Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has attempted to blame the United Nations for its financial difficulties. Speaking to reporters on 30 May, Renamo general secretary Joao Alexandre claimed that at the end of its mandate in 1994, the UN peace-keeping mission in Mozambique, ONUMOZ, left Renamo with debts of $10 million.
Alexandre claimed that there was a debt of 1.5 billion meticais (at 1994 exchange rates, this figure is equivalent to only $230,000) in telecommunications alone, and Renamo was gradually paying off this sum to the Mozambican telecommunications company, TDM.
There was never any obligation on ONUMOZ to pay off any debts run up by Renamo. However, there was a trust fund, operated by the UN, to which donors contributed in order to finance the transformation of Renamo from a military organisation into a political party.
According to the figures provided by the then UN special representative in Mozambique, Aldo Ajello, this fund provided Renamo with $17 million in the 1993-94 period. Renamo has never accounted publicly for any of this money.
Alexandre claimed that the debts of the past have prevented Renamo from functioning properly. Telephone lines in Renamo offices, both in the provinces and in Maputo, are continually cut by TDM for lack of payment
But, due to its parliamentary representation, Renamo receives a subsidy from the state budget of two billion meticais (about $100,000 at current exchange rates) a month. What was Renamo doing with this money ?, reporters asked.
Alexandre claimed it was used to pay wages to Renamo full time workers, and to support Renamo delegations abroad. He said that Renamo still has offices in Kenya, Portugal and the United States.
A meeting of the national council of Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, began in Maputo on 30 May to prepare the party's congress, scheduled for November.
Cited by Radio Mozambique, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama said the congress had been repeatedly postponed because of Renamo's financial difficulties.
Dhlakama said Renamo now had two billion meticais (about $100,000) available to organise the congress. The National Council is expected to fix the venue and precise dates for the congress.
Dhlakama said the National Council will also discuss Renamo strategy for the 2003 municipal elections, and the 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections.
President Joaquim Chissano said in Maputo on 30 May that he is still waiting for the leader of Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, to contact him about resuming the dialogue between the government and Renamo, that Dhlakama unilaterally broke off in March.
Speaking to reporters on his return from the African Development Bank (ADB) meeting in Spain, President Chissano declared that he has always been prepared to continue the dialogue, not only with Renamo, but with any other party or social group, to seek solutions to the country's problems.
"As for Mr Dhlakama's statement that he is prepared to resume the dialogue, I am waiting for him to tell me so because, until then, I know nothing. When I am informed then I will react", said President Chissano.
Dhlakama told reporters on 28 May that he wanted further talks - but he posed a number of pre-conditions, notably that his meetings with the President be prepared by specialised commissions, made up of members of the government and of Renamo.
He explained that the task of such groups would be to prepare documents to be submitted to the two leaders in scheduled meetings for signing.
At the time Dhlakama took the decision to interrupt dialogue there were government/Renamo groups working on defence and security issues, the public administration, and legal, parliamentary and constitutional matters. Other groups demanded by Dhlakama, on economic questions, and on the mass media, had scarcely begun functioning, before the dialogue was interrupted.
Dhlakama pulled out of the dialogue in March because PresidentChissano refused to accept his demands for either early general elections, or the appointment of governors nominated by Renamo in the six provinces where Renamo obtained a majority of the votes in the 1999 general elections.
The Cabo Delgado provincial court has suspended the trial of five policemen accused of responsibility for the deaths of at least 83 prisoners in a grossly overcrowded police cell in the town of Montepuez last November.
A dispatch from the court, issued on 23 May, stated that the trial had to be suspended because the prosecutor, Beatriz Buchili, who is the Cabo Delgado chief attorney, has fallen ill. The court dispatch, signed by judge Alfredo Phire, ordered a ten day suspension, which means that the trial should resume on 4 June.
So far in the trial all five accused policemen have given their testimony, as has Dr Eugenio Zacarias, the head of the team of pathologists who carried out autopsies on some of the victims, establishing that they had died of asphyxiation.
The provincial director of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), Juma Mucequesse, was scheduled to give evidence on 24 May - the accused claim that PIC was responsible for the mass deaths (although PIC does not run the cells in the Montepuez police command), and have tried to shift the blame onto the shoulders of Mucequesse.
