Mozambique News Agency

No.218, 29th October 2001


Donors offer $722 million to Mozambique

Donors at the World Bank's Consultative Group on Mozambique, who met in Maputo on 25 and 26 October, have pledged over $722 million in support for 2002 - much in excess of the $600 million requested by the Mozambican government.

Finance Minister Luisa Diogo told a closing press conference that the pledges include funds for post-flood reconstruction requested by the government at a conference in July. The World Bank country director for Mozambique, Darius Mans, praise the government - the pledges, he said, "reflect the confidence of the international community in the government of Mozambique and its plans for reducing poverty".

The meeting, he added, "reflected very well on the credibility and track record of the government in being able to deliver".

The donor funds will be disbursed not only to a wide variety of projects, but increasingly as direct budget support. Mans said that 50 per cent of World Bank support was going directly to the state budget. 80 per cent of the money pledged is in the form of grants, and only 20 per cent takes the shape of new loans.

But there are caveats: the donors made clear their concern about the financial system, and particularly the huge losses suffered by the two privatised banks, the BCM and Austral, in which the state remains a shareholder.

The final press release from the meeting said the government was committed "to implementing a transparent, equitable and aggressive loan recovery programme, prosecuting illegal activities in the financial sector to the full extent of the law, strengthening the supervision of all financial institutions, and minimising future government exposure to contingent liabilities".

Discussion on reform and poverty

Speakers at the initial session were in broad agreement over the government's poverty relief and development strategies, according to the meeting's spokesman, Pedro Couto, head of the Finance Ministry's studies department.

Couto said the opening statements from Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, and from World Bank, IMF and UN representatives, were in agreement over Mozambique's commitment to reform and the challenge posed by absolute poverty. Reducing the level of absolute poverty was the "fundamental aim of the government's agenda for the coming years", said Couto.

The key goals of the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA), said Couto, were "the strengthening of human capital, improving infrastructure, good governance and macro-economic and financial stability".

He added that all participants had stressed that the spread of the lethal disease AIDS was "a major public health problem which should be attacked by all means available".

He also stressed the need for increased efficiency in government expenditure and in tax collection: the government expects tax revenue to rise from the current figure of 11 per cent of GDP to 15 per cent by 2005.

Consultative group hears report on AIDS

The meeting heard a presentation on 25 October from Janet Mondlane, head of the National Council on the Struggle against AIDS, on the spread of the disease across the country, and how it is being combated.

Mondlane gave the meeting the latest figures on the prevalence of the HIV virus that causes AIDS. These show that 12 per cent of Mozambicans aged between 15 and 49 are infected with the virus. Previous estimates had put the figure at 16 per cent.

Mondlane stressed that these figures should not be interpreted as a decline in HIV infection rates - the apparent fall was merely the result of better statistics. The old figures were based on testing the blood of pregnant women from just four sentinel sites (in Maputo, Beira, Tete and Chimoio). There were no sentinel sites north of the Zambezi, and the "guesstimate" for HIV infection in northern Mozambique turned out to be wrong. The current figures are much more reliable since they are taken from 22 sentinel sites, covering every province, and in both urban and rural areas.

Prime Minister calls for "implacable" fight against corruption

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 25 October insisted on an "implacable fight" against corruption as part of the government's drive to modernise the public sector.

Speaking at the opening session, Prime Minister Mocumbi declared "ordinary citizens have to see in the public administration the body that makes their lives easier".

Citizens therefore had a special interest in being actors in reforming the public sector "since they will be the first beneficiaries of its success".

Immediate steps, costing very little, were being taken to create a more user-friendly public sector - including name badges for all state officials, complaints books at all institutions where the public deals with the state, and counters where citizens meet officials face to face, rather than through a hole in a piece of grimy glass.

"What we want is that public officials should feel that they are public servants", said Mocumbi.

Among the problems undermining the government's programmes, he continued, were "red tape, excessive centralisation and corruption. Corruption in particular undermines the public's trust in state institutions, and inhibits investments".

"The implacable fight against all forms of corruption, so that we can root it out, is indispensable", declared Mocumbi. "And strengthening the operational capacity of the entire judicial system is also fundamental both to punish offenders, and for its dissuasive value".

The Prime Minister stressed that the government's top priority is the struggle to overcome absolute poverty. The guidelines now existed in the shape of PARPA, "and our main challenge is to implement it, with stress on the rural areas and on agriculture".

