The Mozambican government announced on 31 May that voter registration for the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections will take place from 20 July to 17 September. This is in line with recommendation from the National Elections Commission (CNE), the body in overall charge of the elections.
The period stipulated by the government is exactly 60 days long. The government's timetable is determined by the constitutional requirement to hold the elections this year. In practice the elections should take place by the end of November, since December falls within the rainy season, when access roads to many of the remoter parts of the country could be impassable.
According to the electoral law, there must be a period of at least 60 days between the end of voter registration and the polling date. Thus, with voter registration ending on 17 September, it will still be theoretically possible to hold the elections in late November.
Major problems can be expected with the voter registration. This is because, instead of simply updating the existing registers, the government has accepted a Renamo demand to re-register the entire electorate from scratch.
Renamo rejects dates
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama on 2 June rejected as "absurd" the 60 day period for voter registration.
Speaking at the opening of a Renamo seminar in Maputo he repeated his demand for a registration period of at least 75 days. He claimed that 60 days "is only enough time to register the population of the cities", and that the bulk of the population, who live in the countryside, would be missed out.
The idea for a 75 day registration originally came from the government, when it was working out a timetable that would allow elections to be held in late October.
However, this timetable was severely disrupted by the failure of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, to elect its members of the CNE, the body that will run the elections, until the end of March.
STAE prepares for voter registration
The CNE's executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) is preparing to train about 11,000 people to undertake voter registration throughout the country, according to STAE general director Antonio Carrasco.
He said that his institution is selecting 44 people, four from each of the country's 11 provinces, to be trained as instructors who will then be in charge of training the registration brigades in their provinces.
"The training of these instructors will start by the end of next month. We hope to have trained the whole structure within 50 days, from instructors, at national level, down to the brigade staff", said Carrasco.
He stressed that STAE is presently concerned with the success of the voter registration, and has already concluded tenders for the supply of all the necessary materials, including printed materials for voter education.
He revealed that the tender for the supply of materials was won by the Canadian company CODE, which has wide-ranging experience, having done this same job in more than 40 countries world-wide.
Mozambican companies are furious that the tender was designed in such a way as to make it impossible for any of the lucrative contracts to be won by national rather than foreign firms. But Carrasco dismissed complaints of lack of transparency.
He explained that CODE presented a better proposal in terms of deadlines for the delivery of the materials, logistics and even financial arrangements. He said that other companies' proposals were less competitive in one or other aspect of the job.
Concerning the election calendar, and accusations of delays levelled at the electoral bodies by political parties, Carrasco said that "We are working to guarantee voter registration in the first instance. Then, we will deal with the polling date".
Carrasco acknowledged that time is short if the country is to have elections this year, but he also noted that it is essential that the voter registration be carried out properly.
Labour Minister Guilherme Mavila on 4 June announced restrictions on the hiring of foreign workers, in line with the labour law passed by the Assembly of the Republic.
That law established the principle that there can be no discrimination in payment between Mozambicans and foreigners doing the same work, and ordered employers to ensure that Mozambicans could rise to fill managerial positions in companies, even foreign owned ones.
Mavila said the government has now approved regulations that put flesh on the labour law.
From now on companies will have a quota of foreigners in managerial positions which must not be exceeded. For the first two years of a company's activity, it may fill 60 per cent of its managerial positions with foreigners. In years three to five, this must decline to 40 per cent. In the sixth to tenth years, no more than 20 per cent of the managers can be foreigners, and as from year 11 this figure falls to ten per cent.
Mavila stressed that this restriction only applies to salaried managerial staff, and not to the boards of directors or other bodies elected by the shareholders.
As for companies who have already been in Mozambique for more than ten years, Mavila said they were being given five years to reduce their number of foreign managerial staff to ten per cent.
As for recruiting foreign technical staff, the principle has always been that they may only be employed if there are no Mozambicans qualified for the job, or if there are not enough with the requisite skills. Previously, however, employers were not asked to prove this. As from now, said Mavila, when applying to the Labour Ministry for authorisation to employ a foreigner, the company will have to present a document showing that it is impossible to find a Mozambican with the necessary qualifications.
