Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) on 17 July finally released the official results of the country's first local elections, two days past the legal deadline. On the morning of 17 July the CNE delivered the results to the Supreme Court, but it had come under such intense pressure over the delays that a few hours later it released the results to the press without waiting for formal validation from the court.
The final results confirm what had been known within hours of the polls closing on 30 June, thanks to the preliminary results posted on the walls of all polling stations. The ruling Frelimo Party won a majority in all 33 municipalities, but on a very low turnout.
Out of a total municipal electorate of 1,965,530 only 286,659 cast their votes - a turn out of 14.58%.
The turnout was not uniform, and was apparently not related as to whether there was a choice of candidate. Indeed the highest turnout came from some of the smaller municipalities where Frelimo was unopposed.
In the central town of Dondo 53.63% of the electorate voted, even though Manuel Cambezo of Frelimo was the only candidate for mayor. AWEPA (European Parliamentarians for Africa) have stated that there is strong evidence of ballot stuffing in Dondo.
AWEPA's Mozambique Peace Process Bulletin, published in Maputo on 20 July, cited observers as spotting evidence that a good number of the Dondo votes were phoney with ballot boxes being stuffed.
Just 30 kilometres away, in Beira, where Frelimo had faced a serious challenge from former provincial governor Francisco Masquil, running as an independent, turnout was a miserable 10.3%.
In Montepuez, in the province of Cabo Delgado, there was a turnout of 44.83%, and in Metangula, the smallest of the municipalities, on the shores of Lake Niassa, the turnout was 32.65%. Frelimo faced no opposition in either place.
The worst turnout was in Quelimane, capital of the province of Zembezia where 5.72% of the registered electorate voted. The city of Nampula was almost as bad, with an 8.05% turnout.
As for Maputo, only 13.12% of the capital's electorate turned out, despite the presence of two serious independent candidates fighting against incumbent mayor Artur Canana.
The great bulk of the votes were validly cast - in the elections for mayor there were 14,991 invalid ballots, and in the elections for the municipal assemblies 13,876. There was also 13,718 blank ballots in the mayoral elections, and 30,729 in the elections for municipal assemblies.
In the Maputo mayoral race, Canana took 41,595 votes (65.01% of the valid votes), followed by independent candidate Phillip Gagnaux with 18,441 (28.82%). Jermias Chicava of the previously unheard of RUMO (Resistance for the Unity of Mozambique) took 1,774 votes (2.77%), pushing the second independent, Alice Mabota, chairperson of the Human Rights League, into fourth place with 1,568 votes (2.45%). Bringing up the rear was Neves Serrano on 605 votes (0.95%).
In the election for the Maputo municipal assembly, Frelimo took 70.3%, Gagnaux's list, running under the slogan "Juntos pela Cidade" (Together for the City) took 25.58%, while the tiny Labour Party (PT) picked up 2.23% and RUMO 1.88%. Frelimo has 42 seats in the 59 member municipal assembly, "Juntos pela Cidade" has 15, and the PT and RUMO have one each.
In Beira, Frelimo's Chivavice Muchangage took 58.51% to 41.49% for Masquil. In the municipal assembly election, Frelimo took 60.15%, giving it 27 out of the 44 seats, while Masquil's list took 39.85% (17 seats).
In the city of Inhambane, Frelimo candidate Vitorino Macuvel took 62.91% of the votes to 33.71% for independent candidate Felizardo Vaz, and 3.38% for Amano Marrengula of the three party opposition coalition, the Democratic Union (UD).
But the Inhambane municipal assembly is 100% Frelimo, since Vaz's list was disqualified on the grounds that the nomination papers were delivered late.
In the port of Nacala, Frelimo candidate Jose Geraldo de Brito took 75.44% to 24.56% for independent candidate Joao Mussa. Frelimo did slightly worse when it came to the Nacala municipal assembly with 71.15% (28 out of 39 seats) to 28.85% for Mussa's list (11 seats).
