The Norwegian branch of the international NGO Save The Children has urged Mozambican businessman Nhimpine Chissano, son of President Joaquim Chissano, to drop his libel case against journalist Marcelo Mosse, and the now defunct daily newsheet "Metical".
"Metical" was owned and edited by Mozambique's best known journalist, Carlos Cardoso. When he was assassinated in November 2000, ownership of the paper passed into the hands of his two children, Ibo (now aged 12) and Milena (aged six).
If successful, Chissano Jr's libel suit could send Mosse to jail, and could ruin the Cardoso family, since the libel damages he is claiming amount to about $78,000.
Norwegian institutions are watching the case carefully, since Cardoso's widow, Nina Berg, is Norwegian, and the two children also hold Norwegian citizenship.
The Save the Children representative in Maputo, Helen Andersson Novela, wrote in her letter that Cardoso's children could not be blamed for the articles that angered Nhimpine Chissano. She acknowledged that all citizens have the right to resort to the courts to restore their good name, but urged Nhimpine to abandon the law suit.
"We know that it is not your intention to damage the two children", she wrote, "and we therefore expressly request you to gave up your claim for damages against ''Metical'' for the good of the innocent owners".
Although the libel case, originally scheduled to be heard on 21 January, has been postponed to 11 March, letters continue to arrive on government computers and fax machines, urging the government to use its good offices to persuade Chissano Jr to drop the case.
Canadian doctor George Povey, who worked in Mozambique for many years, wrote to Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi as "an old friend and colleague", recalling the time they had spent together when Mocumbi was a doctor in Beira in 1978, and their joint authorship of manuals on obstetrics and midwifery.
"Like so many of us who consider ourselves friends of Mozambique, including many who have given years of our lives in its service, I am appalled at and bewildered by these events", wrote Povey. "I must add my voice to the many that hope you will exercise your considerable influence with President Chissano and his associates to end a cruel and unjustified persecution of the survivors of the abominable assassination of a noble journalist".
Dick Urban Vestbro, a founder member of the Africa Groups of Sweden, and one of the first westerners to interview Samora Machel (in July 1969), expressed "deep concern" at the libel case.
He warned Mocumbi that "serious damage is being done to the country's image", and urged that "the alleged murderers be brought to trial as soon as possible, and any case against the innocent Cardoso children dropped".
American journalist Stephanie Urdang, author of the book "And Still they Dance: Women, War and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique", wrote that she had known Cardoso personally and regarded him as "a very brave journalist, a Mozambican hero who was killed in the line of duty while trying to keep alive the spirit of the revolution that promised a better future for all".
Urdang recalled how she had always found Mozambicans regarding children as "the hope of the future", and urged that the case against Cardoso's children be "suspended altogether".
By now hundreds of letters from across the globe have poured in to the government, all urging it to persuade Nhimpine Chissano not to proceed with the libel suit.
About 20,000 victims of last year's floods in central Mozambique are going hungry because of the theft of the World Food Programme (WFP) rice that was intended to feed them, reports "Noticias" on 28 January.
The flood victims are currently living in the temporary resettlement centre of Chupanga, in the district of Marromeu.
The World Food Programme hired transport operator Ismael Banoo to move 55 tonnes of rice from the port of Beira to Chupanga on 19 December. A week later, Banoo told the police that the two Mercedes- Benz trucks used had been ambushed and looted by unknown assailants armed with machetes.
But when the police questioned the drivers of the two trucks, they confessed that they had gone nowhere near Marromeu. They had simply driven down the Beira-Zimbabwe highway into Manica province, where the Banoo family owns a series of shops, and it was here that the rice was offloaded.
According to the head of WFP logistics in Beira, Samson Mabasso, some of the stolen rice was found in Banoo warehouses in the Manica provincial capital, Chimoio, and in the town of Gondola, where it was being sold.
Currently Ismael Banoo, and two of his sons, Zacor Ismael Banoo and Irshed Ismael Banoo, are detained in the Beira police cells.
The Mozambican government and the Irish company Kenmare Resources on 21 January signed two agreements to regulate the mining and processing of titanium ores in the northern province of Nampula.
