President Joaquim Chissano stated on 23 August that Mozambique has no intention of sending any troops to assist the embattled government of Laurent Kabila in Congo-Kinshasa. President Chissano said categorically that Mozambican forces would never become involved in offensive operations in the giant central African nation.
The statement follows the President's participation in the extraordinary summit in Pretoria of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)
President Chissano said that the SADC summit had called for an "urgent cease-fire and immediate preparations for a dialogue", in Congo, which is the organisation's newest member.
The summit had been summoned, as an emergency measure, by South African President Nelson Mandela, in his capacity as SADC chairman, after the dispatch of Zimbabwean troops to Kinshasa revealed clear divergences within SADC over the Congolese crisis.
Of the 14 SADC member states, only Angola, Congo and Zimbabwe were not represented by their heads of state. Angola sent no delegate whatsoever, and Zimbabwe sent its High Commissioner. The heads of state of Uganda and Rwanda were also present at the summit.
President Joaquim Chissano has vetoed a bill passed in April by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, which attempted to establish pension and social security rights for parliamentary deputies far in excess of any private pension scheme in the country, let alone the meagre old age pensions provided by the National Social Security Institute (INSS).
A statement issued on 24 August by the President's press office said that he had exercised his constitutional right not to promulgate the bill, and had sent it back to the Assembly for "re-examination".
No bill can become law without the president's signature. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two thirds majority in the Assembly.
The statement said that Chissano had returned the bill on 21 August to Assembly chairman Eduardo Mulembue, accompanied with a letter explaining that "the bill should be re-examined by the Assembly since it seems to me that it could have a negative socio-economic impact, and will be difficult to comply with financially".
Chissano urged the deputies to study "the economic and financial sustainability" of their proposals, and how to apply them "within the principles of social justice".
He said a social security scheme for deputies was needed, but it should take the form of "a new law that is more just and more feasible".
When the bill was passed, on 29 April, there was no public debate on it at all. The vast majority of deputies - 238 - voted in its favour. Just two, Lina Magaia and Fernanda Teixeira, both of the ruling Frelimo Party, abstained.
Leaders of two opposition parties, namely Afonso Dhlakama of Renamo, and Wehia Ripua of the Partido Democratico de Mocambique (Mozambican Democratic Party) PADEMO, were chosen by the opposition as their candidates for the 1999 general elections.
According to the daily paper "Noticias" on 4 August, citing PADEMO's secretary general Antonio Guindila, if the opposition wins the elections, Wehia Ripua will be deputy President and Dhlakama the President.
Speaking in Chimoio, the capital of the central Manica province, Guindila said that the opposition will unite to support one single candidate for President, Afonso Dhlakama, in the 1999 elections.
The government has made available 40 billion meticais (about $3.3 mil.lion) from the 1998 state budget for the functioning of the newly elected local authorities in 33 of the country's towns and cities, according to the Minister of State Administration, Alfredo Gamito.
The system of transfers from the central state to the local authorities is envisaged in the Local Finance Law passed in 1997, and this mechanism is known as the "Local Authority Compensation Fund". The law states that it must consist of between 1.5 and three per cent of all tax revenue raised by the central state.
The government has opted to start the compensation fund at the lower end of this scale. 40 billion meticais is almost exactly 0.75 per cent of the 5,324 billion meticais of central state revenue forecast in the 1998 budget, to cover the last six months of 1998.
The government must distribute this money among the local authorities, using such criteria as their size and population, and the economic activities undertaken within them.
Gamito pointed out that the Local Authority Compensation Fund is about twice as much as the funds allocated by the state to these towns and cities prior to the local elections of 30 June.
The minister believed that the basic conditions had been established for the mew mayors, municipal assemblies, and municipal councils to start operating.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has stated that his party will not hinder the work of the new municipal authorities elected on 30 June.
"Renamo will not hinder the rule of the elected organs because by doing so it would be wasting time that it can use in more important matters, such as preparing for the 1999 general elections", said Dhlakama quoted in the 15 August edition of "Noticias".
Some other opposition political parties have threatened to hinder the governance of municipalities by the newly elected organs, arguing that there were irregularities in the electoral process and they do not accept the final results proclaimed valid by the Supreme Court on 13 August.
Dhlakama claimed that the elected organs are going to rule over a minority, because a large majority of people abstained (about 85.5 per cent) from voting on 30 June.
Dhlakama stressed the need to reformulate the electoral law and to organise the calendar for the electoral census, civic education, and the raising of funds for the parties that will enter the race.
Dhlakama says it is necessary to discuss with the government ways to reform the National Elections Commission (CNE) and the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the executive arm of the CNE.
According to Dhlakama, these two organs should be headed by independent people, and not take what he described as orders from the ruling Frelimo party.
