The flooding which has hit central Mozambique appears to have stabilised, helping the authorities and international aid agencies to assist the victims of the floods. The international community has so far disbursed $11 million in response to the Mozambican government's appeal for aid intended for the flood victims.
In February the government put at about $36.5 million the amount needed for flood victims in the provinces of Manica, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia, and for the repair of essential infrastructure. Speaking at a Maputo press conference on 16 March, the director of the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), Silvano Langa, said that the cash is flowing in, and that the sum he mentioned has already been confirmed. Money pledged last May at the Rome donor conference in the aftermath of the floods of February 2000 is also being channelled in.
The situation in the Zambezi valley is improving, said Langa, thanks mainly to the fact that the Kariba dam, which is jointly managed by Zambia and Zimbabwe, has only been discharging water from two of its floodgates since 13 March - previously it had four floodgates open.
However, the real impact will only be felt throughout the Zambezi valley within the next four to five days, he said.
The Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique's Tete province has also reduced its discharges - from 8,420 cubic metres per second on 13 March to 7,371 on 15 March. Four of the eight Cahora Bassa floodgates are open or partly open.
Meanwhile, relief operations are still underway along the Zambezi valley. The Mozambican navy on 15 March evacuated over 300 people from dangerous areas in Marromeu and Chinde districts, near the river delta, to higher ground. Foodstuffs are still being ferried to the flood victims in government-run accommodation centres by aircraft and boats, added Langa.
However, the road from Beira to Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi, has been re-opened, which means that most relief aid can be transported by land at least as far as Caia town, where the emergency operational headquarters is located. But from there foodstuffs will continue to be transported by air or by boat, he said, adding that this is a handicap since aircraft and boats can only transport small quantities.
On 15 March traffic was halted on the road linking Beira to Zimbabwe, for the third time in a month, because of a new increase in the level of the Pungue river. The river swept over the stretch of the highway between Mutua and Tica, about 60 kilometres west of Beira. Emergency repairs had been carried out, and the road reopened to traffic just three days earlier. With the renewed flooding, the road suffered further damage, putting all traffic at risk.
The provincial directorate of public works in Sofala province says that lifting this temporary ban on traffic between Mutua and Tica depends on the level of the river.
Meanwhile, the Central Water Board (ARA-Centro) reports that heavy rains have been falling in the basins of the Pungue and Buzi rivers since 14 March, which is likely to worsen the situation on the road.
The team from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) that has been assisting the flood relief operations further north, in the Zambezi valley, announced its withdrawal. The South African High Commission announced that 15 March was the final day for the team's operations.
"Presently, the situation in the Zambezi Valley is stable, and the SANDF has not been engaged in any direct rescue operations for the past few days", the High Commission said. But it promised that the SANDF "will return at short notice should the weather patterns alter for the worse in the Zambezi Valley".
Damage to one of Mozambique's major sugar producers, the Sena Company, resulting from the current flooding on the Zambezi, so far amounts to around $4 million. This is the estimated cost of the thousand hectares of sugar cane wiped out by the floods in the district of Marromeu, near the mouth of the river.
So far the Marromeu sugar mill has been unaffected by the floods, but there are doubts as to whether full production can be resumed in August, as had initially been planned.
The Sena Company, owned by a Mauritian consortium, has been thoroughly rehabilitating the mill, which was sabotaged by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels in 1986. About $70 million has so far been invested in the plantation and the mill, which should be able to produce 100,000 tonnes of sugar when working at full capacity.
The Mozambican police on 13 March arrested the powerful and wealthy businessmen Momade Abdul Assife Satar and Ayob Abdul Satar, on the charge of ordering the murder in November of the country's best known journalist, Carlos Cardoso. Vicente Ramaya, former manager of the Maputo branch of the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), from which 144 billion meticais ($14 million at the exchange rate of the time) was stolen in 1996, was also arrested in connection with the murder.
It is thought that the three will also be charged with the attempted murder, in 1999, of the BCM's lawyer, Albano Silva.
