Flooding in the Pungue Valley, in the central province of Sofala, has affected about 4,400 hectares of crops, according to Deputy Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia, who began a visit to the flood-stricken areas on 21 January.
Muteia headed a delegation from the government's Technical Emergency Commission. He praised the work undertaken by the Sofala local authorities. "I think that the district administrations and the provincial government coordinated their work effectively, and this meant that the floods did not have the same impact as in previous years, although the level of the river is much the same as in past floods", he said.
The most serious social problem the floods posed, he said, was caring for people displaced from islands in the Pungue (notably Chipinde and Chibwabwabwa islands). The displaced will need food, medical aid and blankets, he said.
Two districts in Sofala are affected by the Pungue flood: in Dondo 400 hectares of crops are affected, and in neighbouring Nhamatanda about 4,000 - which is 10 per cent of the district's total cultivated area.
Muteia pointed out that this situation was by no means disastrous, although it meant "we have some work to do now and in the medium term".
He noted that some peasant farmers, having lost their first maize harvest to the floods, were now asking the government for seeds so that they could sow again.
In contrast to his praise for the local authorities over the floods on the Pungue river, Muteia criticised the central region water administration (ARA-Centro) for its failure to issue proper flood warnings for the Buzi river.
When he visited Buzi district on 22 January, Muteia found that the district government had only two days warning of the flood - and ARA-Centro was entirely to blame for this. Muteia pointed out that the late flood warning could have cost lives, since people living in threatened areas had very little time to move to higher ground.
Fortunately, the current flood on the Buzi is less serious than last year's one, when a much larger area was inundated.
The main factor causing the Buzi flood was the opening of floodgates on the Chicamba dam on the river's main tributary, the Revue.
"We learnt that the local authorities were informed late of the opening of the Chicamba floodgates", said Muteia. "The public was thus informed hastily and without the desirable preparation".
He pointed out that opening the floodgates is not a precipitate decision. The level of the dams is checked every week, and once the water in the Chicamba dam had reached worrying levels, ARA-Centro should have issued a flood warning, rather than waiting for the very moment at which it ordered the opening of the floodgates.
Muteia was not satisfied by the excuses of ARA-Centro officials that their radio communication system is inadequate.
He was, however, pleased that the Buzi district administration, despite the short notice, had coped well with the emergency.
The Buzi district government informed him that about 250 hectares of crops have been lost to the floods.
Muteia said that, once the waters have subsided, the priorities will be to distribute seeds so that peasant farmers can sow again. and to strengthen the flood vigilance system.
Meanwhile heavy rains are leading to floods in parts of the Zambezi valley, as the levels of the Zambezi and its major tributary, the Shire, rise. According to Paz Catruza, interim administrator of Mutarara district, where the Shire joins the Zambezi, flooding is affecting the localities of Chaundira, Charre, Inhangoma and Jardim.
The district capital, Nhamayabue, is cut off from these areas, and some villages are said to be surrounded by water, with their residents being rescued by canoes.
A lack of funds is holding up urgently needed rehabilitation work on the 200 kilometre main road between the port of Nacala and the city of Nampula.
Although this is one of the most important roads in the country, it was not rehabilitated under the gigantic ROCS (Roads and Coastal Shipping) project that ran from 1992 to 1998, even though money was apparently available for doing so.
The Nampula Provincial Director of Public Works and Housing, Zefanias Chitsungo, said that the road, in its current state of deterioration, with the asphalt surface being washed away, requires "major repair work".
He said that some maintenance work is being undertaken, simply to keep the road open to traffic in minimally acceptable safety conditions, while the authorities await funds so that the major rehabilitation can begin.
Two years ago, the cost of repairing the entire road was put at $40 million. Chitsungo said that documents for an international tender are being prepared, and will be submitted to the European Union with a request for funding, in the hope that contractors can put in their bids for the work some time later this year.
The road runs roughly parallel to the Nampula-Nacala railway, and both are key components of the Nacala Corridor, a crucial outlet to the sea for landlocked Malawi, and which could also serve parts of Zambia.
The government and the World Bank have agreed that money left over from the ROCS project can be used for emergency rehabilitation of the streets in three major cities - Maputo, Quelimane and Nampula.
The National Director of Roads and Bridges, Carlos Fragoso, told reporters on 13 January that his directorate (DNEP) would work together with the three municipal councils concerned on a programme of work.
Normally the DNEP only works on rural roads, but it will be involved in this urban programme because the whole ROCS project was under DNEP tutelage.
ROCS began in 1992, and targeted the major trunk road network, and communications between provinces and districts. In all, about $800 million was spent, much of this in the form of World Bank loans.
Fragoso said be believed between six and seven million dollars was left. This money must be spent by 30 June, the date on which ROCS expires. After that date the money cannot be disbursed.
The DNEP thus intends to start work on the city roads on 1 April (after the end of the rainy season), and will spend three months filling in potholes and resealing some of the major avenues. In all, about 200 kilometres of urban roads will be covered.
