A court in the northern province of Cabo Delgado on 7 January sentenced 14 members and supporters of Renamo to between three months and eight years imprisonment for their part in the riots of 9 November 2000 in the town of Montepuez. The presiding judge, Alfredo Phiri, found the case against a further 14 detainees unproven, and acquitted them.
Renamo organised demonstrations, described by the authorities as illegal, across the country on 9 November 2000. In several towns and cities the demonstrations degenerated into clashes between Renamo and the police, in which at least 41 people lost their lives.
The worst violence was in Montepuez, where Renamo staged a mini-insurrection, occupying public buildings, raiding the police armoury, and releasing prisoners from the local jail. 21 civilians and seven policemen died during these bloody events. In a particularly gruesome touch, the demonstrators hacked off the penis of one policeman. The charges against the 14, according to the report on the trial on Radio Mozambique, included armed rebellion, disobedience to the legally established authorities, the illegal occupation of buildings, as well as participation in the murder and mutilation of policemen.
Seven of the accused were sentenced to three month terms, two (including the only woman found guilty, Rita Antonio) to two years, one to three years, one to four years, and three to eight years.
The sentences were relatively light, because those regarded as the ringleaders had been tried in May 2001. At this trial five people were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment (four others were sentenced to three months, two were acquitted, and the prosecution dropped the charges against a further five).
On 7 January, Judge Phiri said it had been proven that the 14 "in response to orders from their superiors took part in the demonstration and, out of a spirit of revenge, confronted the Montepuez district police".
The demonstrators had occupied the police station, seizing the weapons they found there, which they distributed among themselves and then seized control of the town.
But Judge Phiri accepted that the responsibility of the leaders of the riot was much more serious than that of their followers. The 14 thus benefited from several attenuating circumstances - they were merely executing other people's plans, and some of them had joined the demonstration without being aware of its purpose.
Meanwhile, the Public Prosecutor's Office is trying to reopen the case against Montepuez police officers who were on duty when at least 83 detainees, arrested in the wake of the riot, died of asphyxiation in a grotesquely overcrowded police cell.
In July two policemen were sentenced to 18 and 17 years jail for the mass murder of these prisoners - but the Montepuez commander, Dahalili Sumail, was acquitted, even though survivors had claimed that the day before the mass deaths, he had entered the cell waving a pistol and telling the inmates "None of you will leave here alive".
Cabo Delgado chief attorney, Beatriz Buchili, has said she is considering, in the light of fresh evidence, charging several other Montepuez police officers who were not in the original trial.
The Mozambican government, with the support of the World Wildlife Fund, is to shortly request the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to proclaim the Bazaruto National Park in Inhambane province as a World Heritage Site owing to its historical, cultural and touristic value.
The paperwork is almost complete, and the government will shortly submit the request to UNESCO, a source at the Environmental Coordination Ministry told AIM.
Bazaruto was upgraded to a National Park only two months ago, and currently the WWF is seeking funding and ways to sustainably manage it with the involvement of the population and private sector in order to reduce dependence to donations. There is a $2.5 million five-year programme for Bazaruto which include activities such as strengthening of the management capacity, the strengthening of the capacity of the local leaders and other stakeholders.
The plan also includes creating conditions for the local community in order to be able to develop their capacity to better manage natural resources. Bazaruto has an enviable rich biodiversity comprising marine and forestry resources, as well as rare species such dugongs.
It is hoped that after five years the park would be financially sustainable, and its finances would be derived from tourist fees and taxes from the local hotels.
Another hotel was opened at Bazaruto a month ago, and there are already complaints that there are one too many, and more could be on the way, prompting fears that this could cause damages to the eco-system.
Not so, thought Antonio Reina of the Wildlife Endangered Foundation. "I don't think that there'll be a proliferation of hotels. The 1995 legislation in Mozambique, specifically the National Tourism Policy, states clearly that there must not be more hotels or tourist resorts in Bazaruto" "Tourism resorts are to be built in the mainland and the archipelago is for day-time tourism. Consequently, people visit and go back to the mainland, and I think that the current National Tourism Policy also states the same thing, our management plan states the same and thus I don't think that there'll be more tourist resorts".
