The chairman of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Eduardo Mulembue, has said he is in favour of the proposal to amend the country's electoral law at the forthcoming extraordinary parliamentary sitting.
The proposal emerged from a meeting on 13 August between President Joaquim Chissano and leaders of Mozambican political parties. At this meeting President Chissano pointed out that the dates proposed by the National Elections Commission (CNE) for the country's second general elections, 3-4 December, are incompatible with the electoral law as it stands.
The law sets down a number of rigid time frames for each stage in election preparations. Observation of the time limits in the law would mean that the elections could not be held until after the proposed date.
Opposition parties insist that elections should not be held in the rainy season, because many access roads become impassable. By mid-December there is a strong chance that heavy rains will be falling in at least some parts of the country. Hence the parties' acceptance of the proposal that the electoral law be amended.
Mulembue was confident that the matter would indeed by discussed at the extraordinary Assembly sitting. This is scheduled to begin on 31 August, but there are suggestions that it should be brought forward in order to ensure that President Chissano can make the formal announcement of the election date by the cut-off point of 4 September.
Meanwhile some progress has been made by the Assembly's ad-hoc commission dealing with constitutional amendments, which will be the main topic under discussion at the extraordinary sitting.
On 16 August a Frelimo deputy on the commission, Ana Rita Sithole, said agreement had been reached on the thorny question of changing the national flag and emblem. Renamo had made this a condition for changing anything else in the constitution. The solution found by the commission is to launch a competition. Citizens are to be asked to submit designs for a new flag and emblem.
But Sithole said the commission was still no nearer consensus on the future system of government. Renamo wishes to retain the extensive presidential powers in the current constitution, while Frelimo wants to move to a semi-presidential system in which the head of state and head of government are no longer the same person, and where some of the existing presidential powers are transferred to the prime minister and to the Assembly.
In the first two weeks of voter registration (20 July to 2 August), over two million people have registered to vote, according to Maria Macuacua, spokesperson for the CNE. The figures that she gave on 13 August were that the 1,930 brigades registered 2,039,666 voters during that fortnight.
Based on projections from the 1997 census, there are slightly more than 8.3 million potential voters. So far 24.57 per cent of these have been registered.
The best result so far comes from the central province of Manica, where 31.59 per cent of the potential electorate has been registered. Macuacua said that the information reaching the CNE since 2 August indicates that the Manica figure has now reached almost 50 per cent.
The lowest figure comes from Nampula province, with 20.38 per cent of its potential electorate registered.
The three helicopters hired by the STAE from a South African company are flying again after they were grounded for a day because of a dispute over payment, reports "Noticias" on 7 August.
The helicopters are used in the current voter registration exercise to reach remote areas. Without the helicopters registration material cannot be carried to these areas, nor data collected.
The European Union is paying for the hire of the helicopters: they cost about 13 billion meticais (slightly more than $1 million) for the 60 days of voter registration.
Initially the STAE general director, Antonio Carrasco, was cited as saying that the problem was the delay in the European Union disbursing the first five per cent of this sum. Apparently there were also difficulties in acquiring fuel for the helicopters.
A STAE spokesman told the paper that the helicopters resumed work immediately these problems were solved. "STAE got into contact with the European Union and with the South African company that owns the aircraft, and immediately the situation was unblocked", he said.
The Renamo political delegate in the northern province of Niassa, has accused Frelimo of harassing Renamo members and issuing death threats, charges denied by Frelimo, reports "Noticias" on 5 August.
The Renamo delegate, Hilario White, told the paper "our members in state institutions are being intimidated. They are afraid to identify themselves as Renamo members. Frelimo members are not well informed about democratic coexistence".
White added that "in Licole, in the district of Sanga, they destroyed our flagpole during the night and threatened the Renamo delegate with death if he reacted".
