President Joaquim Chissano declared on 29 March that "the general situation of the country is healthy. It is stable and peace is a reality". Giving his annual state of the nation address to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, President Chissano claimed that "the longings of all our people for peace are increasingly rooted in principles of tolerance and mutual respect, and in valuing our diversity - and therefore in genuine pluralism".
President Chissano noted that "there are still imbalances in our country's social and economic development, resulting from colonialism and wars of aggression".
He warned "there are those who are trying to transform these imbalances into ethnic, racial, religious or regional conflicts in order to satisfy their own political agenda".
Efforts to correct the asymmetries inherited from colonialism (between the south and north) began immediately after independence, Chissano recalled, but "they were compromised and delayed by the war of destabilisation".
Chissano said major steps had been taken in improving the health network. The number of health units was now about 1,000 - much the same as in 1983, the peak year of the post- independence expansion, before Renamo destroyed many rural health posts and centres.
Most of the country's health units were now offering "integrated preventive programmes", and a major effort has been made in training up health service staff, said the president. More of the country's 128 districts now have resident doctors than ever before.
The supply of medicines, however, remained a major challenge. In the 1980s the country had imported about $10 million worth of medicines a year. The figure has now risen to $30 million a year, but Chissano put the needs at over $50 million.
In 1998, he added, all medicines imported came from foreign donations or credits. This year, however, "it will be possible to make some funds available from the state budget to acquire medicines".
Outbreaks of cholera and meningitis "have well known causes such as poor urban sanitation, high population densities in the cities, and insufficient water supplies", he said. Solving such problems "implies a high level of investment and running costs, which are not always within our reach".
Chissano noted that the war had destroyed much of the post-independence gains in education. But once peace had been achieved, the government embarked upon expanding education and improving its quality. "By last year we managed to restore all the primary schools that had been destroyed or closed during the war", he said.
Currently, there are more than 2.3 million pupils in primary school, as against about 1.4 million in 1994.
The president admitted that there are serious problems in the legal system. "The debates in this Assembly and in society at large have pointed to the need to make our judicial system more efficient".
"Significant improvements" were needed, he warned, because citizens felt cheated "when they have to wait years for justice to be done".
President Chissano declared that Gross Domestic Product has grown at over 10 per cent for the last two years. He said that agriculture had made a vigorous contribution, growing by 8.7 per cent in 1997 and 8.2 per cent in 1998. Grain production had risen from a million tonnes in the 1995 harvest to 1.5 million tonnes in 1997 to about 1.7 million tonnes in 1998.
Chissano noted the same "positive trend" in cash crops: the production of raw cotton had grown from 53,000 tonnes in 1995 to 90,000 tonnes in 1998. The rise in sugar cane production had been from 233,000 to 368,000 tonnes.
On privatisations, Chissano admitted these were controversial because of the loss of jobs in some companies.
The government had eliminated the high rate of inflation - from an average rate of inflation of 63 per cent in 1994 to an average rate of one per cent in 1998. Macro-economic stability had created a firm basis for growth in private sector investment. In 1998 the government's Investment Promotion Centre (CPI) approved 202 new projects, with a total value of $837 million.
But foreign debt "continues to suffocate the country", he warned. Mozambique has been declared eligible for the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF, which should wipe about three billion dollars (in nominal terms) from the country's debt stock.
This was not enough, Chissano said. Even after HIPC "our debt service will continue to weigh heavily upon us, absorbing between 12 and 18 per cent of state revenue".
He hoped that the international community "will recognise that the poorest countries cannot fully develop their potential without the total write-off of the debt".
President Joaquim Chissano has appointed Rev. Jamisse Taimo to head the National Elections Commission (CNE), following the failure of the newly appointed CNE to reach consensus on who should take the post. In accordance with the law, the CNE sent President Chissano a list of four names so that he could take the final decision.
Some opposition figures have accused Taimo of being a Frelimo supporter, but Taimo rejects this categorically. Taimo stressed that the CNE is an independent body. The law establishing it states that the CNE is independent of all other state bodies and owes obedience only to the constitution and the law. "That is the fundamental point", he said.
Asked how this CNE could avoid the lack of credibility that overtook its predecessor, which was responsible for the bungled 1998 local elections, Taimo said the success of the CNE will depend on the commitment, not only of the members of the commission but also of every citizen.
The new National Elections Commission (CNE) was sworn into office by President Joaquim Chissano on 30 March. It is composed of 17 members (Frelimo appointed eight members, Renamo six, and the opposition coalition, the Democratic Union (UD) one. The remaining two members were appointed by the government). The second multi-party general elections in Mozambique, estimated to cost about $40 million, are tentatively scheduled for 27-28 October, although there are doubts about whether those dates are realistic.
President Chissano said the CNE may now give to the electoral arm of the civil service, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the orders needed to start working. During electoral periods, STAE operates as the CNE's executive branch, and is under the CNE's political control.