One agreement is a mining licence contract, covering the extraction of minerals by Kenmare's local subsidiary, Kenmare Moma Mining Ltd. The second is an implementation agreement, which establishes an Industrial Free Zone in the coastal district of Moma, and covers the processing of the heavy mineral concentrate into separate minerals, and their subsequent sale and export.
Signing the agreements were the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, and the Financial Director of Kenmare, Tony McCluskey.
Kenmare has been working in Nampula province since 1987 to determine the extent of mineral sands deposits. The Namalope- Topuito area in Moma was identified as possessing sufficiently high quality deposits of titanium bearing ores for development.
The project involves the "dredge mining" of the titanium bearing sands: a floating concentrator plant will take the dredged material produce a heavy mineral concentrate, and then separate it into final products (the ores ilmenite, rutile and zircon) for export.
When the project is at full production, it is expected to export over 600,000 tonnes of ilmenite per year, plus another 35,000 tonnes or so of rutile and zircon. Ilmenite and rutile can be refined further into pure titanium, and are also used in the pigment industry. Zircon is used in ceramics, foundry and refractory applications.
Kenmare puts the value of these exports at about $70 million a year.
Power for the mining and processing will be provided by a new line to be built from Nampula city. This 170 kilometre transmission line will provide 20 megawatts of power, drawn from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi, exclusively for use by Kenmare. The line will cost some $12 million.
Langa told reporters that the project would create some 450 jobs when in production (and more in the construction phase). It would provide a great impetus for the development of the Moma region, since "many other activities will arise to service the mining project".
The next stage is to arrange the funding. Total investment is put at about $250 million, of which Kenmare has already spent $60 million from its own funds, particularly in buying plant and equipment, largely from Australia.
The remaining $190 million must be raised from Kenmare shareholders, and from lending institutions. McCluskey said that the British firm N.M. Rothschilds has been appointed as financial advisor to the project, and has been handling relations with the banks. It has drawn up a short list of about 12 lending institutions, who are likely to finance the Moma project.
It would then take 18 months to bring the project into production - so that titanium ores could be exported from Moma in 2004.
The Moma mineral sand deposits are not as large as those at Chibuto in the southern province of Gaza. But they are purer and easier to work, necessitating less initial investment.
The Mozambican government has admitted that, with the bankruptcy of the US energy company Enron, there is a serious risk that the projected Maputo Iron and Steel Project (MISP) will not be built.
MISP was to have been a factory on the outskirts of Maputo producing two million tonnes of steel slabs a year. It would have used iron ore (magnetite) from South Africa, and natural gas from the southern Mozambican province of Inhambane. For Mozambique the great advantage of MISP was that it provided a market inside Mozambique for the vast quantities of natural gas in the Inhambane fields of Pande and Temane. Without MISP, most of the gas will simply be exported to South Africa, for use in the chemical plants of the South African company SASOL.
MISP was Enron's project, and Enron was the only confirmed shareholder. Enron intended to hold 50 per cent of the equity in MISP, and recruit other companies to subscribe the other 50 per cent. After Enron went bankrupt in December, no other company has expressed an interest in MISP.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy told AIM "Enron's bankruptcy compromises the government's hopes that another large scale industry would be set up in the country, which would, among other things, have made possible the creation of more jobs".
No doubt Enron is in breach of its agreements with the Mozambican government, but it is hard to see what compensation the government can expect, now that Enron shares are virtually worthless, its debts are far in excess of its assets, and the company's unorthodox, and possibly criminal behaviour, is under US congressional scrutiny.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) and the Mozambican government have signed a financing contract to support the Mozambican state's participation as a shareholder in the expansion of the MOZAL aluminium smelter.
This grants Mozambique a loan of 20 million euros (about $17.6 million) which will allow the Mozambican state to maintain its position as holding 3.4 per cent of the equity in MOZAL, even after the current plans to double the size of the smelter are implemented.
This is the third EIB loan connected with MOZAL. The EIB supported the Mozambican state's initial participation in the first phase of MOZAL, with a loan of 19 million euros, and also provided a direct loan to MOZAL for 38 million euros.
In 2001 the EIB signed two other Mozambican loans. One was to set up a risk capital fund, known as FICREM-1, to the tune of three million euros, while the second was a loan of a million euros to the publicly-owned electricity company, EDM, for a study on alternatives for supplying energy to the central city of Beira and the surrounding area.
