Mozambique News Agency


No.231, 7th May 2002


Contents


May Day rally disrupted by former GDR migrants

A group of Mozambicans who had once worked in the now defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR) have disrupted the traditional May Day parade in Maputo, and cut short the ensuing rally.

Although the former migrants (commonly known as "Majermanes") left Germany over a decade ago, they claim that the government still owes them large sums of money, mainly the social insurance that was deducted from their wages in Germany and sent to Mozambique.

Last month the government announced that it would pay the "Majermanes" a total of $7.5 million in instalments spread over three years. This, it calculates, covers the social insurance paid by the 11,252 former migrants who have registered with the government.

This works out at $667 each - a very large sum by Mozambican standards. But the former migrants have dismissed it as "insignificant", and are demanding much more. They have yet to put a figure on their demand, but some are speaking in terms of a hundred million dollars or more.

About 100 "Majermanes" joined the parade, organised by the country's trade unions. They were waving banners saying "No to 7.5 million ! Yes to the real amounts !", and "You can't fight poverty by stealing from the poor". One banner called on the government to resign, while a placard called President Joaquim Chissano and Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi "thieves".

The "Majermanes" entered Workers Square in downtown Maputo two hours after the parade had started. By this time many of them were very drunk. They stopped in front of the platform where President Chissano, Prime Minister Mocumbi and other dignitaries were watching, and chanted repeatedly "We want our money !" They blew whistles, and insulted the president and the ministers, shouting that they were "filhos da puta" (sons of whores).

They refused to move or allow others to file past the president. Eventually police and security officials pushed them back enough to allow contingents from Frelimo and from IPADE to march in.

As the Frelimo militants filed past, the "Majermanes" hurled insults at them. The whistles, the chants and the insults continued as President Chissano rose to address the marchers. The protestors were clearly trying to drown out the president's voice - but he had control of a powerful PA system and his voice carried to all parts of the square.

The former migrants were successful in ensuring that the rally was cut short - President Chissano only spoke for a few minutes, largely to condemn the disruption, and nobody from the trade union movement spoke at all. This contrasts with previous May Day rallies, in which there have been several speakers, and the speeches took up to an hour.

President Chissano praised the overwhelming majority of marchers who had behaved in a disciplined fashion, following the instructions from the union leadership.

As for the ugly insults that had been chanted, President Chissano told the "Majermanes" that "you won't get anywhere by insulting our mothers". He was sure that the mothers of the former migrants had not brought them up to use foul language, and would be ashamed of their behaviour. He hoped that the "Majermanes" would continue to press their demands in a more dignified fashion.

President Chissano insisted that the Mozambican government "remains in solidarity with the struggle of Mozambican workers, and of workers throughout the world".

The prestige that Mozambique was winning internationally, he said, "is due to the selfless work of Mozambicans. This is a country of workers and peasants that was liberated by workers and peasants".

Most of the parade passed off amicably. Many of the placards and banners carried protested at "starvation wages", and at unemployment, which was blamed on privatisation. "Privatisation is extinguishing the working class", declared one banner.

The parade took the marchers past the latest symbol of a failed privatisation - the Laurentina brewery, which stands at the entrance to Workers Square. The brewery shut down a week ago, putting 409 workers out of a job, and ensuring that South African Breweries (SAB) now has a monopoly on beer production in Mozambique.

The Laurentina workers, in sharp contrast to the "Majermanes", walked past President Chissano in a dignified fashion. They carried banners demanding that the president intervene personally against "the sharks" whom they blamed for the closure.

OTM condemns meagre minimum wage

The current statutory minimum industrial wage covers no more than 40 per cent of the basic needs of a worker and his or her family, the Mozambican trade union movement denounced on 1 May.

This figure came in a speech that was to have been given to the traditional May Day rally in Maputo by Joaquim Fanheiro, general secretary of the largest trade union federation in the country, the OTM, but representing the views not only of the OTM, but also of CONSILMO (Confederation of Free Trade Unions), and of unions who belong to neither. But Fanheiro was unable to read his speech because the rally was cut short by the disruption of the former migrant workers in East Germany.

In Fanheiro's speech, which was distributed to the press later, he said that the negotiations on the minimum wage between the government, the unions and the employers' associations had reached no consensus because so far the government and the employers "have refused to consider a rise that would allow the workers to recover the purchasing power they have lost due to inflation".

The minimum industrial wage currently stands at 665,707 meticais (about $28) a month. The unions are demanding an increase of 39 per cent, but the employers are refusing to go beyond 13.4 per cent.

Fanheiro said "the growing chasm between rich and poor, social and wage injustice and the social impact of adjustment policies based on total liberalisation are making the workers' situation ever more complicated".

Mass redundancies were continuing, he said. In 2001, the unions counted 5,000 workers who lost their jobs, and there are a further 1,135 described as surplus to requirements who could be sacked at any moment.

