President Joaquim Chissano on 29 November pledged that Frelimo will accept the results of the general elections being held on 3-4 December, whatever they may be - but reaffirmed his conviction that Frelimo is on course for victory.
President Chissano criticised spokesmen of the main opposition party, Renamo, for their readiness to shout "fraud" even before the polls have opened.
"Statements that ''if Frelimo wins, there must have been fraud'' are unacceptable", said President Chissano. "It's like a football match where one team says in advance, ''if we lose, it must be the fault of the referee''".
Asked what would happen if he won the presidency, but Renamo and its coalition allies secured a parliamentary majority, the President said that, under the terms of the constitution, he still forms the government. "It's possible to have a government with minority support in parliament", he said. "But another scenario would be negotiation with part of the opposition to achieve a majority. What would be unacceptable is a government including both me and parties opposed to me", stressed President Chissano.
But President Chissano thought this hypothesis very remote: he believed Frelimo would increase its overall parliamentary majority. "Our number of seats will increase substantially", he predicted. "Where we had fewer votes in 1994, we will have many more this time. And in some constituencies we will have a huge majority".
"This campaign has shown that the public is very aware of what is going on", he said. "There will be a much more conscious and considered vote than in 1994. That was a time of tension when we had just emerged from a war. Now the public weighs the merits of the candidates".
He stressed that the rallies he has addressed are only the most visible part of the Frelimo campaign. "The campaign is much more than you can see on the surface", said President Chissano. "We have very practical methods of work, that have given very positive results. We know exactly what the situation is in every district, every administrative post, every locality".
He pointed to the fact that during the campaign hundreds of members of Renamo and of minor opposition parties have publicly defected to Frelimo, and stressed that every time a local Renamo leader changes sides, he brings all his supporters with him.
Despite the occasional Renamo threat, President Chissano thought there was no danger of any post-election violence, let alone a return to war. Neither Frelimo, nor the rank and file of Renamo had any desire to go back to war, he said.
Even where there had been serious Renamo violence there was no wish for retaliation, he claimed.
He added that a large number of election observers "of the most varied opinions and backgrounds" are present, and "they will help the Mozambican people accept the results".
President Chissano praised press coverage of the campaign, and said he did not feel that the privately-owned media had been "hostile" to Frelimo. He thought there was "mutual respect" between Frelimo and the media. "We respect their point of view, and they respect ours, and this has given good results", he said.
In any detailed analysis of coverage, he added, Frelimo would have criticisms to make of all the media "even of Domingo" (a reference to the paper which is seen as an uncritical supporter of Frelimo).
Chissano said that Frelimo "has learnt how to relate to the media", and commitment to press freedom would continue to characterise any future Frelimo government.
For the first time the death of a prominent Mozambican from the lethal disease AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) has been publicly announced by the victim's family.
The family that has broken the taboo on announcing deaths from AIDS is perhaps the best-known family in Mozambique. For the victim was businessman Boaventura Moises Machel, brother of the country's first president, the late Samora Machel.
Machel died on 25 November, and four death notices placed in the daily paper Noticias all prominently announce that he was a victim of AIDS.
Boaventura Machel's funeral was held on 28 November at his birthplace of Xilembene in the Limpopo Valley.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi has warned that AIDS posed "a terrible challenge" to Mozambique, and the latest health ministry statistics suggest that perhaps 15 per cent of the population could be infected by the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
The Prime Minister told a July press briefing "We need to find an image, a Mozambican face, for AIDS". By this he meant a well-known figure or family that would go public about the disease. In Boaventura Machel the country now has that "Mozambican face" of AIDS.
Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, on 29 November claimed that harassment of its officials is endangering the fairness of the forthcoming general elections in parts of the western province of Tete.
The spokesman for the Renamo election office, Gulamo Jafar, said that in three Tete districts, Changara, Cahora Bassa, and Maravia, "we run the risk of not being able to appoint polling station monitors".
All parties contesting the elections are entitled to appoint such monitors to watch closely all operations in the polling stations and verify the fairness of the election. But Jafar claimed that "aggression and harassment" by the ruling Frelimo Party and the local authorities might make it impossible for Renamo to recruit its monitors in these Tete districts.