In Nampula, Frelimo candidate Dionisio Chirewa took 82.14% of the vote, against 17.76% for Eugenio Fatima, once the provincial secretary of the Association of Demobilised Soldiers (AMODEG), who ran as a self-styled representative of the Nampula unemployed. Fatima did not have a list for the municipal assembly, and so it is 100% Frelimo in composition.
There was an unexpectedly close contest in Manhica, a small town 80 kilometres north of Maputo, generally regarded as a Frelimo stronghold. Frelimo candidate Laura Tamele took 1,887 votes (58.71%), but her opponent Eusebio Manhica, running for a group of independents calling itself NATURMA (Natives and Residents of Manhica), was not far behind with 1,327 votes (41.29%). In the 13 member municipal assembly, Frelimo has eight seats and NATURMA five.
The results in the other municipalities where there were contest were as follows:
Jose Constantino (Frelimo) 75.27%
Isidro Assane (independent) 24.73%
Francisco Muchanga (Frelimo) 95.17%
Benjamim Muchanga (Independent) 4.83%
Dario Jane (Frelimo) 86.19%
Jose Meque (UD) 13.81%
Joao Bernardo (Frelimo) 76.26%
Amone Mongessa (Independent) 24.74%
Carlos Tembe (Frelimo) 85.7%
Afonso Nhantumbo (RUMO) 14.3%
Assubugy Meagy (Frelimo) 79.74%
Manuel Mario (Independent) 13.34%
Abudo Anza (UD) 6.92%
Pio Matos (Frelimo) 83.98%
Antonio Muedo (UD) 16.02%
Sulemane Amuji (Frelimo) 99.8%
Jordao Mafume (UD) 0.2%
Frelimo, 82.32% (36 seats)
RUMO, 17.68% (7 seats)
Frelimo, 90.44% (28 seats)
PT, 9.56% (3 seats)
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, has demanded the annulment of the 30 June municipal elections because of the low turnout.
Interviewed by AIM on 17 July, immediately after the official results were announced, Dhlakama said the high level of abstention "confers no credibility at all on any victor".
Dhlakama urged President Joaquim Chissano to annul the elections. "If I were President of the Republic, I would declare these elections null and void", he declared.
In the central province of Sofala, Renamo provincial delegate Manuel Pereira has claimed that the relatively high turnout in Dondo was the result of massive bribery by the ruling Frelimo Party.
Rifts are now appearing between Frelimo and the CNE, because of the chaotic disorganisation that marked the local elections, culminating in the CNE's failure to publish the election results within the 15 day limit stipulated by law.
Amelia Sumbane, the Frelimo central committee secretary for foreign relations, has made it clear that Frelimo shares in the general dismay at the poor performance by the country's electoral bodies. She insisted that the irregularities that marred the elections had nothing to do with Frelimo.
"The results should have been published on 15 July, which means they could even have been published before that date", she said. "we condemn the fact that the law was not complied with".
Hundreds of Maputo street vendors gathered in front of Maputo city hall on 15 July to protest against the use of violence by the municipal police to force them off the pavements where they illegally hawk their wares.
They complain that the police confiscate their products for themselves: "they seize our goods and do not give them back, and they beat us up, even pregnant women, without any plausible reason", they complained.
The vendors also complained that contrary to police rules, the municipal policemen hide the identity numbers they should display, so that they cannot be identified.
The chief of the municipal police and head of its Public Relations department, Tomas Nhacutou, who met with the demonstrators, admitted that this police attitude is indeed against the rules. He said that the police should not destroy products on sale, let alone beat the vendors, unless there are very strong reasons.
President Joaquim Chissano has appointed Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje as commander of the Presidential Guard, reports the independent newsheet "Mediafax" on 14 July.
Manhenje will hold this job together with his two ministerial posts - Interior Minister and Minister in the Presidency for Defence and Security Matters.