The municipal assemblies of Maputo and Matola, elected on 30 June, were sworn in on 20 August, in ceremonies presided over by Judge Joaquim Madeira of the Maputo city court, and Judge Claudia Macuacua, of the Maputo provincial court.
Immediately afterwards the municipal assemblies held their first sessions, dedicated to the election of their boards.
The Maputo city assembly, voting by secret ballot, elected Teodoro Wate as chair, Zelia Langa as deputy chair, and three secretaries, Georgina Muchine, Ricardo Manjate and Boaventura Sitoi.
The swearing in ceremony was attended by personalities including Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, elected mayor, Artur Canana, and Minister of State Administration, Alfredo Gamito.
In the first session of the Matola municipal assembly, Fabiao Ginja, of the ruling Frelimo party, was elected to the chair, Joaquim Luciano Tembe was elected deputy chair, and Luisa Chirindza was chosen as secretary.
A vaccination campaign aimed at the eradication of poliomyelitis began on 24 August, and is to cover all children up to the age of five.
The central ceremonies launching the campaign took place in Catembe, across the bay from Maputo, and in Marracuene, about 30 kilometres north of the capital.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, a medical doctor by profession, gave the first vaccinations in Catembe, while in Marracuene, this task was undertaken by the country's first lady, Marcelina Chissano.
The first dose of vaccine will be administered this week, and the second from 28 September to 2 October.
The campaign has the support of an NGO, Rotary International, which describes Mozambique as one of the few African countries with a good chance of eradicating the disease by the year 2000.
This year's campaign is estimated to cost about $3 million, not counting the cost of the vaccine itself. Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) spent about $500,000 to finance polio vaccination in Mozambique.
Immunisation against this disease is expected to cover more than 3.4 million children, about 90 per cent of the target group.
The last cases of polio reported in Mozambique date from 1993. There were three confirmed cases that year, and one of the victims died. Two of these cases, including the death, occurred in the northern province of Nampula, and one in Zambezia, in the centre of the country.
Mozambican Non-Governmental Organisations want the government and the parliament to legislate against conscription of former children-soldiers who fought in the war that ended in 1992.
The "Hope Rebuilding Association", integrated in the "Children-Soldier Campaign", that encompasses various NGOs dedicated to children's welfare, made this call during a press conference on 21 August in Maputo on the launching of a campaign to draw the public's attention to this problem.
The campaign's co-ordinator, Boia Efraim Junior, revealed that the existing data show that there are at least 10,000 youngsters in this situation, who were used during the war, either as soldiers or as militia.
"These children are suffering serious psychological problems, in such a way that they no longer can trust adults, who, in the name of an ideology, instrumentalised them, and forced them to handle weapons", they said.
Thus, the campaign thinks that those children should either be exempted from conscription or, if they have to be enrolled, be given alternative services rather than handling weapons again.
As for the means to identify them, Efraim thinks that it would not be difficult because some NGOs, who are assisting those children's social reintegration have the records, particularly in the rural areas.
After the signing of the General Peace Accord, in 1992, most of those children, from both the government and the former rebel movement Renamo, were not formerly demobilised as there was no law about such a condition.
Investments are on the increase throughout Mozambique, with the largest increase being noted in the poor northern province of Niassa.
The province of Niassa registered investments worth $10.7 million during the first six months of this year, representing a growth of about 59.9 per cent when compared with $7.2 million for the period between 1985 and December 1997.
According to data from the Promotion Investment Centre (CPI), these amounts are "impressive" given they correspond to three projects alone, in the areas of agriculture and agro-industry, tourism and industry.
Despite these increases, investments in Niassa are still lower than in any other province.
The highest rate is in Maputo province, where investments exceeded $372 million, a growth of 13.7 per cent, during the first six months of this year.
The provinces of Nampula and Tete have had the lowest growth in investment, not exceeding 1.2 per cent. However, Nampula did receive $159 million in investments, compared with $157 million during the period between 1985 and 1997.
The central Zambezia province received $77 million, corresponding to a growth of 45 per cent.
As for the other provinces, the document mentioned, in decreasing order, Manica (29 per cent - more than $19.8 million), Cabo Delgado (26 per cent - $29 million), Gaza, (16.5 per cent - $9.7 million), Sofala ( 13.1 per cent - $54 million), and Inhambane (nine per cent - $5 million).
However, National Direct Investment is still lower than Foreign Direct Investment and, according to the CPI data, the two had a growth of 11 and 17 per cent respectively, during the first half of 1998.
The Maputo International Trade Fair (FACIM) expects to make profits of about two billion meticais (about $170,000) in 1998 according to FACIM general director Americo Magaia.
He estimated expenditure at about four billion meticais in the setting up of the exhibition pavilions, publicity, and the issuing of tickets, with a net income of six billion meticais.
Magaia expects that between 50,000 and 55,000 people will visit the fair this year, compared with 45,000 in 1997.