Five men who were allegedly hired to carry out the assassination of Cardoso - Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), Manuel Fernandes ("the dwarf"), Jose Carreira Miguel ("Mulhulhu"), Romao Massangaia and Fernando Magno - were already in police custody. Ramaya and the Satar brothers are currently being held in Maputo's top security prison.
Cardoso had tenaciously followed the story of the BCM theft, and had vigorously championed efforts to bring the culprits to justice. He had published in his paper, "Metical", the names of the prime suspects, including Ramaya and several members of the Abdul Satar family.
The money disappeared from the BCM through the opening of fraudulent accounts in Ramaya's branch in the name of members of the Satar family and others.
The case has never come to trial because of serious corruption inside the Attorney General's Office. The Attorney originally in charge of the case, Diamantino dos Santos, is accused of deliberately disorganising the case papers, and hiding key pieces of evidence. A warrant was issued for dos Santos' arrest in January, and he is currently on the run.
Cardoso had been inconvenient to the Satar family in other ways. He had extended his investigations beyond the BCM to their other unsavoury activities - including allegations of illegal wire-tapping, and loans to other members of the Asian business community at usurious interest rates.
The Mozambican fishing authorities have decided not to license any further trawlers to fish for prawns, in a measure aimed at stemming the current over-exploitation of prawns in the Sofala Bank, off the coast of central Mozambique.
Fisheries Minister Cadmiel Muthemba told AIM that this is in line with the sector's latest strategy for prawn fishing in the Bank, started in 2000.
Muthemba said that "among the measures envisaged in the strategy is the refusal to issue new licences for prawn fishing, and to try to reduce the number of trawlers involved in the activity".
The culling of prawn fishing vessels started in 1999. Then there were 95 trawlers, but this figure has been cut to 89, and Muthemba promised that "the work aimed at reducing the amount of fishing will continue throughout 2001. This means that there will not be any concession of new licenses". The measure has already affected the major prawn fishing companies, which are either foreign or joint ventures between foreign companies and the Mozambican state. Recently established Mozambican fishing companies have not been affected by the measure since they hardly pose a serious threat to prawn stocks.
"We had to reduce the licenses granted to the big companies", said Muthemba. "We had no alternative since the local companies couldn't be hit. It's necessary to give the Mozambican companies their opportunity. Some of them have only one boat.
They'll make mistakes, and quite a lot of them, but they'll have to grow".
The long-standing practice of giving additional quotas to fishing companies has also been scrapped, he said, adding that this led to over-exploitation of the stocks. Previously the companies could request additional quotas whenever their allocated ones were reached.
This follows recommendations put forward in a study commissioned by the government in 1999 on the prawn stocks when it was felt that there was over-exploitation. Then prawn production recorded 8,300 tonnes, which was 1,066 tonnes less than initial forecasts.
"We felt that the catch per boat was decreasing drastically and if that continued, we'd reach a stage when fishing wouldn't be profitable. It's a measure of resource management, but also of economic management", Muthemba said.
Obviously the reaction of the affected companies was not positive. "We had to explain the reasons for the decision. Anyway the managers of the companies knew that it was bound to happen, but they didn't want it to happen to them", the Minister added.
There is also an on-going study to assess the population of prawns and other marine resources in the Maputo bay. A study done in December 2000 sounded a warning as to the over-exploitation of various fish species.
The study suggested that the catches are dwindling, and consequently measures have to be taken. "We're still discussing, but I think that this year we can take some measures to manage the resources, and such measures have to cover trawling. We must start being cautious", stressed Muthemba.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 15 March once again gave way to threats and blackmail from Renamo, which had threatened to disrupt the session, if amendments to the parliamentary standing orders are accepted in their current form.
The amended standing orders were drawn up by an ad-hoc commission, and most of the document is uncontroversial. Certain measures to streamline the Assembly's work enjoy consensus.
Thus no-one has objected to moving the second reading of bills, where they are amended article by article, away from the plenary sessions of the Assembly, and into the specialised commissions.