The former head of the Presidential Guard, Manuel Chitupila, retires, while the chief of staff of the Guard, Modesto Sabonete, is to "await new orders" in the study office of the Interior Ministry.
The new chief of staff of the Presidential Guard is Virgilio Vamuto. The changes in the Presidential Guard follows recent arrests of an officer and a sergeant in the guard, Joao Escola and Daniel Michaque, on accusations of gun-running.
Minister of Public Works and Housing, Roberto White, recognised in Maputo on 16 July that the gigantic "ROCS" (Roads and Coastal Shipping) project, largely funded by the World Bank, is unsustainable.
ROCS, which began in 1992, has already gone through two phases in which hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent, but without producing a sustainable trunk road network. Despite this failure there are voices in the World Bank (notably Mozambique country director Phyllis Pomerantz) who are enthusiasts for a ROCS III.
White, speaking at a hearing organised by the Economic Affairs and Services Commission of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, blamed policies imposed by donors and "ruinous management by building contractors" for the failure of ROCS.
Under pressure from insistent questioning by the parliamentarians as to why key routes between provinces and between districts remain impassable, White said the state has a very feeble ability to supervise road building work, because it has so few trained staff in this area.
"Note that there are only 20 civil engineers in the National Directorate of Roads and Bridges", he said, "and another 40 in all the provincial directorates".
"Most of our engineers took their university courses four or five years ago, and don't have sufficient experience to carry out effectively the objectives we want to attain", White added.
Looking on the bright side, he pointed out that the state of the road network in 1992, when ROCS began, was extremely poor. Only 3% of the country's 29,000 or so kilometres of roads was regarded as in good condition then.
The failure of ROCS meant that the project's coastal shipping component was more or less ignored. Money that should have been spent on rehabilitating secondary and tertiary ports was channelled into roads instead.
The total planned funding for ROCS was enormous - in the region of a billion dollars. 20-24% of this was to come from the Mozambican state budget, 30% in credits, and the rest in grants.
The former World Bank representative in Mozambique, Roberto Chavez, was also opposed to ROCS, but was overruled by his superiors. After leaving Mozambique, Chavez gave a devastating interview to the independent Maputo newsheet "Metical", explaining why the inappropriate, asphalt-based, capital intensive technology used for ROCS had saddled Mozambique with roads that it could not maintain.
Thus, to take just one example, the 200 kilometres of the Nacala-Nampula highway requires a new surface of asphalt only four years after it was completely rebuilt."The roads have gone, but the debt remains", remarked Chavez.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 15 July unveiled the foundation stone at the site of the MOZAL aluminium foundry, at Beluluane, 17 kilometres from central Maputo, before an audience of hundreds of guests, many of whom had flown in from South Africa for the ceremony.
Witnessing the event was South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki who described the MOZAL project as "a declaration of the desire to see Mozambique succeed".
MOZAL is the largest single private investment ever in Mozambique, representing a total investment of about $1.3 billion.
The 140 hectare site is already a hive of activity, as bulldozers level the ground and trenches are build for the foundations of the aluminium production line. The first aluminium ingots are expected to be produced in early 2001.
Mocumbi told the ceremony that construction of MOZAL would run simultaneously with other initiatives connected with the Maputo Development Corridor, notably the construction of the new toll road between Maputo and the South African town of Witbank. Taken together, such initiatives "will increase the prospects for practical forms of co-operation that will take us towards increasingly solid regional integration".
The largest investor in MOZAL is the London-based company Billiton, which is putting up $245 million, 49% of the total equity. Although registered in Britain, Billiton is in fact a South African owned company - it is the offshore arm of the South African mining giant, Gencor.
The Japanese corporation Mitsubishi is putting up $130 million (26% of the equity), and the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) is contributing $125 million (25%).
Most of the rest of the financing - over $800 million - will be raised in loans. Among those granting loans is the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank.