He added that this was an issue open for discussion since there are other issues at stake, he said, adding that at the end of the day it was a matter of finding the most sustainable way to exploit the resources.
"It's difficult to find the correct balance, that is to say what can be done and what cannot, and that will always be an ongoing discussion because there'll be people who'll say one more hotel would do or we could do this or that, but for environmentalists, we've now reached an equilibrium level, and we need some five or 10 years to see to what extent things work out", stressed Reina.
The health directorate in the southern province of Gaza has introduced new measures aimed at boosting the capacity of the provincial hospital to treat patients suffering from malaria, which is one of the main causes of mortality in the country. One of the measures is the establishment of more wards for the treatment of malaria patients, where the medical staff would have more time to deal with the cases.
Another measure will be to shift patients suffering from tuberculosis from the provincial hospital in Xai-Xai, the provincial capital, to the rural hospital of Chicumbane, some 10 kilometres away. It is thought that this will enable the hospital to accommodate more malaria cases. Currently, the medical staff at the hospital treats 200 malaria patients a day.
Mosquitoes have found a breeding ground in the many puddles and swamps around Xai-Xai, which were mostly caused by the floods that overwhelmed the town in 2000. One possible measure to eliminate mosquitoes would be to spray the puddles and swamps, but this is not happening due to lack of funds.
Maputo Central Hospital plans to shortly open two more wards to deal exclusively with patients suffering from malaria, which remains one of the main causes of mortality in the country.
The hospital's clinical director, Iacub Omar, told AIM that each ward will be able to accommodate up to 50 people. One will be opened in the paediatric section of the hospital, while the second will be for adults.
The hospital is converting areas that were underused into the two new wards, in an attempt to relieve pressure on the existing wards, which have become overcrowded due mainly to an influx of malaria patients.
Omar said the situation has become very worrying with the hospital forced to put two patients to a bed, while others have had to sleep on sheets on the floor. He blamed this crisis exclusively on malaria: over 50 per cent of all those admitted to the hospital are suffering from malaria.
A growing problem is the resistance of the malaria parasite to the main drugs used, such as chloroquine and fansidar. The Maputo Central Hospital has now become the only health unit in the country to use a new anti-malarial drug, Artimisinine - even though its use has not yet been officially authorised by the Health Ministry's epidemiology department.
According to the Maputo city Health Director, Olivia Ferreira, in 2001 there were 282,571 cases of malaria notified in Maputo, and 1,226 people died of the disease. This is a lethality rate of 0.4 per cent - which is better than the national malaria lethality rate of 0.7 per cent.
Ferreira said that the current upsurge in malaria cases "is frightening, but fortunately we have enough medicines to respond to the situation. Our major concern right now is the number of beds, which is not sufficient to meet the demand".
The rise in the number of malaria cases is also putting the blood bank in the Central Hospital under pressure. Malaria can lead to severe anaemia, particularly in children, necessitating blood transfusions.
According to the director of the blood bank, Joel Samo Gudo, the shortage of blood stocks means that only 90 per cent of the daily requests for blood can be met.
The hospital has repeatedly called on more citizens to come forward to donate blood - its main hope is that when the school year resumes on 21 January, it will able to recruit pupils en masse to give blood, and build up the stocks again.
The northern province of Nampula is expected to produce 2.5 million tonnes of foodstuffs in the 2001/2002 crop year, an increase of eight percent over the 2000/2001 production of 2.3 million tonnes, according to a source in the provincial agriculture directorate.
Over 85 per cent of this production will be cassava, the staple food for the province's estimated three million population.
Carlos Mugoma, the Nampula provincial director of agriculture, told AIM that other agricultural products of importance are maize, accounting for four per cent, and millet (2.7 per cent). The province also produces groundnuts, while the main cash crops grown are cashew nuts and cotton.
The plan for this year envisages planting on a million hectares as against 931,244 hectares planned in the previous campaign. In fact, in the 2000/2001 crop year, only 752,687 hectares were used - this was mainly due to either early, insufficient or excessive rainfall which affected planting.
Mugoma said that most of the province is not at any risk of food shortages. The exceptions are six coastal districts, namely Memba, Nacala-a-Velha, Nacala-Port, Mozambique Island, Mossuril and Mogincual, which frequently face such shortages.
