically denied that the church had anything to do with Serrano. "We don't support any candidate", the spokesman said.
Philippe Gagnaux, widely regarded as the most serious threat to Artur Canana, pledged on 19 June that he has no intention of becoming a professional politician.
Interviewed by AIM while campaigning in the outlying suburb of Benfica, Gagnaux pledged to work to transform the living standards of the poorest members of society.
His concern was to solve the problems of the people, he said. "If they trust in me, and elect me mayor, then I am ready to serve them", he declared. "I am the voice of those who have no voice. I am ready to help the people choose their destiny".
Moving around the Benfica and Mahotas suburbs, Gagnaux found a friendly reception - unlike the coolness, and even hostility, that he had met earlier in the week in Xipamanine.
The opposition parties boycotting the municipal elections only attracted a few hundred people to their final rally, held on 27 June in the Maputo suburb of Mafalala.
The main draw was to have been Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama: but he decided to stay in the province of Nampula. His place was taken by the less charismatic Joao Alexandre, Renamo's general secretary.
Of the three other politicians who addressed the rally, only one, the lawyer Maximo Dias, head of the Mozambican Nationalist Movement (MONAMO), is at all well known.
There have been ugly scenes between supporters of the Artur Canana and Philippe Gagnaux.
Gagnaux supporters complain that Frelimo election brigades in parts of the city systematically slapped Canana posters on top of Gagnaux ones.
A report in the independent paper "Metical" claimed on 16 June that one of the historic figures of Frelimo, and a father-figure of Mozambican nationalism, Marcelino dos Santos, was involved in these scenes.
Armando Guebuza, of Frelimo's Political Commission, has described the independent candidate for mayor of Beira, Francisco Masquil, as a "swindler", reports "Noticias" on 23 June.
Guebuza, who was in Sofala to support his party's electoral campaign, said that Masquil "spent nine years leading Frelimo in Sofala, swindling us and we weren't aware of it".
Masquil was governor of Sofala province (of which Beira is the capital) from 1985 to 1994. He was a member of the Frelimo Central Committee from 1989 to 1997, but resigned from Frelimo in March, in order to run as an independent in Beira.
He has subsequently attacked Frelimo as "undemocratic", claiming that the Frelimo candidates for the Beira municipal assembly were hand-picked by Guebuza and are "puppets".
Guebuza drew the conclusion that if Frelimo "swindled" people in Sofala, and if Masquil was at the head of Frelimo in the province for nine years, then presumably he was admitting that he had been a swindler.
Francisco Masquil also came under fire from Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who sad that he is just a puppet of Frelimo.
According to the Beira daily "Diario de Mocambique" Dhlakama dismissed Masquil as "an independent created by Frelimo", and urged citizens not to vote for him.
Sources among Masquil's supporters told "Diario de Mocambique" that during his visit to Beira Dhlakama met with Masquil in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade to withdraw from the election. Masquil declined to confirm or deny this.
Improving sanitation in the markets and fighting crime in the Matola, were the main promises made by the Frelimo candidate for mayor of the city, Carlos Tembe, on 22 June.
Addressing a rally in the suburb of Matola-A, Tembe said that if he is elected, all tax money contributed by the market vendors will be applied, first of all, in the improvement of sanitation.
Another issue that deserved special attention in Tembe's electoral speech was crime in Matola. To fight crime, he promised to launch coordinated actions, involving local authorities, the police and the community at large.
Tembe was campaigning in the same market where supporters of another candidate for Matola mayor, Afonso Nhantumbo, were stoned last week when they took their campaign there.
Nhantumbo is the candidate of RUMO, a coalition of two small political parties, the PPLM (Progressive Liberal Party), and the UDF (United Democratic Front).
On 21 June Carlos Tembe preceded his Sunday campaign with prayers.
Gone are the days when Frelimo prided itself on its atheism. Instead, in each of the three neighbourhoods visited by Tembe, Mussumbuluko, Malhapsene and Sikwama, on the Matola outskirts, local religious leaders led the audience in prayer before Tembe delivered his political message.
"God has empowered Carlos Tembe to lead his brothers in Matola", declared one of the protestant religious figures, Inocencio Zimbia. He defended the prayer sessions on the grounds that members of the audience had no time to go to their normal Sunday church services before attending Tembe's meetings.
Warmly greeted by his audiences, Tembe promised that he would resolve the problems of water supply, access roads and transport.
Contrary to his earlier statements that he was pulling out of the municipal elections, Felizardo Vaz, independent candidate for mayor of the city of Inhambane, has said that he is staying in the race.
According to the Maputo paper "Noticias" on 18 June, Vaz said that he took this decision because he concluded that the poor attendance at the rallies organised by Frelimo in Inhambane means that people want changes of governance.
Another factor that prompted him to remain in the race was the "strong" pressure by people for him to continue in the first municipal elections in the country.
The reason Vaz initially gave for withdrawing from the elections was that the National Elections Commission (CNE) had rejected his list of candidates for the municipal assembly. The list was handed in 12 days past the deadline of 16 April.
