Mozambique's first multi-party local elections took place peacefully on 30 June - but failed to catch the interest of the electorate, with only one in five bothering to vote. Provisional results show that the ruling Frelimo Party is certain to win all the mayoral posts, and take control of all the municipal authorities.
Success was immediately claimed by the main opposition party, Renamo, who organised a boycott of the elections alleging that they were rigged in favour of Frelimo.
However, voting patterns suggest that the electorate chose apathy, with disorganisation playing an important role. While Renamo can claim some success with the derisory turnout in its stronghold of Beira, it cannot explain the poor turnout in Maputo, a city where Renamo has never had any significant support. Nor can it explain the results in Frelimo's Limpopo Valley fortress in Gaza.
There was also a strong trend towards relatively high turnouts in the smaller municipalities.
A Maputo opinion poll prior to the election suggested that many citizens intended to abstain because they were disillusioned with politics and politicians. Among the other responses given in this poll were that citizens did not know who the candidates were, and were unclear what the elections were all about.
Frelimo general secretary Manuel Tome stressed that an 80 per cent abstention rate did not mean that 80 per cent of the electorate were Renamo supporters. He pointed out that in the South African local elections, turnout had been about 30 per cent.
Tome made it clear that he wanted changes in the way the electoral bodies function. There are management problems that must be solved, he declared.
As for the reasons for high levels of abstention, Tome thought there had been inadequate voter education. The educational work done by STAE had not been as intensive as for the 1994 general elections, and the additional work put in by candidates themselves did not fill the gap.
He thought a further factor was the widespread feeling that it was not worth voting, since in 19 out of 33 municipalities Frelimo was unopposed.
Renamo's abstention campaign could not be disregarded either, Tome conceded.
Minister of State Administration Alfredo Gamito said that, despite poor turnout in the elections, there is no reason to invalidate the results.
Gamito recalled that, according to the law, the electoral results are determined by the number of valid votes cast, and not by blank or spoilt ballots or by abstentions.
Gamito acknowledged that it was "far below our expectations". He blamed this on several factors, including "intimidation" and "a campaign of disinformation" waged by the former rebel movement Renamo, the country's largest opposition party.
A further factor that may have dissuaded voters from participating was the shameful disorganisation exhibited by the STAE. In central Maputo most polling stations opened at least two hours late. There were cases in which Maputo polling stations, which should have been open to voters at 07.00, remained closed until 15.00.
The trunks containing the ballot boxes, ballot papers and other necessary material arrived late. Worse still, in a large number of polling stations the trunks arrived without keys, and eventually polling station staff saw no alternative but to smash open the padlocks.
Despite this crisis, STAE officials did not systematically visit the polling stations to give the staff guidelines. Staff to whom AIM spoke in the evening were unanimous in affirming that they had seen nobody from STAE all day.
STAE provided no food or drink for the staff, some of whom had left home at 04.00 that morning, and were expected to work until the count finished (at around 22.00). Hungry polling station staff at one stage threatened not to count the ballot papers, unless they were given food, or money with which to buy some. STAE has denied that it ever promised "food subsidies" to the polling station staff.
From several municipalities, Radio Mozambique reported cases of voters who, although they had voting cards, could not find their names on the registers at the polling stations.
There were also cases where the location of polling stations had been changed. Voters believed they would vote in the same places where they had registered, and were annoyed to find that the location had been altered.
Both independent candidates for mayor of Maputo, Philippe Gagnaux and Alice Mabota, condemned the disorganisation when they spoke to the press immediately after casting their votes. Gagnaux regarded the situation as "a disgrace".
The provisional election results confirm that the great majority of the electorate did not vote, and that the ruling Frelimo Party will control most of the municipal councils.
In Maputo the Frelimo candidate, incumbent mayor Artur Canana won, but with a strong showing by independent candidate Philippe Gagnaux.
