The Mozambican government is drafting a new road building and maintenance programme, to be implemented as from 1999, the Minister of Public Works and Housing, Roberto White announced on 25 August.The announcement suggests that there will be no third phase of the gigantic ROCS (Roads and Coastal Shipping) project, which has been enthusiastically promoted by the World Bank.
Designed in the immediate post war period, the first two phases of ROCS have been heavily criticised for their reliance on inappropriate asphalt based technology. Even the former World Bank representative in Maputo, Roberto Chavez, came to regard ROCS as unsustainable, and as a serious misuse of World Bank loans.
ROCS is now drawing to its end, and while White did not criticise ROCS outright, he said a new programme was needed "because the situation of the country's roads has changed".
The new programme will still depend on foreign funds. White said the government is currently negotiating with donors. He said those interested in the new programme were largely the same donors and funding agencies who had supported ROCS.
White stated that the new programme should prioritise the rehabilitation of roads between districts in order to facilitate agricultural marketing, and maintenance - in which the private sector would be involved.
He said that the National Roads Policy had as its main strategic target "increasing the percentage of roads in good or reasonable conditions from 39 to 70 per cent (10,600 to 19,300 kilometres), providing them with routine, and regular maintenance of increasing quality, maximising the use of local resources, and building the capacity of national institutions".
The new policy downgrades new roads in favour of those that already exist. "The construction of roads will prioritise the conclusion of those that have been started and / or were interrupted", said White. "In principle, new roads will be built, when a high level of economic viability for them is proved, as for example is the case with access roads to major projects that have a significant national impact".
Priorities among the roads to be concluded are the country's backbone; the main north south highway linking Maputo to the northern city of Pemba, and roads that will help break the isolation of Lichinga, capital of Niassa province, including the road from Lichinga to Pemba and the coast.
As for the thorny issue of the technology to be used in rehabilitation, the Minister said this would be defined "in accordance with the importance and sustainability of each road, prioritising them in line with the traffic using them and their economic viability".
The government hopes to expand the rehabilitation of tertiary roads using labour intensive methods, and prioritising those that are most heavily used.
On those roads that are classified as primary or secondary, but are still dirt roads, White said the government will pave those that have heavy traffic. He did not say what materials would be used in the paving.
As for unclassified roads, the government "will promote their regular classification so that the most important can be gradually integrated into the national network", he said, "while at the same time promoting mechanisms to finance their maintenance".
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 4 September launched the programme "Internet for Schools", designed by the Education Ministry, and supported by the World Bank, UNESCO, the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC), and the computer firm ICL.
In its first phase the programme will provide Internet links for 10 pre-university schools, mid-level technical institutes, and teacher training colleges. Initially 125 computers will be used, budgeted at $293,000, and supplied by the World Bank. ICL is donating a large computer, valued at $125,000 while the IDRC is contributing $250,000 to cover wage costs, maintenance and training.
Mocumbi stated that the country now faces two forms of illiteracy - "classical" illiteracy (the inability to read and write), and "modern" illiteracy (the inability to use modern technology).
In the second phase, which will last a further 18 months, the government itself will contribute $200,000 according to the project coordinator in the Education Ministry, Generosa Cossa.
The Mozambican government on 3 September signed an agreement with the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) and the US corporation Enron, for the establishment of a factory producing steel slabs in the Maputo area.
This factory is the long-awaited "anchor project" for the natural gas at Pande in the southern province of Inhambane. Enron signed an agreement with the government in November 1995 for the exploitation of the Pande gas - but this was crucially dependent on identifying an "anchor project" that would provide a market for the bulk of the gas.
The Maputo Iron and Steel Project (MISP) plans to use magnetite from Phalaborwa in South Africa to produce, first direct reduced iron (DRI), and then steel slabs for export.
IDC managing director Khaya Ngqula told the signing ceremony that the proposed factory could produce up to four million tonnes of steel slabs per year - which would make it four times bigger than the South African steel plant at Saldanha Bay.
More than 5,000 people would be employed during the construction phase, and when the plant is operational it will provide around 1,000 permanent jobs.
Ngqula said the project would require an investment of about two billion dollars on the Mozambican side of the border - $800 million in the form of equity, and $1.2 billion in the form of debt. Of this sum the IDC and Enron will each put up $200 million in equity. Ngqula was sure that Japanese and European companies already contacted would put up the remaining $400 million equity. Loans would then be sought from banks.
This is the largest single investment project in Mozambique - involving much more funding than even the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo, which is costed at $1.3 billion.
Ngqula said that the key advantages the project had were the availability of the Pande gas (used in the iron ore reduction), the abundance of electricity in the region, and the speed with which production could be started.
The magnetite is already available in stockpiles at Phalaborwa, and this offered MISP "a window of opportunity" before competing projects would come on stream (in Venezuela, Trinidad, and Australia).
