Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia has confirmed that a large group of Zimbabwean farmers has requested no less than 400,000 hectares of land in the central province of Manica - but the government has told them to apply individually, and for no more than 1,000 hectares each.
In a lengthy interview published in "Domingo" on 8 July, Muteia said that the Zimbabweans' collective request was not merely for land: they also told the government they would build dams for irrigation, roads, clinics and schools. They said they would find it hard to put their children into Mozambican schools, because many of them were already half-way through the Zimbabwean education system.
Muteia said that such a "gigantic" proposal had serious social implications - notably, the creation of "islands of white development". "What we want is an integration of Mozambican farmers, so as to avoid social conflicts", he said. "And we recommended to the Zimbabwean farmers that they should request land individually".
Indeed a few had already gone through the normal foreign investment procedures, and were now farming in Manica. There were around 10 Zimbabweans who had requested up to 4,000 hectares each. "We authorised them, and they are there on the ground, operating in the framework of the foreign investment law", said Muteia.
This year the 10 Zimbabweans produced a harvest. Muteia went to Manica to see the results. "The peasants are satisfied", he said, "because each of the Zimbabweans has created between 40 and 60 jobs. They've brought work, they've brought development and a market, and people now have money. They've brought a whole new dynamic".
63 farmers have now submitted individual requests, "and we are studying them project by project". The Zimbabweans were proposing to grow maize, tobacco, fruit and vegetables, to develop forestry activities, and to breed cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and even ostriches.
Muteia said the Zimbabwean government was being kept informed "to avoid conflicts between the two countries".
He added that the amount per farmer was now limited to 1,000 hectares because "if we granted more, there would be serious land conflicts, since in what is only the first stage we are talking about 63 farmers, which means 63,000 hectares. That's a lot of land".
Asked whether Mozambique was not risking the same land conflicts as had broken out in Zimbabwe, Muteia replied "Not at all. First because the number of farmers is not the same as in Zimbabwe. We are talking of a maximum of 100 farmers.
Furthermore, the country needs investment, and the country needs work. The only way to develop is through investment, either public or private".
"If we want our land to produce, then the country must simultaneously attract foreign investment, and develop our own farmers", the Minister added.
Muteia pointed out that Mozambique does not have a land shortage. "Mozambique has about 37 million hectares of land suitable for agriculture", he said, "and currently we are only using 4.5 million hectares. It makes no sense to cling on to land and render investment non-viable".
Muteia insisted that the government was taking great care in analysing projects proposed by the Zimbabwean farmers. He revealed that about 30 proposals have already been turned down, because the farmers concerned "did not have the technology, or had no money. An essential condition is that investors must have money".
The Zimbabweans had complained that Mozambican procedures are slow, "but they're slow because we want to safeguard our approach to the problematic of land in Mozambique. That's why nobody has appeared in the press saying their land has been stolen. We're not going to let that happen. No Mozambicans are going to lose their land".
Muteia insisted that the Zimbabwean investment would not have the same fate as the Mosagrius programme, under which South African farmers were supposed to invest in Niassa province, and which has effectively collapsed. "The Zimbabweans are bringing their own money", he said.
"Those who went to Niassa were relying on money from SACADA (South African Chamber for Agricultural Development in Niassa). But at the last moment SACADA did not provide any money, and pulled out of Mosagrius".
They had been promised support, the support did not come, and so most of them left Niassa.
The Mosagrius Development Corporation (SDM) still exists, but with the departure of SACADA the only shareholder left is the Mozambican state. SDM could not continue in its current state, said Muteia, "since it consumes huge sums of money".
SDM held title to the land used in the Niassa scheme, but the Agriculture Ministry wants to change this and issue individual land titles to the Mozambican farmers, and to the four South Africans still left in the project.
Finance Minister Luisa Diogo, who also took part in the meeting, told reporters afterwards that the purpose of Zhang's visit is to understand how the country is facing the major challenges in the struggle against absolute poverty. The World Bank official, she said, wanted to know what the President regarded as the top priorities for the country's development. So President Chissano took the opportunity to press the case for building a road bridge over the Zambezi at Caia, as a key part of the country's main north-south highway. At the moment there is only a ferry service between Caia and Chimuara, on the north bank. Earlier this year the ferry service was interrupted for almost two months because the Zambezi was in flood. Last week the ferry was suspended again, but for the opposite reason - there was not enough water in the river.