Mugoma thought that the situation in these districts is caused by poor agro-ecological conditions, by inadequate rains, and by a disease that affects cassava - it is said to have struck at about 80 per cent of the planted area.
Efforts are underway for the planting of new cashew trees and the chemical treatment of the existing trees in order to increase production. Thus the authorities intend to increase the planting of new cashew saplings from the current figure of 500,000 to 1.5 million a year. Nampula is the main producer of cashew, accounting for about 80 per cent of the total Mozambican cashew orchard.
Colonel Dinis Moiane, a prominent figure in Mozambique's war for independence, died on 7 January in Maputo Central Hospital, just two days short of his 65th birthday, according to a release from the Ministry for Veterans' Affairs.
Moiane was born in Maputo on 9 January 1937. When he was 26 years old, he slipped out of the country into Tanzania where he joined the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) in August 1963.
He was one of the third group of Frelimo guerrilla fighters to be trained in Algeria, where he specialised in communications.
On his return to Tanzania, he became a military instructor at the Frelimo camp at Kongwa, and later became the commander of the camp.
During the war, he fought in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where he was prominent in the resistance to the "Gordian Knot" offensive, the largest operation launched by the Portuguese colonial army in Mozambique.
In the early 1970s, Moiane received further training in the Soviet Union, specialising in urban guerrilla warfare.
After independence, Moiane commanded politico-military training centres at Boane, Manhica and Montepuez, and finally the National Sergeants' Training School.
In 1988, he left active service and went onto the reserve list. From 1988 to 1990, he was deputy general secretary of the Association of Veterans of the Liberation War. Moiane leaves a widow and four children.
Nine newly appointed customs staff at the Machipanda border post, on the frontier with Zimbabwe, have been suspended and are facing disciplinary proceedings in connection with their alleged involvement in corruption, according to the Manica provincial governor, Soares Nhaca, cited in "Noticias" on 4 January.
The nine staff had only been sent to Machipanda about six months ago, as part of a shake-up in which every serving customs officer at this border post was removed.
The result of the shake-up was a sharp increase in the amount of duties and taxes collected at Machipanda, which rose from an average of three to four billion meticais a month to over nine billion meticais (over $390,000) a month.
But the stigma of corruption has returned to Machipanda: Nhaca remarked that corruption among customs staff at this post had become "chronic".
It was difficult to combat, he said, because large sums of money are paid every day, and dishonest staff do not hesitate to cream off some of this for their own pockets.
Nhaca promised that he would carry the struggle against corruption to all social and economic sectors in the province, and urged the community to support the anti-corruption drive by denouncing all acts of corruption they become aware of.
The number of cases of cholera notified in the central province of Zambezia has undergone a significant decline according to a report in "Noticias" on 3 January.
According to data provided by the Zambezia provincial chief doctor, Leonardo Chavana, from the start of the outbreak, on 28 August, up to 1 January, 4,443 people were diagnosed with the disease, of whom 69 died.
The provincial capital, Quelimane, had the largest number of cases, 1,957, but since most of these could be rapidly treated, only 11 people died in the city.
The heaviest death toll, 18, was in Milange district, on the border with Malawi. Chavana attributed this to the poor coverage of Milange by the health service.
The number of new cases of cholera has dropped to an average of five a day in Quelimane, and three to five a day in Milange.
Chavana said that the cholera situation was still a matter of concern in Nicoadala and Chinde districts.
Meanwhile in Tete province, where an outbreak of cholera began in December, the disease is not yet under control. Here there have been 524 diagnosed cases, and ten deaths.
The disease is also spreading across the northern province of Nampula, and there are fears that it will also reach Cabo Delgado province.
Poachers from Tanzania and Somalia have infiltrated the northern province of Cabo Delgado where they are attacking the province's rich wild life, particularly its elephants.
A source in the Cabo Delgado provincial government told AIM that large numbers of Tanzanian and Somali poachers slip over the river Rovuma, which marks the border between Tanzania and Mozambique, taking advantage of the almost total absence of border controls. Some of the poachers first enter Niassa province, and then cross the Lugenda river into Cabo Delgado.