With the approval of PARPA by the World Bank and IMF, Mozambique became eligible for the second phase of the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative in September. Mocumbi said this would significantly reduce the burden of debt servicing on the Mozambican economy, releasing resources for the education and health services, and for improving rural water supply.

Nonetheless, Mozambique will still be paying out $55 million a year in debt servicing, while it can only afford to spend $30 million a year on health care, the Prime Minister pointed out.

His speech took on a sombre note when he warned that all development programmes can be undone by the advance of killer disease, notably AIDS. He described the spread of AIDS, particularly among young Mozambicans, as "a disaster". "To invest in combating these diseases is to invest in protecting the most precious capital we have - our human capital", declared Mocumbi.

Finance Minister outlines targets for 2002

The Mozambican government has set a target for economic growth of between eight and ten per cent for 2002, while it hopes that inflation in the year will not exceed eight per cent, Finance Minister Luisa Diogo said on 25 October.

Briefing the Consultative Group, Diogo said a stable exchange rate was also among the government's macro-economic priorities.

She promised budgetary reforms that would bring in greater transparency in government expenditure, eliminating all "off- budget" expenditure, and earmarking budgetary resources to specific programmes. This, however, depends on the Mozambican parliament passing a new law on state financial administration some time this current sitting - which is by no means guaranteed.

In the fight against absolute poverty in 2002, the government "will concentrate on continued reactivation of economic growth, particularly in agriculture, construction, transport and trade", said Diogo. "These sectors have a strong income generating component, they use labour intensive technologies, and involve the family sector".

Government expenditure will be concentrated on the education and health services, she said, which between them will account for 50 per cent of all budgetary resources.

Diogo also outlined an ambitious programme of legal reform for 2002. "The critical objectives of this reform seek to improve the capacity and efficiency of the legal system, to ensure that contracts are enforced, to review criminal, procedural and penal legislation, and to promote greater transparency and speed in court cases", she said.

As for public security, the government was stressing "an intensive programme of training for the police so that the police force becomes more effective and operational". Diogo also promised stepped up inspection of police activities, in order to protect citizens' rights.

MOZAL sacks 33 strikers

The management of the MOZAL aluminium smelter, on the outskirts of Maputo, has sacked 33 of the 468 workers who took part in a three week long strike earlier this month.

The National Engineering Workers Union, SINTIME, called the strike off last on 23 October, but over 200 of the strikers did not return to the smelter until 25 October, because of confusion over disciplinary proceedings.

SINTIME claimed it had reached an agreement with MOZAL to scrap all disciplinary hearings. The company denied there was any such agreement, and insisted that, since it regarded the strike as illegal, each and every one of the strikers would have to respond to a disciplinary notice.

A company spokesman told AIM that the disciplinary procedure is now complete, and 416 of the strikers have been given their jobs back, on exactly the same contractual conditions as before the strike.

Five strikers were punished with suspension for several days, but should return to their posts on Monday. But 33 have been definitively dismissed, among them three members of the MOZAL trade union committee, including the local SINTIME secretary, Isac Nhacacome.

That leaves 14 of the strikers unaccounted for: they have not returned to the smelter or responded to the disciplinary notices. The company says it will investigate these cases to find out what has happened to these workers - some of them may be ill, or may have taken jobs elsewhere.

With the great majority of the strikers back at work, MOZAL no longer needs the 70 South Africans who were temporarily recruited from South African aluminium plants. They are expected to return to South Africa very soon.

New rules for foreign exchange houses

The Bank of Mozambique is tightening the rules under which foreign exchange houses operate.

According to a central bank communique published on 18 October, as from now all dealers in foreign currency must ask their clients to identify themselves.

Previously these companies sold currency to anyone who walked through the door, no questions asked. Now, with questions being raised about money laundering, a foreign exchange bureau must at least know who its clients are.

In cases of transactions involving sums equivalent to $1,000 or more, the exchange bureau must photocopy the identity document and keep the photocopy in its records for at least a year.

Mulembue warns of worsening crime

The chairman of the Assembly of the Republic, Eduardo Mulembue, warned on 16 October that worsening crime and the apparent impunity of criminals are leading to "a generalised belief that there is no law and order in the country".