The delay also means that the verdict, initially set for 5 June, has been postponed. No new date for the verdict and for any sentence has yet been set.
The court on 22 May demanded to know what happened to the victims bodies. According to the trial report, Eugenio Zacarias said in his evidence that when the team reached Montepuez they only found 33 bodies in the morgue, although they were informed that 75 people died in the cell (a further eight are known to have died two days earlier).
The court asked who had authorised the removal of the other 42 bodies, and where they had been buried.
Two of the accused policemen, Horacio Nhoca and Terciano Mitale, were recalled to the witness stand. Mitale claimed he had nothing to do with removing the corpses, but Nhoca denied this, and said that they had both taken part in this operation.
But Nhoca claimed they were acting on instructions from the provincial director of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), Juma Mucequesse. Nhoca said Mucequesse "authorised relatives of the victims to take the bodies before any autopsy".
Nhoca said that the removal of the bodies was halted on receiving orders to that effect from the provincial capital, Pemba.
The Agriculture Ministry has recognised that there are serious problems in the financial management of the National Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI), but denied that money is being stolen.
An audit undertaken within the Ministry detected problems and recommended organisational measures, including training staff at provincial level in financial management.
PROAGRI finances have come under criticism from the donors. European Union representative Javier Puyol, speaking on behalf of the donors, warned on 21 May, at the opening of a week-long PROAGRI assessment meeting "The preliminary results from the audit are not encouraging. The external auditors will probably stress serious deficiencies in the PROAGRI accounts of 2000".
For months, some provinces and some entire PROAGRI components had not received any new funds at all: Puyol attributed this to the failure to present reports of how previous tranches had been used.
At the same time, about $2 million which should have been used for PROAGRI purposes had been channelled to the Agricultural and Livestock Census instead.
Puyol said there had been some improvements in PROAGRI financial management "but these improvements are not sufficient".
The practical response to these concerns was the signing of a memorandum on the joint management of PROAGRI funds, establishing the responsibilities both of the government and of the donors.
Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia, cited in "Noticias" on 23 May, said that when the auditors made their recommendations in November "we adopted a plan of action which is being implemented, but which is not reflected in the current report. We expect that results from this plan will be seen when the 2001 accounts are audited".
This plan included hiring accountants and economists to work in the provincial agriculture directorates, and the approval of a new manual of financial management procedures.
"We think that this year is a turning point", said Muteia, "a year of changes in practices and procedures. With the volume of resources we have (PROAGRI is budgeted at over $40 million a year for five years), we must demonstrate responsibility, accountability and transparency".
But Muteia thought it was normal to run into problems when embarking on a new and large-scale integrated programme such as PROAGRI. "It was not possible to design a gigantic programme such as this, and achieve 100 per cent satisfactory results from one moment to the next", he said.
As for the provinces that had not received new funds, Muteia said this was a decision taken by the Ministry itself, because of "serious lapses in management". "We had to choose between continuing to send money with the funds not being properly accounted for, and cutting the funds until the problem is solved", he said.
As for the Agricultural and Livestock Census, $2 million had indeed been advanced for this, in the expectation that the money would be reimbursed by the World Bank.
The census is a responsibility of the National Statistics Institute (INE), which the World Bank had agreed to fund. But given the delays in receiving the World Bank money, the Agricultural Ministry had agreed to advance the money, on the understanding that it would be repaid as and when the INE justified its expenditure.
"What's happening is that the INE justification for expenditure is coming in very slowly", said Muteia, "and in some case World Bank rules do not fit Mozambican reality. The census is undertaken in remote areas, and there are places where there are no receipts. But the census staff have to eat, and to undertake other expenses, and the way this is justified doesn't fall into World Bank categories".
Six months after the assassination of Mozambique's best known journalist, Carlos Cardoso, editor of the independent newsheet "Metical", the Public Prosecutor's Office, at the end of its preliminary investigation, has charged six people with the crime.
According to "Metical" on 22 May, the Public Prosecutor has charged businessman Ayob Abdul Satar and former bank manager Vicente Ramaya with ordering the killing.