A provisional count from 463 polling stations out of the 1,079 shows that Canana won 61.6 per cent of the vote. Lying in second place was Gagnaux with 33.6 per cent. In the battle for control of the municipal assembly, Frelimo had 62.9 per cent, and Gagnaux's list, running under the name "Together for the city", had 30.3 per cent. 86 per cent of the electorate did not vote.
In the mayoral contest Alice Mabota received 2.2 per cent of the vote. Jeremias Chicava and Neves Serrano, had 1.8 and 0.9 per cent of the vote respectively.
In the city of Inhambane, with the count in from all but one of the polling stations, Frelimo candidate for mayor, Victorino Macuvel, had 2,674 votes, as against 1,430 for the independent candidate Felizardo Vaz.
A third candidate, Amane Marrengula, of the three party opposition coalition, the Democratic Union (UD), took less than 100 votes. Marrengula had tried to withdraw from the election, but his letter of withdrawal reached the CNE too late for his name to be removed.
There are 26,921 registered voters in Inhambane. The turnout was therefore about 15.6 per cent.
In Vilanculo, a small town on the coast, 3,105 people out of an electorate of 12,608 voted - which is a turnout of 24.6 per cent. 369 of these ballots were blank, and 177 were spoiled. Of the valid votes, 2,508 were for the Frelimo candidate for mayor, Sulemane Amuji, and just 51 for Jordao Mufume of the UD.
In the largest municipality, Maxixe, which has 50,661 registered voters, there was a 20 per cent turnout, with the Frelimo candidate unopposed.
In Montepuez 11,242 people voted out of an electorate of 25,610 - 43.9 per cent. But only 2,868 of Mocimboa da Praia's 21,931 voters went to the polls, which is a turnout of 13.1 per cent.
Turnouts of less than 20 per cent were also registered in the two municipalities in Tete. 4,355 people voted in Tete city, which is 8.9 per cent of an electorate of 48,922.
In Moatize 2,551 citizens cast their votes - 15.7 per cent of a total electorate of 16,229.
Frelimo won in Beira, where it was widely expected to lose to the independent candidate Francisco Masquil, a former provincial governor who resigned from Frelimo in order to fight for the post of mayor. With results available from 23 of Beira's 31 neighbourhoods, Frelimo's Chivavice Muchangage had 57 per cent of the vote, and Masquil 41 per cent.
As for the Beira municipal assembly, the Frelimo list took 58 per cent, and Masquil's group, which calls itself "Reflection and Change", took 36 per cent.
Abstentions in Beira were running at 91 per cent. Masquil's supporters were pleased at the result. "There are going to be a lot of us in the municipal assembly", Fernando Ferreia Mendes, a former national director of ports and railways, told the daily newsheet "Mediafax".
Beira split into two zones. The modernised, central part of the city was clearly in favour of Frelimo. But in polling stations in the outlying suburbs, Masquil frequently won more than 50 per cent of votes.
In Dondo over 14,600 people voted for the uncontested Frelimo candidate Manuel Cambezo. This is 46.8 per cent of the registered electorate - the best turnout so far reported from any of the municipalities. Indeed, it is possible that, once blank and spoilt ballots are included, the Dondo turnout might go to over 50 per cent.
In the city of Chimoio, about 8,000 people voted - which is ten per cent of the 80,759 voters.
There was a fairly close contest in the small town of Manhica. 3,470 out of 12,463 registered voters went to the polls - a turnout of 27.8 per cent. The Frelimo candidate for mayor, Laura Tamele, took 780 votes, and her independent opponent, Esebio Manhica, running for a group calling itself NATURMA (Natives and Residents of Manhica) won 719 votes. It is not clear whether this result covers all Manhica polling stations.
In Catandica, the turnout was 31.8 per cent - 2,329 people voted out of an electorate of 7,318.
In Xai-Xai "Metical" counted the results posted at 81 polling stations, where 38,855 voters were registered, and found that 10,970 of them had voted - a turnout of 28.2 per cent.