He justified his optimism by an "increased interest and richer programmes for the present edition".
Magaia revealed that eleven foreign countries, namely Portugal, Ireland, Botswana, France, China, Holland, Norway, United Kingdom, South Africa, Macau and Tanzania, and ten foreign private companies and institutions will exhibit their products.
Holland is participating for the first time in the Maputo trade fair, and other countries will be attending after an absence of several years; China-ten years, France-six years, and Tanzania-five.
There will be private companies and institutions from Malaysia, Ghana, Spain, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Portugal. Magaia said that 150 Mozambican companies have been registered as participants and this figure is set to grow.
FACIM-98 will be open between 31 August and 6 September.
The Mozambican government has rescinded its contract with the Italian road building company Astaldi for the rehabilitation of the roads between the district of Nicoadala and the Zambezi river, in the central Zambezia province, and the road between the districts of Chemba and Gorongosa, in the central Sofala.
The contracts have been revoked because of Astaldi's failure to comply with the deadlines agreed on the contract and to produce a good quality work.
The government will soon launch tenders to adjudicate this job to another company, according to Minister of Public Works and Housing, Roberto White.
President Joaquim Chissano criticised Astaldi during his visit to the central region of the country in March for the delays and for the poor quality of their work in some of the roads in Zambezia and Sofala.
The Secretary General of the Mozambican Trade Union Federation (OTM-CS), Joaquim Fanheiro, has acknowledged that, despite improvements, Mozambican women are still discriminated against in the job market.
Speaking during the opening of the third session of the Working Women Coordinating Committee (COMUTRA), on 10 August, Fanheiro counted sexual harassment, restrictions in professional careers and massive dismissals as the major problems that women have to face.
He noted, however, that despite all these problems it is clear that the participation of women in various fora of the Mozambican life and in the trade union movement has been growing steadily during the last few years.
Fanheiro stated that women are fairly represented in leadership and in decision making organs, in business companies, in the political arena and in the activities of the society at large.
He said that this is the result of efforts that women themselves have been carrying out to affirm their position in society.
COMUTRA urged the trade union movement to help seek solutions to the problems affecting the informal market in the country.
According to the organisation's secretary general, Cesta Chiboleca, research is needed to determine the main problems in this sector, where women form the majority.
Chiboleca said that her organisation has submitted a proposal on the matter to the Mozambican Trade Union Federation (OTM-CS) for discussion.
She expressed hope that the informal market creates its own trade union, hence the need for the trade union movement to find ways to help this sector organise itself.
President Joaquim Chissano signed on 11 August a cooperation agreement with the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) to assist with economic and social development.
President Chissano said that "the agreement signed today justifies the wish of the foundation, led by Prince Aga Khan, of helping Mozambique develop fast and bring welfare to the people".
In the terms of the agreement, the Mozambican government and the Foundation will carry out concrete actions in social and economic areas, in the shape of grants and investments, said Chissano, adding that "we are confident of the programme".
Prince Aga Khan said that his foundation will pay a special attention to the areas most in need, "where we will implement projects aimed particularly at social and economic support for development".
The eligibility of Mozambique for this programme is due to its political and monetary stability, and the very good economic growth rates, he said.
Chissano said that the government's role will be to work out the projects and hand the proposals to the foundation. He noted, however, that such proposals have to be acceptable to the foundation and meet the defined cooperation criteria.
The Aga Khan Foundation was created in 1967, and comprises a number of institutions aimed at improving living conditions and giving access to opportunities in specific regions in underdeveloped countries.
It has projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, covering three particular areas, namely health, education and rural development.
Mozambique and Germany signed on 6 August four financial cooperation agreements, to the value of 26.7 million marks (about $15 million).
This money is to be used in four projects, namely the fund for technical studies (three million marks), the feasibility study for the development of the Zambezi valley (five million marks), the rehabilitation of the railway sector (1.5 million marks), and the rehabilitation of medium and high voltage electricity network in Nampula and Nacala (17 million marks).
In the terms of the agreements, the Mozambican government will be granted this loan by the German Credit Institute for Rehabilitation.
Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao commented that these agreements are essential for the development of Mozambique, because they cover four very important areas.
Concerning electricity, Simao said that the rehabilitation of the network will improve the quality of electric power in the areas in question, and it will enhance the economic development.
Financial cooperation with Germany covers assistance to Mozambican institutions such as the central bank, and the ministries of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Mineral and Energy Resources, Transports and Communications and Public Works and Housing.
The two countries also have technical cooperation covering the Rural Development Institute (INDER), and the ministries of education, Planning and Finance, Labour, State Administration, Health, and the Eduardo Mondlane University.
In 1997, Germany granted 15 million marks as financial cooperation and 20 million as technical. Germany is also supporting the Mozambican mine clearing sector.
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