The key factors that favoured this investment were the generous tax regime offered by the Mozambican authorities, and highly competitive electricity prices. There would be guaranteed cheap power for the factory's take-off period, he said, and later the price of power would remain competitive because it would be linked to the world market price of aluminium, rising when the aluminium price rose, and falling when it fell.
MOZAL is essentially a copy of the Hillside aluminium smelter in the South African port of Richards Bay (this smelter is run by the company Alusaf, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Billiton).
The Hillside smelter has two aluminium production lines ("potlines) and can produce 466,000 tonnes of aluminium per year. Initially MOZAL will only have one potline, producing 245,000 tonnes of aluminium ingots a year. However, there is space to expand, and Billiton is considering expanding MOZAL capacity eventually to 490,000 tonnes a year.
The Mozambican government and a consortium of South African, United States and Middle Eastern companies, signed a contract on 14 July for the prospection of natural gas in Sofala Bay, in the centre of the country.
Mozambique is represented in the undertaking by the National Hydrocarbon Company (ENH) and the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, John Kachamila, signed the contract on behalf of the government.
ENH's foreign partners are the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) of the US, Zazara Petroleum of the United Arab Emirates, and SASOL of South Africa.
The Sofala Bay bloc, about 12 kilometres from the port of Beira, has geological conditions that suggest large deposits of natural gas.
The companies will acquire and process 1,200 kilometres of 2-D seismic data, starting this month. This is costed at $2 million.
The boring of the first prospection well, about 2,100 metres deep, is planned for late December 1998.
Should it prove successful, a further two wells will be drilled. The total cost of the three wells is estimated at $26 million.
The market for the Sofala natural gas includes the plan by the South African company JCI to set up a factory producing hot briquetted iron (HBI) in the Beira area. The Sofala gas could be used as fuel for this factory.
The same companies also plan to explore a second Sofala bloc, M-10, where they say they have discovered "a large structure which could potentially contain large reserves of natural gas".
In M-10, ARCO will acquire and process 750 kilometres of 2-D seismic data at a cost of $1.1 million. Once this data has been interpreted, possible sites for drilling will be identified.
The same group of companies signed a production sharing agreement with ENH in May for the Temane bloc, in the southern province of Inhambane. Drilling the first Temane well should start shortly.
According to the press release, if this well hits commercially viable quantities of gas, a further five wells will be drilled.
The Mozambican government signed an agreement with the United States on 15 July under which the latter is to donate 25,000 tonnes of wheat, valued at $5 million, as food aid to support Mozambique's balance of payments, with the money in local currency raised by the sale of the food used in development programmes.
Total United States food aid to Mozambique in 1998 amounts to $33 million, according to USIS.
In 1997, that country provided around 88,000 tonnes of food, worth $25 million. The projection for 1999 is that the US will supply 100,000 tonnes, also valued at $25 million.
Two out of 12 people diagnosed with meningitis have died in the district of Namuno, in the province of Cabo Delgado, revealed Mozambique's national health director Alexandre Manguele, on 14 July.
He said that all 12 cases were diagnosed in the same village, Muarisse, and that five of the cases were in one family.
Manguele said the authorities have taken the necessary treatment measures and are working to prevent the disease from spreading to other areas.
As preventive measures, Manguele said that health authorities have launched a vaccination campaign covering the population of the whole district and surrounding areas.
"We have created a preventive cordon", he said, adding that vaccines are being provided for the "target groups", namely boarding centres, military barracks, prisons, creches and schools. Meningitis spreads very fast in crowded environments, he explained.
The Mozambican and Swedish governments signed an agreement in Maputo on 16 July under which Sweden is to provide a further 16 million crowns (about $2 million) for rural electrification in Memba district, in the province of Nampula.
The Swedish co-operation programme with Mozambique for the three year period 1996-1996 is budgeted at about $77 million.
It covers assistance for rural development, education, the public administration, energy, culture, support for the private sector, and support for the balance of payments.
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