He claimed that houses of Renamo members had been burnt down, particularly in Changara. But when asked to be more specific, and give precise names, places and dates of incidents, so that they could be checked, he was unable to do so.
Jafar said Renamo had contacted the National Elections Commission (CNE), the independent body in charge of running the elections, "to insist that the election in these districts be impartial".
Renamo wanted the CNE to guarantee that it would be able to place its polling station monitors throughout Tete.
Asked whether Renamo was prepared to give the same pledge that the Frelimo candidate, President Joaquim Chissano, gave earlier in the day, that it would accept the election results, whatever they might be, Jafar said "We will do what we did in 1994".
Journalists pointed out that in 1994 initially Renamo did not accept the results, but claimed there had been massive fraud. Only after considerable arm-twisting by the international community did Renamo change its mind, accept the results, and take its 112 seats in parliament.
Jafar did categorically rule out any return to war, thus distancing Renamo from bellicose statements by one of its coalition partners. Carlos Reis, leader of the Mozambique National Union (UNAMO), one of the ten minor parties allied with Renamo in the "Electoral Union", had claimed that there would be an armed revolt if Frelimo won the elections.
"The statements by Carlos Reis are entirely his responsibility", said Jafar. "He does not speak for Renamo".
As for what might happen if Chissano wins the presidency, but Renamo has a parliamentary majority, Jafar brushed this aside as an unlikely hypothesis. When journalists insisted, he said that "if Renamo has a majority and doesn't agree with the new government, then its programme won't be passed in parliament".
(Under the Mozambican constitution, in such a scenario the President has the power to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.)
Jafar also attacked the Mozambican media, particularly the daily paper Noticias and the publicly owned TV station, TVM, for allegedly biased reporting. He said that some of the Noticias coverage of the Renamo campaign had been pure fiction, citing in particular a story published on 23 November, according to which Renamo was about to receive $7 million, with which it would distribute food in exchange for promises of votes.
The story was "completely false", said Jafar, although Renamo would certainly have liked an extra $7 million "which would have made a big difference to this campaign".
Pictures of Renamo members distributing food had nothing to do with the election, he added. Renamo had acted out of solidarity with people who had lost their homes due to mudslides caused by torrential rains in the Maputo suburb of Polana-Canico, and had given them "a symbolic amount of food".
There was no question of buying votes, he said, since these people had lost their voting cards along with their homes, and so would be unable to vote.
He attacked Frelimo claims that large numbers of Renamo members have deserted their party and joined (or re-joined) Frelimo. "In democracy, there are no desertions. People go wherever they like", he said.
He claimed that there are a large number of card-carrying Frelimo members who secretly work for Renamo "during the night", and that one day their names would be revealed.
One of Mozambique's minor opposition parties, the Mozambique United Front (FUMO), may take part in the December elections as part of the "Electoral Union" coalition, headed by Renamo, according to a Supreme Court ruling made public on 25 November.
The Supreme Court thus overturned a previous decision by the National Elections Commission (CNE).
The decision to join the Electoral Union caused a split within FUMO. The founder of the party, Domingos Arouca, resigned as FUMO president over the issue, said the decision went against the party's statutes, and appealed to the CNE.
The CNE found in Arouca's favour, and said that FUMO could not legitimately form part of Renamo's coalition. FUMO members on the Renamo parliamentary lists could remain, but only in their individual capacity, and not as representatives of FUMO.
The FUMO general secretary, Jose Samo Gudo, lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court. They found that the CNE had no right to take such a decision. The only legal way to challenge FUMO's membership of the Electoral Union, would be to appeal to the Constitutional Council, the final arbiter in electoral matters.
Although the Constitutional Council is enshrined in the 1990 constitution, it has never actually been set up, and its powers are exercised on an interim basis by the Supreme Court.
Armed men, who claimed to be working for the Mozambican intelligence service, SISE, threatened a journalist working for Mozambican Television (TVM), on 25 November because they regarded his coverage of the current elections campaign as biased in favour of Renamo.
The journalist, Emmanuel Langa, has been covering the campaign waged by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama in the northern province of Nampula. The threats against Langa occurred when the self-styled SISE agents followed Langa into a Nampula bathroom in the small hours of the morning.