Companies will also have to pay a fee for each foreigner contracted. This fee is seven per cent of the foreign worker's wages for the first contract (which normally lasts for two years), 10 per cent, if he is given a second contract, and 15 per cent during any third contract.
The elected Maputo Municipal Assembly on 3 June unanimously approved new rents for stallholders in the city's 42 municipal markets.
This follows huge rent rises in March which were never implemented because of the storm of protest from stallholders. The commission representing stallholders in the Maputo central market drew up a counter proposal, circulated it around other markets, and this was the basis for the Municipal Assembly's decision.
The new rents are an increase on the small amounts charged prior to March, but mark a significant reduction (of up to 60 per cent) on the March proposal.
The rents approved vary in accordance with what is sold on the stalls - those selling more profitable items pay higher rents. The markets are also divided into three categories: stallholders in "A" grade markets (in the central part of the city) pay much more in rent than those in "B" and "C" grade markets in the outlying suburbs.
The general director of the Norwegian aid agency, Tove Strand, said on 3 June that Norway is not satisfied with the Mozambican government's procedures to ensure transparency in the handling of foreign aid.
Strand was speaking to reporters at the end of a four day visit during which she took part in the annual consultations on the Norwegian aid programme to Mozambique. She said NORAD placed great stress on transparency and proper auditing, and was not satisfied with the Mozambican government's internal audits.
Norway and four of the other main donors who support the Mozambican budget met a week ago to discuss the problem. Strand said they made "concrete proposals", and she was optimistic that the government is willing to follow these up.
Nordic concerns over the Mozambican state's financial procedures dates back at least to 1995, when it was discovered that $2.3 million of Norwegian money, intended for the Agriculture Ministry's Emergency Seeds and Tools Programme (PESU) could not be properly accounted for.
It turned out that large amounts of this money had been used by PESU officials to pay Mozambican companies for goods that they never supplied, or which were over-invoiced and not authorised by the donor.
Mozambique had to repay the money diverted in this way, and half a dozen officials were briefly arrested. Norwegian officials are no longer making an issue of the PESU case, but they note that the authorities have not provided them with adequate information on any prosecutions.
Strand thought the government is serious about instituting transparent procedures and she said that NORAD might be able to help by supporting the Administrative Tribunal, the body that checks the legality of public expenditure.
Mozambique is the largest recipient of Norwegian aid in Africa. Strand said that in 1998 this aid amounted to the equivalent of about $50 million.
The United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO), through its Maputo office, has pledged its willingness to provide technical and financial support to the Mozambican government's accelerated programme to combat malaria.
According to the WHO representative in Mozambique, Carlos Tiny, the institution is prepared to support the government under the "Roll Back Malaria" (RBM) programme, which is an initiative of WHO Director-General Gro Brundtland.
During her recent visit to Mozambique, Brundtland pledged that WHO would contribute $500,000 for the implementation of the programme in Mozambique.
In the last half of 1998 there were 422,250 cases of malaria in Mozambique, 240 of which resulted in deaths. These cases are only those reported from health units. It is certain that many others occurred but were not reported to the health authorities.
The Malawi Privatisation Commission announced on 31 May that the Malawi government has approved a Mozambican consortium, headed by the country's publicly-owned ports and railway company CFM, as the successful bidders to take over Malawi Railways.
Partnering CFM in this consortium is the Nacala Corridor Development Company (SDCN). This a joint venture with US companies American Railway Development Corporation and Edlows; Portuguese firms TERTIR and SOMAFEL; and the French companies COGIFER and SAE International.
The consortium beat off seven other bids, including ones from a British rail company, and from the South African rail company, Spoornet.
Malawi Railways has over the years cut down drastically on its domestic transport operation because it has been running at a heavy loss. Most of its lines, especially between the southern district of Balaka up to Mchinji on the Zambian border, have been overgrown by weeds, and have not been in operation for the past four years.
The fully operational part of the Malawian network is international freight service to Nacala carrying Malawian agricultural produce such as tobacco, tea and sugar while bringing into Malawi imports such as fuel, wheat, fertiliser and cooking oil.