Game wardens in Cabo Delgado are no match for the poachers who, according to the government source, are heavily armed. "In the frontier regions, the situation is alarming. The poachers are decimating the animals", said AIM's source. The number of game wardens available is derisory. The frontier districts of Mueda and Palma have one warden each. Not only are these wardens insufficiently armed, but they do not possess any vehicles.
To date, none of the foreign poachers have been arrested "precisely because they are armed and our wardens are not", said the source. He called for close cooperation between the provincial directorate of agriculture (responsible for wild life), and the customs and immigration services "in order to staunch these illegal activities".
As for protecting Cabo Delgado's marine resources, the local Maritime Administration has just one boat used to patrol the coast. The agriculture directorate, the frontier guards, and the fisheries department have formed a joint command to inspect fisheries activities.
But so far this has not prevented the slaughter of protected species such as turtles. Turtle meat can be found on sale at beaches near the provincial capital, Pemba.
The provincial government source said that on occasion the authorities have swooped, and confiscated both the meat, and the turtle shells.
The authorities believe that the transformation of the Quirimba Archipelago into a national park later this year will help in protecting natural resources, since the park will be jointly managed by the state, private operators, and local communities.
The park will include the 11 islands in the archipelago and their surrounding waters, and a large strip of sparsely populated coastal forest on the mainland, rich in wildlife.
The general secretary of Frelimo, Manuel Tome, has praised President Joaquim Chissano's decision not to seek a further term of office as expressing "the human grandeur of a great statesman".
President Chissano first told the Frelimo Central Committee in May that he did not wish to be the party's candidate in the 2004 general elections. Attempts to persuade him to change his mind came to nothing, and last month the Central Committee accepted President Chissano's decision.
Interviewed in "Noticias" on 2 January, Tome said President Chissano had shown "political wisdom in terms of vision and strategy for the country". The President, he added, intended to ensure stability in the succession, "so that his successor can continue to work for progress".
Tome thought that Frelimo members should take President Chissano's decision "very calmly", and remember that Chissano would continue to be head of state for the next three years, in which "he will continue to dedicate himself to the building of a prosperous Mozambique".
The 15 member Frelimo Political Commission would now draw up "profiles" containing the requirements that candidates for the succession should meet. These would be put to the approval of the new Central Committee that will be elected by the next Frelimo Congress, due to be held in June.
Last month, the independent newsheet "Metical" claimed that the Political Committee has already decided that the current chairman of the Mozambican parliament, Eduardo Mulembue, should succeed Chissano.
But Tome denied that any decision has been taken. "For now, everything that can be said about the successor of President Chissano is pure speculation", he said. "At the right time, we will know how to present the candidate. The Central Committee will decide on the basis of two or more proposals".
Tome put the current membership of Frelimo at 1.3 million.
He added that the forthcoming congress will be key to drawing up a party programme for the next five years, and for preparations for the municipal elections of 2003, and the general elections of 2004.
Those preparations had already started, he added, recalling that, immediately after victory in the 1999 elections, President Chissano had declared that preparing for the next elections was starting straightaway.
The Mozambican authorities have called for the permanent monitoring of the country's main river basins in view of the excessively humidity of the soils, following two successive years of flooding.
The director of Mozambique's relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), Silvano Langa, said on 7 January that this follows warnings of a strong probability of "normal" or "above normal" rainfall throughout the country. Even "normal" rainfall could provoke flooding when the soil is saturated, and can absorb no more water. The situation is made more worrying by the fact that most of Mozambique's major rivers rise in neighbouring countries where the local dams are said to be almost full to capacity.
Langa said that a delegation of the Disaster Management Technical Council is to visit Zimbabwe next week in order to find out the activities being undertaken to mitigate the probable impact of floods in the region.
The delegation is to visit the Kariba dam on the Zambezi river. Coordination between Kariba and the Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique is crucial for flood management in the Zambezi valley.
Mozambique currently possesses reserves of 8,421 tonnes of food to be used in the event of any natural disaster during this rainy season - most of the food is grain. According to data from the INGC, 1,798 tonnes of maize, and 5,483 tonnes of rice are available - which is sufficient to feed 485,450 people for 30 days.
Also available, according to figures published in the government's Contingency Plan for the 2001/2002 rainy season, are 341 tonnes of beans, 344 tonnes of vegetable oil, 128 tonnes of iodised salt, 46 tonnes of sugar, and 281 tonnes of assorted other foodstuffs.
