Mozambique News Agency

No.183, 16th May 2000


President satisfied with international donor response

President Joaquim Chissano said that the sum of $452.9 million, pledged at the Rome conference convened to raise funds for Mozambique's post-flood reconstruction, is not definitive since other donors had promised to declare their contributions at a later stage. He also expressed satisfaction at the response from the international community, saying that the amount promised is more than Mozambique had initially requested. He explained, however, that the amounts requested were strictly to cover those projects that the Mozambican authorities were able to justify immediately.

"We know that many problems will arise during the implementation of the (reconstruction) programme, but we did not want to overload the request with projects that we would not be able to justify immediately", he said.

Addressing a press conference on his return to Maputo, President Chissano said that even some of those countries that made pledges during the Rome conference said they are prepared to grant additional amounts if the need arises.

Answering a question on the assurance of transparency in the use of the funds granted by the donors, President Chissano recalled that Mozambique prepared the programme in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and various donor organisations.

On reconstruction priorities, President Chissano explained that all sectors are equal in priority, and thus work will start simultaneously in all sectors. But he noted that there may be cases where a certain donor stipulates that the money must be used on a specific project, and Mozambique would respect such conditions.

President Chissano attended the Rome conference after a forum in Germany in late April where delegations from member countries of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) attempted to mobilise German investment. President Chissano described this meeting as "a success", since it managed to "arouse a lot of interest" on the part of the German business community.

Renamo "unpatriotic and inhuman"

Manuel Tome, general secretary of Frelimo, described as "unpatriotic and inhuman" the attempt by Renamo to sabotage the international donors' conference.

Renamo had circulated a document demanding that no funds should be granted in humanitarian assistance for Mozambique until "political confidence is re-established among Mozambicans".

Renamo wrote "it does not seem to us crucial, or advisable, and certainly not prudent to hold a forum of donor countries" because the results "could become a focus of distrust, and political and social instability because of the lack of transparency in handling donations". This was all the more so, when "it is still not known who won the 1999 elections".

Tome said that all Renamo was interested in "is simply the promotion of public agitation and cheap propaganda, using methods which can only result in still further suffering for the Mozambican people. Fortunately for us, the international community has serious and responsible parameters for making pertinent analyses and taking appropriate decisions".

As for the constant Renamo claims of lack of transparency in the handling of foreign aid, Tome pointed out that "the international community does not hand over sacks full of money. There are appropriate mechanisms for the existing bodies, including parliament, as well as the international organisations themselves, to monitor aid".

Recovery and review follows floods

Lack of training hamper rescue operations

Staff of the Health Ministry have concluded that lack of training made it difficult to conduct rescue operations during the floods that affected central and southern Mozambique in February and March, in which about 700 people died. This statement was made at the end of a week long seminar on the management of natural disasters, that took place in Bilene in Gaza province.

The course was organised by Australian Emergency Service technicians, and was attended by health staff from all regions of the country, plus the administrator of Chokwe district, the district worst affected by the disaster, and a spokesperson for the Women's Affairs and Social Welfare Ministry.

The participants noted that because the authorities had not been prepared it had been difficult to delegate specific responsibilities to the various institutions involved in the rescue operations, which would have rendered the operations more effective.

The health director in Niassa province, Elias Mangujo, said that although his province was not directly affected by floods, he could understand during the course, that "if there had been early training of all those involved in the rescue operations, they would have been more successful". But he noted that Mozambique had never faced such a major disaster before, and the country was caught by surprise.

For his part, the Inhambane provincial chief doctor, Frederico Brito, said that "the course gave the health staff broader scientific knowledge of how to plan and manage natural disasters".

Justice Ministry's reconstruction needs

The Justice Ministry will need about $15 million to rehabilitate infrastructures damaged by the floods, according to a preliminary assessment presented by Justice Minister Jose Abudo on 10 May to his ministry's Consultative Council.

Abudo said that though the assessment is not yet completed, priority has been defined as the reconstruction of infrastructures, the opening of water sources in various prisons, and the reconstitution of the registry office records (of births, deaths and business activities), that were destroyed.

