President Joaquim Chissano on 1 September issued a decree formally announcing that the country's second multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections will take place on 3 and 4 December. These are the dates proposed by the National Elections Commission (CNE), the independent body in charge of organising the elections.
The country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 31 August altered the electoral law shortening the time stipulated between the presentation of candidatures and the election date to enable it to take place in early December, in the hope that this will avoid the beginning of the wet season.
President Chissano promulgated these amendments on the same day, and this was immediately taken to the government's printing house for publication in the official gazette, the Boletim da Republica.
The CNE has fixed and published the timetable for all the major steps leading up to the presidential and parliamentary elections.
The first step is the registration of parties and coalitions who wish to contest the elections. They have until 30 September to inform the CNE. Between 21 and 30 September the electoral registers resulting from the current voter registration exercise, which is to end on 17 September, will be displayed in public so that any irregularities or omissions may be detected.
On 3 October the CNE will make public the final results of the voter registration. This will determine the distribution of the 250 parliamentary seats among the 11 provincial constituencies. The publication of the number of seats allocated to each province will take place on 4 October, and on that date the presentation of parliamentary candidates will begin, ending on 14 October.
The CNE will then verify the legality of each candidature between 15 and 28 October. Under the electoral law candidates may not stand for more than one province, or on the lists of more than one party or coalition. Those not eligible to stand include foreigners, people under the age of 18, convicted criminals, the mentally ill, magistrates, diplomats and soldiers on active service. If there are any irregularities in candidates' documents, they are given five days to correct them. The final list of candidates will be fixed on 2 November.
Those wishing to run for president are given until 9 October to submit their candidature, which the CNE will verify until 14 October.
The requirements for presidential candidates are more demanding than for parliamentary ones. Each candidate must submit a list of 10,000 signatures of voters who support him/her. Each of these signatures must be authenticated by a notary, and accompanied by proof that the person concerned is on the electoral register.
The 45 days of the official electoral campaign are to run from 19 October to 30 November. The allocation of broadcasting time for the candidates will be published between 15 and 17 October, and the full list of polling stations will be published on 3 November.
As established by law, publication of opinion polls is banned during the electoral campaign and until the day after the polls have closed.
The results will be officially given by 19 December, but as the count is carried out at the polling stations and the then fixed on the polling station walls, unofficial results of the elections will be known well before then.
The government has approved rules whereby nominees from the major political parties will be incorporated into the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the civil service.
There will be nine party nominees at the STAE headquarters in Maputo, five in each of the 11 provincial branches of STAE, and two in each district STAE office. This gives a total of 360 such nominees. They will be paid a total of $141,000 for the three month period.
Attributing so many STAE positions to political parties results from a demand made by Renamo. This demand was not granted during the 1998 local elections, and was one of the pretexts used by Renamo to boycott those elections. The political positions in STAE are distributed in proportion to parliamentary representation.
The STAE has announced that between the start of registration on 20 July and 30 August, at least 5,035,288 voters registered.
Based on figures from the 1997 population census, STAE estimates the total potential electorate at slightly more than 8.3 million.
The general secretary of Frelimo, Manuel Tome, on 2 September categorically denied claims by opposition parties that Frelimo is organising the mass registration of foreign nationals to inflate Frelimo's share of the vote.
The accusation was made on 1 September by the "Electoral Union" that consists of Renamo and ten minor parties. They claimed that "hundreds of thousands" of Zimbabweans, Malawians, Tanzanians and South Africans have already registered to vote, and that false identity documents are being prepared for thousands more.
One very specific claim was that 4,500 Zimbabweans had registered as voters in the central city of Chimoio from 10 to 13 August, and their names had been placed in phoney electoral registers which were then hidden in the basement of the Frelimo Central Committee building in Maputo (the Renamo argument has been weakened by the fact that the building does not have a basement).
The "Electoral Union" claimed that this fraud was supervised by Tome, by Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, and by the head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Armando Guebuza.
Tome did not believe that such gross libels should go unpunished. "We should start thinking about taking legal actions over such matters", he said.
Some members of voter registration brigades in the central city of Beira are threatening acts of sabotage, unless the STAE pays money they say they are owed.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, brigade members cited in the Beira daily Diario de Mocambique on 27 August, accused STAE of "excessive slowness in paying our subsidies", and failure to honour promises.
They say that, out of a promised payment of two million meticais (about $160) for each brigade member, they have so far only received a first instalment of 500,000 meticais. The rest of the money should have been paid on 20 August, they claimed, but so far they have received nothing.
The discontented brigade members threatened that if STAE continues not to pay them, they will refuse to hand electoral material back, and they will take the new electoral registers to their homes, thus putting at risk the general elections scheduled for December.
South of Beira, in Buzi district, brigade members believe that the delay in payment is because STAE officials have deposited the money in banks in order to earn interest.
There are similar delays in the neighbouring province of Zambezia. Provincial STAE director Adolfo Gomes said it was not only the members of the 380 Zambezia voter registration brigades who were going without pay - so were STAE staff and members of the District Elections Commissions.