In the other major urban centres, namely Chibuto and Chokwe, there were turnouts of 27.5 and 20.7 per cent respectively. In the small town of Manjacaze, 2,090 people voted - which is 37.7 per cent of the electorate.
In Chibuto 6,660 out of 24,229 voters went to the polls - a 27.5 per cent turnout. Independent challenger to Frelimo, Benjamim Muchanga, did extremely badly, collecting less than 300 votes.
All these figures must be treated with caution: they are taken from the results posted on the polling station walls by the staff immediately after the count, but they are subject to verification by the CNE, which is the only body empowered to give official results.
The definitive economic figures for 1997 produced by the National Statistics Institute show a growth of 14 per cent in Gross Domestic Product, with every sign of strong growth continuing into 1998, Planning and Finance Minister Tomas Salomao said on 10 July.
This is much higher than the provisional growth figure given by the government to the Assembly of the Republic in December - which was eight per cent without services (or 6.6 per cent, including services).
Salomao explained that, of necessity, a document presented to the Assembly in mid-December is based on incomplete data. He pointed out that the strongest growth is always in the last two quarters of the year. Thus a document based largely on the first two quarters is bound to give a conservative picture of the economy.
Growth was huge in industry and fisheries, at 30.5 per cent - more than three times the 9.1 per cent growth rate predicted in December. Salomao said there had been a particularly strong showing by manufacturing industry.
As for construction, which the government thought would grow at 7 per cent, the final figure was 16 per cent.
Transport and communications grew by 22.5 per cent: the December projection had been 11.3 per cent. Salomao put this down to increased movement in ports, and a rise in both road and rail freight traffic.
The final inflation figure for 1997 was 6.4 per cent.
Figures for the first quarter of 1998 suggested that the government should easily meet its target for this year of a 9.5 per cent growth rate. Salomao was optimistic that 1998 would be the second year in a row with a growth rate in double digits.
A mission of six IMF executive directors came under strong criticisms in July at meetings with parliamentarians, NGOs, trade unions and journalists.
At a press conference on 8 July, the spokesperson for the group, Karin Lissakers, IMF executive director for the USA, explained that they were representing "not the technocrats, but the IMF member governments. The IMF is a cooperative of member governments, including Mozambique, which is entitled to ask for advice and assistance from the other members".
When the writer on the IMF, Joseph Hanlon, pointed out that the renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs has attacked the IMF's Mozambican programme for its tight limits on credit and expenditure, Lissakers claimed that allowing higher credit might have fuelled inflation. The IMF directors regarded inflation as a major enemy and were happy that it was down to single digits.
Criticism of structural adjustment was met with the claims that it has worked elsewhere and that there is no alternative. "Collective experience shows that this will work", declared Lissakers.
She also used the argument that the IMF medicine must be right because Mozambique had resorted to it. "The initial conditions can't have been sustainable otherwise there would have been no recourse to IMF assistance", she said. (In fact, by 1987, when structural adjustment began in Mozambique, a programme with the IMF had become a pre-condition for the country's relations with most other creditors and donors.)
In their meeting with NGOs the IMF directors found that the overwhelming majority of participants believed that the country's recent economic growth had no impact on the living standards of most Mozambicans.
"There has been increased investment in schools and hospitals, but the disposable income of the consumers is tending to decrease", argued the NGOs. "Many children have no access to education and health, not for lack of infrastructures, but for lack of money".
Graham Saul of the British-based charity OXFAM, put these claims at their bluntest. "In real terms, economic growth in Mozambique is zero", he said. People living in the richer suburbs of Maputo were certainly better off, he said, and suggested that what has really happened is a redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction - a transfer of resources from the poor to the rich.
A document prepared for the mission's meeting with parliamentarians criticised the IMF's attitude to agricultural marketing and to privatisation.