The four others - Ayob's brother Momade Assife Abdul Satar, Anibal Antonio dos Santos Junior (Anibalzinho), Carlitos Rachid, and Manuel Fernandes - are accused of carrying out the murder.
Cardoso had investigated the business activities of the wealthy and powerful Abdul Satar family: in particular, he had written relentlessly about the country's largest ever bank fraud, in which the equivalent of 14 million dollars was siphoned out of the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM) in 1996, on the eve of its privatisation.
The key figures accused of this fraud are members of the Abdul Satar family and Vicente Ramaya, who was in charge of the BCM branch where the fraud took place.
The BCM fraud has never come to court thanks to high-level corruption in the Attorney-General's office, also investigated by Cardoso. A warrant has now been issued for the arrest of the Attorney who was originally in charge of the BCM case, Diamantino dos Santos, whose whereabouts are currently unknown.
The Cardoso murder case now enters a new phase of investigation in which the defence lawyers are officially informed of the charges, and are given access to the case file. They may request further investigations which they regard as useful for establishing the innocence of their clients.
This phase will last for three months, after which the prosecution will issue the definitive charge sheet, and deliver it to the investigating magistrate. It is this magistrate who will decide whether the evidence against the accused is strong enough for the case to go to trial.
The recently-appointed General Director of the Zambezi Development Planning Office (GPZ), Sergio Vieira, has expressed hopes that tobacco leaf production in Tete province will reach 10,000 tonnes in the 2001 planting season.
A yield of 10,000 tonnes is considered to be the threshold that would make the construction of a tobacco processing factory viable. Mozambican tobacco is currently being processed in Malawi due to the low production and lack of processing units locally.
Vieira said that it was necessary to increase production of tobacco leaf in Mozambique, so that the country can free itself from dependence on the Malawian factories. His optimism is grounded on production levels of about 8,000 tonnes in 2000.
Last year the Malawian authorities banned the import of foreign tobacco leaf for a month, in what was regarded as an attempt to protect low quality Malawian tobacco.
Ironically, most of the tobacco produced in Mozambique is grown by companies that are owned by Malawians.
The Mozambique Leaf Tobacco company told AIM that it has invested $1 million and employs 150 full-time workers. Taking into account the peasant growers and their families, the company's activities benefit about 60,000 people.
The advanced degradation of the roads leading to Espungabera, capital of Mossurize district, in the central province of Manica, is driving away investors who might otherwise be interested in exploiting the coffee, tea, cotton and tobacco grown in the district.
Francisco Manuel, the Mossurize district administrator, told journalists, accompanying President Joaquim Chissano on a visit to the province, that the region enjoys a favourable climate and soils, but while the roads are in a run-down state nobody will put money into projects in the area.
However, Manuel said that peasant farmers want to alter the scenario by establishing associations in order to implement agricultural projects jointly.
The district was also affected by severe flooding earlier this year which paralysed its socio-economic activities. It was cut off from the provincial capital Chimoio and about 4,000 residents are still dependent on emergency aid.
Manuel said that there was encouraging progress in livestock farming, extension of the health and education networks, as well as the rehabilitation of dirt roads.
The district has currently 6,000 head of cattle arising from a livestock programme which benefits 150 families.
He added that 171 kilometres of roads have been repaired under a "Food for Work" scheme.
The school network has increased dramatically. There were 11 schools in 1996, and there are currently 45, one of which is a pre-university school.
There are five health units (four posts and one health centre). Work is continuing to upgrade and equip the Espungabera health centre, with $375,000 of Finnish funding.
By August this health centre will have five new buildings where there will be an intensive care unit, a small operating theatre, a laboratory, a pharmacy and other services, as well as an increase in the number of beds for the maternity and general medical wards.
The current health network covers only 31 per cent of the estimated 122,000 residents of Mossurize district.
The business class in Manica province is "weak and disorganised", accused provincial governor Soares Nhaca on 22 May, after the vast majority of local businessmen failed to attend a meeting intended to launch the Business Development Project (PoDE) in the province.
Nhaca was angered to find that so few businessmen bothered to attend that they were outnumbered by members of the Manica provincial government.