Zambia hopes to use Nacala Corridor
The general manager of Malawi Railways, Enoch Limbe, has stated that money is now available to build a short stretch of railway for Zambia.
The stretch in question is the 27 kilometres from Chipata in eastern Zambia to the Malawian border town of Mchinji. It is assumed that the existence of a railhead at Chipata will make Zambian exporters more willing to use the line through Malawi to the port of Nacala.
Limbe said that Malawi Railways faces strong competition from road haulage companies.
Zambian businessmen have expressed an interest in using Nacala since October 1997, when the Chairman of the Zambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gerry Chabwera, visited the Nacala corridor and estimated that Zambia could move 200,000 tonnes of freight annually through the Nacala Corridor.
Increase in Nacala Corridor traffic
The Nacala-Malawi railway handled 269,000 tonnes of cargo in 1998, an 8.7 per cent increase on the 1997 figure, according to Filipe Nhussi, executive director of CFM-Norte, interviewed in "Noticias" on 27 May. This made 1998 the best year for CFM-Norte since 1984.
A breakdown of the cargo showed that Malawian imports and exports grew by 11 per cent, while traffic to and from clients in Mozambique grew by five per cent.
The railway handled 14,815 containers - a 38 per cent increase - partly a result of the return of Malawian tobacco exports to the Nacala Corridor - from no containers of tobacco in 1997 to 2,300 containers in 1998.
Rebuilding Sena line to cost $300 million
Rebuilding the Sena railway line, which links the port of Beira to landlocked Malawi, will cost $300 million, and this money must be mobilised by September, according to Rui Fonseca, chairman of CFM.
Fonseca was addressing an extraordinary meeting of the Sofala provincial government, held in Inhaminga, which President Joaquim Chissano visited on 26 May.
Inhaminga was once an important railway town, but the railway was destroyed by Renamo during the war of destabilisation. The Sena line is not only important for Malawian trade, but also for key Mozambican products.
One branch of the line goes to the Moatize coal mines in Tete province, and another goes to the sugar plantation at Marromeu. Without the railway neither the coal nor the sugar are likely to be viable.
Fonseca said it was difficult to raise money for the Sena line, as in general investors wanted returns of 20-22 per cent. He said CFM's contacts with China, Spain and South Africa over the railway were at a "very advanced" stage. So too were discussions with Japanese and Australian investors interested in Moatize coal.
Fonseca said that rebuilding the Sena line would need 900,000 sleepers and 900,000 cubic metres of ballast.
The peak of the Sena line's prosperity came in 1980/81, when it was carrying 1.5 million tonnes of freight a year, including 600,000 tonnes of Malawian trade. Then the line came under sustained Renamo attack, and for over 15 years it has not carried a single train.
Conference on Mtwara Corridor
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 27 May opened an international conference in Pemba on the "Mtwara corridor", a programme for improving the links between southern Tanzania, northern Mozambique and northern Malawi. Mtwara is Tanzania's southernmost port.
The other "corridors" radiating out from ports in the SADC region depend heavily on rail transport. There is no railway to Mtwara, and no plans to build one.
Currently Mtwara handles only Tanzanian traffic. Malawian officials have talked about using Mtwara for Malawian trade: but for most of Malawi the nearest ports are Beira and Nacala.
Improving overland transport links between Mozambique and Tanzania depends on building a bridge over the Rovuma, the river that marks the frontier. This "unity bridge" has been on the drawing board ever since Mozambican independence in 1975, but no funds have ever been mobilised to build it.
The Prime Minister said that a transport corridor "is a pole of development", making the most of existing natural resources and economic potential.
The Pemba conference involves private business in what Mocumbi regarded as a step towards the formation of "smart partnerships" between the state and the private sector. The conference is a preparatory meeting, prior to the formal launching of the Mtwara Corridor which should take place in Tanzania in November.
The Mozambican Association of Young Farmers (AJAM) is looking into the possibility of becoming involved in the Mosagrius programme in the province of Niassa.
