Capitalism in Mozambique is not something that will last for ever, declared the country's veteran nationalist, Marcelino dos Santos, in an interview published by Noticias on 20 May on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
Dos Santos was a founder of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) in 1962, and was Frelimo deputy president from 1969 to 1977, when the position was abolished.
He was Minister for Economic Development in the late 1970s, and was then Frelimo Political Bureau member in charge of the economy in the early 1980s. From 1987 until 1994 he was the chairman of the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. He remains a member of the Frelimo Central Committee, and is also a prominent poet.
Dos Santos has been one of the most outspoken representatives of the Frelimo left, and he said that he remains a marxist-leninist.
"Even today, if we are to ask what is the system that can really ensure the well-being of everyone, it's obviously socialism", he said. "Capitalism in Mozambique is a process that we are living through, but as far as I'm concerned it's not something we will live with forever".
Dos Santos said that he too had participated in the Frelimo meetings "which led us to make what I would call a historic retreat to capitalism. The conditions of the time, the aggression by apartheid using the armed bandits of Renamo, and the difficulty we had in defeating Renamo militarily - that led us to adopt a diplomatic struggle, in which we triumphed, since we forced Renamo to accept peace".
Dos Santos admitted that Frelimo is now "a party of all social strata, and it certainly has people who are completely in agreement with capitalism, and others who are not. I am one of the latter, and I shall fight for the retransformation of Frelimo, but within the framework of our legality".
As for national reconciliation, dos Santos thought that would only be really possible when Renamo recognised "that what it did against the Mozambican people during the war was a crime".
"One day we shall propose the creation of an ''Association of the Victims of Renamo'', and we shall demand compensation from Renamo", promised dos Santos. "If that happens, it will be the largest association in Mozambique".
He said that reconciliation was under way with the Renamo rank and file, but not with the Renamo leadership "who are in the hands of foreigners".
Planning and Finance Minister, Tomas Salomao, declared on 21 May that the immediate challenge facing his ministry is to ensure compliance with the pre-conditions for reaching the "completion point" of the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative.
Speaking in Maputo at the end of a five day meeting of the Ministry's Coordinating Council, Salomao told senior Finance Ministry staff that it is imperative to take measures "to ensure compliance with the targets we have to achieve by the end of May so that in June the country can reach the HIPC completion point".
The World Bank and IMF declared Mozambique eligible for HIPC in April 1998. But this was only the "decision point": the "completion point", at which the debt relief actually becomes available, is dependent on Mozambique closely following the targets set forth in its programme with the IMF.
The amount of debt relief involved was initially set at $1.44 billion (in net current value terms), which would bring Mozambique's debt stock down to $1.1 billion.
But the World Bank and IMF now accept the need for even larger debt relief (perhaps $250 million) to bring Mozambique's debt service and debt-stock-to-exports ratios down to "sustainable" levels. It is not yet clear where this extra debt relief will come from.
The Assembly of the Republic on 12 May rejected an attempt by Renamo to prolong the current parliamentary sitting beyond the scheduled closing date of 14 May. Renamo called for an extension of "one or two weeks" to deal with the rest of the parliamentary agenda, but the ruling Frelimo Party retorted that, if the Assembly had been unable to deal with its full agenda, this was mainly due to Renamo's own delaying tactics.
About 8,000 Mozambican women die every year from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, according to Deputy Health Minister Abdul Razak Noormahomed.
Briefing the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 12 May, Noormahomed said there were no reliable statistics on maternal mortality (because of the large number of births that take place outside of health units), but indirect studies showed that the maternal mortality rate was somewhere between 500 and 1,500 deaths for every 100,000 live births - giving Mozambique one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
The clinical causes of these deaths include infections contracted during the act of giving birth, massive haemorrhages, convulsions and high blood pressure that women may suffer in the final months of pregnancy, and malaria among pregnant women.
But social and economic factors make these clinical problems much worse, argued Noormahomed.
He pointed out that many women were already in a weakened state of health when they became pregnant, since they had suffered from anaemia and chronic malnutrition since childhood.
Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy added to this deadly burden, as did lack of transport to take women from remote areas to the nearest health post.
Many women also did not receive adequate ante-natal care, and when they fell ill delayed before taking the decision to seek medical help.
Noormahomed argued that the key measures to bring down the maternal mortality rate include the education of girls, improving women's social status, and providing information to communities about the danger signs that should be looked for during pregnancy and childbirth.
The parliamentary debate on amendments to the Mozambican constitution will take place at an extraordinary sitting of the Assembly of the Republic, that will probably begin in late July.
On 12 May the Assembly approved a motion extending the term of office of the ad-hoc commission drafting the amendments. However, at the insistence of Renamo, no specific date for the extraordinary sitting was mentioned.
Whether the extraordinary sitting will be able to change the constitution still hangs in the balance, for Renamo has warned that it will not vote in favour of an amended constitution without also amending the country's national anthem, flag and emblem.