PoDE has $40 million available for programmes to build up local businesses. Among those supporting the project are the World Bank, the European Union and the British government.
But the Manica businesses seemed singularly uninterested. "We used all means available to invite people to attend this meeting", said Nhaca. "Apart from invitations sent personally to each of the business people, announcements were made over Radio Mozambique. Despite this they have not shown up".
Nhaca noted that the local business association is not functioning, and that there is no unity of purpose among the Manica business class.
The governor left the meeting early, saying he saw no point in remaining in a room where most of those present were other members of the provincial government.
The European Commission on 23 May announced an aid package of 329 million euros (about $281 million) for Mozambique.
The aid is to be disbursed over three years under the Cotonou Agreement, the successor to the series of Lome agreements, governing relations between the member states of the European Union, and the 77 ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) nations.
Of this sum, 274 million euros will go towards macro-economic support, sector policies, and other programmes that contribute to the struggle against poverty.
The other 55 million euros is intended for what the release describes as "unforeseen needs", such as emergency aid, contributions towards debt relief initiatives, and making up shortfalls caused by instability in export revenues.
The European Commission, in collaboration with the EU member states and the Mozambican government, is drawing up "a strategy of support that is consistent with the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty".
The Mozambican and Japanese governments on 31 May signed an agreement under which Japan is to provide 990 million yen (about $9.24 million) for improving rural water supply in the central province of Zambezia.
The money will be used to build 148 new boreholes and to rehabilitate 13 existing ones in about 90 villages in the north of the province.
Some of the funds will be spent on an education programme so that the villagers will be able to manage and maintain these water sources.
The French government on 23 May made available 6.5 million euros ($5.6 million) for the repair of roads in Maputo province.
The money will be used to rehabilitate a nine kilometre stretch of the main north-south highway in the Incomati flood plain in Manhica district, about 80 kilometres north of Maputo, and a 24 kilometre stretch of the road between the towns of Magude and Xinavane.
Both these roads were severely damaged by the massive floods on the Incomati in February 2000.
Twenty out of every 100 pregnant women who attend ante-natal consultations in Mozambican health units are infected with HIV, the virus that causes the lethal disease AIDS, according to Martinho Djedje, spokesperson for the Coordinating Council of the Health Ministry, which has been meeting in Maputo since 28 May.
Djedje said the situation was made worse because there is no systematic follow-up to assist the HIV-positive women. "So one of the packages we want to develop is follow-up, in order to reduce the number of mother to child transmissions of HIV", said Djedje. This could, for instance, be done fairly cheaply by administering a single dose of the drug Nevirapine to the mother and then to the new-born baby, a method that has been shown to reduce drastically mother-to-child HIV transmission.
The general use of anti-retroviral drugs to prolong the lives of HIV sufferers is more controversial, and Djedje told AIM that the matter was still under analysis.
However, there was general consensus in the Coordinating Council that anti-retrovirals must be introduced. But a pre-requisite, given the complexity of treatment with these drugs, is to train up staff first, so that patients can be educated on how to use anti-retrovirals.
Rui Bastos, an adviser to the Ministry on HIV/AIDS, told reporters that it is quite impossible for Mozambique to treat all HIV sufferers with anti-retrovirals, given the current cost of these drugs. He pointed out that a year's treatment for one person costs at least $12,000.
The Mozambican government, Bastos said, should therefore join the international movement to force down the prices of anti-retrovirals, and ensure that generic versions of these drugs are available.
Health units across Mozambique registered a total of over three million cases of malaria in the year 2000, out of the country's approximately 17 million inhabitants.
According to a document produced by the Health Ministry and presented to its Coordinating Council in Maputo, 1,637 of the malaria patients are known to have died of the disease. This is an increase on both the number of cases of malaria, and the number of deaths, recorded in 1999.
The report warns that the official figures are an underestimate, since many malaria patients do not seek medical assistance, because the nearest health unit is too far from their homes. The Ministry also believes that most malaria deaths are not recorded by the health units either.
The document reports cholera as a serious public health problem, noting that in 2000, there were 25,703 diagnosed cases of the disease, resulting in 154 known deaths.
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