The American NGO, the Carter Centre, set up by former US President Jimmy Carter, has praised the high level of participation and commitment in Mozambique's current voter registration.
A 13 member international delegation organised by the Carter Centre spent ten days in Mozambique in August, and visited about 100 registration posts in 10 of the 11 provinces.
The delegation found a healthy turnout of would-be voters, particularly women, attending the registration posts. On average, the posts they visited were registering 94 people a day. considerably more than the target of 75 people a day set by the STAE.
The members of the registration brigades "seemed well- trained, efficient and dedicated to their work", said the delegation. "The registers and the weekly reports seemed well organised and legible. Notwithstanding transport difficulties and the long distances involved, most of the brigades are managing to send weekly reports to the district STAE offices".
The delegation noted that monitors from one or more political parties were present at all the posts visited, and expressed satisfaction at the way registration was unfolding. In 75 per cent of the posts visited there were monitors from both Frelimo and Renamo. Observers from a variety of civil society organisations were also present in most posts visited by the delegation.
The Carter Centre noted that the delegates "were pleased that they did not see, or receive any information about, acts of intimidation against brigade members, party monitors, or electoral officials".
The delegation noted that mobile registration brigades were being formed and sent into remote areas.
However, the Carter Centre noted that in some areas political parties were not given the rights they should enjoy under Mozambican electoral legislation. "In at least one district, STAE staff and brigade members had a more restrictive interpretation on the role of party monitors than that established in the law".
The final conclusion of the delegation's report was upbeat. "The Mozambican people", it said, "play an active role in this post-transition electoral process. Our observations lead us to conclude that the registration is taking place in a very positive way".
Maputo mayor Artur Canana has admitted that the City Council is unable to run a public rubbish collection service, and sees no option but to lease the service out to private operators.
The city council made a major effort to clean up Maputo during the first half of this year, and to overcome the heritage of mounds of stinking rubbish on the city's pavement that were characteristic of Canana's predecessor, Joao Baptista Cosme.
Canana explained that the city council's entire fleet of garbage trucks is more than four years old. The vehicles are under enormous pressure since they work three shifts a day. They suffer repeated breakdowns, and the council then has to find the money to pay for the repairs.
In late August seven vehicles broke down simultaneously. All suffered from the same fault - clutch failure, raising suspicion of sabotage by lazy workers.
The favoured solution of the council is to divide the city into various rubbish collection areas and lease these out to private operators. Canana said this was already being started on an experimental basis.
The Mozambican government announced on 1 September increases in prices for all liquid fuels, except diesel, taking effect immediately.
Kerosene rises by 10.8 per cent to 2,350 meticais a litre. Jet fuel now costs 2,784.92 meticais a litre, an increase of nine per cent. Motorists will pay an extra 1.9 per cent for their petrol, with a litre costing 6,310 meticais. The price of diesel is unchanged at 4,340 meticais a litre.
The largest increase is for cooking gas. This now costs 7,017.91 meticais per kilo, an increase of 24.2 per cent.
Education Minister Arnaldo Nhavoto warned in Maputo on 30 August, that despite the government's success in the education area over the last five years, the rate of illiteracy in the country is still of great concern.
Nhavoto urged ministry's officials to think critically of the sector's performance in order to identify and correct imperfections, and improve results. He lamented the fact that Mozambique still has an illiteracy rate of 60 per cent.
But the Minister could report successes in primary education. The total number of first level primary schools (teaching first to fifth grades) now stands at 6,605 - 12.2 per cent higher than in 1983.
The number of pupils enrolled in first level primary education has risen from 1,338,000 in 1994 to 2,075,000. There has been expansion in higher levels of education, but it is still quite impossible for second level primary education (sixth and seventh grades) to absorb all those who leave fifth grade.
As for secondary education (eighth to tenth grades), this remains diminutive. There are just 82 secondary schools in the country, 37 of which were opened in the last four years. The number of secondary school students has risen from 30,000 in 1994 to 64,000 today.
Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi are to establish a triangular development programme aiming to promote trade exchanges and investment between the three neighbours, in the context of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
The idea is to identify a number of projects that can benefit neighbouring areas, and mobilise both national and foreign funds for their implementation. Since these are basically rural areas, the idea is to start with small projects, particularly in agro-industry, in order to create jobs for the local communities.
The concept of triangular development started during the 1980s when some Asian countries started implementing it, in the context of South-South co-operation.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 31 August approved terms of reference for a competition to design a new flag and national emblem.
Renamo has used the issue of the flag and emblem to blackmail Frelimo. It stated openly that it would not agree to any amendment of the country's constitution unless the flag and emblem are also changed.
The competition will take place between 2 September and 16 September, and the jury will have until 20 September to assess them, with the result submitted to the Assembly for a final vote on 22 September.
The jury is to consist of "well-known Mozambican figures from the world of arts and letters", the five members handpicked by the dominant parties in the Assembly: three by Frelimo and two by Renamo.