The timetable proposed by Ngqula is tight: he wanted a final gas option agreement signed between Enron and the Mozambican government this month. Funding would then be sought in January, construction of the factory could start in early 2000, and the commercial operation would begin in early 2003.
John Merrill, Enron's head of special projects, described the signing ceremony as "a major step forward" in fulfilling Enron's promise to the government that it would indeed find an anchor project for the gas. But he admitted that "financing a project of this size is a formidable undertaking".
Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Oldemiro Baloi, said that producing the agreement "was a very delicate and complicated process", mainly because of the gas. "Negotiating over gas in Mozambican conditions has not been easy", he admitted.
"This signing is just the first stage", he warned. "We have a difficult and complex journey ahead of us. We have to solve the gas problem, the energy supply, the water supply, and our undertaking is to continue to do the best we can, so that the project may be initiated as soon as possible".
Water is a major problem: the factory will consume 67 million litres per day. Currently, the Maputo water supply comes from the Umbeluzi river: according to the IDC, Maputo will need other sources of water by 2019, even without the steel factory. With it, the Umbeluzi will be insufficient by 2013.
Baloi told reporters he was opposed to any use of the Umbeluzi by MISP. "The government thinks that alternative sources of water must be sought", he said.
Alternative sources of water suggested by the IDC are the Incomati and Save rivers. But the Incomati often runs very low because so much of the water is used for irrigation on the South African side of the border. As for the Save, it is over 400 kilometres north of Maputo.
The publicly-owned Mozambican railway company (CFM) and MOZAL, the company which is building an aluminium smelter in the Maputo district of Boane, have signed an agreement to expand Matola mineral port, so that it can cope with the imports of alumina needed for the smelter, and the exports of the finished product, aluminium ingots. The Matola mineral port is effectively an extension of Maputo port.
The expansion will cost about $70 million, of which $14 million is to be earmarked for the expansion and improvement of infrastructures at the port terminal.
Matola has the largest industrial park in the country, and this improvement is meant to serve not only MOZAL but also this growing park.
According to the agreement, CFM will be responsible for the operation and maintenance of the terminal. This work is scheduled to be completed by the time MOZAL starts operating.
It is anticipated that when MOZAL is fully operational, it will import about 480,000 tones of raw material a year, and the terminal is to be prepared to receive ships of up to 35,000 tonnes.
Participants at a southern and eastern African regional conference on the African foreign debt, held in Maputo, warned on 1 September that the structural adjustment programmes imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) increase social differentiation and reduce purchasing power.
According to a document summarising the discussion, the optimistic figures which governments tend to give about the impact of structural adjustment are "confused" and need to be "demystified".
The participants noted that governments claimed that civil society was participating in decisions over structural adjustment and debt relief, when in fact it was merely informed of decisions the authorities had already taken in discussions with the Bretton Woods institutions.
The key conference recommendation is that debt relief should not be dependent on the beneficiary country swallowing the IMF medicine. Currently the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative, sponsored by the World Bank and IMF, is only offered to countries following structural adjustment programmes. Even if the country has gone through many years of structural adjustment, it must still undertake a further period of IMF-dictated "adjustment" before benefiting from HIPC.
The conference thus demanded that HIPC be de-linked from structural adjustment. This would allow countries currently on the HIPC waiting list to benefit from debt relief in the short term.
Participants also suggested that, instead of each country negotiating separately with its creditors, there should be a regional approach to debt relief, possibly through the Southern African Development Community, or through the Organisation of African Unity.
They also urged governments to stop relying on policies brought from outside, and instead draw up their own programmes, based on solid research of local reality.
The first retraining course, attended by 579 Mozambican policemen, ended on 2 September at the Michafutene police training centre, on the outskirts of Maputo .
The recycling programme, which will cost about $12 million, funded largely by Spain and Holland, is aimed at retraining the police force, and improving its relations with civil society. It aims to retrain more than 4,000 policemen by the year 2,000, as well as to rehabilitate the Michafutene centre's infrastructures.
During the closing ceremony of the course, the participants read a statement protesting that the course was academically demanding and some of the policemen were not well prepared for it. They also urged the relevant authorities to look into the issue of equipment needed by the police force, such as vehicles, communication radios, and bullet-proof waistcoats.
Emmanuel de Casterle, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) representative in Mozambique, which is handling the donor funds for the programme, said that each course costs about $350,000, not counting the technical expenses, which are paid for by the Spanish Civil Guard. Other support has been given by Germany.
Casterle said that in the future the programme may also have Swiss and Italian support, particularly in terms of equipment, such as uniforms and radios.
The next course will involve 600 policemen of various ranks. Among the subjects taught on the course are constitutional law, professional ethics, human rights, and police techniques and tactics.
