Mozambique News Agency

No.230, 24th April 2002


Mozambique facing emergency drought situation

Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia warned on 13 April that the country is facing an emergency situation due to hunger, that affects over 41,000 families (more then 200,000 people) in five provinces.Speaking in the district of Bilene, in the southern province of Gaza, Muteia said that the provinces most affected by hunger are Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane in the south, and Manica and Tete in the central region of the country.

"We may say that we are in an emergency situation and it is necessary to do something to deal with it", he said. "People must understand that they are not in a normal situation. We are facing an adverse situation, related to scarcity of rainfall, which affects household assets".

He added that it is "urgent" that something is done to allow households to have sources of income and prevent them from being pushed into a situation of vulnerability.

Muteia made a series of recommendations, valid for all provincial and district Agriculture directorates throughout the country. Such recommendations include encouraging people to plant cash crops, and providing the necessary technical assistance to the Agriculture directorates.

He also recommended a full use of the Agricultural Research Station in Chokwe district, in Gaza, by developing drought- resistant crops, and providing seeds and training to peasants.

Muteia advised peasants to take a full advantage of the humidity of the low-lying areas and the beds of rivers and small lakes, where available, as well as repairing the pumps damaged by floods in 2000 and 2001. He also urged the rehabilitation of small dams, veterinary assistance to livestock, and a fight against uncontrolled bush fires, that destroy forests and pastures.

Muteia said that all districts were ordered to work out an Action Plan with a variety of components, including rural extension. Muteia wanted the extensionists to deliver messages on simple and correct agriculture rules.

Mission visits drought-hit districts

Drought conditions in central Mozambique are "a matter for concern but not for alarm", according to a government mission that recently visited Manica and Sofala provinces.

According to a report in "Noticias" on 22 April, the mission, which visited Nhamatanda, Chibabava and Machanga districts in Sofala, and Machaze in Manica, found that the drought had "significantly reduced" household income, and that there are some areas where food aid will be necessary. Nonetheless, the mission also noted that some food, particularly maize, was on sale albeit in small amounts.

"Noticias" reporters found the drought at its most serious in Machanga: here it had been hoped to harvest 6,980 tonnes of grain, but the figure achieved was just 551 tonnes.

In Machaze, 27,362 hectares were sown - but over 12,800 of these were lost to the drought. In Chibabava, 12,395 hectares were sown, and 3,422 of these were lost.

The government mission, headed by Silvano Langa, director of the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), urged peasant farmers to plant drought resistant crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, millet and sorghum.

"The solution does not lie in food aid, which is ineffective in the long term", said Langa. "We must rely on production". Some emergency aid, both foodstuffs and seeds for the next sowings, is arriving in the affected districts.

Langa said that the local people "are hopeful because there are still harvesting something from the first sowings - but mostly, their hopes are deposited in the second sowings".

Mabote threatened with hunger

The population of the district of Mabote, in the southern province of Inhambane, are running seriously short of drinking water and hunger threatens to become acute as from June.

Mabote district administrator Vasco Wilissene said that in some parts people are already going hungry because of the poor harvest in the 2001/2002 agricultural campaign.

The 40,000 residents of Mabote live from agriculture, livestock and forest resources. Because of the poor harvest, maize is scarce and most families are now reduced to eating wild plants.

"We are running into serious problems of hunger. We have nothing in the fields because it has not rained since December, and we are feeding our children on 'cacana' (the bitter leaves from a wild plant)", said one Mabote resident, Miquelina Mbata, voicing the call of many families who are in a similar situation for government support.

Water, in this semi-arid part of Mozambique, is a critical problem. Some Mabote residents have to walk between 15 and 20 kilometres to obtain drinking water. Wilissene said the government is presently working on the opening of eight wells, and is planning to open a further 10 by next year.

El Nino set to strike again

There are warning signs that the El Nino phenomenon, which is associated with drought in southern Africa, is likely to recur. El Nino, which is associated with a warming of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean, with a major impact on world climate patterns, used to occur on a cycle of four to seven years, but recently the periods between the phenomenon have shortened. If the prediction is correct, it will be the second year in a row that the El Nino phenomenon has disrupted the Mozambican weather.

Meteorologists have noted a warmer than normal sea surface temperature off the equatorial Pacific Ocean during February. However, the conditions have not yet developed to a point which guarantees that El Nino will strike.

Bill modernising taxes passed

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 23 April passed a bill simplifying and modernising the country's tax system.

Under the bill the five existing taxes on company profits and personal incomes will be replaced by just two taxes - a corporation tax on all company profits, and an income tax on all income earned by individuals (including from illicit sources). This consigns to history the "complementary tax" on income, rates of which could range from zero to 55 per cent.