Speaking at the opening of the final sitting of parliament this year, Mulembue declared "increasing crime of all kinds, from the most blatant to the most sophisticated, and the multiplication of crimes because of the limitations or poor behaviour of the police, or the impunity resulting from the malfunctioning of the judicial system, creates in citizens the belief that legality and the rule of law are just a pretence".

When such beliefs were general, "the trust of citizens in institutions is corroded, and conditions whereby people take the law into their own hands".

He mentioned in particular the murders of journalist Carlos Cardoso in November 2000, and of two bankers, Antonio Siba-Siba, chairman of the Austral Bank, in August, and Jose Lima Felix, managing director of the International Bank of Mozambique (BIM), in 1997.

Mulembue also stressed "the fundamental strategic importance of the difficult fight against corruption as a condition for democracy itself".

New standing orders

This is the first parliamentary sitting under a new set of standing orders, which should streamline the Assembly's business. The most important change is that detailed discussion of bills will take place in specialised commissions and not in the plenary sessions. Previously, the full plenary had to inspect and approve every clause of every bill, which transformed the Assembly into a gigantic drafting commission. Under these conditions debate sometimes degenerated into quibbles over points of Portuguese grammar.

Under the new regime, the first, general reading of a bill, which deals with the principles involved, will take place in the plenary. If approved, the bill will then go for its second reading in the commissions, which will go through the bill article by article, debating amendments. The bill will then be brought back to the plenary for a final vote, including on contentious amendments where no consensus was possible in the commissions.

Mulembue said this new methodology should increase the Assembly's productivity. But this would also depend "on the efficient, dynamic and profitable use that each one of us makes of the new standing orders".

This sitting, the Assembly has moved back to its own premises, after three years of temporary exile in the Maputo Military Club, while the parliamentary building was rehabilitated.

An entire new annex has been built for the Assembly's library and archives, for its administrative services, and for the work of the political parties' parliamentary groups.

With the changes in the standing orders, and the improvements in the Assembly's physical conditions "we have excellent conditions for economy of time, and for increasing our productivity", said Mulembue.

The agenda for this sitting contains 35 items - to be discussed in just 20 days of plenary sessions (the sitting ends in mid-December), making the likelihood of finishing this agenda slim.

The key items on the agenda are the state budget and plan for 2002, the presentation of the general state accounts, President Joaquim Chissano's annual State of the Nation address, the report from a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the riots of 9 November 2000, and bills on money laundering, on protecting workers suffering from HIV/AIDS, on the mining industry, and on the rights and duties of veterans of the Mozambican independence war.

There will also be amendments to various articles in the penal and civil codes, a discussion on the Assembly's own budget, and reports from the four ad-hoc commissions discussing the national anthem, the constitution, electoral legislation, and deputies' social security arrangements.

On top of this are elections to various Assembly bodies, and to the Supreme Mass Media Council (the constitutionally enshrined watchdog body that is supposed to safeguard press freedom), the usual question and answer session with members of the government, and a resolution on adherence to the January 2000 Cartagena treaty on biodiversity.

Sports law passed

The Assembly of the Republic on 25 October passed the first reading of an uncontroversial bill setting the legal framework for the practice of sport in the country.

Replying to the debate, the Minister of Youth and Sport, Joel Libombo, said that Mozambican sport needs investment of over $40 million over the next four years in order to deal with even the most basic necessities.

This money, the minister said, should be used to reduce regional imbalances, rehabilitate existing and build new sports infrastructures, ensure mass access to sports facilities, and train coaches and other technical and managerial staff.

A second bill, on altering the type of legal assistance available to minors in court cases, also proved uncontroversial and passed its first reading unanimously.

The bill is designed to defend the rights of minors, and avoid abuses which occurred under the previous legal regime. Since this bill was moved by the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition, Frelimo deputy Esau Meneses seized the opportunity to declare that it was untrue to claim that all opposition proposals are automatically rejected by the Frelimo majority in the Assembly.

He though that if Renamo continued to show this positive attitude towards legislation "then the productivity of this Assembly will increase".

The work of the Assembly will be suspended for a week because Renamo is holding a congress.

According to Mulembue, the Assembly's commissions will continue working throughout the week, and the two days lost to the plenary will be "compensated for" later in the sitting.

