The final figure for Mozambique's economic growth rate in 2001 is 13.9 per cent, according to figures presented by Finance Minister Luisa Diogo on 4 April. Only one per cent of this growth is accounted for by the first year of full production of the first phase of the MOZAL aluminium smelter, on the outskirts of Maputo.
There was substantial growth in most sectors: agriculture grew 10.4 per cent, manufacturing industry 16.9 per cent, construction 17.8 per cent, mining 11.8 per cent, and transport and communications by a spectacular 44.9 per cent.
The transport figure, however, is largely a result of a return to normality in the southern road and rail systems which were completely disrupted in the catastrophic floods of early 2000.
The only areas that showed negative growth were livestock, with a decline of 4.5 per cent, and restaurants and hotels with a fall of 10.4 per cent, despite the opening of several new hotels in Maputo over the last couple of years.
The sharp growth in construction results partly from work on the second phase of MOZAL (which will double the smelter's capacity), and partly from post-flood reconstruction.
The balance of trade improved dramatically in 2001. The deficit fell from $798.3 million in 2000 to $447.1 million last year as Mozambique's exports almost doubled in value from $364 million in 2000 to $703.7 million in 2001 - a rise of 93.3 per cent - due to the export of the aluminium ingots produced by MOZAL which brought in $383.5 million. Without MOZAL the growth in exports would have been only 5.4 per cent. The value of imports fell slightly, from $1,162.3 million in 2000 to $1,150.8 million in 2001.
Diogo said that the government's revised targets for 2002 include a growth rate of 12.1%, and an inflation rate from January to December of 8.1 per cent (this compares with inflation of about 21 per cent in 2001).
The Minister said the government is also determined to continue implementing policies that make investment in Mozambique an attractive proposition, and was committed to improving, in quantity and quality, the public health, education, water, supply, sanitation and road services.
Drought in southern and central Mozambique has wiped out 56,150 hectares of crops this year, affecting at least 41,500 households (over 200,000 people), according to figures from the Agriculture Ministry.
The figures were presented to representatives of foreign embassies and humanitarian agencies in Maputo on 1 April, at a meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao.
Simao also criticised some of the Mozambican media for publishing unchecked claims about deaths from hunger.
The current figures are preliminary and conservative, the head of the country's relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), Silvano Langa, told AIM. The real figure of those in need is bound to be higher: the Agriculture Ministry estimate completely omits the western province of Tete - but reports on Mozambican Television (TVM) over the past week indicate that drought is seriously affecting the southern districts of Tete.
Langa said that further government teams are out in the provinces, investigating the situation on the ground, and will bring back updated figures by mid-April.
On the Agriculture Ministry's figures, the worst-hit province is Gaza with 20,950 households in need of assistance. Almost all districts in Gaza have suffered poor rainfall and around 28,000 hectares of crops are said to be lost.
In Inhambane province, 7,050 families are affected, and in Maputo province 6,800. As for central Mozambique, the Ministry figures are 3,500 households affected in Sofala province, and 2,800 in Manica.
The meteorological information given to the meeting showed that there was plenty of rain in the first half of the rainy season. From October to December the southern provinces received above normal rainfall, and in the centre of the country rainfall was normal. Only in the fertile northern three provinces of Niassa, Cabo Delgado and Nampula was rainfall below normal.
But the critical part of the rainy season is usually from January to March, and over much of southern and central Mozambique it simply stopped raining in this period. Rainfall was normal in the north, and so a reasonable harvest is expected from the northern provinces. But in the south and centre, rainfall was way below the normal figures.
Figures from the National Water Board are in accordance with the meteorological data. They show a sharp drop in the level of the main southern rivers (the Incomati, the Umbeluzi, the Limpopo and the Save) as from January. The amount of water in the main dams has also fallen.
According to Langa, there is enough food aid already available to cater for 200,000 people for three months. But if the figures do rise substantially, much more will be needed - the government's contingency plans, drawn up last year, estimated that 800,000 people could be at risk from a serious drought. That number of people would need 144,000 tonnes over 12 months.
Simao did not ask the diplomats and donor representatives for any money. He told reporters later that the government is not issuing an emergency appeal yet - though it may do later, if the figures of those in need justify such a move.
The secretary general of Frelimo, Manuel Tome, told a press conference in Maputo on 10 April that his party is determined to break the deadlock imposed in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, by opposition party Renamo.
During the previous week, a report from a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the riots of 9 November 2000 should have been presented - but although it was Renamo that demanded the creation of the commission, and it was a chaired by a Renamo member, the Renamo parliamentary group has vowed that the report shall not be presented.