Building a bridge at Caia is regarded as crucial for an efficient road network. The latest estimate is that the bridge would cost about $80 million.
Diogo said that Zhang agreed the Caia bridge would be fundamental for Mozambique's development, and for reducing the economic imbalances between the south and north of the country. She said the question of how the bridge is to be financed was not raised during the audience.
Diogo added that Zhang is not visiting Mozambique as a negotiator, but simply "to get to know the challenges we face". He will also visit the Maragra sugar plantation about 70 kilometres north of Maputo, and the district of Chokwe in the Limpopo valley, one of the areas worst hit in the huge floods of February 2000.
Diogo said the meeting did not deal with the crisis-ridden Austral Bank, which fell back into state ownership in April, when the private shareholders, a consortium headed by the Malaysian Southern Bank Berhard (SBB) pulled out.
She said that reprivatisation of the bank was proceeding "normally", and has already been the subject of negotiations between Mozambique and the IMF.
The crisis in the banking sector, however, is widely regarded as one of the reasons for the delay in Mozambique receiving further debt relief under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Counties) initiative.
Mozambique acceded to the first phase of HIPC in mid-1999, and was expected to reach the "completion point" of HIPC-2, or "enhanced HIPC" in March of this year. But the completion point has been postponed, and with it the chance of Mozambique's total debt stock falling from the post-HIPC-1 figure of about a billion US dollars, to $750 million.
Diogo said Mozambique was drawing up a dossier for HIPC purposes, but this will not be submitted until September.
Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje said that some of these weapons had been used during the war of destabilisation, and then cached at the end of the war in 1992, but others were found to have been smuggled by criminals into the country. Speaking at a Maputo press conference on 5 July, Manhenje said that the pacification of a country such as Mozambique does not end when the armed conflict ends, but must also involved "the collection of all weaponry held illegally".
He could not estimate the number of weapons in illegal hands in the country. Manhenje thought collecting them all would take a long time, and should involve the participation of all of society. Manhenje denied that Mozambique is the supplier of weapons used by criminals in South Africa, saying that "we do not manufacture weapons, but South Africa does".
However, he stressed that "what is important is for us to continue with the joint effort, between Mozambique and South Africa, which is reflected in the results that we have been achieving".
Manhenje also informed reporters on Mozambique's preparations for the United Nations conference on the illicit traffic in light arms, due to take place from 9 to 20 July in New York.
He explained that the conference aims to adopt an action programme and a political declaration on preventing and combating the illegal trade in light weapons.
The Mozambican delegation to the meeting will be headed by Manhenje himself, and will include senior officials of the Interior, Foreign, and Defence ministries. Members of the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) will represent civil society.
For several years the CCM has run an "Arms into Hoes" campaign, which collects illegally held weapons, no questions asks, in exchange for agricultural tools or other productive instruments.
Mozambique has scheduled for a number of activities for 9 July, to mark the start of the conference. In particular some of the seized weaponry will be publicly destroyed in Moamba district, about 60 kilometres north-west of Maputo. The destruction should be broadcast live to New York.
The Mozambican government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) signed an agreement in Maputo on 6 July aimed at boosting the development of the mass media in Mozambique.
The agreement gives the green light to the second phase of a UNESCO project to bolster the human and technical resources of the country's public and private media.
This second stage is costed at $5 million, and apart from consolidating the initiatives carried out in the first phase (increasing the impact and sustainability of the media), it will enable the expansion of communication centres to other provinces, and strengthen the editorial quality and the management of the provincial delegations of Radio Mozambique, and of the independent media.
The first phase started in 1998, and ended in June, and was financed by Norway, Finland, Ireland, Denmark, and the UNDP. The same donors will fund the second phase.
Repeated sabotage of the pipeline that links the northern port of Nacala to the local storage tanks of the Mozambican oil company Petromoc are blamed for the current fuel shortage in the north of the country.