Samora Machel remembered

President Joaquim Chissano declared on 19 October that the best tribute Mozambicans can pay to the memory of his predecessor, Samora Machel, who died 15 years ago, is "to leave for future generations a united, strong and prosperous country, of which the first President of independent Mozambique would feel proud".

President Chissano was speaking at Mbuzini, in South Africa, where the presidential plane crashed on 19 October 1986, killing Samora Machel and 34 of those accompanying him. The plane crash is widely believed to have been caused by the apartheid military, using a pirate navigational beacon to lure the plane away from its correct flight path.

"Samora died, but the key of freedom and peace that he inherited from Mondlane, also assassinated by the enemies of Mozambique and of freedom, remains alive in each one of us", declared President Chissano, addressing a crowd of about 5,000 Mozambicans and South Africans.

"He died because he wanted all people to be able to live in peace, fraternity and mutual respect. Samora was struggling so that neighbouring countries could seek peaceful solutions to their disputes, and embark upon the path of good neighbourliness and cooperation, rather then confrontation. Samora died in a war against war".

Standing beside his wife, and Samora's widow, Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela declared "Samora Machel was a giant among the leaders of the African revolution. It is difficult to understand the strange circumstances of Samora's death, but we are sure that the investigations will lead us to the real causes".

South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who was the head of the ANC mission in Mozambique in the 1980s, won a loud ovation when he sang snatches of what had been one of Samora Machel's favourite songs. "Kanimambo, Frelimo".

Zuma declared that South Africans should view Mozambicans, not as foreigners, but as brothers, because of the solidarity Mozambique had shown during the years of apartheid. Zuma was clearly alluding to the xenophobic attitude shown by many South Africans towards Mozambican migrants. He called for "breaking the barriers of ignorance, of prejudice and of misunderstandings, wherever they occur".

Grain production target of 1.9 million tonnes

Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia on 16 October urged peasant farmers to commit themselves to reach the target of 1.9 million tonnes of grain set for 2001/02 campaign (an increase on the 1.5 million tonnes harvested this year) which would be a key part of the fight against poverty.

Speaking to Manhica residents, shortly after handing over about 20 kilometres of protective dikes, rehabilitated by soldiers of Mozambican Defence Force, he said that, if the target for the 2002 harvest is met, it will bring the country much nearer to the key figure of 2.1 million tonnes of grain

Two candidates to challenge Dhlakama

Two Renamo deputies Agostinho Murriel and Manuel Pereira, have announced that they are standing for the presidency of the party, challenging the incumbent, Afonso Dhlakama.

The election is to take place during the Renamo Congress that opens on 29 October in the northern city of Nampula.

The head of the Renamo office organising the congress, Jose de Castro, said that this was in line with this openness that at the last minute, Murriel and Pereira submitted their candidacies for the leadership of the party.

Some analysts think that these candidacies are not serious, but are merely a fig leaf to make unwary observers believe that there is democracy within Renamo.

Castro said that the winner of the inner-party election will also be the Renamo candidate for the next presidential elections in the country, due in 2004.

He said that, in addition to the party president, the congress will elect a 60 member National Council. This body will hold its first meeting during the congress, to elect members of the National Political Commission and the party's secretary general.

All registered political parties, including the ruling Frelimo party, have been invited to the congress, and an international observer, whom he said would be appointed by the French Embassy.

Renamo deputy suspended

Renamo's Jose Lopes has been barred from taking part in any political activities within his party, allegedly because he is connected with Raul Domingos, once the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, who was expelled from the party last year.

Lopes claimed that, during a meeting of the Renamo leadership recently he was invited to leave the room as he was no longer welcome.

"Shortly after the start of the meeting, a senior Renamo member approached me and invited me to abandon the meeting, allegedly because the party's leadership had reports according to which I was related to IDAPE", he said - IDAPE is the Democratic Institute for Peace and Development, an NGO founded by Raul Domingos, which is regarded in some quarters as the embryo of a new opposition force.

Lopes said he still shares Renamo's ideals, but that has nothing to do with his friendship with Domingos, which he acknowledged. "IDAPE is an institute, which does not present any political ideology, and Renamo's statutes do not prevent any member from joining any institute or association he may choose", he added.

Lopes joined Renamo in 1992, following the signing of the General Peace Accord between Renamo and the government. He was elected to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Renamo's ticket for the northern province of Nampula.

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