According to the commission of inquiry, the riots and their aftermath - the deaths by asphyxiation of dozens of detainees in a grotesquely overcrowded prison cell in the northern town of Montepuez - cost the lives of 123 people, The report concluded that the riots, "were designed, prepared, organised and convened by the leadership of the Renamo- Electoral Union coalition, through its President Afonso Dhlakama". It is this conclusion that Renamo objects to, and wants to keep out of the parliamentary record.
Tome recalled that the commission of inquiry, chaired by prominent Renamo member, Vicente Ululu, started work in December 2000, following a consensus on the working methods and all relevant aspects, and had its report completed and handed to the parliament by December 2001.
The document was not discussed then because Renamo requested more time to study it, thus postponing the debate to the present session. The plenary, without any objection from Renamo, scheduled the debate for 3 April.
The report was signed by all but one of the seven member commission, including Ululu himself, but now Renamo was refusing to have the report read out and debated.
Tome said that Renamo was preventing not only Ululu, but also the commission's rapporteur, Frelimo deputy Acucena Duarte, from presenting the report. It had threatened violence and "a parliamentary crisis" if the document is read out.
Commenting on Renamo's belligerent noises, Tome noted that it is Renamo's practice "to present themselves, sometimes as victims, thinking that they will attract sympathy, and at other times they issue threats, in order to cause a sensation".
As for the fact that the discussions over whether the report should be read out or not are taking place behind closed doors, with the press shut out, Tome explained that this was imposed by the parliamentary standing orders which dictate that the Assembly must go into closed session to hear any report from a commission of inquiry.
"The Frelimo group does not fear the presence of reporters", said Tome. but this "would require a consensus between the Frelimo and Renamo parliamentary groups". This has not been forthcoming with Renamo taking a hostile attitude towards reporters covering the Assembly.
Explaining the need to push for the presentation and debate of the report, Tome pointed out that "Mozambican citizens should not, in a matter of national interest, be hostages to the will of the Renamo leadership". But despite Tome's brave words, Renamo was successful in avoiding any presentation or debate of the report on 10 April.
The Assembly descended into chaos as members of Renamo seized control of the rostrum, physically preventing anyone else from speaking.
On 3 and 4 April and last week, Ululu refused to read the report, and instead tried to introduce a separate document, of his own authorship, which had not been agreed with the other members of the Commission of Inquiry. The majority Frelimo Party rejected this and demanded that the real report be presented.
For two days Frelimo tried, and failed, to break the impasse. Meetings behind closed doors were held at which the leadership of the Frelimo parliamentary group argued with their Renamo opposite numbers, or at which parliamentary chairman Eduardo Mulembue tried to persuade Renamo to behave reasonably.
All to no avail. Renamo members openly boasted to the press that the report would "never" be presented to the Assembly.
So on 10 April Mulembue put the matter to a vote - since Ululu refused to present the report, the Assembly was asked to authorise the commission's rapporteur, Frelimo deputy Acucena Duarte, to do so. As Mulembue struggled to take the vote, the Renamo deputies set up an ear-shattering din.
They shouted and jeered, banged on the tables, and blew whistles. But eventually Mulembue did indeed take the vote. The Frelimo parliamentary group voted en masse to allow Duarte to read the report. Two deputies thrown out of Renamo (Tayob and Jose Lopes) abstained, while the Renamo benches did not vote at all.
Mulembue was not allowed to read out the results of the vote. The noise became even louder, and a group of Renamo deputies rushed the platform.
Frelimo deputies called journalists in to see what had happened. "The bandits have taken the rostrum by storm!", one of them told AIM.
Around half a dozen Renamo deputies, led by Jeremias Pondeca, completely occupying the speakers rostrum, surrounded by a large number of their supporters. They swayed and chanted rhythmically, blew repeatedly on whistles, clapped and stamped their feet, and used whatever else came to hand to make a noise.
A couple of the more discreet opposition deputies, such as lawyer Maximo Dias, obviously found this behaviour repugnant and quietly slipped out of the chamber. But the great majority stayed behind, forming a noisy and intimidating bloc of cheerleaders for Pondeca.
"Let's have elections !", they chanted, and "Mulembue's an incompetent !" But Mulembue was no longer in the chamber to hear them. As soon as Pondeca and his friends grabbed the platform, Mulembue, and the other members of the Assembly's governing board, the Standing Commission, left the room.
"This just shows you what Renamo really is", the spokesman for the Frelimo group, Raquel Damiao, told AIM. "They have never changed. This is just vandalism".