Cited in "Noticias" on 5 July, energy authorities describe the situation as serious. Thieves have punctured the pipeline repeatedly to drain off fuel and sell it on the black market. With the pipeline in this condition, any pumping of fuel from ships in Nacala becomes dangerous, and so it is no longer viable to supply the northern region with fuel from Nacala.
The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, said that the sabotage of the pipeline is the only reason for the shortage of fuel in the northern region, but he promised that the situation will be overcome shortly.
Langa acknowledged that the problem of sabotage has been reported for at least the last two years, and that the relevant authorities have not done anything to stop it. He said that during the war of destabilisation a number of families found safety in the area crossed by the pipeline, and built flimsy houses there. They were not removed, and eventually they started vandalising the pipeline to drain fuel, supposedly for sale.
"Lately, and with ever more dangerous consequences, those people punch holes in the pipeline and drain fuel to ditches they have dug underneath", added Langa. To illustrate how serious the problem has become, Langa recalled that a tanker was recently moored in Nacala, for ten days, to unload fuel, but the operation had to be aborted because the pipeline was found not to be workable.
"The repair work is continuing, but these are only provisional measures", said Langa. "Definitive measures must include removing the families who live alongside the pipeline, and also changing its current course".
The distance from the port to the fuel tanks is about three kilometres: Langa is admitting that for several years nobody in the municipal, provincial or central government has bothered to send a few policemen to patrol this short distance to ensure that a vital infrastructure remains intact.
Because of the sabotage along the Nacala pipeline, the northern region has been forced to obtain its fuel supplies from the central port of Beira. This is putting enormous pressure on Beira's capacity.
The World Bank's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) has recently approved a new project aimed at supporting the rehabilitation of the giant Mozambican sugar producer, the Sena Company.
The Sena Company, in which the major shareholder is a Mauritian company, has rehabilitated the sugar plantation and mill at Marromeu, on the south bank of the Zambezi river. The mill has not produced any sugar for a decade and a half - since it was sabotaged by apartheid-backed Renamo rebels in 1986.
But as from August, the Sena Company hopes that the Marromeu mill will be running again, with a potential production of 100,000 tonnes a year.
Roger Pruneau, MIGA deputy-chairman for the guarantee area, told AIM that the institution is currently allocating $65 million to cover the insurance of the Marromeu investment. The insurance money is to cover the investments, the management contracts and technical assistance, among others. It will cover 75 per cent of the privatisation, rehabilitation and management of what used to be called the Sena Sugar Estates.
"This project shows our determination to support Mozambique in using the investment to fight against poverty and restore the economic viability of the sugar sector", Pruneau said.
Some 5,000 people are employed by the Sena Company, making it the main employer in the Marromeu region. The project's social spin-offs include the supply of electricity, improvements to the Marromeu hospital, and the building of roads, houses and schools as well as the supply of drinking water to the local community.
It is hoped that 70 per cent of the sugar will be sold locally, which will sharply reduce the need for Mozambique to import sugar. However, this plan could be derailed if the authorities are unable to stop the large scale smuggling of Malawian sugar into central Mozambique.
The Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, to investigate the causes of last November's violent clashes between the police and demonstrators organised by Renamo, has not yet resumed its activities.
Recently the Assembly confidently announced that the Commission would be heading off to Nampula province to resume its work - but in fact, its members are still in Maputo.
Cited in "Noticias" on 2 July, the Commission chairman, Renamo deputy Vicente Ululu, blamed the delay on "logistical and administrative difficulties".
This is a euphemism for running out of money. The Assembly does not have the funds to pay the air tickets to Nampula, to hire cars within Nampula and Sofala provinces, to pay for commission members' accommodation, and for other necessary expenses.
The commission was supposed to work in late June and the first week of July in Nampula, and then travel southward to Sofala province.
So far, the commission has only completed about half its mission. It worked in Cabo Delgado province, in January, but when it moved on to Nampula, three of its members (Hilario Beja, of the ruling Frelimo Party, and Jeronimo Malagueta and Tertuliano Juma of Renamo) were seriously injured in a road accident. This forced a lengthy interruption to the commission's work.
The commission is investigating the violence of 9 November and its aftermath. On that day Renamo demonstrations against the results of the December 1999 elections degenerated into battles with the police in cities and towns across central and northern Mozambique. At least 41 people died in clashes.