Fanheiro said that, like the government, the trade unions are also committed to the struggle against absolute poverty, but he insisted that a key factor in attacking poverty must be "a more balanced distribution of the nation's wealth".


World Press Freedom Day celebrated in Assembly

The heads of both the Frelimo and the Renamo parliamentary groups, Armando Guebuza and Ossufo Quitine, on 3 May chose to open their speeches on the final day of a sitting of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, with references to "World Press Freedom Day", celebrated every year on 3 May.

Guebuza praised "all the Mozambican journalists who, with dedication and professionalism, express the people's right to information, and make press freedom credible as one of the fundamental pillars of democracy".

He argued that because of the way in which press freedom is guaranteed in the Mozambican Constitution of 1990 and the press law of 1991, and because the state has respected this legislation, "our country is justly mentioned as an example, not only in our region but throughout Africa".

He suggested that those "who spend their time shouting that there's no press freedom in the country" were in fact among the enemies of press freedom.

This was exactly what Quitine did. He declared "today there is no press freedom. It has become a dead letter".

He went on to claim that Renamo "brought press freedom to Mozambique, but unfortunately those who dare use it are silenced, are killed, like Carlos Cardoso". (Cardoso, editor of the independent newsheet "Metical", and former director of AIM, was murdered on 22 November 2000. Six suspects are awaiting trial for the assassination.)

Guebuza also added remarks about libel, claiming that those who use press freedom "in order to commit abuses, to slander, affront or defame, and those who make use of these crimes for untold political aims" are also enemies of press freedom. "It is the habit of these people, when held responsible for their acts, to shout that freedom of expression and freedom of the press are under attack", said Guebuza.

"We believe that freedom of the press in our country will be all the more solid, when those who violate and abuse it are isolated and held responsible", he declared.

Since Guebuza named no names, it is not entirely clear who he was talking about - but from remarks elsewhere in his speech he seemed to be thinking of recent attacks in the Assembly, repeated in the Renamo newsheet "Imparcial", against President Joaquim Chissano. Two Renamo deputies, Dionisio Quelhas and Luis Boavida, had claimed that President Chissano is among those accused in a case before a Lisbon court involving money-laundering, drug trafficking and gun-running. They claimed they were merely repeating a news item on a Portuguese TV station.

The Lisbon court case, under way since April, concerns a private university, the Universidade Moderna, and the main charges so far have nothing to do with drugs or guns - they are fraud, embezzlement, deliberate mismanagement and corruption. Far from being among the accused, President Chissano's name has not even been mentioned during the proceedings to date.


National anthem adopted

On 30 April the National Assembly adopted a new new national anthem entitled "Patria Amada" (Beloved Motherland). President Joaquim Chissano promulgated the law on the anthem on 3 May, and it was immediately printed in a special issue of the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica".

From approval in the Assembly to publication in the "Boletim da Republica" in just two clear days (1 May was a public holiday and so does not count) is something of a record. Publication meant that the new anthem was played officially for the first time at the close of the Assembly sitting.


More children at school than ever

More children and young people are at school in Mozambique today than ever before in its history, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi told the Assembly of the Republic on 24 April.

He was speaking at the question and answer session between the government and the Assembly, replying to a question from the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition which asked the government to justify "why so many thousands of children of school age are not at school".

Prime Minister Mocumbi said that the "priority and strategic objective" of government education policy was "to ensure universal access to primary education", and the government had been working consistently towards that goal.

"Although significant numbers of our school-age population do not yet have places in primary school, we should recognise that the education system has made important advances, which are expressed in the continual reduction in the levels of exclusion from school", added the Prime Minister.

The ideal of ensuring educational opportunity for the largest possible number of Mozambicans had been uppermost in the government's mind ever since independence in 1975. But it was precisely those who questioned the government's record who were responsible for the disastrous setbacks of the 1980s, when schools were among the main targets of Renamo's war.

"We should note that between 1983 and the signing of the peace agreement (in 1992), our efforts were seriously compromised by the war of destabilisation", said Prime Minister Mocumbi, "which hit particularly hard against the school network, teachers, and pupils, destroying about 50 per cent of the primary schools that had existed in 1983".


Joint management of Lake Niassa

Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania have agreed on the need for joint management of Lake Niassa and of the Shire basin. The three countries all border on the lake, and the Shire river flows out of the lake, through Malawi and Mozambique to the Zambezi.

The three governments have set up a sub-committee consisting of their top water officials. This new body arises from a set of recommendations made at a recent regional seminar on the management of Lake Niassa's water resources, held in Malawi.

The committee has also been charged with drafting a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the use of water resources, particularly on joint management of Lake Niassa. Within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Malawi is in charge of initiatives to implement the protocol on shared watercourses.