The Frelimo group then went into a long meeting of its own, leaving the triumphant Renamo deputies in undisputed control of the Assembly chamber.
Finance Minister, Luisa Diogo, on 28 March denied opposition claims that the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA) was a document imposed by the World Bank.
Wrapping up a debate on poverty relief in the Assembly of the Republic, Diogo said that PARPA was the result of years of study into poverty in Mozambique.
"By 1995 we realised that macro-economic improvements were not enough", she said. "So we carried out a household survey in 1996-97. It wasn't the World Bank that did this, it was the Mozambican government, and the idea was to obtain a profile of poverty, by province and by district".
The government then approved a series of "General Lines" for the struggle against poverty in 1999. The following year, it put before the Assembly a five year programme "in which the fundamental priority was the reduction of poverty - but to carry this out we had to draw up a plan". That plan became PARPA.
Diogo recalled that the World Bank "asked us if we had a plan on poverty so that we would be eligible for enhanced HIPC (the Heavily Indebted Poor Counties debt relief initiative), and we gave them the PARPA document".
"The World Bank regarded the final PARPA document as one of the best poverty reduction strategies in the world", claimed the Minister. "You ask us - where does PARPA come from? It came from Mozambicans - we have the capacity to do this. Don't imagine that we are incapable".
Deputies from the former rebel movement had complained that PARPA was "just a series of good intentions".
"Obviously it's a series of good intentions!", exclaimed Diogo. "It's not going to be a series of bad intentions. From good intentions flow good acts." Implementing the PARPA directives was precisely what the government was undertaking, and brought to the Assembly regularly in the shape of the annual Social and Economic Plans.
Some opposition deputies complained that the government was being too modest in talking about the "reduction" rather than the "eradication" of absolute poverty.
"Eradication is the fundamental goal - reduction is how we get there", replied Diogo. But she warned that there are still poor people living in even the richest countries on the planet: these countries had reduced poverty, but they had not yet eliminated it.
The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service, is working on a survey of the places where voter registration sites will be located for the updating of the electoral register, in anticipation of the 2003 municipal elections and the 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections.
However, interviewed in the 5 April issue of "Noticias", STAE general director Antonio Carrasco expressed concern over the fact that the Assembly of the Republic has not yet passed amendments to the electoral law. He warned that failure to amend the electoral legislation will affect the quality and credibility of STAE's work.
He recalled that, according to the current law, the electoral registers should be updated every year. However, there have been no changes to the register since 1999.
He stressed the need for this year's update, explaining that his institution will need time to register all those who turned 18 in the last three years, thus ensuring them their right to vote, to produce new voters cards for those who may have lost theirs, and to process and consolidate the data.
Since the last registration a million people have reached the voting age of 18. Furthermore, large numbers of citizens lost all their documents, including their voting cards, in the floods of 2000 and 2001: they will need to be re-registered.
Carrasco said that STAE has also started the process of training staff at various levels and rehabilitating the necessary infrastructures. He expressed anger at some state institutions in the provinces who have seized for their own purposes buildings that belong to STAE.
Carrasco said that because of such problems, STAE is now working to build its own infrastructures in the various provinces, with the support of international partners.
He added that updating the electoral registers should take place during the dry season, and preferably during school holidays, so that secondary school students can be recruited to assist in the work.
In 1999, STAE registered 7,099,105 voters, representing about 85.5 per cent of the 8.3 million citizens eligible to vote.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 4 April threw the switches to inaugurate a transmission line that is to carry electricity from the Gaza provincial capital, Xai-Xai, to Lindela in the neighbouring province of Inhambane.
Lindela is a locality at a key crossroads just south of Inhambane city, and the site of a new sub-station. From here the power is distributed to the two main urban centres in the province, Inhambane city and Maxixe.
Prime Minister Mocumbi reminded those present of the government's efforts to bring electricity to the province - previously Inhambane had depended on expensive oil-fired generators for its power.
He thought that the electricity would bring benefits to society, would enable businessmen to generate income, and would improve social, educational and health conditions.
"Thus we kill poverty. This act paves the way for PARPA (the government's Action plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty) to be successful", he said.
The Inhambane provincial director of the publicly-owned electricity company, EDM, Vasco Douane, told AIM that almost 5,000 EDM clients are now receiving Cahora Bassa power through the new lines.
In addition to Inhambane and Maxixe, the lines transmit energy to the towns of Chicuque, Homoine and Jangamo, as well as to Lindela itself. The numbers of beneficiaries is expected to rise sharply, as many more clients become connected to the grid.