The Assembly of the Republic, on 11 May rejected a bill submitted by Renamo that would have handed back nationalised property that once belonged to "social organisations, associations and religious denominations".
The bill was defeated on its first reading by 125 votes to 118 with three abstentions.
During the debate Renamo deputies insisted that the bill merely intended to restore to religious bodies buildings that were taken over by the state in 1975-76 and which the government now recognises should never have been nationalised in the first place.
But the ruling Frelimo Party argued that this was only the first step, and that Renamo's real plan was to hand over all nationalised buildings to the Portuguese settlers who had once owned them.
As for religious buildings, the government had been returning these on a case by case basis, and should continue doing so, Frelimo said.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has said he will accept a delay in the country's second multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections, if this is "negotiated" between the government and the opposition.
In principle, the elections should be held in the last quarter of 1999, but the timetable is extremely tight, and voices have been raised suggesting a postponement until the dry season (May/June) of the year 2000.
Interviewed in the weekly Savana, Dhlakama said he had discussed Renamo's attitude towards the elections with several ambassadors and donor representatives.
Dhlakama wanted the elections to take place this year - but not at the expense of reducing the time available for voter registration or for the election campaign.
He rejected cutting the voter registration from 75 to 60 days. Indeed, he thought it might be necessary to extend, rather then reduce, the time available for registration.
As for the election campaign, Dhlakama argued that "any reduction in the campaign time will only benefit Frelimo, because it is Frelimo that has all the resources and money to buy cars and distribute them".
A further condition placed by Dhlakama was that the elections must not take place in December, because that month is the start of the rainy season.
As for delaying the elections into the year 2000 "we in Renamo are prepared to negotiate", said Dhlakama, "because what we want is that the elections should be held properly".
Dhlakama specifically ruled out any kind of "transitional government" or "government of national unity" to run the country once the term of office of the current government expires in December.
The electricity companies of Mozambique (EDM), South Africa (ESKOM), and Swaziland (SEB) on 20 May signed an agreement formalising their partnership in the MOTRACO (Mozambique Transport Company) consortium that is to build power lines from South Africa to Beloluane, the site just outside Maputo where the MOZAL aluminium smelter is under construction.
The building of the 300 kilometres of power lines should be complete by November. MOTRACO should be fully operational by April. It will sell some power to Swaziland and to EDM, but its main customer is MOZAL, which will require 450 megawatts of electricity.
The MOTRACO project, budgeted at $130 million, also includes the building of a substation in Swaziland.
Veiga Anjos, the new chairman of the board of directors of the Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric dam (HCB), said on 20 May that a consultancy firm is to undertake a strategic development study of the role the company has to play in the Southern African region over the next 20 years. The study is costed at $600.000.
Only about five per cent of Mozambicans have access to electricity from any source, which is hindering economic and social development in many areas, according to the National Director of Energy, Casimiro Francisco.
Francisco said that the government is preparing a survey of the existing sources of power countrywide, and the results of this are to be used in planning to extend the electricity network across the entire country.
He revealed that negotiations are under way with the World Bank, to fund the survey, budgeted at $9 million.
Francisco believed that for electrification to be speeded up there is a need for fixing new, "more realistic" prices for electricity, in order to attract more investment capital.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has approved aid of $11 million for Mozambique.
These funds are to support "food for work" programmes over the next three years. These programmes are designed to reduce the vulnerability to natural disasters of rural communities. Normally they involve labour intensive projects such as road building, in which the participants are paid in food rather than cash.
Mozambique has more than ten billion tonnes of coal reserves, but this resource cannot be fully exploited mainly due to transport difficulties.
A report presented to a meeting of the Coordinating Council of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, says that the relaunching of coal production in Moatize, in Tete province, is dependent on rebuilding the railway from Moatize to the central port of Beira.
The minimum producer price for good quality raw cotton in Mozambique this year is likely to be 2,200 meticais (about 14 US cents) a kilo.
The General Cotton Council is proposing to the government a minimum price of 2,200 and 1,900 meticais a kilo - for first and second grade cotton respectively. The Council includes representatives of the cotton concessionary companies (who buy cotton from the peasants) and of the Mozambican Cotton Institute (IAM).
Last year, the concessionary companies protested vigorously when the government set a minimum price of 2,950 meticais a kilo for first grade cotton. At that price, they were bound to operate at a loss, they said.
In April, the cotton price index was between 56 and 59 US cents a pound (which works out at between $900 and $1,000 a tonne). Three years ago the price was 80 cents a pound, or $1,400 a tonne.
In the 1998 harvest Mozambique produced 91,000 tonnes of raw cotton - the highest cotton production since independence in 1975. This resulted in 31,000 tonnes of cotton fibre, of which about 15,000 tonnes have so far been exported, earning a total of $16.4 million.
This year the initial target of 100,000 tonnes of raw cotton will not be reached. The IAM believes that production will be somewhere between 50,000 and 70,000 tonnes, which will result in between 16,000 and 23,000 tonnes of fibre. This decline is due largely to the late start to the rainy season in the northern provinces of Nampula and Cabo Delgado, which produce 80 percent of Mozambique's cotton.