As for the logistics that would be required in the event of any rescue or relief operations, the contingency plan states that 189 boats are available (not including the resources of the Mozambican navy, and of certain other organisations). Any relief effort could also count on 188 trucks, 76 light vehicles, and 41 tractors. Other equipment that the INGC already has in place includes 13 emergency generators, 112 water pumps, and 716 tents.
The food, the boats and vehicles, the relief goods and supplies of medicines have been pre-positioned in strategic places, so that they can be put to immediate use in the event of flooding or other natural disasters.
Also available, left over from the 2001 relief effort for flood victims in the centre of the country, are 31,810 blankets, 695 bundles of clothing and 859 cooking kits, all currently stored in Tete province.
The contingency plan estimates that Mozambique would need rather more than $40.5 million to face the worst-case scenario - in which during this year parts of the country are flooded, other areas face drought, and cyclones sweep in from the Mozambique Channel.
The government admits that a "vast and simultaneous" occurrence of three different types of natural disaster is unlikely, but thinks it necessary to draw up a cost estimate for the worst case. This disaster budget is 35 per cent lower than the one drawn up for the 2000/2001 rainy season. This reduction, the contingency plan states, "reflects the effectiveness of the prevention measures under way, including the population resettlement the government has undertaken with the support of its partners".
This immediate relief budget breaks down into $23.4 million to cope with floods, $7.4 million to deal with cyclones, and $9.8 million for any drought affected areas.
The government estimates that 1.6 million people are at risk from flooding, 1.3 million would be vulnerable to cyclones, and 834,000 would need assistance in the event of drought.
The contingency plan envisages a series of activities to be undertaken if disaster does indeed strike for the third year running, and lists the basic needs in terms of food, medicines, logistics and other items indispensable for humanitarian relief.
A recent study undertaken by the consultancy firm ITC-International argues that a proposed new railway in the southern province of Gaza will be a major stimulus to development in the districts of Chibuto, Guija and Chokwe, reported "Noticias" on 2 January.
The idea is for a line running from Macarretane, on the existing Maputo-Zimbabwe railway, to Chibuto, a distance of about 80 kilometres.
The main purpose of the railway would be to move the minerals that will be mined by the Corridor Sands projects at Chibuto. There are large deposits of ilemite at Chibuto, from which titanium, zirconium and ruthenium can be obtained.
The building of the railway is not yet certain. Corridor Sands is studying other possibilities - such as moving the minerals by road to Macarretane, or all the way to Maputo, or even building a new mineral port near the Gaza provincial capital, Xai-Xai.
Samuel Matsule, manager of the Maputo Corridor Programme, which ordered the ITC-International study, said he did not know which transport option Corridor Sands would eventually choose - "but we ordered a study in order to discuss the economic and social benefits, and the investment opportunities that would be born from this proposed railway".
ITC-International thought that, despite the initial capital costs, the new railway had advantages over the other options.
Although the railway would not make economic sense without Corridor Sands, once it was built it would have an impact on other areas, providing an easy way of moving the agricultural surpluses generated in the area.
The study noted that the railway will create employment, first in the construction phase, and later in maintaining and operating the line. It would lead to the opening of more tertiary roads, and create links with tourism in Gaza, and with agricultural and livestock production.
Matsule did not say how much the new line would cost - but initial calculations made in 2000 pointed towards an initial investment of $54 million.
Cases of African swine fever have, so far, been reported in the districts of Malema and Ribaue and on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Nampula city.
The authorities explain that slaughter is being recommended because disinfection in most of the peasant farming sector is ineffective because rural pigsties have dirt floors which absorb the disinfectant. Peasant farmers in affected areas are thus being told to slaughter their pigs and consume or sell the meat immediately.
The virus that causes the disease is found in ticks that feed on the pigs. The ticks can hide in cracks in pigsty walls. Once the pigs are slaughtered the ticks left in the sties will starve to death.
The first case of African swine fever in Mozambique was reported in 1964, and since then it has been found in Tete and Zambezia provinces. The Nampula provincial livestock services have, so far, reported the deaths of about 5,000 pigs due to the disease.
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