Current procedure, with each article of lengthy bills scrutinised by the plenary, is enormously time-consuming and sleep-inducing, as the 250 deputies of the Assembly are in effect turned into a gigantic drafting committee, worrying over points of Portuguese grammar. Even Renamo, and its partners in the Electoral Union coalition, have become frustrated with this barren procedure.
But other changes proposed to the standing orders, intended to discipline the deputies, are hotly contested by Renamo. Thus the amendments would make it a disciplinary offence for deputies to show "disrespect for the organs of sovereignty, for the national symbols and for state institutions" or to "offend the dignity, honour or reputation of third parties".
Such "disrespect" was shown most flagrantly by Renamo deputies in December, when they sabotaged President Joaquim Chissano's State of the Nation address, by shouting, chanting and banging on the tables throughout the 90 minute speech. They also regularly insult one of the national symbols by sitting down whenever the national anthem is played.
The Assembly majority also wants to end Renamo's use of spurious points of order or "requests for clarification". The amendments would ensure that, if a deputy responds to a "request for clarification", the time used will be deducted not from the time allocated to his own parliamentary group, but from that of the deputy making the request.
The amendments also propose that the yearly State of the Nation address would no longer be submitted to debate. Renamo, however, wants to maintain the status quo, whereby deputies comment on the address, ask questions of the President, and he replies. Renamo says this is justified because the President is both head of state and head of the government.
During the debate on the amended standing orders on 15 March, Frelimo deputies repeatedly recalled the disgraceful scenes of last week, when Renamo deputies brought whistles, hooters and kazoos into the assembly to disrupt the sessions.
Fernando Saide said the Renamo behaviour brought the entire Assembly into disrepute. "Outside they call us a ''nursery of noise''", he said. The Renamo deputies were "desperate and frustrated", said Moreira Vasco. They abused procedure through "points of order that become points of disorder".
Parliamentary discipline had to be strengthened so that the Assembly could be a more productive body, he argued.
For Renamo deputy Angelina Enoque, some of the amendments were "unconstitutional, undemocratic and put us on a clear return to a one-party state".
In her view, the restriction on "requests for clarification" during debates, was "an attack on democracy", "a return to single party rule", "an aberration", and "a denial of the course of history".
Jeremias Pondeca was much more extreme. He claimed the Frelimo majority was "illegitimate", and actually boasted of sabotaging (using the Portuguese verb "sabotar") President Chissano's December State of the Nation Address.
Figures came out of thin air: Frelimo had stolen "a million votes", he claimed, and while Renamo "does not know how many seats we have, we're certainly not a minority".
If the amendments were passed, there would be a return to "the parliamentary crisis", he threatened. ("Crisis" is the term Renamo uses to describe for its own noisy disruptions.) For Frelimo, Raquel Damiao said the riotous behaviour of Renamo deputies shows "lack of respect for our electorate". The only crisis that existed "is inside the heads of some Renamo members", she declared.
Luis Boavida repeated the claim that Frelimo "wants to transform this into a single-party parliament". "They want us to accept their illegitimate government, and their illegitimate president. We will never accept", he exclaimed.
He demanded that the majority "rethink your position" - for Renamo would not accept the amended standing orders in their current form.
Threats were followed by a Renamo proposal to delay any decision. Maximo Dias suggested that the leaderships of the Renamo and Frelimo parliamentary groups should sit down and work out "within 48 hours" a consensual version of the 21 contested articles.
Frelimo gave way to the Renamo blackmail. Although Raquel Damiao had warned that Frelimo "will do everything to ensure that the standing orders are revised", in fact, after a lengthy interval, Frelimo spokesman Hermenegildo Gamito announced acceptance of Dias's proposal.
He added that Frelimo had reservations because in the past Renamo deputies had shown themselves quite capable of rejecting agreements reached by the leader of their group, Ossufo Quitine. "You are very good at unsaying what has already been said", remarked Gamito. But despite these misgivings, Frelimo would go along with the delay as proposed by Dias, he said.