In the worst hit town, Montepuez in Cabo Delgado, the police then rounded up indiscriminately anyone believed to have been on the demonstration. They were thrown into a grossly overcrowded police cell where at least 83 detainees then died of asphyxiation.
In the first quarter of this year, Mozambican exports grew by 172 per cent, when compared with the first quarter of 2000, according to the latest study from the Bank of Mozambique.
But the growth in exports is almost entirely due to one product and one factory - the aluminium produced at the MOZAL smelter on the outskirts of Maputo. The smelter did not produce its first metal until June 2000.
Aluminium exports from January to March were worth $85.3 million, which was 63 per cent of the total value of Mozambique's exports. If MOZAL is omitted, then exports for the quarter are only 1.2 per cent higher than in the first quarter of 2000.
As expected, exports of cashew kernels have continued to collapse. They were down from $1.1 million in January- March 2000 to just $400,000 in the first quarter of this year. This is due largely to the fact that most of the cashew processing factories are closed, mainly due to the World Bank imposed liberalisation of the trade in raw cashews.
As exports of kernels fall, so exports of raw nuts rise - from $3.7 million in the first quarter of 2000 to $4.1 million in the same period this year.
Timber exports also fell sharply, from $4 million to $2.4 million. The Bank believes this was due to restrictions imposed on the export of logs by the government, which wants to see the wood processed in Mozambique.
As for other traditional Mozambican exports, the value of prawn exports was virtually unchanged ($4.3 million in the first quarter of 2000, and $4.4 million this year), while cotton exports declined from $5.9 to $5.1 million.
Electricity exports rose from $11.7 to $14.2 million, due largely to the increase in the tariff paid by the South African electricity company, Eskom, for the power it purchases from the Cahora Bassa dam.
Mozambican imports rose from $232.3 million in January-March 2000 to $278.5 million in the first quarter of 2001, an increase of 20 per cent.
MOZAL has therefore prevented a significant deterioration in Mozambique's trade balance. Indeed, the deficit on the balance of trade improved from $182.3 million in the first quarter of 2000, to $142.5 million this year. The deficit has thus declined by 21 per cent.
Perhaps even more significant, Mozambique's exports now cover 49 per cent of the country's imports. In the first quarter of 2000, this figure was only 22 per cent.
Justice Minister Jose Abudo has said that the government will continue in its efforts to improve living conditions in the country's prisons.
Speaking on 9 July during a ceremony to break the ground for the building of a new open prison complex in Matutuine, in Maputo province, Abudo said "this venture will also improve the living conditions of the staff who work in the prisons ".
The prison is to house 100 prisoners during the first phase, who will mainly be transferred from the overcrowded prisons in Maputo.
The government, he said, has every intention of expanding the project, dubbed "haracaraca" (which means "faster" in one of the local languages), to the rest of the country - indeed, there is already one such open, agricultural penitentiary in Mabalane in the southern province of Gaza.
Costed at $250,000, the project will include a block of dormitories for prisoners, four houses for the staff, including the prison director and deputy, two houses for the guards, a health centre, a canteen, and improved latrines.
"The selection of prisoners for the open prison will depend on their behaviour", said Abudo, stressing that the complex is mainly for inmates who have shown acceptable behaviour in closed prisons. It will be built with their involvement as well as that of the building company contracted.
It will be the inmates who will make the bricks "since there's a modern machine for block-making with a capacity to make 250 blocks per hour, and about 2,000 per day", said the minister.
It is expected that the building phase will take three months.
Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has reiterated that his party is prepared to reinstate direct dialogue with President Joaquim Chissano to try and find solutions to the country's problems, reports "Noticias" on 3 July.
Dhlakama told a weekend rally in the suburb of Munhava, in the central city of Beira: "I have sent, a month ago, a very constructive proposal, but I have had no reply yet. I hope Chissano ends up agreeing because I do not want things to drag on, and to disappoint my voters".
However, President Chissano has repeatedly said that he has not received any written proposal from Dhlakama, and only learned of Dhlakama's interest in a fresh attempt at dialogue through the media.
Discussions between the two leaders took place between December and March,
but Dhlakama broke the dialogue off, storming out of a meeting with President
Chissano on 29 March.
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