The men pointed pistols at Langa, and accused him of propagandising on behalf of Renamo.
The incident was made public knowledge by one of Mozambique's human rights bodies, the Association for Human Rights and Development (DHD), and later confirmed by sources in TVM.
On 26 November Frelimo called for an investigation into the matter, and denied that it was in any way involved. At a Maputo press briefing, the director of the Frelimo election office, Mariano Matsinha, declared "if there was any incident in Nampula, let those involved be identified and held responsible, because they acted on their own initiative and not on any instructions from Frelimo".
"What should be made clear right away", he added, "is that Frelimo is committed to press freedom in this country - and to such an extent that Mozambique is regarded as an example in this field in Africa".
It was Renamo, not Frelimo, that tried to restrict press freedom, Matsinha claimed, citing an abortive attempt earlier this month by Renamo officials to stop the daily paper Noticias, regarded as hostile to Renamo, from covering Dhlakama's campaign.
Interviewed by Radio Mozambique on 26 November, the general secretary of the Mozambican Journalists Union (SNJ), Hilario Matusse, declared "Whoever was responsible for this intimidation, we are opposed to it".
The company IN Murray International Contract Consultants has won the tender for organising the reform of Mozambique's obsolete Commercial Code, reports Metical on 30 November.
The Commercial Code, which governs trading activity in the country, is a colonial document dating from the 1890s. It is completely out of line with late 20th century realities, has been repeatedly criticised by the formal business sector, and is in sharp contradiction with the Mozambican constitution, particularly its clauses on equality between the sexes.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Oldemiro Baloi, signed a contract on 18 November with IN Murray and its local partner, the consultancy firm, Austral.
IN Murray will also work with a firm of Brazilian consultants (Sobral Ferreira e Consultores) and with Mozambican jurists who have not yet been appointed.
This consortium is to receive specialised advice from Le Boeuf Lamb and Greene & Mac Rae of the United States, from Werksmans Attorneys of South Africa, and from Professor Michael Larkin of the South African University of the Witwatersrand. The World Bank funded contract is to last for 12 months.
This is the second attempt at finding consultants to rewrite the Commercial Code. The first tender was a failure, and so the World Bank launched a second one in late 1998.
Mozambique is set to meet its needs for grain for the coming months. According to Noticias, the country has procured comfortable levels of rice both on the local market and through imports.
The grain trade bulletin of the domestic trade directorate of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism said that Mozambique will in December import about 26,000 tonnes of rice.
In September there were 103,000 tonnes of rice in store. This has subsequently declined but the December imports will push the level to 82,000 tonnes. The country consumes an average of 20,000 tonnes of rice per month.
The Ministry also predicts no shortage of maize. The needs are covered up until June of next year, despite localised maize deficit areas, mostly in the south. It is largely these areas that are supplied by imports currently running at about 5,000 tonnes a month.
Northern Mozambique, however, exports maize. About 70,000 tonnes have been exported so far this year, mostly across the border into neighbouring Malawi.
In September there were 580,000 tonnes of maize in store, which was expected to fall to 132,000 tonnes in December. This will be ample to meet requirements, estimated at 92,000 tonnes for that month.
Figures for maize are only approximate, since the Ministry admits that there are many "unmonitored stocks" - that is, grain which is still in the hands of peasant farmers and informal traders.
Sweden is to grant 40.9 million Swedish Crowns (about $5 million) to Mozambique in support of the country's Administrative Tribunal and the decentralisation programme in Niassa province.
An agreement to this effect was signed in Maputo, on 25 November, between the Swedish Ambassador, Erik Aberg, and the Mozambican Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao.
The terms of the agreement state that Sweden will disburse 5.9 million Crowns to help strengthen the Administrative Tribunal's institutional capacity until September 2000.
The Administrative Tribunal is the court that supervises public expenditure, and controls the legality of administrative acts.
On the decentralisation programme, the document gives priority to the enhancement of the initial stage of development programmes in all economic sectors in Niassa, including the private sector and strengthening civil society organisations.
Sweden is granting 35 million Crowns for this programme for the period between January 1999 and 31 December 2001.
