Seventy per cent of the 491,317 displaced flood victims, who had sought refuge in government accommodation centres during the emergency period, have now been resettled or returned to their places of origin. Preliminary data showed that at least 4,000 of them were still in the Chihaquelane accommodation centre and another 500 families were still in Macia, in the district of Chokwe, in the southern Gaza province. (Chihaquelane was the largest of the accommodation centres, holding over 80,000 people at the height of the crisis.)
According to Joao Zamisse, the chief of the planning department of the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), the accommodation centres at the Vila Franca do Save and Machanga, near the banks of the Save river, the natural boundary between Inhambane and Sofala provinces, have been closed down, and all assistance to the flood victims is now sent to the resettlement areas.
Zamisse said that the INGC Technical Council met on 15 May and, under government advice, set up a working group, to prepare two seminars in the southern and central regions, the most affected by the floods, that will harmonise intervention strategies at various levels.
These seminars will bring together all people involved in the resettlement process at central, provincial and district levels, and various NGOs.
The government's strategy is that people should be resettled in areas that are not only safe against new disasters, but also have water, building materials, and easy access for assistance.
Zamisse noted that some of the people who had been in accommodation centres did not wait to be helped to the resettlement areas, but returned, under their own steam, to their places of origin, to plant for the second season, as the flood waters were receding.
Some 23 NGOs are now involved, together with the government, in the resettlement work. The INGC Technical Council was told that the NGOs are catering for 135,000 of the over 460,000 people who are to benefit from assistance in resettlement.
This assistance includes support in the building of new houses, supply of building materials, clothes and household utensils, and the opening of water sources.
Zamisse explained that further assistance to resettled people includes the rehabilitation of schools and health units, and the opening or reopening of access roads, in order that people may rapidly overcome the consequences of the floods.
The provincial court in the northern province of Nampula has granted bail to Alvaro Chale, the Renamo political delegate in the district of Angoche, who has been in detention since 15 May.
Chale is accused of involvement in the 5 May attack on the police station in Aube locality, in which the police commander was seriously injured, and four of the attackers were shot dead in what the police described as legitimate self-defence. Originally it was feared that the commander, Alvaro Julio, had died of the stab wounds inflicted during the attack. However, it is now found that he survived despite being seriously wounded.
Reacting to the court's decision to grant bail to Chale, one of his defence team, Maximo Dias, who is also a parliamentary deputy for the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, told AIM on 18 May that "the court only abided by the law".
Asked who would pay the 15 million meticais (about $1,000) bail, Dias said that "someone has got to pay. If he (Chale) does not have the money, his party will have to pay, inasmuch that we still think this is a political case".
Dias said that Chale will continue to lead his normal life, and will maintain his post as Renamo political delegate in Angoche. Chale is denies all the accusations, arguing that on that date he was in Maputo, on holiday.
The general commander of the police, Pascoal Ronda, has described as "criminals" all those involved in the attack, saying that this incident should not be politicised.
Ronda said that because those people had committed a crime, they will be tried in court, on the basis of the results of the police investigation.
After the 5 May incidents, a team of senior police officers was dispatched to Aube to investigate. The police report concluded that about 100 people, armed with clubs and bushknives, attacked the police station, with the intention of stealing weapons. In this version, the police opened fire in legitimate self-defence.
According to the police four people died in the shooting (although Renamo puts the number of dead at eight, and the Human Rights League gives a figure of six dead).
Ronda reiterated that those involved will be dealt with as criminals, regardless of their political affiliation, and that only the legal aspects will be taken into account.
The incident on 5 May resulted from an attempt by followers of Renamo to storm the police station and seize weapons, according to an eye-witness.
The eye-witness, Aube primary school teacher Mario Constantino, says that at about 11.00 on 5 May, he saw a crowd advancing down the main street of Aube town, headed by the Renamo delegate, Valentim Bartolomeu, and other local Renamo leaders.
The group went past the market, and on to the police station, where they found the commander, Alvaro Julio, talking to two colleagues.
Constantino said the crowd attacked the policemen, and his first instinct was to make a rapid exit. "I told my friends this was no joke, and the best thing we could do was get out of there", he said. But the conflict developed very rapidly, with the attackers grabbing hold of Julio, and two other policemen (one uniformed and one in plain clothes).
Constantino said the crowd did indeed seize two AK-47 assault rifles, only to find that they were jammed. Some young people nearby became involved in the fight, and managed to recover one of the guns.
Constantino thought the police had no option but to open fire. One of the policemen managed to escape from the crowd, and came back with a gun.
"He fired into the air in order drive away the demonstrators so that they would stop beating up the commander", said Constantino. "But they thought he was joking, and so he had to fire in earnest against them. Only when they saw the first two bodies drop, did they realise the situation was serious, and fled".
Constantino agrees with earlier accounts that everything began a few days earlier, when a man who brought some cassava to sell in Aube market failed to pay the usual market fee. The local tax collector refused to let him to pay later, and a scuffle developed. The police were bought into the case and issued a summons ordering the vendor to come to the police station. He asked a Renamo member whether he should obey the summons, and was advised not to.