White further accused the Sanga district administrator of forcing Renamo members to remove party flags from their homes. "In Malulu, in the same district, they forced us to remove flags in an area of seven kilometres around, saying that it should only be flown at the party headquarters".
Responding to these accusations, the secretary for mobilisation and propaganda of the Frelimo Niassa provincial committee, Agostinho Ussene, said they were outright lies.
As for the destroying of flags, Ussene said that "it was not Frelimo who ordered the destruction of Renamo flags, but the people. They (Renamo) flew flags at the homes of their party members. The law on political parties says that party flags should only be flown at party offices".
Renamo members have been accused of intimidating residents of the district of Tambara, in the central province of Manica, by warning that there will be a return to war if they vote for Frelimo and President Joaquim Chissano.
The Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique" cites local residents as complaining to Manica provincial governor Felicio Zacarias that there was an upsurge in such threats after the launching of the voter registration campaign, on 20 July.
"People have come to our homes to remind us of the consequences of the 16 year war and assure us that it will happen again if we vote for Frelimo and President Chissano", a resident of the Buzua administrative post, who was not identified, is cited as telling Zacarias during a rally.
During the rally, Zacarias confirmed that he has received complaints from people threatened by Renamo members, not only in Tambara, but also in the Macossa and Guro districts.
Commenting on the threats, Zacarias noted that Renamo is in no condition to start another war, firstly because people are not interested in it, secondly because no country would be prepared to help them, and thirdly because Renamo President, Afonso Dhlakama, would not exchange his "good life" in Maputo for the privations of the bush.
The Democratic Union (UD), an opposition coalition which holds nine seats in the Assembly of the Republic, intends to run in the forthcoming general elections "with or without" the Liberal and Democratic Party (PALMO), which announced on 6 August that it is definitively withdrawing from the coalition.
PALMO president Martins Bilal announced that PALMO will stand alone in the parliamentary elections, and accused the other two UD parties, PANADE (National Democratic Party) and PANAMO (Mozambican National Party), of violating the coalition agreement.
The crisis in the UD became public when Bilal attended the launching of Renamo's "Electoral Union". A few days later he claimed that PALMO was not actually a member of this Union, and had not withdrawn from the UD. This was not enough for Massinga and Juma who demanded "plausible explanations" for their erstwhile ally's behaviour.
Denmark may agree to receive around half of the 500 tonnes of obsolete pesticides currently stored in the southern city of Matola, according to "Metical" on 13 August, citing the publication "Development Today".
Initially Denmark was prepared to fund the incineration of these pesticides in the furnaces of the Matola cement factory. This caused an outcry from Matola residents and from environmentalists, and the government carried out a review of the original Environment Impact Assessment which had been written by Danish consultants.
The review team, headed by the Mozambican company Impacto, opposed incineration and recommended that the pesticides be re-exported to their countries of origin, or to other countries where they could be safely disposed.
The government has yet to announce whether it will accept this recommendation or press ahead with incineration.
According to Development Today, the conclusion reached by Jorn Jespersen, chairman of the Regional and Environmental Planning Committee in the Danish parliament, is that the pesticides "can be exported to Europe, and even to Denmark, for safe treatment instead of being incinerated locally with Danish financial and technological support".
Jespersen believes that "the idea of exporting the pesticides for treatment in Europe seems the economically most viable option. If Mozambique decides to export the pesticides to Europe, I am sure that Denmark could support the costs".
Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, John Kachamila, has warned that underground mining in the Chipanga-11 coal mine, in Tete province, will only resume when conditions in the mine have been rendered safe for the workforce.
Kachamila was speaking after visiting Moatize district, where the mine is located. The mine belongs to the Chipanga Mining Company, a recently created joint venture between the publicly owned coal company, Carbomoc, and the South African company, Gold Mining.
Poor safety conditions were among the reasons why Carbomoc shut down mining operations in 1993 when they did not have the money to replace safety equipment.