However, independent candidates from elsewhere in the country, notably Philippe Gagnaux in Maputo, urged him to rethink, and pointed out that the law on local authorities gives mayors very considerably powers, regardless of the make-up of the municipal assemblies.
The independent newsheet "Mediafax" on 17 June made damaging allegations of financial irregularities supposedly committed by Vitorino Macuvel, the Frelimo candidate for mayor of Inhambane.
Macuvel was mayor of Inhambane in 1991-92, and "Mediafax" has acquired a copy of a Finance Ministry audit dated November 1992, which is highly critical of Macuvel's administration. One passage in the audit that is particularly awkward for Macuvel concerns a house he had built for his secretary, Ana Maria Rungo.
A stonemason and his assistant, both employees of the Inhambane City Council, told the auditors that Macuvel ordered them to build this house. "During this period, their wages were paid by the state", the audit noted dryly.
There have also been accusations on where the material came from. While the house was being built, Macuvel used city council money to purchase, in Maputo, 100 sheets of zinc roofing and 180 sacks of cement. However, only 60 12 foot zinc sheets and 96 sacks of cement ended up in the Inhambane council warehouse.
The audit says that Macuvel admitted that 40 zinc sheets and 84 sacks of cement were missing. He said he had not yet been able to arrange transport to bring them from Maputo, but promised he would do so. It is not yet known whether he ever complied with this promise.
Macuvel also bought 600 drums of asphalt to repair Inhambane roads, but the audit could only account for 300 of these. Contacted by "Mediafax", Macuvel recognised that there had indeed been an audit, and that he had only taken 300 of the 600 drums of asphalt from Maputo to Inhambane. As for what had happened to the rest, Macuvel said he did not know "since it was at the time when I was leaving the job".
He said that at the time he had no bank account in Maputo. This conflicts with a statement in the audit that money was transferred from the City Council to a personal account held by Macuvel in a Maputo branch of the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM). The audit cites the account number.
Interviewed in the daily paper "Noticias" on 26 June, Macuvel said he had not stolen a cent from public funds.
Replying to the accusations of an irregular transfer of money from the city council account to his personal account in Maputo, Macuvel said he had taken the money to the capital in banknotes, which he had then deposited, because he was reluctant to move around Maputo with "a sack load of money".
Frelimo closed its local election campaign on 27 June in the southern city of Xai-Xai, capital of Gaza province, with a call to the electorate to "humiliate" Renamo, by turning out en masse to the polling stations on 30 June.
At the closing Xai-Xai rally, the Frelimo Gaza provincial secretary, Eliseu Machava, declared "Renamo should think about the development of the country, instead of trying to destroy the work of other people".
Some Frelimo supporters in Gaza did not restricted their annoyance with Renamo to words. The local head of Renamo administration, Antonio Muchanga, was beaten up when he tried to urge Xai-Xai residents to boycott the polls.
The Frelimo candidate for mayor of Xai-Xai, Faquir Bay, promised to use the position to change the life of the city and its people. He lists his priorities as rebuilding local infrastructures, improving the transport and water supply systems, and building a new cemetery.
A new oil refinery is likely to be built in the central city of Beira according to a report in the independent newsheet "Mediafax".
The national director of energy, Casimiro Francisco, said that there was now consensus among the interested parties that Beira would be the best site for the refinery, which would produce 100,000 barrels a day.
Iranian ambassador Abdul Ali Tavakoly confirmed this. He said that preliminary studies, costing $700,000, paid for by Iran and Malaysia, have been encouraging. He was confident that there would be a substantial market for the refinery's products in the region.
Tavakoly said that the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and PETRONAS of Malaysia would hold 50 per cent of the refinery's capital. The other 50 per cent "could be distributed among other potential investors", he said, including the governments and private sectors of other southern African countries.
Mozambique's existing refinery, in Matola, has not functioned for a decade and a half. It is obsolete, and the Iranians do not believe it can be made viable, even with rehabilitation.
The cost of building a refinery in Beira is estimated at $1.2 billion, and building work would take two years.
The Mozambican government and a consortium of Mauritian private companies are to set up a new sugar company on the banks of the Zambezi, inheriting the assets of the defunct Sena Sugar Estates (SSE).
The chairman of the SSE privatisation commission, Arnaldo Ribeiro, and the director of the Mauritian consortium "Societe Marromeu", Thierry Lagesse, said on 19 June that the new company will have a share capital of $27 million, 75 per cent provided by the Mauritians, and 25 per cent by the Mozambican state in the form of the existing SSE assets.
About $70 million of fresh investment is required to rehabilitate the two ruined SSE sugar refineries - one at Luabo, on the north bank of the Zambezi, and the other at Marromeu on the south bank. Both were sabotaged by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels in 1986.
As from September fresh sugar cane would be planted to ensure that there will be enough cane for the factories to start producing sugar in 2001.
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