Constantino said the police then detained the Renamo member in an attempt to force the vendor to obey the summons. Renamo then mobilised its supporters to march on the police station to demand their colleagues release.
Renamo also bought in supporters who were from outlying localities such as Nituco, Macocone and Namato.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the cassava vendor and the arrest of the Renamo member, Constantino was sure that Renamo was responsible for the battle at the police station. "I saw with my own eyes Valentim Bartolomeu and three other senior Renamo figures at the head of the demonstration", he said, "and they were the first ones to assault the police commander".
Constantino's version of events is substantially different from that of the Human Rights League (LDH), which sent a delegation to Aube to investigate on 11 May. According to the newspaper "Noticias", it rang up the chairman of the Nampula branch of the LDH, Tarciso Abibo, to find out how this investigation had been conducted. The paper says the LDH only contacted a relative of one of the dead, and did not speak to the police, to the administrative authorities, to the ruling Frelimo Party, or even to Renamo.
The paper says that immediately after the shootings many people abandoned their homes for fear that a full scale war was about to erupt. The Aube administrator, Alberto de Castro, said residents had fled to nearby islands in the Mozambique Channel.
People are now returning, and classes, which were interrupted immediately after the shootings, have now resumed in Constantino's school.
The police have issued an arrest warrant for Valentim Bartolomeu.
The American corporation ENRON has agreed with the South African company SASOL to build a single pipeline to transport natural gas from the Pande and Temane fields in the southern province of Inhambane to the Maputo and South African markets.
ENRON was granted rights to exploit the Pande natural gas fields and to build and run a pipeline between this region and Maputo, where it is planning to use the gas in a factory that will produce two million tonnes of steel slabs a year.
Mozambique has also granted SASOL, and its partners, Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) of the United States, and Zarara Petroleum of Dubai, the rights to exploit the gas fields of Temane, also in Inhambane, and the right to build an 800 kilometre long pipeline to South Africa. The SASOL-ARCO-Zarara consortium also holds gas prospection rights on two blocs off the coast of Sofala province.
ENRON and SASOL has found that building one pipeline, rather than two, benefit both companies. Under the agreement, it is SASOL that will build the single pipeline for clients in Mozambique and South Africa, and ENRON will buy the gas and pay for the supply services.
SASOL could come to hold the rights on the Pande gas: which is a major surprise, since ENRON has fought jealously for its current stake in Pande. Agreement is awaiting formal approval by the Mozambican government, and it will undergo "adjustments" according to the interests of the two companies.
The Technical Group for the Maputo Iron and Steel Project (MISP) on 18 May said that all the conditions exist for the start of "technical surveys" in July, that will culminate with the building of a factory to produce steel slabs at Beluluane, some 17 kilometres from central Maputo.
The Technical Group undertook a visit to the project sites at Beluluane and the Port of Matola, aimed at assessing technical aspects to the implementation of the project, costed at about $1.5 billion. $1.1 billion has been earmarked for building the factory and upgrading the port facilities. The remaining $400 million is to be used in the construction of the pipeline for the transport of natural gas from Pande, in Inhambane province, to Maputo, a distance of 610 kilometres.
These costs are much lower than the figures given at earlier stages in this project's life. When the Heads of Agreement on MISP was signed in September 1998, it was said that the factory would cost $2 billion to build. At the signing of a "framework agreement" on use of the Pande gas in April 1999, the cost of MISP plus the pipeline was put at $2.5 billion.
Dominic Faccone, MISP's Executive Director, said that the 400 hectares site for MISP at Beluluane has enough capacity for the production, in an initial stage, of about two million tonnes of steel slabs a year, eventually rising to four million tonnes.
Faccone guaranteed that there is a market to absorb the factory's product. He thought that it would supply steel to markets in Asia, and that, because of its transport advantages, Mozambique could become the major supplier of steel to Asia.
In the past one of the issues that the Mozambican government had raised as a concern was the availability of water. The Technical Group claimed that there was enough water to supply the demands of the factory for a period of 50 years.
The Beluluane factory will consume 15,000 cubic metres of water per day, which Faccone breezily claimed could be supplied by local water companies.
This does not answer the question of where the water will come from. The government has ruled out the Umbeluzi river, which supplies Maputo's drinking water. So which other river or rivers can be used? Journalists have been asking this question for the past two years, and have not yet received a satisfactory answer.
Although this year's floods might give the opposite impression, most of the time southern Mozambique is short of water. Furthermore, Faccone's figure is much less than the earlier estimate of how much water MISP would use - which was 67,000 cubic metres a day.
As regards toxic wastes, Faccone said that a study conducted by the World Bank recommended the construction of a "sanitary complex with highly advanced technologies" for the treatment of the waste materials.
3,000 jobs will be created during the construction stage of the project, and during its operational phase between a thousand to 1,300 jobs will be created.
"Everything is being done to guarantee the participation of Mozambican companies", said Faccone, adding that "we're going to work with the Investment Promotion Centre (CPI), among other organisations linked to companies, for a better use of national resources".