EDM expects that the costs of supplying electricity to Inhambane will now decline sharply, since it is much cheaper to buy hydropower from Cahora Bassa than to purchase the diesel necessary for obsolete generators. He added that local industry will benefit from a reliable and stable source of good quality electricity.
Early next year, Douane added, the new system will be expanded to Morrumbene and Massinga districts, north of Inhambane city.
The district of Magude in Maputo province, is on the way to recovering its past status as one of the major cattle centres of southern Mozambique.
The district administrator, Jose Tefula, told AIM on 6 April that the restocking programme, begun in 1996, has allowed a steady growth in the number of cattle in Magude.
At the end of the war of destabilisation, in 1992, there were only 2,905 head of cattle left in the district, In 1997, there were 8,179 cattle, and this year the number has risen to 21,162.
The cattle restocking has been financed by the French Development Agency (AFD), in coordination with private farmers and governmental and non-governmental agencies.
Agricultural production in the southernmost district of Matutuine declined by over 90 per cent this year, a fall blamed on the failure to repair protective dikes that were destroyed during the floods of 2000.
The dikes were more than 12 kilometres long and protected an extensive area of farmland. Rice was the main food crop in the area, and also provided an income for thousands of inhabitants of Matutuine.
Rice production used to reach 11,000 tonnes a year, but has now fallen to slightly more than 1,000 tonnes. The production of maize, cassava and beans has also declined.
It is estimated that more than 6,000 households have seen their livelihoods threatened by the destruction of the dike.
The European Commission has disbursed five million euros (about $4.4 million), granted under the Commission's Food Security Programme to support the 2002 budget of Mozambique's National Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI).
The European Commission has pledged to disburse a further five million euros to finance PROAGRI in 2003. Since 2000, the European Commission has disbursed 15 million euros to PROAGRI through the state budget.
In addition to the funds channelled to PROAGRI, the Commission has also supported the Agriculture Ministry in the restructuring of its management and financial control systems, and in coordinating the information systems required for early warning and food security within the context of the Poverty Reduction Action Plan (PARPA).
The managements of Pequenos Libombos and Corumana dams in Maputo province, and the Massingir dam in Gaza, have set up an emergency plan aimed at ensuring water supplies during the present drought, until the next rainy season.
According to Vasco Munguambe, director of the technical department at the Southern Regional Water Board (ARA-Sul), these dams have stored enough water to last until September, if used with austerity, discharging into the rivers only what is strictly essential.
He said that, according to the plan, the Pequenos Libombos dam, on the Umbeluzi river, now containing water up to 77.6 per cent of its capacity of 385 million cubic metres, will be discharging about three cubic metres a second, which should be enough to supply Maputo city with its drinking water, and the downstream irrigation systems.
The Corumana dam, on the Sabie river, with a capacity of 884 million cubic metres, is 80.5 per cent full, and intends to discharge about 25 cubic metres per second, enough to ensure power generation in the local substation and for irrigation.
As for the Massingir dam, on the Elephants river, the main tributary of the Limpopo, it will discharge according to the needs of its main consumer, the irrigation system in Chokwe district, which is the largest irrigation scheme in the country.
Munguambe said that no major inputs of water are expected until the next rainy season, and the dams' managements are also aware that drought conditions may still prevail next year.
The mayor of the southern city of Xai-Xai, Faquir Bay, who was shot by a gang of armed thieves on 7 March, died of his wounds in a South African clinic on 29 March.
Bay was attacked by four armed men on 7 March, who were attempting to steal his four wheel drive Toyota. When they demanded the keys, rather than hand them over, he tossed them into bushes.
The thieves opened fire on Bay, and one bullet lodged in his chest, and another in his back, near his spinal cord. He was rushed to Maputo Central Hospital in a critical condition, paralysed from the waist down.
The following day, Bay was transferred to South Africa, and for three weeks his condition was said to be stable. But he deteriorated on 28 March, and died
A man arrested at Maputo airport on 26 March as he was trying to smuggle over a million dollars in banknotes out of the country was travelling on his brother's, according to a report in "Mediafax" on 9 April.
Massud was detained as he prepared to board a flight to Johannesburg, but his ultimate destination was Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. According to "Mediafax", the Salimo brothers have, in recent years, made repeated visits to Dubai, usually of very short duration.
They own "Real Cambios", one of the many foreign exchange bureaux in Maputo - and the discovery of $1,015,105 in Massud Salimo's suitcase opens an interesting window on the real business of the exchange bureaux.
Travellers may carry up to $5,000 (or the equivalent in other convertible currencies) in notes when they leave the country. For any larger sums, authorisation must be sought from the Bank of Mozambique.
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