Mosagrius involves both Mozambican and South African commercial farmers, working under the aegis of the Mosagrius Development Corporation (SDM), which is 50 per cent owned by the Mozambican state and 50 per cent by the South African Chamber for Agricultural Development in Africa.
According to AJAM president Simao Sevene, a joint team from AJAM and the government will visit Niassa in June to study how young farmers can take part in the programme. AJAM has 100 members in Niassa, of whom only 50 are cultivating their own land.
"We don't want to take farmers from Maputo or from any other province to Niassa", said Sevene. "We want to study the integration into the Mosagrius project of AJAM members already living in Niassa".
Mosagrius is currently in serious financial difficulties, which the Mozambican authorities blame on SACADA, which is accused of not putting up its share (half a million dollars) of the programme's initial capital. (AIM)
President Joaquim Chissano has said that his government is drafting a five-year plan of governance, for the period 2000-2004.
Speaking at a rally in Nhamatanda district, in the central province of Sofala on 27 May, President Chissano said that the 2000/2004 plan is essentially geared towards poverty eradication by the implementation of major development projects.
One such project is the rebuilding of the Sena railway linking the port of Beira to Malawi - a project which will provide jobs for large numbers of people.
Other projects mentioned by Chissano included the Zambezi Valley Development Programme, which will provide customs and other fiscal benefits for investors in the region, and plans for the construction of a dam on the Pungue river. Such a dam will not only prevent the regular flooding of the Pungue valley, but will also provide water for irrigation.
These projects will be undertaken by private investors in line with the government policy, said Chissano.
The Danish ambassador to Mozambique, Thomas Schjerbeck, has confirmed his government's decision to "suspend temporarily" the project to destroy some 900 tonnes of Mozambique's obsolete pesticides.
But, interviewed in "Metical" on 28 May, he indicated that Denmark would be prepared to finance an alternative to incinerating the pesticides.
The original idea was to incinerate these chemicals in the furnaces of the cement factory in the southern city of Matola, using the latest Danish incineration technology. But there was strong opposition to this idea from environmental groups, and from Matola City Council.
When the Mozambican company Impacto reviewed the original Environmental Impact Assessment, it came out against incineration and in favour of re-exporting the pesticides. The Mozambican government has not yet said whether it will accept the Impacto recommendations.
Schjerback said the Danish Development minister Paul Nielsen suspended the project for "purely technical reasons". He expected a wait of five months or longer before a final decision on the fate of the project. During this time, the only Danish commitment is to continue covering the costs of storing the pesticides in Matola.
The Matola City Councillor for environmental matters, Zelia Menete, has praised the Danish position. It made sense to suspend the project, she said, because Denmark had been spending money on an incineration team that was in Matola unable to work.
Plans are being prepared to set up a sanctuary for rhinoceros with the financial support of the American Ford Foundation. The sanctuary would be part of the community-managed wildlife project "Tchuma Tchato" ("Our Wealth"), in the western province of Tete.
This would attract more tourists to Tchuma Tchato and would help preserve a species that has been brought to the brink of extinction in Mozambique.
Nobody is quite sure how many rhinos the country still possesses. The areas covered by Tchuma Tchato, in the district of Zumbo, are known to be home to a dozen or so rhinos, but local residents claim they have seen more.
The Tchuma Tchato coordinator, Marcelino Foloma, says "we're working with the National Directorate of Forestry and Wildlife to establish a rhinoceros sanctuary, because we have information that a reasonable number of these animals exist in Tete, Niassa and Zambezia".
The latest wildlife survey in the Niassa reserve, the largest game reserve in the country, could only find ten or so rhinos. As for Gile district, the most promising area in Zambezia, there has been no survey here at all.
Foloma explained that it was decided that the sanctuary should be set up within the Tchuma Tchato area, "because this enjoys the best conditions for protecting the animals against poachers, so as to attract tourists and increase the income of local communities".
Since the funds generated by tourism in Tchuma Tchato are ploughed back into the community, local residents have a strong motive to protect the wildlife.
Mozambique News Agency
Fenner Brockway House
37/39 Great Guildford Street
London SE1 0ES
Tel: 0171 928 5657,
Fax 0171 928 5954
Return to index