Managers of Mozambican sugar companies have warned that, if the government does not resist IMF pressure to reduce the protection offered to the sugar industry, then the mills currently under rehabilitation will simply shut down.
An IMF delegation was in Mozambique last week, and, according to Metical on 23 November, one of the demands it made of the government was that protection should be withdrawn from the sugar industry.
Currently, protection takes the form of a "reference price" for imported sugar, which is much higher than the world market price. At the moment the reference price is $385 a tonne for brown sugar and $405 a tonne for white sugar.
But it is alleged that the IMF wants the reference price be reduced to no more than 20 per cent above the CIF price by the year 2002. Since the current CIF price is about $150 a tonne, that would give a reference price of $180 a tonne, which the Mozambican industries regard as ruinous.
Anton de Wal, manager of the Sena Company, which is rehabilitating the Marromeu mill and plantation on the south bank of the Zambezi, said the companies are attempting to learn more about the discussions between the IMF and the government. When they had that information, they would make a joint statement through the sugar industry association, APAMO.
De Wal warned that a reference price as low as that allegedly demanded by the IMF would make it impossible for Marromeu sugar to compete against imports. "This measure would kill the Sena Company", he said, "because we are only resuming production in 2001".
The Sena Company is a joint venture between the Mozambican state and a consortium of Mauritian companies. The Mauritians hold 75 per cent of the capital. The Mozambican state's 25 per cent consisted of physical assets, mostly in very poor condition.
The Sena Company is the successor of the nationalised Sena Sugar Estates, both of whose mills (at Marromeu, and at Luabo, on the opposite bank of the Zambezi) were sabotaged by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels in 1986.
The total investment required to make the Marromeu mill and plantation fully operational is $90 million, and $17 million has already been invested.
De Wal argues that "only after recovering our investment can we compete with world market prices". That, he believed, would take more than ten years.
During the negotiations with the Mauritians, the government promised to protect the domestic sugar industry. Otherwise the Mauritian consortium would never have agreed to such substantial investments. De Wal pointed out that in the contract the government signed with the Sena Company "it accepted its responsibility to stabilise the sugar market for a certain period".
Paul de Robillard, managing director of Maragra, a sugar company about 80 kilometres north of Maputo, was even blunter. "If the IMF begins to set dates for reducing protecting, that's the same as killing off the industry", he said.
"If the government does not maintain the protection agreed in our contract, then we shall suspend our operations in Maragra as from next year", he warned.
De Robillard pointed out that the first five years of rehabilitation and production are the most expensive. It is in this period that the industry is most in need of protection. "The IMF must come to their senses", he urged.
The main shareholder in Maragra is the South African company Illovo. $31 million out of a projected total of $56 million has already been invested. Most of this investment finance comes from international banks and funding agencies - including the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector credit arm of the World Bank Another source of Maragra funding is Proparco, which is an official French government financial agency.
Daniel Robert, general manager of the Xinavane sugar mill, also in Maputo province, told Metical that total investment in this unit was around $50 million. It is 51 per cent owned by the Mozambican state and 49 per cent by SAAISA, a member of the South African Tongaat Hulett group.
Like the other managers, Robert warned that the IMF's demands would lead to the shut down of the Mozambican industry. He added that his company has not yet taken the shareholding it wanted in the Mafambisse sugar mill in Sofala province: implying that, if the government succumbs to IMF pressure, then the Mafambisse deal is off.
There are some grounds for doubting that the IMF will enforce such conditions. Firstly, there is nothing extraordinary about protecting one's sugar industry - all over the world countries protect their domestic sugar industry.
Secondly the sugar industry generates a large number of jobs, and this issue has entered the current election campaign. Frelimo has used sugar as an example of the government's success in attracting foreign investment.
At a rally in Maputo last weekend, Frelimo general secretary Manuel Tome said that sugar could generate 25,000 jobs in the short term (and the sugar company managers believe the figure could rise to 35,000).
During his campaign rallies, President Joaquim Chissano has made a point of his government's drive to make Mozambique a net exporter rather than a net importer of sugar.
The sugar mills and plantations are also focal points for commercial life in small towns such as Marromeu and Xinavane. Kill off the industry, and those towns are also liable to die. All this means that the government, and Frelimo, has much more to lose than to gain by succumbing to this IMF diktat.