Abudo reported that the director of the prison at Machanga, in Sofala province, has been missing since the February floods, and it is feared that he has drowned.

Most access roads and water and power supplies to Machava central prison, in Maputo, the country's largest penitentiary, have been damaged, which puts serious constraints on the sanitation services in that institution.

In Ndlavela prison, in Matola, the jail wall collapsed during torrential rains, so weakening the security conditions. Water and power supply systems have also been affected.

The Gaza central prison, in Xai-Xai, was one of the first to be hit by the floods, and was submerged, said Abudo. Fortunately no deaths were reported, since all the prisoners were evacuated in time to Chibuto district prison.

At the Mabalane prison (also in Gaza), many crops were lost and all the rehabilitation work that had been done was seriously affected, he said.

As for the registration and notarial services, Gaza was most affected, particularly in Xai-Xai, Chokwe and Guija.

Mozambique avoids cholera epidemic

Mozambique survived the flood crisis without experiencing any major outbreak of diseases such as cholera, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi said on 11 May.

Most of the people temporarily housed in government accommodation centres (and at the height of the crisis there were over 100 of these) have now left to rebuild their lives in their home areas.

"It is remarkable that even in Chihaquelane (the largest of the accommodation centres, in Gaza province, which at one time housed over 80,000 people), we didn't have any epidemics", said the Prime Minister. "People kept calm. There were no outbreaks of crime there either. People showed respect for human life".

Doctors had feared that the floods, plus the crowded living conditions in the accommodation centres, would prove ideal conditions for outbreaks of cholera, but in fact there were relatively few cholera cases.

Prime Minister Mocumbi attributed this to the importance the authorities had given to installing clean drinking water in all the accommodation centres, plus the willingness of the population to follow guidance on basic hygiene.

"Cholera is endemic in our country", he said, "but we have shown that, with rules of hygiene, we can live without cholera".

CVM assisted almost 300,000 flood victims

During the flood crisis the Mozambican Red Cross (CVM)assisted 289,000 displaced people in about 58 accommodation centres, according to its secretary-general, Fernanda Teixeira.

Speaking on 8 May, Teixeira added that bank accounts opened in the name of CVM have so far received contributions amounting to about $700,000. She described this as an "extraordinary" response from the public to the CVM's appeal for assistance for the flood victims.

In terms of plans for the future, Teixeira said the CVM is to start work soon on the reconstruction of health infrastructures and will provide more assistance to traumatised people, and to health education.

"We are planning to rehabilitate 15 health centres", she said, adding that for this end, CVM has made an appeal to its international partners, through the International Federation of the Red Cross, which "was a success".

CVM's international partners have awarded the institution a gold medal, in a ceremony in Spain, to acknowledge its work in the rescue and relief operations during the flood drama.

PROAGRI and emergency plan go together

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is to pay special attention to the rehabilitation of infrastructures destroyed by the floods, while at the same time carrying out all the activities planned as part of the National Programme for Agricultural Development (PROAGRI).

Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia said on 9 May that the rehabilitation activities will be particularly directed towards the various irrigation systems that were damaged by the disaster.

"We know that irrigation systems are concentrated in the southern region, the part of the country most affected by the floods, and consequently they were seriously damaged", he said, adding that their rehabilitation is this year's priority.

Muteia said that floods affected at least 10 per cent of the cultivated area, about 140,000 hectares. "In respect of agricultural production, floods had a negative impact of between 10 and 15 per cent, since the southern region is predominantly a farming area", he said.

He explained that because of this situation, PROAGRI has now an added responsibility "to make sure that specific actions are planned, to attend to the emergency situation in which people are now plunged".

Assembly discusses flood areas

The top priority for flood-stricken areas is seeds and agricultural tools so that peasant farmers can replant, according to Aurelio Zilhao, chairman of the Social Affairs Commission of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

Presenting a report to the full Assembly from visits made by commission members to flood areas, Zilhao stressed that the main request from flood victims themselves is for seeds and tools, so that they can resume their subsistence farming.