At the ceremony Interior Minister Almerinho Manhenje announced a tightening of police identification rules. New ID badges were being introduced which included not only their bearer's police number, but also his name, and the police station to which he is attached.
Manhenje said it would be compulsory for policemen to wear this identity badge when on duty, so that citizens would know who they were dealing with.
Algeria is willing to cancel much of Mozambique's debt of about $280 million run up largely through imports of Algerian oil in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The debt was one of the matters discussed on 31 August during official discussions in Maputo between Mozambican and Algerian delegations led by the presidents of the two countries, Joaquim Chissano and Liamane Zeroual.
President Chissano said the Algerians had promised to study the matter "with great sympathy". They would take into consideration Mozambique's difficult position after 16 years of war "which means that we are obviously in no condition to pay the debt".
Algeria would also take into account the favourable treatment granted to Mozambique by the World Bank and the IMF under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative.
Chissano said the two presidents had decided that the Joint Commission between the two countries must meet before the end of the year, to draw up a new legal framework for bilateral cooperation.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 31 August described the 34th edition of the Maputo International Trade Fair (FACIM) as "a demonstration of large-scale economic growth".
He was speaking during the ceremony of the opening of the trade fair, in the presence of various Mozambican and international personalities. On the opening day, Mocumbi visited 17 of the 170 pavilions in FACIM, representing Mozambican and foreign companies.
He said that this growth is also illustrated by the number of exhibitors who are taking part in this year's edition of FACIM. "In 1995, 116 exhibitors participated, but in this edition 170 are taking part".
The Mozambican Christian Council (CCM) on 27 August collected a variety of military equipment that had been hidden in two arms caches at Mwanote, in Magude district, about 125 kilometres north of Maputo.
The initiative was part of the CCM's "Transform Guns into Hoes" (TAE) campaign to seek out and destroying weapons held illegally.
The two Magude caches contained 16 AK-47 rifles, seven other firearms, a bazooka and 16 bazooka rockets, and a wide variety of ammunition.
According to TAE director Jacinto Muth, two former Renamo fighters revealed the location of the caches. During the war of destabilisation there had been an important Renamo base at Mwanote.
Muth said this was the first time TAE had worked with these former Renamo soldiers, who had initially been mistrustful. Nonetheless the collection had gone smoothly, and Muth was satisfied with what he regarded as a contribution to the maintenance of peace.
Muth also revealed that the Canadian government has promised a grant of $100,000 to support TAE's work. TAE expects to receive this money in October. This is the second Canadian grant to TAE. The first for $35,000 was two years ago.
The Mozambican and Canadian governments on 28 August signed two cooperation agreements in Maputo covering education and mine clearance, valued at a total of $9 million.
One agreement covers three demining projects. Under its terms, Canada will support Mozambique's National Demining Commission in perfecting its system for collecting data on the location and de- activation of anti-personnel land mines.
The Canadian money will also be used to train Mozambican demining staff on techniques of land mine investigation, and on maintaining a data bank. The project envisages producing digital maps which will indicate the known locations of mines.
The agreement on education envisages the printing in Canada of about five million basic education textbooks for the 1999 school year.
The presiding judge of the Maputo City Court, Joaquim Madeira, on 28 August swore-in Artur Canana, the victorious candidate in the 30 June local elections, into office as Maputo's first directly elected mayor.
Canana was the Frelimo candidate, and was also the incumbent mayor, being appointed by President Joaquim Chissano in November after the sacking of his unpopular predecessor, Joao Baptista Cosme.
At the ceremony, Canana told his audience that he intended to continue the programme he had begun in November. The areas that demanded most attention, he said, were the municipal water supply and sanitation.
He pledged that his team would repair or replace damaged infrastructure, including water supply pipes and sewers, and would ensure that more wells are dug in the outlying suburbs.
On urban development, Canana said his priority will be the establishment of infrastructures in Zimpeto, in the north of Maputo, where the city is expanding, and in the isolated locality of Catembe, on the opposite side of Maputo Bay from the rest of the capital.
Matola mayor sworn in
The newly elected mayor of Matola, Carlos Tembe, promised on 26 August that he will carry out a policy of social justice, based on transparency and honesty, during his five year term of office.
Speaking at a ceremony in which he was formally sworn into office, Tembe said he would involve all Matola citizens in solving the city's problems.
Tembe said he placed much of his hope in the younger generation, who would have "the task to continue building in Matola an increasingly open society, governed by social justice and the rule of law".
Among his priorities, he said, would be a drive to restore "moral values", the rehabilitation of the city's industries, attracting further investments, repairing access roads and establishing new water supply initiatives in the rural part of the municipality.
He also pledged to support the distribution of agricultural inputs, and the expansion of the local education and health networks.
Tembe said he would work for a good institutional relationship between the Matola City Council and the Maputo Provincial government, as well as between the provincial authorities and the central government.
Mozambique News Agency
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