Talks are due to start shortly between the Libyan and Mozambican governments over how to handle the $140 million debt owed to Libya. The detailed talks are the result of the visit to Mozambique of Libyan leader Col Muammar Qaddafi, who arrived in Maputo on 13 July for a two day visit. He travelled overland from Swaziland, and was met at the border town of Namaacha by Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao. The Libyan motorcade contained dozens of luxury jeeps, and Qaddafi himself made most of the journey in an open-top Mercedes.
President Joaquim Chissano greeted the Libyan leader in Maputo's Independence Square, outside the City Hall. Qaddafi drove into the square waving, with two clenched fists, from the top of his Mercedes.
The welcoming crowd was about 500 strong, and was overwhelmingly Moslem. Many were carrying placards with Qaddafi's picture: most had captions in Arabic, but some were in English, calling Qaddafi "Leader of the World Islamic People's Leadership".
The two leaders stood to attention as the Libyan and Mozambican national anthems were played, and a 21 gun salute was fired. Qaddafi then reviewed a guard of honour, and watched several cultural groups perform traditional dances.
Inside the city hall, Qaddafi received the symbolic key to the city from the mayor, Artur Canana, who described him as a "tireless fighter for the freedom of the people of Libya, of Africa, and of the world in general".
En route from Namaacha, Qaddafi made three unscheduled stops to greet charcoal sellers, market vendors, and local peasants. On one of these occasions, he got into a conversation with a woman living by the side of the road. By sheer coincidence she happened to be a local delegate of the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, and took the opportunity to denounce the government. Members of his entourage then handed out $100 bills to everyone in the immediate vicinity.
On 14 July Colonel Qaddafi laid a wreath at Maputo's Monument to the Mozambican Heroes. This is where the founder of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane, the country's first President, Samora Machel, and other heroes of the Mozambican liberation struggle are buried.
Accompanied by President Chissano, Qaddafi then visited the outlying suburb of Magoanine, where about 5,000 people displaced by the floods of February 2000 have been resettled.
President Chissano entered into a brief dialogue with the Magoanine public. They asked the government to provide them with more water sources, electricity, better roads and a maternity ward. The President urged them to be patient, noting that not so long ago next to nothing had existed in Magoanine, and over time these demands could be satisfied.
At President Chissano's invitation, Qaddafi addressed the crowd and thanked his hosts for their hospitality. He also promised that Libya would assist in the drilling of wells to improve the water supply in Magoanine.
Qaddafi then visited an agricultural project in the suburb of Mahotas, run by the Maputo General Union of Cooperatives (UGC), and which mostly employs women.
UGC chairperson Celina Cossa explained the work of Maputo's agricultural cooperatives to the Libyan leader, and told him of the successes and difficulties faced by peasant women. The ceremony ended with the cooperative members offering Qaddafi vegetables produced at the Mahotas farm.
On 14 July Colonel Qaddafi attended a state banquet given in his honour by President Chissano. In his speech, Qaddafi stated that Mozambique should pay the multi-million dollar debt to Libya. Mozambique incurred the debt of $140 million though the import of Libyan oil on favourable terms in the 1980s. Qaddafi's stated that Mozambique would not have to pay any interest on the debt, citing the Koranic injunction against usury.
The Libyan leader thus rejected the appeal made a few minutes earlier by President Chissano in his own speech to the banquet, in which he had described Mozambique's foreign debt as one of the main constraints on the country's development.
"The total cancellation of the debt will allow us to free the financial resources that are so necessary and so scarce for the social projects planned or under way in our country", said President Chissano.
President Chissano praised Qaddafi for Libya's support for the liberation of Mozambique from Portuguese colonial rule, and for its supplies of oil when Mozambique was fighting apartheid destabilisation.
He noted that Libya also provided vessels for coastal shipping, at a time when many of the roads were impassable because of the war.
Libya had provided "assistance of great value" during the floods of 2000 and 2001, President Chissano added. The Libyan authorities had sent 550 tonnes of grain, medicines and a medical team, life- saving equipment, and finance for rehousing people displaced by the floods.
The general secretary Renamo, Joaquim Vaz, has called for the return of Raul Domingos, the former head of the Renamo parliamentary group, to the ranks of the party.
Domingos was expelled from Renamo in 2000 for supposedly "betraying" the party, and for entering into business deals with leaders of the ruling Frelimo Party.