Carbomoc was crippled when Renamo sabotaged the railway from Moatize to Beira and from 1983 it became impossible to move the coal to its main export markets overseas. The only coal that could be sold were small quantities taken by road into Malawi or Zimbabwe.
The problem of the railway remains acute, although the port and rail company, CFM, is currently raising funds to rebuild the line. Thus the Chipanga Mining company has only one confirmed client, Malawi, who may buy 50,000 tonnes a year.
Laboratory tests carried out by the Maputo water board and the Health Ministry have found no traces of contamination of the water of the Incomati river by chemical products, reports "Noticias" on 11 August.
A South African paper factory in Nelspruit announced on 3 August that it had allowed chemicals to escape into the Crocodile river, a tributary of the Incomati.
The Mozambican authorities are continuing the tests and intend to contact their South African counterparts again in an attempt to clarify what in fact happened.
The Health Ministry estimates the prevalence of the HIV virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) at 15 per cent, according to Isabel Nhatave, of the ministry's national AIDS programme.
However, health officials freely acknowledge that statistical knowledge about the epidemic is still fragile.
Key figures come from tests on pregnant women, chosen because, in principle, this is a group of healthy adults (unlike tuberculosis patients or those suffering from other sexually transmitted diseases), and mathematical models exist to extrapolate from pregnant women to the population at large.
According to Karen Foreit, a consultant with the ministry, unless an effective mass prevention campaign is undertaken, the HIV prevalence rate in the south is likely to peak at around 17 per cent. The northern region will have a similar figure, while 25 per cent of residents of the central provinces will be infected.
The authorities of the Gorongosa National Park, in the central province of Sofala, have seized 500 cubic metres of precious hardwood from trees logged illegally inside the park, reports Metical on 9 August.
Allegedly, the trees were cut down by a Beira resident named Rui Goncalves, who claimed that the logging was authorised by the provincial forestry and wildlife services.
The Gorongosa park administrator, Roberto Zolho, declared "The law is clear: you can't cut down trees in protected areas. The boundaries are clearly demarcated, and no-one can say they were logging here because they don't know where the boundaries are. This is a crime".
The Minister in the Presidency for Economic and Social Affairs, Eneas Comiche, on 8 August inaugurated the country's first two telecentres, in Manhica and Namaacha districts, both in Maputo province.
The two telecentres are a pilot project undertaken by the Computer Centre of Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University (CIUEM), financed by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.
Each telecentre contains four computers. The users have access to the Internet, and to e-mail, making Manhica and Namaacha the first places outside the major cities where these computer services are available. Printers, faxes and photocopiers are also installed.
It cost $40,000 to set up each of the telecentres. The fee for using a telecentre computer for five minutes is 5,000 meticais (about 40 US cents), and internet access costs 50,000 meticais per hour.
The CIUEM hopes that in the near future it will be able to establish telecentres elsewhere in the country, starting with the central province of Sofala.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 6 August denied that there was any crisis in agricultural marketing in the northern province of Niassa.
This followed claims by the delegate of the state marketing body, the Mozambique Cereals Institute (ICM), in the town of Cuamba, that ICM did not have enough money to buy surplus maize, and that food might rot in farmers' barns.
"I guarantee that the Niassa maize will not stay in the farmers' hands", Mocumbi told a Maputo press briefing. "Markets for the grain exist both inside and outside the country. There should be no concern about this".
He was sure there would be purchasers for the maize other than the ICM. Once businesses had expressed an interest in buying the grain, they would certainly find ways of moving it.
Mocumbi did not believe there was a real shortage of funds. This year "the commercial banks do have resources for agricultural marketing, particularly for grain", he said.
The United States government's premises in Mozambique reopened on 2 August, "on a limited basis", according to a press release issued by the US cultural services in Maputo. All services linked to the United States Embassy had been closed since 19 July, for security reasons.
From now on all visitors to the Chancery, the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) offices and the USIS (United States Information Services) centre are required to make appointments by telephone.