In some areas of Manica, Inhambane and Gaza provinces seeds have already been received. If seeds can be planted now, there is still some hope of bringing in a harvest this year.

Zilhao added that many canoes and fishing nets were lost in the floods, a severe blow since artisanal fishing is the basis of the Nova Mambone economy.

The commission found that the coastal town of Inhassoro is cut off from the rest of the country, because a bridge over the Govuru river is down, thus cutting the road that links Inhassoro to the main north-south highway.

In Maxixe district, people complained to the commission that they had been forgotten: what they meant, said Zilhao, was that they had not yet received seeds to replant.

In the ensuing debate deputies from the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition repeated claims that the government could not be trusted with donor funds, and that a specialised ad- hoc commission should be set up to supervise the use of post- flood reconstruction money.

Maximo Dias denied that Renamo was "frustrated" at the success of the donor conference in Rome. "We would only be frustrated if you steal the money", he told the benches of the majority Frelimo Party. "If that's not your intention, then set up a supervisory body, in the name of transparency".

In April the Assembly rejected a Renamo proposal to set up an ad-hoc parliamentary commission to monitor foreign aid. Frelimo pointed out that there were already bodies doing this, including the Assembly's Social Affairs Commission: however, the Renamo members of the Commission are currently boycotting its work.

"It's not enough to distribute seeds", Dias lectured the Frelimo benches. "Subsistence agriculture must be transformed into modern agriculture".

"Yes! That's in the government's programme !", shouted Frelimo deputy Alfredo Gamito from the floor.

Dias and several other Renamo deputies claimed it was quite untrue that Renamo had tried to sabotage the Rome conference, and prevent donors from helping the country.

Some of the wildest allegations against Frelimo came from Renamo deputy Dionisio Quelhas, who claimed that there had already been a Frelimo meeting "to decide how to rob the money". He alleged that prominent Frelimo members are setting up "ghost companies" which will apply to use the donor funds.

Frelimo's Sergio Vieira poured scorn on Renamo's enthusiasm for ad-hoc commissions. "I've lost count of the number of commissions they've demanded", he said. "They demand more and more commissions so that they can obtain some commissions!"

"Let's end this illusion that aid comes in sacks of money handed over to the chief", he exclaimed. "Though some of you may have that tradition".

The international community, added Vieira, heard Renamo's calls not to provide aid, and paid no attention. "You became irrelevant", he told Renamo.

Renamo members attack police station

Five people died and several others were seriously injured on 5 May when about 100 men believed to be members of Renamo attacked the police station at Aube, in the coastal district of Angoche, in the northern province of Nampula. The head of the Aube police unit, Alvaro Julio, is reported to have died of stab wounds.

It is alleged that the group of attackers was headed by the local Renamo delegate, Valentim Bartolomeu, and that the attack was aimed at stealing weapons. Other reports indicate that the attack was aimed at freeing Renamo members who had been arrested for other offences. Two detainees, who were facing charges of assault and disobeying the legally instituted authorities, escaped during the raid. The attackers assaulted policemen on duty, and managed to steal two AK-47 rifles.

Two of the attackers were shot dead by police during the attack, and a further two subsequently died. An unspecified number of members of the group have been detained and sent to the district police command for investigations. The situation in Aube is now described as calm.

The Interior Ministry has ordered the Nampula police commander Jose Weng San to go to Aube, accompanied by a member of the provincial government "to give all the necessary support to the families of the deceased".

This incident followed threats made a few days earlier by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama that he could regroup demobilised Renamo soldiers, and seize control of the country. Cited by the pro-Renamo newsheet "Imparcial", Dhlakama had boasted that these men would know where to find the weapons they needed.

Attackers will face courts

The general commander of the police, Pascoal Ronda, said that all those involved in the attack on the police station will be criminally charged. Ronda said that it was a crime that merits the full weight of the law, according to which, "criminal acts should be repressed".