Although Domingos himself has said there is no chance that he will return to Renamo, Vaz, in an interview in "Mediafax" on 12 July, claimed that, in order to win future elections, Renamo should bring back to its fold not only Domingos, but all other sympathisers who have been driven away in recent internecine squabbling.
"The return of Raul Domingos is very important for victory", he said. "I am in favour of this, and I do not hide my position".
As for the frequent accusation that he is inactive, Vaz claimed that he could not do his job properly without visiting Renamo's provincial delegations. "It is fundamental that, before anything else, I should visit the provinces to undertake a survey of what is happening on the ground. Then I can draw up ideal strategies for the next challenges for the party", he said. "But there are logistical problems hindering me from making these visits".
Vaz claimed that he has "no problems of any kind" with Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. But Vaz was not even invited to a meeting of the Renamo Political Commission held earlier this month, and he has come under public attack from Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga, who declared that, since Vaz was elected general secretary in late 2001, "nothing has functioned".
Renamo has announced that it is reducing the number of staff at its headquarters in Maputo. According to a report in "Mediafax" on 11 July, Renamo is sending several officials back to their home provinces, in a move that is reported to be generating discontent.
The officials are given three months salary, but once in the provinces they find they have nowhere to live, and are given no specific party tasks to undertake. In Quelimane, capital of Zambezia, Renamo officials transferred from Maputo are currently sleeping in the Renamo provincial offices.
Contacted by "Mediafax", Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga described the move as "a rationalisation of manpower". It was a matter of "putting cadres at the grass roots, where there is often a shortage of qualified people".
Mazanga revealed that Raimundo Samuge is no longer chairman of the Renamo National Council, but has been shifted to head the mobilisation department. Yet Samuge has only been chairman of the council for five months: he was elected to the post at a meeting in February, when Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama resigned as chairperson, while maintaining his post as president of the party.
As for the case of Chico Francisco, the former advisor on international relations to Dhlakama, Mazanga insisted that he has not been expelled from the party, but has merely been "relieved of his duties".
Francisco has been accused (notably in the pages of the Renamo publication "Imparcial") of sabotaging a planned visit by Dhlakama to the United States last month. Dhlakama was unable to travel because his visa application was made too late.
Francisco then disobeyed instructions from Dhlakama and went ahead with his own visit to the US, attending a meeting of the International Democratic Union, a grouping of right wing parties with which Renamo is associated.
The chairman of the Mozambican parliament's ad-hoc commission reviewing the country's electoral legislation, Alfredo Gamito, is in favour of a brand-new voter registration, rather than a simple update of the existing registers, prior to the municipal and general elections, scheduled for 2003 and 2004 respectively.
According to a report in "Noticias" on 11 July, the ad-hoc commission has reached consensus on the need for a new registration. The main problem is that large numbers of voters lost all their documents, including their voting cards, in the floods of 2000 and 2001.
This will be the third complete registration of the entire population of voting age in less than a decade. The voters were all registered and issued with voting cards prior to the 1994 election, and again, on the insistence of Renamo, prior to the 1999 polls.
The existing registration law envisages annual updates of the electoral register, removing the names of those who have died, adding those who have reached the age of 18, and switching from one register to another those who have moved. But in eight years there has been just one update, immediately prior to the 1998 local elections.
Gamito said there are still differences on the ad-hoc commission over the composition of the future National Elections Commission (CNE).
The commission agreed that the CNE should have a chairperson chosen by civil society, two deputy chairs, and 16 other members, appointed by the political parties in proportion to the number of seats they hold in parliament (which means that the ruling Frelimo Party will appoint nine and the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition seven).
But Frelimo also wants the government to appoint a non- voting member of the CNE, who would liaise between the CNE and all the various bodies of the state apparatus. But Renamo, in its hostility to the executive, claims that there is "no role" for the government on the CNE.
There has also been no advance over the composition of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), which is the electoral branch of the civil service, and acts as the executive body of the CNE during electoral periods.
Frelimo argues that STAE should be a politically neutral body, part of the public administration, while Renamo wants a thoroughly politicised body with political party appointees from top to bottom. Gamito played down the differences, saying that they might be overcome "at any moment".
The ad-hoc commission is preparing a national public debate on the electoral legislation, which should run from 22 July to 7 August.
The last plenary sitting of parliament determined that the ad-hoc commission should complete its work by 15 August, and that the revised laws should be deposited by 19 August, thus making possible their approval at an extraordinary sitting of parliament in September. Gamito was optimistic that these deadlines can be met.
The Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Alfredo Mantica announced in Maputo on 11 May that his government would consider any request the Mozambican authorities might make to finance voter registration ahead of the 2003 municipal elections.
But he warned that Italy would not finance the 2004 general elections "because this is a question that concerns only the Mozambicans".
Cane cutters at the Maragra sugar plantation, some 80 kilometres north of Maputo, went back to work on 8 July, after a wildcat strike over wages and conditions that had broken out on 4 July. According to "Noticias", the decision to end the strike was taken when the company agreed to pay the differences resulting from alleged errors in wage processing.
The dispute arose because the company had unilaterally changed the method by which Maragra workers' wages were calculated. In the past each worker was given an area of cane to cut, and once he had finished, his day's work was over. But as from May the management announced that workers would be paid 36,000 meticais (about $1.5) for each six tonnes of cane cut.
Areas estimated to contain six tonnes of cane were allocated to the workers, who would be paid the 36,000 meticais regardless of how long it took them. The workers complained that the company had no qualified staff to make the right calculations, which resulted in errors in the workers' wages. The Sugar Workers Union (SINTIA) estimates that no less than 30 per cent of the 500 cane cutters were prejudiced.
The management acknowledged the errors and started solving some of them, but it is demanding that the strikers pay for damages done to equipment in the violent disturbances of 4 July. The strikers destroyed a vehicle and several computers, and broke windows.
After negotiations it was agreed that each striker should pay 200,000 meticais for the damage. Initially the company demanded that the payment be in just two instalments, but after negotiations between the management and SINTIA it was agreed that the money will be deducted from the workers' wages over three months.
However, SINTIA wants to reopen negotiations on this point. It argues that agricultural workers' wages are so low that the loss of 70,000 meticais a month will imply cuts in the budgets of many households.
This is not the end of the problems at Maragra. The workers have other complaints: they say, for instance, that the company does not accept doctor's certificates when a worker happens to fall ill, and also that seasonal workers were not allowed to join the union.
To address these and other problems, SINTIA decided to set up a commission to continue dialogue with the employer. SINTIA believed that all the problems at Maragra arise from lack of dialogue between the management and the seasonal workers and between the latter and the union.
"What was happening was that there was difficulty in affiliating the seasonal workers to the union. During the negotiations it was decided that the seasonal workers should be allowed to join the trade union so that they have someone who can discuss and deal with their problems", said SINTIA secretary general Alexandre Munguambe.
No estimates have yet been made of the losses caused by the strike, but it is known that for every day it was paralysed, the company did not produce 390 tonnes of sugar, which is its installed capacity.
Although the Maragra factory workers were not on strike, they were unable to produce anything, since the cane cutters prevented them from approaching the machinery.
The Mozambican association of cotton producers in the northern province of Nampula reached an agreement on 4 July with the buyer companies on the price of cotton for the present. The two sides have reached consensus that the producer price for a kilo of first grade raw cotton should be 3,000 meticais (about 12.5 US cents), and 2,700 meticais for a kilo of second grade product.
This is an increase on the prices in last year's campaign, which were 2,800 and 2,100 meticais respectively. However, these are mere proposals, still pending the approval of the central government.
The agreement was reached after intense discussions around the issue between the interested parties, chaired by deputy Agriculture Minister Joao Carrilho.
Some of the association members said that "the sacrifice we go through to produce cotton should be compensated with better prices on the part of the concessionary companies, who are ever striving to create difficulties".
The concessionary companies provide the peasant farmers with free or cheap inputs, on the understanding that the farmers will then sell them the cotton at fixed prices. The companies argue that the prices are low because of the low price of cotton on the world market.
For his part, Carrilho expressed satisfaction with the fact that the discussions reached a consensus. "The fact is that cotton is a crop that can yield added revenue for the peasants, at a time when the main task is to reduce absolute poverty", he said.
During the present campaign, Nampula is set to produce about 45,000 tonnes of cotton, compared with last year's figure of 43,000 tonnes.
The governments of Italy, the United States, Sweden, Canada, and Norway, may fund the building of a new bridge over the Zambezi river, to link central and northern Mozambique, said Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Alfredo Mantica, cited in an interview in "Diario de Mocambique" on 13 July.
Speaking on his arrival in Beira on 12 July, Mantica assured reporters that his government will do its best to promote the project among the other four countries to raise the necessary money.
A preliminary assessment estimates at $80 million the money needed to complete the work. Foundations for the bridge were laid at Caia, on the south bank of the river, in the 1970s - but work was interrupted by the South African apartheid regime in its war of destabilisation against Mozambique.