During the seminar, a series of projects and activities being undertaken on the lake and in the Shire basin were announced, which are to be followed up by the three countries. These include the improvement and modernisation of the lake's monitoring system, and feasibility studies as to navigation on the Zambezi and the Shire.


Natural gas project launched

President Joaquim Chissano and his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki on 3 May at Temane, in the southern province of Inhambane, launched a natural gas project.

The undertaking includes the building of an 865 kilometre pipeline between the Pande and Temane gas fields, in Inhambane, and the industrial complex of Secunda, in South Africa The installation of the pipeline alone is budgeted at $549 million, and is expected to be completed by mid 2004.

In South Africa, the Mozambican gas is to supply the industrial complex of the energy company Sasol at Secunda, as well as the market for gas in at least four provinces, the Orange Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga.

President Chissano noted the impact of the Inhambane gas on the Mozambican energy market, saying that places such as Bazaruto and Magaruke, islands off the Inhambane coast, and the town of Nova Mambone, are already benefiting from Temane natural gas.

Commenting on the relationship between Mozambique and South Africa, President Mbeki stressed that "the success of one country depends on the success of the other". He recalled that this was the second major undertaking involving Mozambican and South African interests, that he and President Chissano have jointly inaugurated: the first was the Mozal aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo.

The Natural Gas project is expected to add about 20 per cent to the Mozambique's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The Mozambican government had hoped that much of the Inhambane gas would be used in the Maputo Iron and Steel Project (MISP), a projected factory on the outskirts of the capital that would produce two million tonnes of steel slabs. The gas was to have been used in the reduction process.

But the owner of MISP was Enron, and with Enron's bankruptcy the chances of the factory being built look rather slim, despite the government's insistence that the project is perfectly viable.

President Mbeki decorated

President Joaquim Chissano on 2 May decorated Thabo Mbeki with one of the country's highest honours, the "Order of Freedom and Peace (First Class)".

Giving the award at a banquet in honour of Mbeki, President Chissano praised "the personal commitment of President Thabo Mbeki to the cause of peace and stability in our region, in Africa and in the world". He described Mbeki as "a tireless fighter for the reconciliation and unity of the great South African family, which was yesterday divided by apartheid".

President Chissano said it was the fall of apartheid in South Africa "which speeded up the end of the war of destabilisation in Mozambique, a war which always relied on the support of the inhuman apartheid regime". Thus the ten years of peace being celebrated this year in Mozambique "are also your victory", President Chissano told Mbeki.

"Your presence among us bears unequivocal witness to the deep friendship between our two people and our brother countries", said President Chissano. "This is a friendship forged in the common history of the struggle for freedom and dignity of our people, and which has, at Mbuzini and in Matola, the monuments where that history is constantly renewed for future generations".

President Chissano said that Mozambique and South Africa are committed to strengthening the Southern African Development Community (SADC), "turning it into a powerful weapon for the development of our region on all fronts". He pledged that, within the SADC framework, "we shall continue the efforts to accelerate normalisation of the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe".


Reasonable harvest predicted despite drought

Mozambican grain production is expected to reach 1.8 million tonnes in this year's harvest, despite the loss of large areas of cultivated land to drought, in some southern and central areas of the country, reports "Noticias" on 29 April.

The findings were contained in a report presented to the meeting of a Coordinating Council of the Agriculture Ministry, that took place in Namaacha, on the border with Swaziland. The expected harvest is therefore likely to be 100,000 tonnes lower than the initial target of 1.9 million tonnes, after the loss of about 83,690 hectares of crops, affecting 59,900 households.

Even so, the expected harvest represents a six per cent increase compared with the 2001 harvest, that yielded 1.7 million tonnes of grain. "Despite the negative effects of drought in nearly all the southern, and parts of the central provinces, overall food production has grown", says the report.

Gaza, in the south, is the province most affected by drought, where losses are estimated at 31,000 hectares, followed by Inhambane, with 16,000 hectares lost. In Maputo province, 7,630 hectares were lost, and in the central province of Sofala 6,730 hectares.

The 2001 production suffered the negative effects of floods, that hit mainly the central region, particularly the Zambezi valley, causing the loss of 79,000 hectares, and affecting 119,400 households.

Speaking of the government's plans to minimise the effects of drought in the affected areas, Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia said that they include strong support to peasant farmers in the second planting season, which is budgeted at $554,000.

He explained that the plan includes also improving structures, such as irrigation systems and dams, in order to render agricultural production more sustainable. The costs of this are estimated at $11 million, to be disbursed under the National Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI).


New citrus trees planted in Inhambane

About 15,000 new citrus trees have been planted in the southern province of Inhambane in line with on-going efforts to mitigate the effects of the droughts which frequently hit the province.