The Technical Group claimed that the project will annually turn over $61 million to the Mozambican government in revenue.
The driving force behind MISP is the United States gas corporation ENRON, which holds half the equity. Initially its main partner was to be South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).
But the IDC dropped out in late 1999. Its half of the equity has now been taken up by Kobe Steel of Japan, VAI of Austria, Techint of Italy, and Medrix of the US.
ENRON has a deal with the Mozambican government for the exclusive supply of the Pande natural gas: but key to this agreement was MISP as the "anchor project" that would use the gas in the reduction of iron ore.
Construction of MISP is scheduled to begin in 2002, and it is hoped that the first steel slabs will be produced in 2005.
If the Mozambican government accepts IMF pressure to slash dramatically the protection for domestically produced sugar, then the largest investor in the sector will cut its losses and leave, reports "Metical" on 24 May.
The Marromeu sugar mill, on the south bank of the Zambezi river, has been rehabilitated by the Sena Company, a majority of whose shares are held by a Mauritian consortium.
But the Mauritians were attracted to Mozambique with the promise that the domestic market for sugar was protected. If the protection disappears, so will the Mauritians.
Sena company manager Anton de Wal did not mince his words when he spoke to "Metical". If the IMF forces an end to the current protectionist regime, then "We will close our doors in Mozambique".
De Wal said the investors are reluctant to put any more money into Marromeu, since they do not know what position the government is taking towards the IMF's demands.
The Sena company had envisaged a total investment of over $100 in Marromeu, says "Metical", and has so far ploughed $26 million into repairing the factory, and restoring 2,000 hectares of the 13,000 hectare plantation.
The South African company Illovo has been investing heavily in the Maragra sugar plantation in Maputo province. In all, planned investments in the sector amount to $240 million. By the end of 1999, $110 million had already been invested.
Mozambique has a quota for sugar exports to the United States at a guaranteed price of $400 a tonne. But what really attracted investors was the promise of the domestic market, which the government protects against a flood of cheap imported sugar from neighbouring countries.
The protection mechanism is a reference price for imported sugar of $385 a tonne for brown sugar and $405 a tonne for white sugar. Those who import sugar that is cheaper than the reference price have to pay the difference at the border.
The IMF knew all about this, and initially expressed no opposition. Investors started to rehabilitate the sugar mills and the IMF said nothing. Until in mid-November last year an IMF team visiting Maputo told the government the protection should be slashed, so that by 2002, protection for sugar should be no more than 20 per cent above the CIF price. At that time sugar was at its lowest world market price for a decade and a half - about $150 a tonne. Add 20 per cent, and the reference price for imported sugar would be a mere $180 a tonne, some $200 a tonne lower than the current reference price.
The companies protest that by 2002 they will be nowhere near recovering their investments, and will not be in any condition to compete with world market prices.
"If the IMF forces these impositions on the government, the result will be the closure of the factories", warns de Wal.
The Sena Company had planned to take over another sabotaged sugar plant, at Luabo, on the north bank of the Zambezi. But it is now dragging its feet on investing in a second plant: it will wait for the government to give a definite indication of whether it will yield to IMF pressure.
The road linking Maputo to South Africa via the towns of Boane and Moamba was reopened on 22 May after the completion of major repair work.
The Boane-Moamba road had been seriously damaged by the February floods, and this threatened to cut off the normal flow of traffic between Maputo and South Africa.
To prevent any such interruption of traffic, the TRAC (Trans-Africa Concessions) consortium, which is building the Maputo-Witbank toll road, allowed the temporary use of the stretch of the new road between Moamba and the Maputo suburb of Machava, even though it was still under construction.
A team of technicians is finalising arrangements to dispose of the about 850 tonnes of obsolete pesticides stored at the waste treatment station in the southern city of Matola.
Despite opposition from environmentalists, notably the NGO Livaningo, the Mozambican government has decided to incinerate some of pesticides in the furnaces of the Matola cement company.
Environment Minister John Kachamila said that some of the waste will be incinerated, some will be exported, and the remainder is to be buried in a place yet to be defined.
"The issue of pesticides is not simple. We have been working in accordance with international rules. This is a national problem that worries the government", he said.
In principle, the pesticides to be buried in a landfill are those which contain heavy metals and are thus too dangerous to incinerate.
Livaningo criticised what it described as "the government's frustrating and agonising silence in response to attempts to obtain reliable information".
In that document, Livaningo mentions a letter, dated 13 March, written by Danish Cooperation and Development Minister Jan Torborg to his country's parliamentary Environment Committee, in which he said that the Environment Ministry had informed him of its decision on how to deal with the pesticides.
In that letter, Torborg went into detail, citing the Mozambican ministry, saying that 500 tonnes of pesticides are to be re-exported, 40 tonnes are to be buried, and 310 tonnes are to be incinerated in the Matola cement factory.
"What kind of transparency, dialogue and openness is that, serving only the Danes, to whom the minister reports everything?", asked Livaningo. (The Danish government is involved because it is financing the disposal of the pesticides.)
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