The lack of a bridge over the Zambezi river, between Caia, and Chimuara, on the northern side, means that road traffic between Sofala and Zambezia provinces is dependent on a ferry service. The ferry is frequently out of operation during the dry season, because of the low level of the river.
Mantica also said that Italy will finance a pilot project for computerising the services of the Mozambican public administration to the tune of $10 million. He expected an agreement to this end to be signed shortly.
A group of Italian technicians will arrive at the end of July to work with Mozambicans on this project, and an operational plan should be ready by September.
The Mozambican government and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on 8 July signed two agreements in Maputo on improving food security and the country's early warning system.
The agreements, valued together at over $8 million, were signed by Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia and by the FAO representative in Mozambique, Peter Vandor.
The first agreement seeks to improve household food security and nutritional status in the central province of Manica. The project will be carried out over four years and is budgeted at 5.12 million dollars. Of this sum, $4.3 million will come from Belgium, $720,000 from FAO, while the Mozambican government will contribute the equivalent of $100,000.
According to Muteia, this project is intended to assist peasant households affected by food insecurity, by providing them with seeds, improving their diet, and providing training in the construction of improved barns, to reduce post-harvest losses.
"The project seeks to reach the greatest possible number of peasant families", said Muteia. "We shall assist them with seeds, technologies and processing their crops for marketing".
He added that the project will target in particular the most vulnerable groups in the countryside, including pregnant women, children, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
The second project, budgeted at $3 million, seeks to support the coordinating structure for the food security early warning system. This is a five year project aimed at improving data collection systems, and the dissemination of information on climatic changes. It is hoped that the project can help prevent disasters, or at least reduce their impact.
Speaking about food security in the country, currently affected by the worst drought in a decade, Muteia said Mozambique needs around 70,000 tonnes of grain to support about half a million people who are at risk of severe hunger.
He added that between 50 and 60 per cent of the Mozambican population still do not enjoy an adequate and diversified diet.
Two senior education officials in Massangena district, in the southern province of Gaza, have disappeared, leading to fears that they have made off with Massangena teachers' wages, reports "Noticias" on 16 July.
The district director of education and the financial director abandoned their posts a month ago, and dozens of teachers and other education staff in Massangena have not yet received their June wages.
As a result of the non-payment, some of the teachers are not going to their schools, prejudicing the second semester teaching activities.
The Gaza provincial director of education, Alberto Libombo, did not confirm whether the two missing officials had taken any money. "We are trying to locate them, to find out why they abandoned their jobs without a word of explanation", he told the paper. He believed that the district director was now in the town of Chokwe, while the financial director was somewhere in the provincial capital, Xai-Xai.
Libombo said that his directorate is trying to restore normality to Massangena schools as soon as possible. But he admitted that the refusal of some of the unpaid teachers to go to work is forcing others to work double shifts.
The Massangena district administrator, Ernesto Maluleque, has travelled to Xai-Xai to urge the provincial government to intervene rapidly and sort out the problem.
Mozambican technicians working in tea production will now have the opportunity to receive training in neighbouring Malawi. An agreement to that effect was reached in Maputo on 4 July, during talks between the Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia and his Malawian counterpart, Aleke Banda.
"We have agreed that Malawi, that has a great training school in the tea sector, may train Mozambican technicians, farmers and other interested people, even those in the family sector", said Muteia, addressing a joint press conference with Banda.
He explained that one of the recommendations produced by the meeting was that Mozambique should strive to join the International Tea Producers Organisation. A similar recommendation was made concerning the tobacco sector, where Mozambique also wants to develop cooperation ties with Malawi.
Tea production in Mozambique is concentrated in the districts of Milange and Gurue in the central province of Zambezia, bordering on Malawi. However, a number of peasant farmers in Manica province have also recently begun to grow tea.
Malawi, where tea is one of the strategic crops, has introduced highly productive varieties which bring the country significant foreign exchange earnings. "What we were discussing was the possibility of those varieties also being introduced into Mozambique", said Muteia.
Besides tea production, the two ministers broached other matters related to cross-border trade, and the processing of Mozambican tobacco in Malawi, and reached agreements concerning institutional coordination mechanisms on these issues.
Mozambique hopes to produce about 22,000 tonnes of tobacco next season, representing a 20 per cent growth.
In their talks, the ministers discussed ways to fight against the red locust and the current southern African drought.
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