The members of the new CNE are as follows:
Appointed by Frelimo:
Alcinda Abreu, Antonio Muacorica, Carlos Morgado, Jamisse Taimo, Machatine Munguambe, Angelica Salomao, Percina Sitoe, Rufino Nombora.
Appointed by Renamo:
Francisco Marcelino, Maria Inacio, Viana Magalhaes, Maria Macuacua, Fernando Tome, Antonio Mthini,
Appointed by the UD:
The two members appointed by the government, Carlos Manuel and Fernando Macamo, are senior civil servants who both served on the 1997-98 CNE.
The Assembly of the Republic on 1 April amended the country's voter registration law to allow a new registration of the entire electorate this year.
The original law, passed in 1997, envisaged a yearly updating of the electoral registers. But there has only ever been one updating exercise, in late 1997. For lack of funds, the government did not organise any updating of the registers in 1998.
For this year's presidential and parliamentary elections, Renamo demanded that the entire electorate be registered from scratch. The government accepted this demand, but denied it was making a concession to Renamo: it claimed that a completely new registration exercise was needed because large numbers of people have moved since the 1994 electoral registers were drawn up.
An Assembly ad-hoc commission adjusted the 1997 law, so as to allow, exceptionally, a completely fresh registration in 1999. As from the year 2000, the country will revert to yearly updates of the registers.
The government is to fix the 1999 voter registration period: it is likely to be in June and July.
Agricultural marketing has increased by 87 per cent since 1994, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Oldemiro Baloi, told the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 5 April.
In 1994, 211,000 tonnes of crops were marketed, but in the 1998 harvest the figure hit 395,000 tonnes.
The problem of the reluctance of commercial banks to supply credit for marketing had been overcome, he said. In 1998 more credit was available than could be used.
He said that banks had been prepared to lend 389 billion meticais (about $31.1 million) for the marketing campaign, but in fact only 279 billion meticais had been used. This was because many private traders were ineligible for bank credit, because they still owed debts from previous years.
Baloi said that for the 1999 campaign 412 billion meticais will be available from the banks. The state's own marketing body, the Mozambique Cereals Institute (ICM), will borrow 100 million meticais.
Agriculture Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario noted that the government was concerned to build up both a physical reserve and a financial one. The latter was currently relying on support from the European Union which was supplying the equivalent of around $5.5 million that could be used for importing food.
He stressed that the main problem nowadays was not an absolute shortage of food, but access to food - this was partly a problem of the poor state of Mozambican roads and other infrastructure, and partly a problem of purchasing power.
There were parts of the country where food was available but people did not have the money to buy it. "So the problem of access to food here is really a problem of poverty", said Rosario.
The newly formed coalition UMO (Mozambican Opposition Union) has split, with three of its members suspending a fourth.
A UMO press release states that Wehia Ripua, Casimiro Nhamitambo and Vasco Momboya, who are the leaders of PADEMO (Mozambican Democratic Party), SOL (Social-Liberal Party) and PACODE (Democratic Congress Party) held an emergency meeting on 24 March at which they decided to suspend the PRD (Democratic Renewal Party) from membership.
The PRD leader, Manecas Daniel, was suspended from his post as UMO general secretary. No reason was given for this other than "the gravity of the political situation inside UMO".
UMO can take some consolation from the decision of a fifth organisation, PAMOMO (Democratic Party for Mozambican Reconciliation), to become a full member of UMO rather than an observer.
Another opposition party has attacked the main opposition Renamo Party, accusing it of trying to use other parties for its own purposes.
Interviewed in Noticias on 30 March, Carlos Reis, leader of UNAMO (Mozambique National Union), objected to Renamo attacks upon UMO (Mozambican Opposition Union), the coalition of extra-parliamentary groups of which UNAMO is a member.
Renamo leaders have suggested that UMO, and particularly its chairman Wehia Ripua, are "agents" of the ruling Frelimo Party.
"The Renamo leadership knows perfectly well that I'm not in Frelimo", said Reis. "Renamo's problem is simple: if any political party is not with Renamo, then it must be against Renamo. I think this vision is wrong and anti-democratic, and just clarifies once again the genesis of Renamo", he added.
Reis declared that Renamo was not really interested in forming an electoral coalition with other political parties. "What Renamo wants is just to use other opposition parties to get into power", he accused.
Reis declared categorically that UMO "will not form part of an alliance headed by Renamo because all the parties in UMO are well aware that a government headed by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama will never be worried about solving the problems of the Mozambican people".
What is particularly intriguing is that UNAMO's name was among the list of 12 parties who on 28 March said they were going into coalition with Renamo for the elections scheduled for October this year.
For the time being, the would-be coalition is calling itself "G15 plus 1" (even though there are in fact only 13 of them). The name refers to the group of 15 minor parties that boycotted the June 1998 local elections, and were later joined - and led - in this by Renamo.