Thus Renamo left the chamber in triumphant mood, having proved once again that in the Mozambican parliament threats are much more useful than votes.
Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia has described the role played by the seed producing sector as indispensable for the country's socio-economic development.
Muteia was speaking on 14 March in the tourist resort of Bilene, in the southern province of Gaza, at the start of a national seminar on seed production.
"We must ensure that the seed sector gains a new dynamic to alter the current approach to one more geared to the market and development", he said.
The country, he said, has a great agricultural potential which is not tapped. Only about 10 per cent of the 36 million hectares of arable land are in use.
Mozambique also only produces about 1.5 million tonnes of grain a year, he said, adding that efforts must be made so that overall production of two million tonnes a year can be attained. "If we reach this goal, we'll start having some tranquility regarding food security and self-sufficiency", he stressed.
He also spoke of the longstanding problem of access to credit. Commercial banks are not known for their keenness in providing credit to farmers. "It's not possible to develop agriculture if the operators have no access to credit", he said.
AIM learnt that Mozambique loses about $77 million a year due to the inability of the national seed system to catalogue the existing seed crops. It is estimated that during the 2000/2001 agricultural campaign 95 per cent of the seed needs of the country were not produced in Mozambique, but purchased elsewhere in southern Africa.
Work on the Mepanda Uncua hydroelectric dam on the Zambezi river could begin in two years, and be concluded by 2010.
Juliao Pondeca, the managing director of the Mozambican government's Technical Unit for the Implementation of Hydroelectric Projects (UTIP), told a press conference on 9 March that the building of the dam is a given, since preliminary studies undertaken by an international consortium from 1999 to June 2000 indicate that Mepanda Uncua is an appropriate place for the development of a power project with an estimated generating capacity of between 1,100 and 2,400 megawatts.
Pondeca added that the building of the new dam is costed at about $3 billion, of which one billion has been earmarked for the transmission lines.
Apart from the building of this new dam, there are plans for the construction of a second power station at the existing Cahora Bassa dam, on the north bank of the river.
Currently, the second stage of the Mepanda Uncua studies, which involves technical studies, environmental and social impact analysis, and public consultations is under way.
The government had deemed it necessary to invest in more hydroelectric dams since the country is far from being completely covered by electric power, said Pondeca.
He denied that the project was an attempt by the Mozambican government to circumvent its divergences with the Portuguese management of the Cahora Bassa dam. "It'll be a tool in the hands of Mozambicans for the management of drought and flood situations, as well as contributing to electrification", he said.
There is a market for the resulting power, he thought, adding that "in ten years time we'll still have a market to compete in" - plans suggest that the building of the dam will be completed by 2010.
Although the state is taking part in the project, it is doing so not with the intention of being in control, said Pondeca. "The state has its role, but the project is private", he stressed, adding that if the state wanted to take a considerable share in the project it would have to come up with more than $700 million.
Only about 240 families will be affected by the building of the dam, he said, adding that they will all be compensated.
Mepanda Uncua is 70 kilometres downstream from Cahora Bassa.
The Mozambican Labour Ministry and a Japanese agricultural company, GAEC, have signed a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of agro-industrial and job training centres throughout Mozambique.
The memorandum envisages the training of some 3,000 rural area youths in three regional centres, namely in the northern province of Nampula, the central Sofala province, and Maputo.
Under the agreement, the government has to make available 50 hectares of land for the centres and for adjacent farming. The agreement was signed by Deputy Labour Minister Adelaide Amurrane and Hiroyuki Hattori for GAEC.
Amurrane said that the memorandum "meets the priorities of the ministry as regards the fight against unemployment through the support of job generating activities, and facilitating access to the labour market through professional training".
"The responsibilities of the Labour Ministry under the project are to recruit local technicians, make available offices, and regularise documents with the relevant bodies to authorise the building of the regional centres", Amurrane told journalists.
She added that the target groups are the unemployed, demobilised soldiers, and school leavers.
For his part, Hattori said that his company is to disburse $2.5 million and recruit Japanese experts in the area of agricultural professional training.
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