The bill allows the government to fix corporation tax bands up to a maximum of 35 per cent. This is the same top rate currently collected by the government - though under existing legislation the government could have charged rates of up to 50 per cent. Personal income tax currently has a legal ceiling of 30 per cent. However, the government cut the top rate of income tax actually collected to just 20 per cent in May 1998. The new bill sets income tax at between 10 and 35 per cent.

Categories of income will be taxed differently, Finance Minister Luisa Diogo told the Assembly. Thus income from capital, or from rents, will be taxed at a higher rate than the income earned by a factory worker.

For the first time income tax will also take citizens' family situation into consideration. People with large families will be entitled to a deduction from their tax bill - a form of child allowance. Diogo argued that it was "socially just" that somebody with half a dozen dependents should pay less tax than his colleague who had no dependents.

The bill also eliminates the anomaly whereby state employees pay no income tax. This was once justified partly on the grounds that the state generally pays lower wages than the private sector, and partly as a measure to retain skilled people in state employment.

The aim of the reform is to ensure a rise in the state's fiscal revenues when expressed as a percentage of GDP. Taxes amounted to just 6.7 per cent of GDP in 1990, but rose to 11.7 per cent in 2000. This year fiscal revenue is expected to reach 13.1 per cent of GDP: with this reform, the Finance Ministry expects the figure to rise to 14.5 per cent in 2003 and 15.4 per cent in 2005.

Diogo said that the idea was to increase overall tax collection, while reducing the amount of tax that each individual or company has to pay. This is only possible by broadening the tax base, and bringing into the tax system large numbers of informal operators who currently pay no taxes at all.

The government hopes to implement the new direct taxes as from next year: for the rest of this year detailed tax codes will be drawn up and discussed. Diogo promised full involvement of the private sector in these discussions.

Debate in Assembly

Much of the debate on the bill was occupied by claims from Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition that it was "unconstitutional", because it leaves all the details about tax bands to the government.

The constitution gives the Assembly the power to "define the bases for tax policy". Ever since the constitution was adopted in 1990, this has been interpreted as meaning that the Assembly decides on the nature of taxes, and sets their basic parameters (such as minimum and maximum rates), but leaves details of implementation up to the government.

Repeatedly Renamo deputies accused Diogo and the majority Frelimo Party of "illegality".

At the end of one particularly bitter exchange, Frelimo deputy Eneas Comiche told the Renamo benches "I have never heard any constructive ideas or suggestions from you, any alternative to the Frelimo programme. We are waiting for you to show some capacity to produce alternatives. But so far you have show total incapacity. You must grow up!"

At the end of the morning session, the bill was passed by 132 votes to 103 with two abstentions.

INSS collects over 39 billion meticais

The National Social Security Institute (INSS) managed to collect over 39 billion meticais (about $1.6 million) in contributions during the first quarter of 2002.

Elina Gomes, the INSS director general, said on 22 April that the contributions were made by some 11,540 companies throughout the country.

Maputo-based companies were the largest contributors, providing 26 billion meticais, about 67 per cent of total contributions.

However, there are still problems with companies that discount social security contributions every month from their employees' wages but do not channel the money to the coffers of the INSS.

"Some companies don't pay their workers' social security. In total there are 2,942 companies throughout the nation that are not paying, or are in a debtor situation", she said, adding that the INSS is closely working with such companies to see that they honour their commitments.

Frelimo accuses Renamo of sabotaging Assembly

The Central Committee of Frelimo has accused Renamo of "seeking to ensure that the country's institutions do not function".

A statement from the Central Committee Secretariat, received by AIM on 19 April, denounced Renamo's refusal to allow the report of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into the riots of 9 November 2000 to be presented in the Assembly of the Republic.

The chairman of the commission, Renamo deputy Vicente Ululu, refused to read out the report, even though he had signed it, and initialled every one of its 50 pages. When, after days of futile discussion, a vote was taken that would have allowed the commission rapporteur, Frelimo deputy Acucena Duarte, to present the report, Renamo stormed the assembly rostrum and occupied it by force.

Next Renamo demanded that the presentation of the report be "postponed", and the Frelimo group conceded the point, arguing that otherwise the Assembly would be unable to tackle its other business.

Renamo's refusal to allow the report to be read "was being used to make it impossible for the Assembly to function", said the Central Committee, "and was prejudicing the discussion of other matters of national importance". Nonetheless, Frelimo thought it important that the report from the Commission of Inquiry be presented "because it is a legal procedure, and its non-presentation is an illegality forced upon us by Renamo".

One of Renamo's grounds for calling for postponement sine die of the report was that it had been published in the press, although reports of parliamentary commissions of inquiry are supposed to be confidential documents.

The Mozambican press is unapologetic: journalists obtained copies of the report on 3 April, and quoted extensively from it, because they regarded it as a matter of public interest. The two main daily papers, "Noticias" and "Diario de Mocambique", this week published the report in full.