The 12 minor parties are: ALIMO - Mozambique Independent Alliance FAP - Patriotic Action Front MONAMO - Mozambican Nationalist Movement PADELIMO - Democratic Party for the Liberation of Mozambique PCN - National Convention Party PIMO - Independent Party of Mozambique PPPM - Mozambican People's Progress Party PRD - Democratic Renewal Party PT - Labour Party PUN - National Unity Party UNAMO - Mozambique National Union Os Verdes - The Greens
The electricity network has expanded dramatically over the past two decades, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, John Kachamila, told the Assembly of the Republic on 5 April.
In 1977, Mozambique's total electricity requirements could have been met with 118 megawatts. The figure in 1998, however, was 235 megawatts.
Kachamila said this meant Mozambique was exceeding its quota of power from the Cahora Bassa dam (most of which is earmarked for Zimbabwe and South Africa, although currently the South African electricity company Eskom is not buying Cahora Bassa power because of a dispute over the price).
In 1977, there had only been 443 kilometres of electricity transmission line in the country. By 1998, the figure had risen to 9,580 kilometres.
In 1977, there were just 62,000 consumers of electricity. In 1998, the figure was 186,208 - and 31,000 consumers had been linked to the network since the present government took office at the end of 1994.
The Mozambican government is to contract a domestic loan by issuing treasury bonds to the value of 60 billion meticais (about $4.85 million), Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told reporters on 26 March.
The purpose of the bonds, he said, was "to mobilise additional funds to strengthen the investment component of the state budget.
As for the stock exchange, Mocumbi said that two banks have been contracted to value the first company whose shares are to be quoted, "Cervejas de Mocambique" (Beers of Mozambique), which is owned by South African Breweries (SAB).
There is, however, still no date for the opening of the exchange.
The Maragra sugar mill, about 50 kilometres north of Maputo, is to resume production in June, after more than a decade of paralysis.
Maragra general manager Paul Robillard expects that all the equipment will be in place by the end of May, and that by the end of the year the factory will produce about 12,000 tonnes of sugar.
He added that within the next two years production should reach 60,000 tonnes a year, climbing to 120,000 tonnes by the year 2003.
He said that to reach these targets it is necessary for cane production to go hand in hand with the factory's operations.
The cane fields, run by "Maragra Comercial", currently employ 550 workers as well as a group of South African farmers and small scale local farmers. The area for cane production is estimated at 6,200 hectares of irrigable land.
The factory has a workforce of 2,100, and is expected to grow to 3,500 when the mill operates at full capacity.
A consortium headed by the Mozambican publicly-owned ports and rail company, CFM, has won the tender for the privatisation of Malawi Railways.
CFM's partner in the consortium is the Nacala Corridor Development Company (SDCN), which consists of private American, French and Mozambican interests.
The CFM/SDCN bid was around $20 million to be paid over a 20 year period. The consortium acquires all of Malawi Railways' assets, which include several locomotives in good condition, and around 300 wagons.
The consortium will not undertake major infrastructure investments, which remains the responsibility of the Malawian state, with World Bank funding.
Malawi Railways is one of the smaller rail companies in the region. It carries around 400,000 tonnes of freight a year, whereas CFM carries around 6 million tonnes.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is to submit to the government a draft bill that will permit the hunting of elephants, according to Agriculture Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario.
Rosario was responding to insistent calls by residents of the northern province of Niassa to authorise the hunting of elephants that destroy peasant farmers' crops in some parts of the province.
Mozambique joined the international ban on the trade in ivory in July 1990, and at the same time declared the elephant a fully protected species in Mozambique. All hunting of the animal was outlawed, and heavy fines imposed for killing elephants.
The elephant population declined precipitously during the war of destabilisation, with both the apartheid backed Renamo rebels, and members of the Mozambican armed forces involved in large scale poaching.
A wildlife survey of 1979 estimated the number of elephants in Mozambique at over 54,000. By the time the ban was imposed there were only 16,600 left.
The government on 1 April officially launched a Value Added Tax (VAT) which will replace, as from 1 June, the existing sales and consumption taxes.
Initially, the government had planned to start collecting VAT as from 1 April, but the state of preparation of most of the country's businesses forced a two month delay.
Speaking on 26 March Planning and Finance Minister Tomas Salomao told reporters that the main "interest of state" was Mozambican access to the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative, sponsored by the World Bank and the IMF. The introduction of VAT is one of the conditions imposed for access to HIPC.
The Confederation of Mozambican Businesses (CTA) had called for postponing VAT until 1 January 2000, on the grounds that most companies need more time to prepare for a major change in tax rules.
President Joaquim Chissano on 30 March called for co-ordination between countries of the Indian Ocean Rim in order to face the challenges of globalisation.
Chissano was speaking in Maputo at the opening of the second ministerial meeting of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, set up at a meeting in Mauritius in 1997.
Chissano told the ministers "today we are on the threshold of a new millennium and our societies still face the problems caused by an unjust international economic order".
"This situation, which cannot continue, imposes on us new challenges for setting up a new international economic order based on just and equitable partnerships with mutual benefits for all our countries", he argued.
The 14 Association members have 1.4 billion inhabitants: but most of these live in just one member state, India. Mozambique now takes over the chairmanship of the Association. ends
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