The Mozambican government signed an agreement on 30 July with the country's publicly-owned ports and railways company, CFM, and the company Porto Dobela Developments Ltd, on the principles underlying the building of a new port in the far south of Mozambique.
This will be a deep water port and ocean terminal at Ponta Dobela, about 70 kilometres south of Maputo. The new port will be at the heart of a "special economic zone", with tax and duty free incentives for businesses.
The total investment involved will be more than $515 million over six years. The agreement pledges rigorous respect for the recommendations of the obligatory environmental impact study, and maximum use of Mozambican suppliers and Mozambican labour.
It is predicted that employment for 2,500 people will be created during the construction phase. Once operational, the "special economic zone" should provide "a minimum of 10,000 jobs" in the first 10 years of operation.
Porto Dobela Developments is registered in the Isle of Man (a tax haven off the British coast), and is run by Colin Browne, who has vast business experience, particularly with the late Tiny Rowlands, who once headed the British multinational Lonrho.
The ownership structure for the port would be 60 per cent for Porto Dobela Developments, and 40 per cent CFM.
Browne predicted the port would handle 30 million tonnes of goods (mostly minerals) a year. He viewed Dobela as a rival to the South African port of Richards Bay, which handles 60-70 million tonnes a year.
The Mozambican, South African and Swazi governments signed an agreement on 30 July in the Swazi town of Pigs Peak concerning three studies into the basin of the Incomati river.
These studies will be financed by Denmark to the tune of $350,000, and are the necessary prelude to implementing the Incomati Integrated Development Programme, agreed between the three southern African states and the Danish aid agency, DANIDA.
Most of the funds ($200,000) are to be spent on a general study of the Incomati basin. A further $70,000 is earmarked for a cumulative environmental impact study, and $80,000 is for researching socio-economic development opportunities.
The studies will determine how the river and its tributaries are used, and estimate how much water is available in the basin. The Incomati is the major water source for the whole region of the Maputo Development Corridor.
Mozambican businessman Adelino Masquil, a former liberation fighter who defected from Frelimo to Renamo five years ago, wants to be re-admitted to Frelimo.
According to the Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique" Masquil wrote in a letter to Renamo secretary general Joao Alexandre that since joining Renamo he has lost about $380,000 in cash and property because of his support for the party.
Among the costs of his Renamo membership, Masquil mentioned "the loss of companies, vehicles, computer equipment, complete social instability, limited time with my children, indebtedness, and unemployment".
Masquil also wrote a letter to the Frelimo Maputo City Committee, in which he expressed his "recognition and full admiration for Frelimo and its government's dynamic and efficient management of the economy and democracy in Mozambique".
Masquil also told Frelimo that he was not demanding any position in the party. He did not want any post or special status for at least three years, except "as a political marketing volunteer for the 1999 elections".
The government is studying with other Southern African countries the financial feasibility of restocking the Gorongosa National Park, in the central province of Sofala, and other game reserves, with elephants.
The war of destabilisation, which ended in 1992, caused a sharp decline in the number of elephants in the country's national parks.
The restocking announcement was made by the national director of forestry and wildlife, Arlito Cuco, who said that some southern African countries, particularly Botswana, have already expressed receptiveness to the project.
Negotiations with the Botswanan authorities also include technical, financial and ecological studies. "If the studies conclude that this is feasible, we will go ahead", he said.
By the early 1970s, Mozambique had an elephant population estimated at 63,000 but, because of the war, this figure has dropped to about 15,000.
The Australian government on 21 July granted $4.2 million to Mozambique to support the five year National Programme for Agricultural Development (PROAGRI).
Support for PROAGRI is one of the major components of Australian aid to Mozambique for 1999, totalling $9.2 million. The rest of the amount is being used to fund capacity building programmes in the public sector, mine clearance activities, and health, water supply and sanitation projects.
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