Speaking at a Maputo press briefing on 23 November , Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi said that sugar had indeed been one of the matters discussed when an IMF mission visited Maputo.
Prime Minister Mocumbi told the briefing the government intended to stick firmly to its policy of rehabilitating the country's six sugar mills, as a way to alleviate poverty and generate employment.
Furthermore, the government believed in a local product for a local market. "It makes no sense to import sugar when we can produce it", said Mocumbi.
"Our position is that the surtax on sugar imports must remain so that sugar produced outside of the country does not damage the local sugar producers", he added.
Mocumbi said the IMF team had also discussed the new cashew law passed by the Mozambican parliament in September, which increases protection for the cashew processing industry. In this case, the protection takes the form of a surtax on exports of raw, unprocessed nuts. The law raises the surtax from the current level of 14 per cent to between 18 and 22 per cent (the exact rate to be set by the government every year).
This is in clear violation of a pledge given by the government in the Letter of Intent sent to the IMF on 10 June requesting a further ESAF (Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility) loan. The relevant phrase in the letter reads: "The government will not adopt new or increase existing general import surcharges or export taxes and restrictions" (this was clearly aimed at the cashew industry, since raw cashews are the only Mozambican export subject to a surcharge).
The railway branch line between the town of Cuamba and Lichinga, capital of the northern province of Niassa, was reopened on 26 November, as part of the government's efforts to end Niassa's relative isolation and to reduce regional imbalances.
This railway, which is a spur off the main line from the port of Nacala to Malawi, had been out of use for several years thanks to sabotage and lack of maintenance during the war of destabilisation that ended in 1992.
"Circulation of trains along this line is of vital importance for the development of Niassa", said provincial governor Aires Aly, on the arrival of a goods train in Lichinga.
The chairman of the board of directors of the publicly-owned Mozambican railway company (CFM), Rui Fonseca, said the reopening of the line was thanks to the "dedication of the workers, who consented to innumerable sacrifices to put the line back into working order".
Fonseca estimated at $3 million the amount spent on the "consolidation of the line", totally paid for by CFM.
On his recent visit to Niassa during his campaign for re-election, President Joaquim Chissano said that "circulation of trains on the Cuamba-Lichinga railway will contribute to the integrated development of the country".
"One of the objectives of the Frelimo programme is to reduce regional imbalances", a situation inherited from Portuguese colonialism, he said.
CFM sources told AIM that initially, there will be one train every fortnight between Cuamba and Lichinga, but efforts are under way to ensure that there will be daily trains on the line, at least by the year 2001".
Since that stretch of line was damaged, there have been daily trains from Nacala only up to Cuamba. Prior to the war, the railway was Lichinga's lifeline: the paralysis of the line has made acquisition of fuel and other necessities very difficult for the town, and for much of central and northern Niassa.
The Food-for-Work programme financed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the southern provinces of Maputo and Gaza has had a positive impact in reducing vulnerability, according to the assessment made by a visiting WFP mission.
The mission visited Maputo city, and the districts of Marracuene and Manhica (in Maputo province), and Chokwe and Xai- Xai (in Gaza), where it noted that some of the micro-project undertaken as part of the food-for-work scheme have contributed significantly to improving living conditions.
These are described as community-based integrated development projects, which the WFP has supported in order to mitigate natural disasters, improve access to health, education and clean water, and raise food production.
The projects involve repairing or building schools and clinics, rehabilitating access roads, opening drainage systems to evacuate storm water from peasant fields, amongst others. In exchange for working on these projects, the local residents receive food from the WFP.
In talking with local people who have worked on these projects AIM learnt that the WFP support has been an incentive for poor strata of the population to undertake activities which will be to their own benefit.
The food provided consists of maize and beans. The communities involved are now asking the WFP to supply them with vegetable oil and sugar as well, and also basic agricultural inputs that they can use on their fields.
The micro-projects form part of the WFP programme for Mozambique for the period 1998-2001, which was drawn up in consultation with the government and the NGOs which work in partnership with the WFP. This plan envisages providing assistance to over 311,000 beneficiaries during this period.