Also in 2001, under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative, the European Union cancelled 19.8 million dollars of debt owed by Mozambique to the EIB.
The police commander in the district of Caia, in the central province of Sofala, Joaquim Paunde, has been suspended from duty, following allegations of abuse of authority.
The Beira daily "Diario de Mocambique" on 29 January reported that Paunde was suspended in December following complaints against him by Caia residents, including some business people.
The head of public relations in the Sofala provincial police command, Raul Magaica, said investigations were under way, not only into the allegations against Paunde, but also those against a Caia traffic policeman, named only as Gama.
"Diario de Mocambique" also reported that Pedro Teze, the 18 year old son of the Caia district administrator, Antonio Teze, is likely to face a court case following accusations that he physically attacked, and threatened to kill, the director of the local secondary school, Goncalves Jofinal.
Jofinal told "Diario de Mocambique" that Teze had been excluded from science classes last year. "He was excluded because, according to those who taught him, he didn't know anything", said Jofinal. "But because I'm the school director, I'm the one who suffers".
The Beira paper also reported that the Sofala provincial governor, Felicio Zacarias, has sacked four state officials, including a district director, for theft and corruption.
The Cheringoma district health director, Alberto Bauaze was sacked over the disappearance of 90 million meticais (about $3,380) of funds donated by the European NGO "Terre des Hommes", and hygiene products valued at over six million meticais.
A worker in the Beira tax department, Jose Waene, was sacked for extortion. He was accused of extorting 17.2 million meticais from people being sued for tax offences.
Fernando Bernardo, who worked in the administration of Dondo district, 30 kilometres outside Beira, lost his job after he collected 79.9 million meticais in taxes, but failed to deposit them in the state coffers. He is also accused of stealing 42 million meticais intended for the Dondo District Agriculture Directorate.
Perhaps the worst offence of which Bernardo stands accused is the theft of 61.2 million meticais intended for the pension and social security funds of the Dondo administration civil servants.
The fourth official sacked, Bernardo Filipe Junior, was a teacher in the secondary school in Gorongosa District, who attempted, by fraudulent means, to ensure that two external students passed an English exam (the implication is that Junior took a bribe to replace the original exam with a different, and easier, one).
The Mozambican government and the European Commission have signed a memorandum of understanding for the provision of 25.2 million euros (about $21.8 million) for a food security programme covering the period 2000-2002. The money is in direct budget support to be channelled through the Finance Ministry over the coming three years.
The sectors that are to benefit from this support are the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the National Meteorology Institute.
It will pay for "priority activities in the public sector consistent with the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA)".
The Danish International Development Agency (Danida) is likely to disburse about $900,000 intended to support an electrification programme in the districts of Massinga and Morrumbene in the southern province of Inhambane.
Danida and the publicly-owned electricity company EDM are to sign an agreement within two months to formalise this intention, which will bring power from the Cahora Bassa dam in the western province of Tete to the districts.
The two districts are currently powered by expensive and obsolete oil-fired generators.
Two other districts in the province, namely Inharrime and Quissico, are likely to benefit from another electrification project financed by the African Development Bank (ADB).
Health Ministry brigades on 23 January concluded spraying the main drainage channels of Maputo City with insecticide, in an attempt to kill off mosquito larvae, and reduce the incidence of malaria in the city.
The drainage channels run through the suburbs of Mafalala, Maxaquene, Urbanizacao, Mavalane, Xipamanine and Jardim: they are poorly maintained, and stagnant water often accumulates there.
Adelino Francisco, the Maputo health official in charge of the spraying programme, told the daily paper "Noticias", that the next step is to move into the outlying suburbs of Luis Cabral, Polana-Canico and Magoanine, and deal with swamps left behind by recent heavy rainfall, which are ideal mosquito breeding grounds.
Francisco said that during the days, the health brigades try to eliminate mosquito larvae, and in the evenings they use a different insecticide to spray homes and yards, to kill off adult mosquitoes. The nocturnal spraying has been under way since 16 January.