Frelimo noted that Renamo "only talks about legality when it serves its own purposes". In this case, Renamo and its allies in the Electoral Union coalition had "repeatedly obstructed the functioning of the Assembly of the Republic, thus once again showing that we have an opposition that merely creates obstacles to the real strengthening of democracy".

Failure to present the report, after Renamo itself had demanded the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry in 2000, was an attempt "to evade its responsibilities for the events of 9 November 2000". (On that day clashes between Renamo protestors and the police occurred in towns and cities across northern Mozambique. At least 39 people are known to have died in these clashes.) The Central Committee Secretariat urged the Frelimo parliamentary group "to remain firm and determined" so that Mozambicans "are not held hostage to the unspeakable designs of Renamo".

It pledged that, "although there is no constructive opposition in the Assembly of the Republic, Frelimo will always remain committed to the defence and consolidation of national unity, peace, national reconciliation and democracy".

The statement says nothing about when the commission of inquiry's report may be reintroduced in the Assembly plenary - and the conviction is growing among observers that Renamo has won, and the report will never be presented.

Report on post-flood resettlement

Problems of hunger and unemployment are continuing to assail several of the resettlement areas where the Mozambican government moved victims of flooding in 2000 and 2001, according to a report from the Social Affairs Commission of the Assembly of the Republic, debated on 18 April.

In mid-February, the Commission visited resettlement areas in Tete and Zambezia provinces in the centre of the country, and in Gaza in the south.

The Commission found that resettlement was taking place slowly, and that conditions in many areas were far from desirable.

Thus the deputies found that hunger in the Tete districts of Mutarara and Changara "is a reality", stressed the Commission chairman Aurelio Zilhao, delivering the report to the Assembly plenary - even though the Tete delegate of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC) had claimed there was enough food available.

The commission found that the Tete resettlement areas were also short of health posts and sources of clean drinking water, and that officials complained of inadequate funds for building houses.

Zilhao said that in the Zambezia district of Mopeia, in resettlement centres in the locality of Chimuara, there was "an acute food crisis, due to the delay in bringing in food supplies since November 2001". People had been reduced to eating wild fruits and grasses.

The commission found "Food for Work" schemes under way, but although people did the work, they did not immediately receive the food to which they were entitled.

In most of the centres, the food was distributed by young Mozambicans hired by the US-based NGO "World Vision". The commission though the recruitment of these young volunteers was "inappropriate" for such a delicate task.

Zilhao called on the government to make an extra effort to deal with "the serious situations of hunger we have found", and criticised "the lack of coordination between the various institutions which causes increased suffering among our people".

The Commission's rapporteur, Renamo deputy Luis Boavida, said that resettlement was slow "because everywhere they allege a shortage of funds". He also accused local officials of dishonesty - when they found that a parliamentary commission was about to visit they made attempts to improve the resettlement areas on the itinerary.

Boavida noted there had been much less support from the international community after the floods of 2001, than after those of 2000. He blamed this on alleged theft of aid in 2000, which had discouraged donors from giving more.

The debate on the Commission report was characterised by Renamo attacks on the government, many of which had nothing to do with post-flood resettlement.

Thus Linette Olofsson complained that in Chimuara, elections had been held for "community leaders". "Since when in African tradition have there been elections for chiefs to occupy their legitimate places ?", she said.

Luis Gouveia accused Frelimo parliamentarians of conspiring to prevent Eduardo Mulembue, the parliamentary chairman, from being elected President of Frelimo at the Party's forthcoming congress in June. When Mulembue ruled him out of order, Gouveia still refused to speak of resettlement, and declared that Frelimo's goal was "to ensure the supremacy of the south over the north".

Deputy Foreign Minister moved to Pretoria

President Joaquim Chissano has relieved Hipolito Patricio of his duties as Deputy Foreign Minister, and has appointed him instead as High Commissioner to South Africa. The announcement was made in a presidential dispatch issued on 22 April.

This is not necessarily a demotion, since the Pretoria posting is one of the most important for Mozambican diplomacy. Patricio is an experienced diplomat: among his previous posts have been those of Ambassador to the Soviet Union, and Ambassador to the United States. He also served as Deputy Minister of the Interior in the 1980s.

Limpopo National Park to be restocked

The Mozambican Tourism Ministry is studying the feasibility of reintroducing 1,280 head of different species of wildlife into the Limpopo National Park, in the southern province of Gaza, as a means to render it more profitable for tourism. Among the animals to be imported are 200 wildebeest, 300 zebras, 80 giraffes, 600 impalas and 50 warthogs.

The Mozambican park is one of the three components of the Greater Limpopo Transborder Park, along with the Kruger Park, in South Africa, and Gonazerhou, in Zimbabwe. The international park is expected to be opened in August.

