A meeting called by the World Bank and the IMF in Maputo on 26 February gave the Bretton Woods institutions a message they did not want to hear: that the only way to deal with Mozambique's foreign debt is to cancel it.
The meeting was part of the process of reviewing the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative. The two Bretton Woods economists who ran the meeting, Leslie Lipschitz of the IMF, and Jeffrey Katz of the World Bank, were surprised at the unanimous call for debt cancellation.
Bishop Bernardino Mandlate of the Christian Council of Mozambique declared that "It's a waste of time reviewing HIPC, what we need is to have the debt cancelled".
Otilia Pacule, coordinator of the NGO coalition, the Mozambican Debt Group, pointed to the contrast between the way Mozambique is now being treated, and the generosity shown to a defeated Germany at the end of World War II.
Mozambique is told that a 20 per cent debt service ratio is "sustainable", but the allies exacted a debt service ratio of only five per cent from Germany: which was how Germany was able to rebuild its shattered economy.
Pacule stated that the HIPC scheme was already outdated, and the only solution lay in outright cancellation. "It's a question of political will", she said.
Octavio Muthemba, a former minister of industry, who is now chairman of the board of the privatised Austral Bank, dismissed HIPC as "just a way of keeping Mozambique moribund", instead of seeking a genuine development alternative.
Deputy Finance Minister Luisa Diogo protested at the trial by ordeal Mozambique has to undergo just to attain the limited debt relief of HIPC. She pointed out that Mozambique has applied all the structural adjustment reforms demanded of it, so that it could become eligible for HIPC, but even so had to wait another 15 months for the debt relief.
Economist Rui Baltazar asked the Bretton Woods economists "who will pay for your blunders?" - referring specifically to the World Bank's imposition of liberalised trade in raw cashew nuts which has brought the cashew processing industry to the brink of extinction.
Baltazar had a radically different approach to the economy, suggesting that the foreign debt should be scrapped in exchange for an increase in the domestic public debt, which he believed would push down interest rates.
Lipschitz and Katz did not deny the commonly held perception that Mozambique's debt service will not change much after HIPC. It was about $100 million a year before HIPC, and will be about $100 million a year after HIPC. This suggests that the debts HIPC cancels are ones that could never have been paid anyway.
The first ordinary military registration in Mozambique since the end of the war of destabilisation terminated officially on 28 February - but an extra 30 days have been given to those who could not register in due time.
The head of mobilisation and recruitment in the Defence Ministry, Edgar Cossa, said a provisional count shows that 45,000 youngsters registered between 1 January and 28 February, countrywide. However, some of the centres are still to provide their figures.
"Our assessment of this operation is that it was successful", said Cossa, adding that "the registration that now ended marks the beginning of the regulation of this process, which will allow us to have groups ready to enrol, every year".
"That will make our army permanently renewed and modernised. This registration marks the beginning of a march towards an ideal staffing of our army", said Cossa.
However, the majority of young Mozambicans are refusing to register for military service. According to Minister of State Administration Alfredo Gamito, at least 150,000 young Mozambicans turn 18 every year.
All people whose 18th birthday falls in 1999 were supposed to register for military service in January and February. Even if the centres who have not yet sent in figures produce another 5,000 registrations, this will mean that only a third of those eligible for military service have bothered to register.
Cossa warned that those who will fail to abide by the law on military service will be dealt with by the courts. However, commentators point out that the judiciary do not have the capacity to deal with so many cases.
The United States State Department has issued its annual report on human rights world-wide, excluding the US itself. The reports are compiled by US embassy staff and this year's Mozambique report contains factual inaccuracies, ideological bias and intellectual laziness.
Parts of the document were recycled from previous reports with the same mistakes being repeated every year. The most serious such blunder concerns security offences.
The report claims that the Mozambican government "retains the discretion to determine what crimes constitute security offences". However, a law of 1991 details what constitutes a security offence, and this law defines such crimes as treason, terrorism and sabotage.
It was four years ago, when confronted with this formulation in the 1995 US report, that the President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze, declared that the Mozambican legal system operates on the universal principle that nothing is a crime unless the law defines it as such.
Furthermore, when the 1991 law was debated some parliamentarians tried to maintain a degree of discretion. They wanted to introduce vague terminology, and include "rumour mongering" or "acts that offend against international peace" as security offences. Such moves were defeated when the then Justice Minister, Ali Dauto, insisted that security laws must not contain "imprecise terms".
The last security trial was held in 1992, and the accused, former army chief of staff, Gen Sebastiao Mabote, was acquitted.
The report also repeats claims made each year since 1995 that "the executive, and by extension the Frelimo party, continued to dominate the judiciary". However, no attempt is made to substantiate the claim that "judges largely owed their positions to the ruling Frelimo Party".