The local Renamo delegate in Aube, and the Angoche district Renamo delegate, who are said to have led the attack on the police station, are still at large and the police are looking for them. Those detained on the day of the raid have been transferred to Angoche town.

According to the Nampula provincial police command, the raid was preceded by political meetings addressed by the Renamo district delegate, Alvaro Chale, with the participation of senior Renamo members.

The source claimed that these meetings, which were not open to the general public, were to prepare a programme aimed at installing parallel governments and seizing power in various parts of the province.

Prime Minister condemns Renamo threats

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 11 May condemned the recent statements by Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Renamo, that he is prepared to regroup demobilised Renamo troops and rearm them to face what he regards as "harassment" of Renamo supporters in the north and centre of the country.

Prime Minister Mocumbi said "I am surprised at this declaration and don't understand how a leader of a political party, in a country where practice shows that you don't need guns for citizens to elect their representatives and elect their president, can say such things. Mozambicans do not need weapons in order to make political choices. Only Dhlakama can explain his words"

As for Renamo claims of "harassment", Mocumbi said "Dhlakama is just looking for a pretext for carrying out his hidden intentions".

He argued that a government bent on persecuting its critics would not have tolerated demonstrations on 1st May, in which many thousands of workers had vocally condemned government economic policy.

The events on 5 May in Aube, he said, were not a peaceful demonstration at all, but an armed attack on a police station. He pledged that measures would be taken to ensure that those responsible for the Aube raid will be brought to justice "regardless of their political affiliations".

Among those responsible for such incitements was the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ossufo Quitine, who had spoken favourably of a possible "armed uprising" in an interview on Radio Mozambique on 10 May. Mocumbi warned that Quitine is not untouchable, and that his parliamentary immunity "could be lifted".

Mocumbi stressed that so far the government has been "tolerant of statements that are against the constitution", as it strove to preserve peace and stability, "but there are political leaders who persist in a warlike stance".

Beira port reopens to traffic

The port of Beira reopened to traffic on 15 May, after a ship that was blocking the access channel was removed.

According to the publicly owned ports and railway company, CFM, the ship, a Cypriot vessel named the "Artemis", ran aground on a sandbank on 8 May, obstructing access to the port.

A ship carrying Zimbabwean ferro-chrome exports left Beira shortly after the channel had been cleared, and two ships carrying fuel and fertiliser for Zimbabwe, entered.

BCM defrauded of seven billion meticais

The Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), the country's largest bank, was recently defrauded of seven billion meticais (about $460,000), and the case has led to the detention of some of the bank's workers.

The fraud, which is still under investigation, was conducted from the bank's Operations Department, in a similar manner in which the largest fraud in Mozambican history was carried out, four years ago.

In 1996, on the eve of its privatisation, the BCM was defrauded of 144 billion meticais (around $14 million at the exchange rate of the time). This case has yet to come to court, and the main suspects are awaiting their trial in freedom. The chairman of the BCM board of directors, Eneas Comiche, has severely criticised the Attorney-General's office for bungling this case

There have been allegations that some of the bank's senior staff, suspected of direct or indirect involvement in the recent case were also involved in the first fraud.

Tobacco to be exported through Zimbabwe

The Mozambican government is negotiating with Zimbabwe to export tobacco through its territory, following Malawian authorities decision to ban imports of Mozambican tobacco leaf.

Mozambique has no tobacco processing industry, so normally tobacco leaf is processed in Malawi. But a panic over low prices on the Malawi tobacco floors led to a sudden ban on the import of foreign tobacco leaf.

Tete provincial governor Virgilio Ferrao said that "going against all the principles of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Malawi has banned Mozambican tobacco".

He said that trucks loaded with 7,500 tonnes of tobacco leaf produced in Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa provinces, that have been barred Malawi.

A Mozambican economist said he believes that the Malawian decision arises from the fact that the Mozambican tobacco is of higher quality than the Malawian product. As a result, Malawian tobacco "loses market share to Mozambican tobacco".

This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact

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