The Mozambican government wants to switch away from a dependence on exports - currently over 90 per cent of Mozambican cotton is exported - and use more of the cotton domestically.
This will involve setting up small spinning and weaving industries. These would produce cotton thread for sale to Mozambique's textile industries.
The Mozambican government on 20 May auctioned treasury bonds with a total value of 60 billion meticais (about $4.8 million) to the country's banks.
Demand far exceeded supply: according to the deputy national director of the treasury, Gabriel Mambo, the banks taking part in the auction offered to sell 123 billion meticais worth of bonds to their clients.
The bonds available were then shared out in accordance with the interest rates in their bids: the lower the interest rates, the more bonds a bank obtained.
The banks will sell the bonds to the public within the next 15 days. The banks taking part in the auction were Banco de Fomento (which obtained 50 per cent of the available bonds), Commercial Bank of Mozambique (25 per cent), International Bank of Mozambique (16.66 per cent), Standard Totta Bank (8.33 per cent), and Commercial and Investment Bank (zero).
All of these banks are dominated by Portuguese capital.
Mozambique needs about 692 tonnes of seeds, so that farmers affected by adverse weather conditions this year may replant.
Most of the seeds are required by farmers who lost their crops to torrential rains, flooding and mudslides in parts of central and southern Mozambique. About 63,000 hectares of crops were lost.
There was also crop damage in parts of the northern provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado, caused by the late onset of the rainy season.
So far, the Mozambican government in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has provided 245 tonnes of various types of seeds to the affected areas. But sources in the Ministry of Agriculture's Early Warning System said that this accounts for only 35 percent of needs.
The government has also distributed 92,288 agricultural tools (such as hoes and machetes). The needs here are calculated at 2,131,896 hand tools (to replace ones that have worn out, and particularly those that were lost during the floods).
The southern city of Matola has become the first of the newly elected municipal authorities to make a serious attempt at raising revenue from local taxation.
As from September, households and companies in Matola must pay a monthly tax to have their rubbish collected. The measure was approved unanimously by the Matola Municipal Assembly on 12 May.
Each household in the areas of Matola with modern housing must pay 20,000 meticais (about $1.7) a month, while the garbage collection fee in the suburbs consisting of reed shacks and houses of other flimsy materials is just 6,000 meticais. Companies, hotels and other economic units must pay 50,000 or 100,000 meticais a month depending on their classification.
Anyone who fails to pay the tax will be charged a 50 percent fine for a delay of one month. This fine rises to 100 per cent if the delay in payment is two months or more.
Those companies that collect their own garbage will be asked to pay 20,000 meticais a month for use of the municipal landfill.
Mozambique Airlines (LAM) on 13 May announced that in 1998 it ran at a profit for the third year running.
The company's managing director, Jose Viegas, said that the 1988 profits amounted to about 3.1 billion meticais (about $248,000). Operational revenue had increase by 6.4 per cent, from 539 billion meticias in 1997 to 573.6 billion in 1998. Passenger traffic had gown by 6.7 per cent over the year from 189,359 to 202,133.
The number of domestic passengers had risen from 124,445 to 129,059 (a rise of 3.7 per cent), while on the regional routes (to South Africa and Zimbabwe) the increase was 18.9 per cent - from 48,462 to 57,622.
But on LAM's only intercontinental flight (to Lisbon) the number of passengers was down by 6.1 per cent, falling from 16,452 to 15,452.
Domestic cargo traffic fell by seven per cent, but this was more than compensated for by rises of 16 and 22 per cent in regional and intercontinental cargo traffic respectively. The total amount of cargo carried by LAM (including mail and excess baggage) rose from 2,393.2 tonnes in 1997 to 2,442.2 tonnes in 1998.
Viegas said the company's growth continued in the first quarter of 1999. with an increase in the number of passengers of 14.9 per cent when compared with the January-March period of 1998. The strongest growth was in regional traffic, which rose by 27.3 per cent, from 11,428 to 14,543 passengers. Domestic passenger traffic was up by 10.5 per cent (30,390 to 33,570), and intercontinental traffic by 12.7 per cent (2,684 to 3,024).
Health Minister, Aurelio Zilhao, on 10 May launched preparations for a countrywide vaccination campaign against polio, urging society at large to become actively involved, in order to ensure that Mozambique is free of this disease by the year 2000.
The campaign is to cover over 3.2 million children aged between zero and five.
One particular aspect of this campaign is that along with the anti-polio vaccine the children will also receive vitamin "A", since recent studies showed deficiency of this vitamin in Mozambique, particularly in children.
The head of the Vaccination Programme, Manuel Matusse, estimated the financial needs for the polio campaign at $1.9 million, and said that most of this amount is already available.
He said that the vaccines have been acquired by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in cooperation with both national and foreign governmental and non-governmental organisations, and will arrive in Maputo by late May or early June.
Mozambique News Agency
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