Belem Monteiro, the director of the provincial agriculture directorate, told AIM on 24 April that the programme is being welcomed because it provides an alternative source of income - the population can sell the fruit from their citrus trees to buy foodstuffs.

Monteiro added that the Inhambane provincial government is currently encouraging businessmen to invest in the setting-up of small citrus processing units in order to process the wealth of citrus that abounds in the region.

"We believe that we can still set up the first orange processing plant this year in Inhambane, and there's an indication that more requests will be made", he said.


Textafrica in crisis

Mozambique's largest textile factory, Textafrica, in the central city of Chimoio, has closed according to a report in "Savana". Textafrica employed about 3,000 workers - which means that about 15,000 people depended on Textafrica wages.

In 1996 the Portuguese Multiplier Group took a majority holding in Textafrica, and for a time prospects looked bright. The Multiplier group held 60 per cent of the shares, the Mozambican state 30 per cent, and the country's largest bank, the BCM (privatised in 1996), ten per cent.

Fresh investment was made in the factory. and the number of workers jumped from 2,000 to 3,300. In 1997 Textafrica even won a prize as the country's largest industrial exporter.

But it soon became clear that Textafrica could not compete on the international market, and the domestic market could not absorb all its production (particularly given the unhindered invasion of the Mozambican market by cheap Asian textiles and by huge amounts of second hand clothing).

With the factory running at an average monthly loss of $150,000, Textafrica asked the government to protect the textile industry, to no apparent effect.

The factory ground to a halt in November 2000, but there was no declaration of bankruptcy and the workers were not told what their fate and that of the factory would be. They were still legally employees of Textafrica, and wage arrears built up. Only in February 2002, did Manuel Magalhaes, representative of the majority shareholder, tell the workers to stay at home and "wait for new instructions". He admitted that the company no longer had money to buy raw material.

Anselmo Wache, secretary of the Textafrica trade union committee, told the paper that the last information the workers had was that the Portuguese group wishes to sell its shares and pull out of the company.

Manica provincial governor Soares Nhaca told "Savana" that the government wants the Textafrica management to explain what happened to the company. He said the government had put in money to pay off some of the workers' wage arrears. The workers are now owed 13 months back wages.

But he thought a definitive solution would only be possible if new investors were interested in taking over Textafrica. "The company needs an injection of fresh money, not only to liquidate its debts, but also to revive production", Nhaca said.

In addition to the back wages, Textafrica has not paid its phone and electricity bills, and owes money to the bank and to its suppliers. "Savana" claims that the company's total debts amount to $25 million.


Tea processing unit in Zambezia

Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia has said that a new tea processing and packaging plant is to be opened in 2002 in the central province of Zambezia.

Muteia, who was speaking on 26 April during a session of his ministry's Coordinating Council, held at Namaacha, on the border with Swaziland, said there was no justification for the fact that about 12,000 tonnes of tea produced locally is exported in bulk for processing and packaging in other countries.

He claimed that some of this tea finds its way back onto the domestic market as foreign brands, such as the famous South African tea "Five Roses".

The unprocessed tea is exported, in part because the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels burnt down many of the Zambezia tea factories in the 1980s, and partly because the processing plants remaining have became obsolete.

Muteia did not say how much money would be involved in setting up the plant. He added that the government would start an offensive to have investors build small tea processing plants in tea producing areas.

He added that although tea has not been high on the government's agenda it is an important crop alongside sugar and cashew nuts.

The processing unit would process tea from Zambezia and Manica. Manica has not been a traditional tea growing province and it surprised Muteia that many producers have started growing tea there. However, he lamented that most of this tea is exported, unprocessed, to neighbouring Zimbabwe.


Cattle distributed under restocking programme

The Mozambican government's restocking programme has seen the distribution of about 16,000 head of cattle and 52,000 goats since it was launched in 1994, reports "Noticias" on 6 May.

The programme has now been expanded to several districts in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane, and the central provinces of Sofala and Manica.

A recent report from the Agriculture Ministry says that figures have risen from 293,000 head of cattle and 435,000 goats, in 1995, to 722,000 and about five million respectively this year.

The deputy national director for livestock, Ventura Macamo, told the paper that the programme has benefited, so far, 3,284 families, who received between two and five head of cattle each, and 302 private farmers, who received up to 20 head each.

The report attributes this success to the cooperation of the beneficiaries, who are returning, on time, an equal number of cattle, as the animals breed. The programme thus becomes self-sustaining, since the calves are distributed to new beneficiaries, and the peasants' and the farmers' cooperative attitude is allowing a rapid expansion of the programme to new areas.

The speedy growth in the national livestock herd is regarded as a major contribution to food reserves, particularly in the rural areas, and to a diversification of people's diet. Furthermore, the programme also increases the possibility of the use of animal traction in agriculture.


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

Tel: 07941 890630,
E-mail: mozambique-news@geo2.poptel.org.uk


Return to index