Spraying is also underway in the central province of Sofala, where 182 people are known to have died of malaria last year ("Noticias" puts the total number of Sofala malaria cases in 2001 at 250,000). In other provinces, such as Inhambane, Gaza and Zambezia, preparatory work is under way before starting the spraying.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Francisco Songane has complained that the campaign is less effective that it should be, because of delays in the World Bank releasing the promised funds to support the operation.
Songane said that the lethality rate from malaria in Mozambique was relatively low, at 0.4 per cent. "This is only possible thanks to the enormous personal and professional dedication of health workers, who work long hours every day, and decline to take their holidays, in order to ensure the success we are having in treating known cases of malaria", he added.
The MOZAL aluminium smelter at Beluluane, 17 kilometres from central Maputo, is financing the expansion and rehabilitation of the Maputo Provincial Police Command, in the city of Matola.
The project is being run by the MOZAL Community Development Foundation, and has already completed two buildings that will house the command's administrative staff.
Currently the main building of the Police Command is being rehabilitated - for the first time since Mozambican independence in 1975.
The spokesman for the provincial command, Joao Machava, told AIM that the project will improve working conditions for the police. It will bring under one roof various departments that are currently physically separated from the main command, in several Matola police stations.
This is not the first time that MOZAL has financed improvements for the local police force. Last year, the smelter funded an entirely new police station at Beluluane: people living in this area no longer have to walk several kilometres every time they need to contact the police.
MOZAL also purchased furniture for the Beluluane station, and provided it with four vehicles.
The Maputo City Court on 24 January sentenced a Tanzanian citizen, who currently calls himself Hassan Abdul, to nine years imprisonment for a series of crimes including car theft and falsification of documents.
This is not Hassan's first court appearance. In November 1996, after persistent reports that a certain "Hassan" was deeply involved in the drugs trade in Maputo, and that he had been present at the opening of a container seized by the police containing 40 tonnes of the drug hashish, he was subpoenaed to appear at the trial of Samssudine Satar, the man who drove the truck carrying the container.
Hassan was said to be protected by the police, and to be a close friend of senior police officers, including the then head of operations of the Maputo police command, Nito Augusto.
His lawyer now has eight days to prepare the appeal, explaining why he disagrees with the court's decision. The appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court.
The use of child labour is spiralling out of control in Mozambique, which has yet to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on the issue, according to the country's largest trade union federation, the Mozambican Workers Organisation (OTM).
The OTM notes that the major employer of children is the informal sector, and it is here that the country's laws on child labour are entirely disregarded.
Samuel Matsinhe of the OTM described the labour conditions to which children are subjected as "extremely worrying".
Speaking in Maputo at the opening of a seminar on child labour, Matsinhe said that where the abuse of children is most "critical" is in the transport sector - large numbers of minors are employed as conductors, collecting fares in minibus taxis (commonly known as 'chapas').
"These children are unable to go to school. They don't have time to rest, and they don't have time to play either", he added.
Matsinhe also pointed to agriculture as another area where large numbers of children are used as cheap labour.
Matsinhe said that OTM "has always written into its programme the issue of child labour as one of its main concerns".
He urged the participants at the meeting to lobby the government to ratify the ILO Convention.
Matsinhe made clear that the OTM is not pushing for a complete ban on the employment of children. "We want ratification of the ILO Convention to be accompanied by effective action, so that where minors are employed, it is in observance of national laws", he said.
Matsinhe also called on the authorities to pass "complementary legislation that protects the specific condition of children".
At least 79 teachers died of the lethal disease AIDS in the central province of Sofala in 2001, according to a report in "Diario de Mocambique" on 22 January.
The provincial director of agriculture, Joao Ribeiro, revealed this figure at the opening of the school year on 21 January.
Ribeiro said that by far the worst hit district was Nhamatanda, where 24 teachers are known to have died from AIDS.
Sofala education official Ismael Nheze told "Diario de Mocambique" that each of the 13 districts in the province has at least five teachers known to be suffering from AIDS.
He regarded the situation as extremely serious since the province is already faced with a severe shortage of teachers.
There are about 3,000 teachers in Sofala, which comes nowhere near meeting the province's needs. Ribeiro broke taboos at the ceremony, and called for increased use of condoms. "Each one of us must either stick with one sexual partners, or use condoms in casual sexual relations, because AIDS kills, and there's no cure", he said.
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