He stressed that this was "emergency" rehabilitation, and hoped that afterwards the three municipal councils would be able to undertake their own regular maintenance work.
Fragoso said there was no time for work that requires major engineering, such as rebuilding Julius Nyerere Avenue in Maputo, where an enormous crater, opened by torrential rains in 1997, has completely interrupted traffic.
World Bank rules must be followed in choosing the contractor, which means that an international tender must be opened. Fragoso said this was "to give the opportunity to all member countries to participate in work financed by the World Bank".
There was no attempt to marginalise Mozambican contractors, he added. Fragoso pointed out that, even in international tendering, preference goes to local firms, provided the price they ask is not more than 7.5 per cent higher than that of international companies.
The 400 workers sacked by CONCOR, one of the 45 contractors working on the site outside Maputo where the MOZAL aluminium smelter is being built, could have avoided this fate, if they had bothered to join a trade union, according to the general secretary of the National Union of Building, Timber and Mining Workers (SINTICIM), Jeremias Timana.
Timana urged workers to value their unions, as legal instruments which they can use in defence of their interests. He regretted that the CONCOR workers, sacked after a wildcat strike in pursuit of higher wages, had treated the union movement with contempt until after the event. "Only now that they're facing a crisis do they come along and ask us for help", he said.
He pointed out that union attempts to intervene in the strike had been rejected by the workers, who maltreated union officials. The union had offered to intervene and negotiate with the management "as a matter of charity, since those workers are not even members of our union", he said.
He found it lamentable that many workers "only remember about the union when they've got problems".
Work at the MOZAL aluminium smelter is unaffected by the sackings. The workers were building, not the factory itself, but the village which will eventually house MOZAL workers.
Concor's work at the site is currently suspended, but MOZAL will recruit replacement Mozambican workers at the construction training centre set up to develop skills specifically required for the MOZAL project.
Germany and France have granted about $7 million to fund a feasibility study of the utilisation of the economic potential of the Zambezi valley, between the Cahora Bassa dam and the city of Tete, in western Mozambique.
A document to formalise the contract for the study was signed on 13 January in Maputo, between the Mozambican Unit for the Implementation of Hydroelectric Projects (UTIP) and a consortium encompassing the German "Lahmeyer International", the French "Electricite de France", and the British "Knight Piesola" companies. UTIP functions under the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy.
The study is to determine the feasibility of building a hydroelectric dam in the area of Mepanda Ncua, on the Zambezi about 70 kilometres downstream from Cahora Bassa. Besides the German, French and British firms, some Mozambican companies will also take part in the project as providers of support services.
Since the outbreak of cholera in August 1997, the fight against the disease has cost the Mozambican state over 50 billion meticais (more than $4 million) according to the Deputy National Health Director, Avertino Barreto.
He told reporters that this money has been spent on medicines (mainly intravenous rehydration serum), chemicals to disinfect wells, and the supply of clean drinking water to people in affected areas.
The second wave of cholera cases is affecting all provinces except Inhambane. The first outbreak, which began in August 1997, was brought under control by June 1998. But with the onset of warmer and wetter weather, the disease reappeared in late September.
The death toll in the second outbreak is 1,161 out of the 22,737 cases registered since September - a lethality rate of 5.1 per cent.
The worst-hit area at the moment is Ancuabe district, in Cabo Delgado, where 60-70 cholera patients per day are entering the health units, and an average of four people a day are dying. The authorities fear running out of medical stocks in some areas where heavy rains and swollen rivers threaten to cut key roads.
The authorities in the northern province of Nampula are considering using a ferry to link the mainland with Mozambique Island, the first colonial capital, if the three kilometre long bridge to the island deteriorates much further.
The Provincial Director of Public Works and Housing, Zefanias Chitsungo, told reporters that the current state of the bridge is "worrying". The provincial government, he said, is making monthly inspections of the bridge to assess its condition.
Rehabilitating the bridge would cost $7 million. If this money is not forthcoming, and the bridge becomes downright dangerous, the government might introduce a ferry service, said Chitsungo.
The authorities have already taken some precautionary measures, such as enforcing a strict speed limit on the bridge, and prohibiting its use by vehicles of over three tonnes.
Introducing a ferry would mean building a quay on the mainland and on the island, at a considerable cost, said Chitsungo.
According to the Bank of Mozambique, 1998 was a year, not of inflation, but of deflation.
Bank spokesman Adelino Pimpao put the year's final inflation figure at minus 1.3 per cent. This is a much better figure than the government was expecting, even in December. Then Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told parliament that the government expected 1998 inflation to be around two per cent.
This compares with an inflation rate of 5.8 per cent in 1997, and of 16.3 per cent in 1996.
Deflation results largely from falling food prices in 1998, in turn the result of a good harvest, and the availability of cheap South African imports.
Presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Nelson Mandela of South Africa on 19 January inaugurated a monument to the memory of Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel, and the 34 others who died with him when the presidential aircraft crashed into a hillside in the South African locality of Mbuzini on 19 October 1986.
The monument has been built at the crash site itself. Designed by Mozambican architect Jose Forjaz, it incorporates some of the wreckage of the plane. Central to the monument are 35 tubes of special steel, representing the 35 Mbuzini victims.
The tubes are so constructed that, when the wind blows, they emit sounds of various tones. It therefore appears as if the monument itself is singing a lament for the Mbuzini dead.
The South African government paid for the monument, which cost about 1.2 million rands ($240,000).
Exactly how Samora Machel's aircraft, a Soviet-manufactured Tupolev 134, which was returning from a summit in Zambia to Maputo, came to be so far off course, is still not clear. But evidence points to the use of a decoy radio beacon, broadcasting on the same frequency as the Maputo beacon, to lure the plane to its destruction.
A Mozambican government source declared "We believe this was a an act of terrorism, and probably an act of state terrorism".
In 1996, on the 10th anniversary of the crash, Mandela promised to resume the investigations, pledging that "we shall leave no stone unturned to ensure that, in the fullness of time, nothing but the whole truth is known about these events".
The Mosagrius programme, involving South African agricultural investment in the northernmost province of Niassa, "will not die", despite internal crises, Niassa provincial governor Aires Aly has pledged.
Interviewed in Domingo on 24 January, Aly said that the problems Mosagrius faced were internal to the South African side of the undertaking, which is the South African Chamber for Agricultural Development in Africa (SACADA).
The programme is in the hands of the Mosagrius Development Corporation (SDM), a joint venture which is supposed to have a total capital of $1 million, 50 per cent provided by the Mozambican state and 50 per cent by SACADA. The Mozambican state has made its share of the money available, but SACADA has yet to follow suit.
"Our South African partners have internal problems", said Aly. "These are problems that we expect will be solved. If they are not solved then, naturally, we shall have to find some other solution".
Aly suggested that Mosagrius could continue with or without SACADA. If SACADA proved unable to solve its problems, "other partners may appear, for the funds of the Mozambican side are available".
He said that currently there are 12 South African farmers working in Niassa under the Mosagrius programme, as well as 15 Mozambican commercial farmers. The South Africans are farming about 1,500 hectares of land.
He added that tractors have been acquired to support the Mozambican farmers, and that "banks and other entities are interested in providing finance".
He said that the programme was providing jobs: at the height of the 1998 season, the Mosagrius farms employed over 800 people.
Provision of employment was having a positive spin-off on the province's trade, and Aly believed that shops would now start opening in Majune district to cater for the needs of the Mosagrius workforce.
The Mozambican school network destroyed by Renamo during the war of destabilisation has been fully reinstated, according to Education Minister Arnaldo Nhavoto, cited in Noticias on 12 January.
"The current number of first level primary schools (teaching first to fifth grade) is the highest that it has ever been since Mozambican independence", he said. By the end of 1998 there were 6,114 first level primary schools in the country, compared with slightly more than 5,000 that existed in 1997.
The previous high point had been in 1983, when there 5,886 schools of this level. But it was as from that year that Renamo systematically targeted schools, and in the ensuing nine years destroyed or forced the closure of about 40 per cent of the network.
Many more schools are needed, if the government is to provide an opportunity for all children to study. By the end of this year, said Nhavoto, the country should have 6,600 first level primary schools.
The number of pupils in the first five years of primary education rose from 1.4 million in 1997 to 1.876 million last year. In 1999 this figure should reach 2.116 million.
The educational pyramid narrows very sharply after fifth grade. Thus the number of second level primary schools (teaching grades six and seven) rose from 336 in 1997 to 381 in 1998. This year the figure should reach 440.
Nhavoto said the government's goal was to provide at least one second level primary school in every district. This target has been largely achieved. Only nine sparsely populated districts do not yet have such a school.
Nhavoto said that as soon as there were a sufficient number of potential pupils in these districts to justify it, second level primary schools would be opened there too.
The number of pupils at this level is currently 169,000, and the Ministry of Education hopes to push the figure up to 192,740 this year.
As for first cycle secondary education (eighth to tenth grade), this had 63 schools in 1997, 74 in 1998, and the target for this year is 81. The number of pupils in these schools should rise from 53,690 to 63,307.
But there are only 13 schools in the entire country teaching the second (pre-university) cycle of secondary education, an increase of just one on the 1997 figure. They should contain 8,512 students this year, compared with 7,352 in 1998.
The gross attendance rate (the percentage of pupils of primary school age actually attending first level primary education) is currently 79 per cent, and the government hopes to raise it to 86 per cent by the year 2000.
But Nhavoto admitted that the quality of education in Mozambican schools is still very low. Thus the pass rate in first level primary education in 1997 was only 58.5 per cent, and just 53 per cent in second level primary education.
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