Those who submit entries are "to design symbols which seek to transmit: a) the blood shed by the Mozambican people in the struggle for freedom; b) national unity; c) peace and social justice; d) the riches of the country". The winning entries (one for the flag and one for the emblem) will each receive prize money of 150 million meticais (about $12,000).
As from 30 September new wages, backdated to April, are being paid to the Mozambican Defence Force (FADM).
The new wage scale gives privates a wage increase of 65.5 per cent, while top ranking officers receive a rise of well over 80 per cent.
A private now receives 450,000 meticais ($35) a month, which is also the statutory minimum industrial wage. A sergeant's monthly wage increases by 27 per cent to 751,500 meticais, and a captain's pay increases by 39 per cent to 1,777,500 meticais. A colonel sees his pay packet rises by 69 per cent to 5,260,000 meticais, while a Lieutenant- General picks up an increase of 85 per cent to 7,567,880 meticais a month. The highest wage is for a full four star general - 19,723,500 meticais ($1,540) a month. There is only one four star general on active service - the FADM chief of staff, Lagos Lidimo, who was promoted to this rank in September 1998.
The former head of Renamo's information department has defected to Frelimo. In a lengthy interview published in the daily paper Noticias on 28 August, the defector, Virgilio Namalue, accused the Renamo leadership of "only knowing how to make accusations against the party in power. But Renamo itself is in no condition to carry out any political, economic or social project".
Namalue did not join Renamo by choice: like many other members of what was then an apartheid-backed insurgency, he was kidnapped in 1986. He then rose in the rebel ranks, became head of information, and was a member of a sub-commission that drafted one of the protocols of the 1992 peace agreement. He later became co-ordinator of the Renamo radio station.
This year he was sent to the town of Inhaminga to "control" the road from Beira to the Zambezi. There are still Renamo troops in Inhaminga that were not demobilised, and Namalue found that there was not enough food for them.
He contacted Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama to solve these difficulties. "But, as you know, he (Dhlakama) doesn't honour his promises", Namalue told the reporters.
On 1 May, Namalue defected and asked for protection from the Cabo Delgado provincial authorities. He says he has now joined Frelimo, and has begun political work aimed at defeating Renamo in the forthcoming elections.
The Mozambican government intends to revive mobile cinema as a way of bringing information and entertainment to rural areas.
According to Jose Pereira, spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the government will encourage private operators interested in promoting mobile cinema, so that a variety of cultural and civic activities can reach areas where there are no televisions or video sets, let alone conventional cinemas.
There was a heavy stress on mobile cinema in the years immediately following Mozambican independence in 1975. In those days, mobile cinema was in the hands of a state body, the National Cinema Institute. However, the war of destabilisation brought an end to the service.
Teaching in the bantu languages that are the mother tongues of most Mozambicans will be introduced in primary schools, but no pupil will be forced to study these languages, according to Simao Mucavele, director of the National Institute for the Development of Education (INDE), cited in the independent news-sheet Metical.
He was speaking to reporters about the new curriculum for basic education which will take effect as from 2004.
The introduction of local languages into primary education is controversial, and meets resistance from people who want their children to learn in the official language, Portuguese. A small, but growing number of Mozambicans now regard Portuguese as their primary language. One of the surprising findings of the 1997 census was that more than half the population of Maputo use Portuguese, not merely at work, but also at home.
Mucavele assured his audiences that learning bantu languages would be optional. The new curriculum proposes a form of bilingual education: Portuguese will remain the main medium of education, but pupils will have the opportunity to learn to read and write in their mother tongue.
Staff at INDE argue strongly that the huge failure rates in primary education are because children are obliged to study in Portuguese, right from first grade. Thus rural children, who may never have had a conversation in Portuguese in their lives, are suddenly thrown into the language at the age of six, and are expected to become literate in it, as if it were their mother tongue.
The INDE experts are certain that these children will be much more successful if they are first taught in a language that they are familiar with. Literacy experiments in several parts of the country have shown that it is much easier to teach people reading and writing in their own language first, before going on to teach Portuguese as a second language.
The nutrition department of the Mozambican Health Ministry wants to review the norms for preventing and treating conditions caused by vitamin A deficiency and to identify local kinds of foodstuff rich in that vitamin.
A survey conducted by the Health Ministry on the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency concluded that most the communities covered by the study are not consuming the advisable quantities of this key vitamin.
One of the symptoms of vitamin A deficiency in the human body is impaired sight, and, in an advanced state, shortage of vitamin A can lead to blindness.
The study was conducted in Maputo and Gaza provinces in the south, Manica, in the centre, and Cabo Delgado in the northern region of the country, covering 3,600 children aged between 12 and 59 months in each province.
The study concluded that among the foodstuffs known to be rich in vitamin A only green vegetables figure in the normal diet. This is due simply to poverty: most households do not have the money to buy other sources if vitamin A. Among the most common foodstuffs rich in vitamin A are eggs, fish, liver, carrots, sweet potatoes and palm oil.
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