The beneficiaries come from vulnerable groups, including low income families, and children at nutritional risk.
The mission was part of the assessment that the WFP makes annually of its projects, with a view to drawing up activities for the future.
Attorney General, Antonio Namburete, has publicly admitted that there is corruption in the state and judicial apparatus. He said in Maputo on 23 November that preventive and repressive measures must be taken urgently to change this situation.
Namburete was speaking at the opening of a session of the Supreme Council of the Attorney General's Office.
He noted that corruption within the state and judicial apparatus "is often one of the factors making for impunity and an increase in the crime rate".
The upsurge of new forms of crime and the increase in violence, often linked to the consumption of drugs, are of concern to the attorney general's office.
Namburete associated this situation with the deep economic, social and political changes that have been taking place in the country during the last few years. He said that these changes are affecting the economy, so that economic crime is no longer a matter of simple speculation by small retailers, but is now on a much vaster and more dangerous scale".
"Major banking and fiscal frauds, smuggling and embezzlement have occurred lately, which represent a huge burden on the national economy", said Namburete, adding that organised crime, resulting from globalisation, "has grown and become more refined".
"The lords of organised crime are people who make a profession out of it, develop economies based on criminal behaviour and, if we do not organise ourselves, they will take over our economies, our security and our institutions", warned Namburete.
In response to this challenge, Namburete called for the continued and integrated training of staff for his institution and for the other bodies involved in the task of administering justice.
He said that because organised crime has been gaining international proportions, the fight against it should be a component of international cooperation, particularly within the region.
Namburete stressed the lack of qualified staff in his institution, particularly at district level, despite all the efforts that have been made lately.
He also pledged that the Attorney-General's Office will pay closer attention to the defence of human rights. "It is the human rights of all, the powerful and the unprotected, the rich and the poor, the wise and the ignorant, those who can speak and those who have no voice, that legitimate, move and constrain the role of the public prosecutor", he said.
The meeting is to discuss provincial reports and proposals for the contents of the Attorney General's annual report to the Assembly of the Republic, the Mozambican parliament, as well as to draft the institution's plan for the next five years.
The great majority of South African coal exporters are cautiously enthusiastic about the proposal to build a new deep water port at Ponta Dobela, 70 kilometres south of Maputo, reports Metical on 24 November.
This is because Ponta Dobela is between 500 and kilometres nearer to South Africa's main coal producing areas (Witbank Middelburg, Phalaborwa) than the South African port of Richards Bay.
Currently South Africa produces about 73 million tonnes of coal a year: 60 million tonnes exported through Richards Bay. Cutting the journey by 500-600 kilometres would save $4 per tonne. Since Ponta Dobela is expected to be able to handle 30 million tonnes of coal a year, the savings for coal exporters would be about $120 million.
Currently there are 400 million tonnes of magnetite (iron ore) stockpiled at Phalaborwa, planned to use this in the projected steel slabs factory in Maputo. But since the South African Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has pulled out of the steel project, its future is very much in doubt. A possible alternative is to export the magnetite, perhaps via Ponta Dobela.
One of the attractions of Ponta Dobela is that the continental shelf here is very steep, allowing ships of up to 300,000 tonnes to enter. Unlike the port of Maputo, Ponta Dobela would need no dredging.
The investment needed to build the port is at least $515 million over a six year period. Metical argues that this investment could be recovered in a fairly short period: it calculates that rail and port tariffs plus export income from the industrial free zone to be installed alongside the port would amount to at least $240 million a year.
Environmentalists are worried about the project, since Ponta Dobela is in an area of great biodiversity, and there are legitimate fears that a major industrial development could destroy fragile wildlife habitats.
To accommodate these concerns the initial location of the port and the new railway it will require have been altered slightly. The railway will no longer go through the Maputo elephant reserve, but around it, in an area that is already deforested.
Metical states that a variety of European sources are interested in financing the project, including the French construction company Bouygues, a Spanish consortium led by the Spanish rail company RENFE, and a variety of banks.
Metical argues that friends on the South African side of the border will be needed too, in order to cope with predictable counter-measures from Richards Bay which will not simply sit back and watch as much of its traffic is diverted northwards.
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