New equipment is to be introduced and more staff are to be trained, to add to the existing 30 wardens who were trained in South Africa.

The international park will cover an area of 40,000 square kilometres. Restocking of the Limpopo Park began last year, when 30 elephants were moved from South Africa to the Mozambican side of the border.

CDM confirms takeover of Laurentina

Mozambique's largest brewer, Cervejas de Mocambique (CDM), in which South African Breweries (SAB) is the majority shareholder, has confirmed that it is taking over the country's second brewery, Laurentina, and closing down production there.

In a statement published on 20 April, CDM managing director Roger Smith said CDM was purchasing the controlling interest in Laurentina from Brasseries International Holdings (BIH), a subsidiary of the Castel Group.

Smith said that Laurentina "has for some time been making substantial losses, and the financial statements for the year ending 31 December 2001 reflect a virtually bankrupt situation". He added that BIH had decided to pull out of Mozambique "because the market is not big enough to support two brewers".

CDM pledges that it will continue production of the Laurentina brand, but at the CDM factories. The brewing equipment at the Laurentina will be dismantled and moved to the 2M brewery. The Laurentina brewery will just be used as a warehouse.

Laurentina workers have continued to demonstrate outside the factory, demanding a decent compensation package. The workers allege that the bankruptcy of Laurentina had nothing to do with the market - the company had no problem in selling all the beer it produced. Instead they point to failure to come up with the promised investment, and gross mismanagement, including the sourcing of imported raw materials from Europe.

SAB now owns 78 per cent of CDM. The companies employees hold 10 per cent of the stock, the government two per cent, the Mozambican company SPI 5.5 per cent, and members of the public 4.5 per cent.

65,000 to die of AIDS this year

Almost 65,000 people over the age of 15 will die of AIDS this year in Mozambique, according to the deputy national director of health, Avertino Barreto. Speaking at a seminar on public health in Beira, which brought together district administrators and mayors from across the central provinces, Barreto said that over half of the deaths are expected to occur in the central region.

The statistical projections are that there will be 39,900 AIDS deaths in central Mozambique (Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia provinces), 13,500 in the south (Maputo city, and Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces), and 4,200 in the north (Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado provinces).

The estimates for 2001 are that there were 45,000 deaths from AIDS - 33,400 in the centre of the country, 9,600 in the south and 2,500 in the north.

There are thought to be 60,000 orphans who have lost their mothers to AIDS - 43,000 of these orphans are in the central region, 12,200 in the south, and 4,000 in the north.

The current AIDS situation in Mozambique was serious, said Barreto, and would worsen unless "we take action now". The health ministry's guesstimate is that new infections with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are running at a rate of 500 a day.

Malawi withdraws tobacco surtax

The Malawian government has decided that, as from 24 April, Mozambican tobacco entering Malawi will no longer be subject to the 10 per cent surtax that was suddenly imposed on 13 April.

Citing the permanent secretary in the Malawian Agriculture Ministry, E.S. Malindi, who was speaking to reporters in the western Mozambican province of Tete, "Diario de Mocambique" reported that Malawi acknowledges that the measure was "not healthy" and is now assessing the damage done to the Mozambican economy.

"We have been to Mandimba, in Niassa province, and to Tete, specifically to Ulongue, in Angonia district, to see what is happening on the border between the two countries", said Malindi.

He noted that "Malawi cannot live without Mozambique", taking into account that most of its economy depends on transport routes through Mozambique.

"Malawi depends on Mozambique, and it is through this country that Malawian exports and imports flow. The two governments should find mechanisms to overcome this obstacle once and for all", he said, referring to the issue of surtax.

Mozambican tobacco is processed in Malawi, because Mozambique possesses no processing plants of its own.

Increase in cashew production predicted

Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia states that the country should produce about 100,000 tonnes of cashew nuts a year, as from 2004, compared with the 60,000 tonnes harvested of last year. He said that for this purpose, there is ongoing research in the areas of grafting and the introduction of new varieties of cashew trees, resistant to drought.

Speaking in Maputo during a meeting of the National Cashew Forum on 22 April, Muteia said that action is under way to publicise new technologies to increase the quantity and improve the quality of cashew nuts in the coming years.

Muteia said that his ministry wants peasants to organise themselves into associations, and to work on organised orchards covering larger areas, of a minimum of three hectares each, in order to facilitate the government to allocate credits to this sector, and help fight uncontrolled bush fires.

He said that the state will take most of the responsibility for financing the production of new trees and the spraying of the existing ones against fungal diseases, for the development of the cashew sector.

Mozambique News Agency
c/o 114 Stanford Avenue
Brighton BN1 6FE

Tel: 07941 890630,

Return to index