Essentially, marketing does not reach the desired levels because of IMF-imposed credit ceilings. The state marketing body, the Mozambique Cereals Institute (ICM), is prevented both from acting as an effective buyer of last resort, and from establishing a strategic food reserve.
"On the one hand, it has not been possible to market surplus crops, and the crops are left to rot with the peasants; on the other, the country is not prepared to face any disaster, since it is not investing in food security", said the document. "This is because the programme with the IMF does not allow the inclusion of this sort of expenditure in the budget".
"While it is correct to state that marketing should be an activity carried out by the market, and not by the state, it is also true that markets can only function where they exist", the parliamentarians' paper added. "The country's current situation is precisely one in which the markets do not exist, so the state has to play a different role than under normal circumstances".
It warned that if the state did not play a more active role in marketing, then agricultural production could stagnate, or even decline.
As for privatisation, the parliamentarians noted that only a very small number of the 700 privatised companies "are developing their activities at satisfactory levels".
Negotiations are underway between the publicly-owned Mozambican railway company CFM, Malawi Railways, and a Zambian company (so far unidentified) for the import of liquid fuels to Zambia via the Nacala corridor.
The Nacala corridor includes the northern Mozambican port of Nacala, and the railway that links the port to Malawi.
The executive director of CFM's northern division, Jacinto Nhussi, said that the first fuel imports for Zambia should take place within the next two months. He said that the first consignment will be of 400 tonnes of fuel and will earn CFM about $35,000.
President Joaquim Chissano on 7 July appointed Acucena Xavier Duarte as Minister of Social Welfare. Her previous post, that of Deputy Justice Minister, is filled by Filipe Mandlate, formerly Deputy Social Welfare Minister.
The previous Social Welfare Minister, Alcinda Abreu, was sacked in March 1997. She had not been working at the ministry for over a year because of a serious car accident, and was accused, by the independent newsheet "Mediafax", of using her period of convalescence to undertake consultancy work from her home while still drawing her ministerial salary.
Chissano also promoted Antonio Namburete from Deputy Attorney-General to Attorney-General. Since his predecessor, Sinai Nhatitima, was sacked, following a major row with the Mozambican parliament in December, Namburete has been acting as interim Attorney-General.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 3 July welcomed the lifting of the European Union's ban on the import of Mozambican fresh fish - but said that the ban should never have been imposed in the first place.
The European Commission banned the import of fresh fish from Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in late December 1997, as a panic-stricken response to outbreaks of cholera in these countries.
In early January the UN World Food Programme (WFP) criticised the ban, pointing out that there had never been any case of the transmission of cholera through commercial food imports. The EU disregarded this expert opinion and kept the ban in force for six months.
The ban cost Mozambique about $60,000 a month in lost hard currency earnings. Fortunately, the ban was never extended to Mozambique's main fisheries export, which is deep frozen prawns.
The administrator of Moamba district, about 60 kilometres north-west of Maputo, Romao Mutisse, has accused South Africa of retaining water from the Incomati river on its side of the border. so causing a water shortage on the Mozambican side.
Mutisse says he cannot believe that the South African side of the river is as dry as the Mozambican side. He believes this is a repeat of what happened in 1993, when the South Africans retained the waters of the Incomati for their own consumption, and refused to let any significant quantity flow into Mozambique.
He says that this is a contravention of the agreements signed between the two countries on the share of international rivers.
Mutisse explained that, because of this situation, the bed of the river is literally dry and large parts of Moamba have no water either for drinking or for irrigation.
"We are digging the river's bed in order to get some water, but after much hard work we came to the conclusion that, in fact, there is not enough water for people's needs, because South Africa is not releasing the two cubic metres a second as agreed between the two countries", said Mutisse.
He predicted serious difficulties for farmers in August, September and October in Moamba. "We are going to start an agricultural campaign without water. This situation affects also the commercial farmers, who now cannot use the machinery that would allow pumping underground water for irrigation and people's consumption". said Mutisse.
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