President Chissano does appoint Supreme Court judges, but the report fails to mention that Mozambique copied this mechanism from the United States. The sole significant difference is that in the US the Senate ratifies all Supreme Court appointments, while in Mozambique parliamentary ratification is only necessary for the President and Deputy President of the court.
President Chissano must appoint the other Supreme Court judges from a very narrow list presented by the Supreme Council of the Judicial Magistrature (CSMJ), the body that regulates the judiciary. The law severely restricts who the CSMJ can recommend to the President: they must be fully qualified judges with at least eight years experience, whose performance the CSMJ has qualified as "good" or "excellent".
Another hardy perennial, surviving from one report into the next, is the untrue claim that "the Frelimo government traditionally has included at all levels a disproportionate number of southerners, mostly from the Shangaan ethnic group". Published information shows that out of the 37 ministers and deputy ministers, just six give their first language as Shangaan (16.2 per cent).
The report mentions that 24.8 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women - but immediately devalues this by claiming that "some of these women complained regularly in the press that they have no significant role in decision-making within their parties". However, the report gives no citations, and it is doubtful that such regular articles in the press exist.
In contrast, in the United States congress only 11.2 per cent of seats are held by women. Only eight countries in the world have a higher percentage than Mozambique (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Holland, New Zealand and Germany).
The section on press freedom is shockingly poor, littered with factual mistakes and unsubstantiated claims.
The traditional claim is made that "government officials still interfere with editorial policies", but not a single example is given. The report has to admit that the supposedly government-controlled press carried significant criticisms of the bungled local elections.
The report describes the Maputo daily "Noticias" and the Sunday paper "Domingo" as "state-controlled". In fact, the two papers are owned by a company whose largest shareholder is the Bank of Mozambique.
The report fails to mention that the 1991 press law states that the public sector media "shall carry out their duties free from interference by any outside interest or influence that may compromise their independence".
The reality is that nowadays Mozambique has a diverse press, with a variety of editorial standpoints.
The report denounces police abuses, including extra-judicial killings. However, in this they are merely joining officials from President Chissano downwards. Reports on abuses are regularly brought to the public by press reports and evidence presented by the Human Rights League and other NGOs with access to prisons.
The report raises the issue of extra-judicial killings, but has nothing to say about judicial ones. Nowhere does the report mention the significant fact that the Mozambican constitution outlaws the death penalty.
The report mentions that land mines caused 34 deaths during the year. It does not mention that, unlike the US, Mozambique has signed and ratified the Ottawa treaty outlawing anti-personnel land mines.
The Mozambican government has adopted a decree on a new type of personal identity card so that production of the card can begin this year. The new card will be extremely difficult to forge, and in future could also be used as a voting card.
Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje told reporters that the cost of the project is about $6.8 million. The government is providing two million dollars from its own resources, while the rest comes from Spain ($2.5 million) and from the European Union ($2.3 million).
The new card will be introduced gradually: 1.5 million will be produced this year, three million in 2000, and 4.5 million in 2001. The maximum cost of a card will be 30,000 meticais (about $2.5), but around 20 per cent will be issued free of charge to citizens who cannot afford to pay.
After 30 years of working without interruption, the cashew processing factory at Monapo, in the province of Nampula, is to close.
The factory began closing down some operations on 5 March, and the whole plant will shut down within a week, according to Rogerio Nunes, of the Entreposto group, the Portuguese-dominated company which owns the factory.
Entreposto's other cashew processing plant, in Angoche, on the Nampula coast, has sufficient raw material to work until mid-May, when it too will close.
The problem the entire cashew industry faces is competition for raw nuts from traders who sell them, unprocessed, to India. This has been actively encouraged by the World Bank which, from 1995 onwards, has been forcing the government to strip the processing industry of protection.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on 5 March began its promised airlift of food to the victims of flooding in the southern province of Inhambane.
According to the WFP the airlift, run out of Beira, will carry 350 tonnes of maize and beans to the towns of Vilankulo and Inhassoro. These are emergency rations for ten days for 70,000 people who cannot be reached by overland transport.
The airlift will cost $125,000: $25,000 has been pledged by the United States government and the WFP is providing the rest from its own funds.
The airlift is using a Lockheed C-130 aircraft which can carry up to 18 tonnes per flight. Once the food has been dropped at major towns, it will be taken by boat to other communities cut off by the floods. For isolated areas inland, the WFP plans to use helicopters.
The main north-south highway has suffered a new cut, at the locality of Ndjelendjele, in the district of Vilankulo, in the southern province of Inhambane.
The new interruption comes while the road remains blocked further north at Vulanjane. In both bases, the main culprit is flooding on the Govuro river, which runs roughly parallel to the main road.
There are reports that 18 people have died in Inhambane since the onset of the floods.
In the districts of Govuro and Inhassoro, 13,000 people are displaced and made homeless by the floods and 10,000 hectares of crops have been lost.
At Vulanjane, 34 loaded trucks are stuck on both banks of the Govuro river, unable to cross it, and hundreds of people are stranded, with neither shelter or food. Some of them are said to be contracting malaria and other diseases.
The Mozambican and Swedish governments on 3 March signed an agreement in Maputo, amending the cooperation accord for the period 1999-2000.
Under the agreement Sweden will provide an additional fund of 520 million Swedish crowns (about $65 million US dollars). This is an increase of around $10 million compared with the $55.5 million provided by Sweden in 1998, spent on balance of payments support, and projects in the areas of rural development, education, public administration, energy, culture, and support for the public sector.
Sweden is also providing assistance for democratic institutions, demining and human rights.
The Italian government has granted $140,000 worth of equipment and medicines for the fight against the cholera epidemic in northern Mozambique.
The aid includes emergency kits of rehydration serum, water tanks, materials for the setting up of rehydration centres among other equipment..
Since the current epidemic began, in August 1997, Italy has disbursed $370,000 to support the fight against cholera in Mozambique.
The epidemic has unfolded in two distinct outbreaks. The second outbreak, which began in September 1998, and severely affected the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula, has affected 39,759 people and caused 1,679 deaths countrywide, out of the 39,759 cases diagnosed.
Germany has decided to reschedule $50.6 million of Mozambique's bilateral debt. The rescheduling concerns 100 per cent of the debt service for the period between July 1997 and June 1999. The rescheduled debt with Germany will now be paid over a 23 year period.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 26 February opened what should be the last ordinary sitting of this five year legislature. The Assembly approved the agenda and programme for the sitting, which is due to last until 14 May.
The most important bill before this sitting is a last minute attempt by deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party to save the country's cashew processing industry, which is on the brink of collapse.
The matters that will be dealt with first are those to prepare the ground for the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for October. The Assembly must elect 15 members of the National Elections Commission (CNE), which will supervise the elections.
It will amend the law on voter registration to allow for a new register to be drawn up. The Assembly must also deal with bills from Renamo demanding state pensions for former Renamo fighters, and the denationalisation of property taken from religious organisations in 1976, when all rented property was nationalised.
Also on the agenda is the report back from the parliamentary commission investigating allegations of land seizures levelled against the governor of Inhambane province, Francisco Pateguana, and his daughter, Stella.
This sitting will hear the annual State of the Nation Address from President Joaquim Chissano, and the annual report from the Attorney-General, Antonio Namburete.
Matters that dropped off the agenda of the last session (held from October to December 1998) reappear - including the bill on deputies' pension rights which was so extravagant that Chissano vetoed it, and the highly critical report on the Assembly's use of funds by the Inspectorate-General of Finance, a specialised body of the Finance Ministry.
Reports will also be delivered from the Assembly's ad-hoc commissions on the national anthem and on constitutional amendments.
Rafael Companhia, a former Renamo delegate in the central province of Manica, defected on 24 February together with 25 others, accusing the party's President, Afonso Dhlakama, of various abuses, including incitement to murder. Companhia told a press conference on 25 February that he and his fellow defectors would apply to join the ruling Frelimo party.
The most serious accusation Companhia made against Dhlakama is that the latter gave pistols to him and to a man named as Major Joao Ping, and ordered them to murder Sebastiao Janota, one of the co-founders of ACODERMO, an association of discontented former Renamo soldiers.
Companhia said that although the victim-to-be was twice taken to planned sites of murder, the crime never happened.
Companhia also accused Dhlakama of tribalism, embezzlement, and of turning the party into a "private company" of his own. He also claims to have evidence that the Renamo military machine is still clandestinely active.
Companhia also says that most of those who desert the party are persecuted and receive death threats.
Companhia is the second former Renamo delegate in Manica to desert the party after being removed from his job by Dhlakama. The first was Elias Nota, who held the post after the signing of the General Peace Accord, in October 1992.
Renamo reacted to the defection of Rafael Companhia by claimed that he was always secretly working for the ruling Frelimo Party.
The current Renamo delegate in Manica, Mateus Antonio, described the affair as "a Frelimo provocation and manoeuvre aimed at damaging the image of Renamo".
"We already knew that he (Companhia) is and always was Frelimo", claimed Antonio. "The fact that he is leaving Renamo and returning to Frelimo does not surprise us. What does surprise us are the lies he told the press about our president Afonso Dhlakama and against the party in general. He's being manipulated".
Antonio specifically denied the most serious claim made by Companhia - the plot to murder Sebastiao Janota. Antonio also claimed that Companhia was sacked as provincial delegate because of "incompetence, inactivity, and theft of documents and membership cards".
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