The parliamentary ad-hoc commission reviewing Mozambique's electoral legislation is struggling to reach consensus on controversial articles, notably on how decisions will be taken on the National Elections Commission (CNE), the body that must supervise next year's municipal elections and the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2004.
According to the commission's chairperson, Alfredo Gamito, cited in "Noticias" on 21 August, the commission is now aiming to deposit consensual texts on the three laws concerned - the law on the CNE, the law on voter registration, and the law on procedures for municipal elections - at the parliament premises on 26 August.
The original deadline for depositing the text was 19 August, but commentators blame the intransigence of Renamo for the fact that nothing at all was deposited.
The key dispute is how to solve any differences that may arise on the CNE. Both the Frelimo majority and the Renamo minority on the ad-hoc commission agree that, if possible, decisions should be taken by consensus. But what happens if consensus breaks down?
Frelimo proposes that if agreement cannot be reached, a simple majority vote should decide the issue. Renamo, however, is demanding a two-thirds majority before any vote can be considered valid. However, the CNE will consist of 10 members appointed by Frelimo, eight appointed by Renamo and an independent chairman. So if there is no consensus, then equally there is no two thirds majority: the Renamo proposal is thus a recipe for deadlock.
Nonetheless, the ad-hoc commission has split into two working groups to discuss this and other outstanding issues. Gamito said the full commission will meet again on 24 August, in a final attempt to harmonise proposals.
Renamo refuses to deposit those clauses in the legislation that are not contentious. The vast majority of articles in the three laws have been agreed - but Renamo rejected Frelimo's proposal to deposit them with parliament, and allow the next sitting of parliament to vote on the disputed issues. For Renamo, it was all or nothing.
Gamito said that Renamo has finally conceded that the government should appoint one, non-voting member of the CNE, to ensure liaison between the CNE and government bodies. The commission has also partially agreed on a mechanism for electing the chairperson of the CNE. Civil society organisations will be asked to submit names, and the other 18 CNE members will vote on them.
Again, the ideal is to reach consensus on the chairperson. And again, the two sides diverge over what voting procedure to follow if there is no consensus. Frelimo wants a simple majority, and Renamo a two thirds majority. If the Renamo proposal succeeds, then it is quite possible that the CNE will never get off the ground, because it will be impossible to elect a chairperson.
The stalemate threatens the go-ahead of next year's municipal elections. Also, if it is impossible to elect a CNE, and impossible to organise voter registration in time to hold municipal elections in 2003, there would be a knock-on effect, endangering the next presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2004.
A prominent Renamo parliamentary deputy Almeida Tambara, has confirmed reports that he has resigned from the party.
"Mediafax" who broke the story on 12 August, has now spoken to Tambara who confirmed that he has left the party. He claimed that he had resigned to make way for "new blood", and not because of "personal contradictions" with any other Renamo members.
Tambara said he had joined Renamo to fight for democracy, a task that had now been achieved. "Democracy is now almost ten years old", he said, "and so I thought my active contribution in Renamo is no longer necessary".
As for his own future, Tambara said that, "so as not to defraud the electorate" he would keep his parliamentary seat until the next elections, due in 2004, and "then we'll see. By 2004 various things may have happened that define what I will do later", he said, thus implying that he has no intention of dropping out of politics.
The Political Committee of Frelimo has appointed Manuel Tome the new head of the parliamentary group. He takes over from Armando Guebuza, who was elected general secretary of the party at the Frelimo Eighth Congress in June.
In effect the two men have swapped jobs: Tome was general secretary for Frelimo from 1995 up until June. The post of general secretary, however, has suddenly become more powerful, with the decision of the Central Committee, confirmed by the Congress, that the general secretary should also be the Frelimo candidate in the 2004 presidential election.
Manuel Tome is a journalist by profession, who started his career on the daily paper "Noticias" in 1977. He later became general secretary of the Mozambican Journalists' Union (ONJ), and General Director of Radio Mozambique, before taking up full time work in the Frelimo secretariat.
Tome was elected to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in 1994, and re-elected in 1999.
Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia on 21 August declared that the results from the 1999/2000 Agriculture and Livestock Census "form an instrument that will make it possible to reduce uncertainties in planning agricultural development and in fighting poverty".
Muteia was speaking in Maputo at the start of a two day seminar aimed looking at the definitive results of the census, which was carried out jointly by his ministry and by the National Statistics Institute (INE).
Muteia noted that the last agricultural census had been carried out over 30 years ago, in 1971, at the end of the colonial period. Yet it was vitally important to understand agriculture, since about 80 per cent of the Mozambican population work in this sector, and it produces about 30 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.
Muteia criticised the immediate post-independence stress on large state farms and cooperatives. Subsistence peasant agriculture was not the subject of any systematic statistical surveys then, he said.
Reality had later shown "that we needed to pay growing attention to the family sector of the economy". Statistical knowledge of this sector was urgent, since it occupied 97 per cent of cultivated land, and produced 95 per cent of the country's grain.
The census found that there are slightly more than three million farms in Mozambique, with an average size of 1.26 hectares each. This is still an estimate as the census was not exhaustive, but based on a sample. The census brigades set themselves the task of visiting all the 429 farms defined as "large", but only 7.5 per cent of the medium sized farms and 0.7 per cent of the small farms.
These classifications obeyed several criteria: thus a farm is "large" if it has more than 50 hectares, or, if a livestock enterprise, more than 100 cattle, or more than 500 goats, sheep or pigs, or more than 20,000 poultry. Small farms have less than ten hectares or less than ten head of cattle.
The census estimates that, for the 2000-2001 crop year, there were 3,064,715 farms in the country, with a cultivated area of 3,866,806 hectares - or an average of 1.26 hectares per farm. Most farms consist of several separate plots of land. There are 6,923,646 agricultural plots of land: so on average, each farm consists of 2.26 plots or fields.
Over 50 per cent of Mozambican farms are less than a hectare in size, and just 5,483 farms are larger than 10 hectares. At the lowest end of the scale, there are 38,358 farms where peasant households are scraping a living on less than 0.1 hectare. And at the other end, there are 15 agricultural holdings that occupy over 1,000 hectares.
The vast majority of peasant farmers have no title to their land. The census found that in 96.9 per cent of small and medium sized farms, their owners had no land title. 0.8 per cent had acquired a title, and in the other 2.3 per cent of cases, the owner had title to some plots but not to others.
As for production, the main crop grown is maize. 79.4 per cent of farms grow maize, which in 2000 was sown on an area of 1.35 million hectares. Cassava was grown on 63.8 per cent of farms, sorghum on 27 per cent, and rice on 20.8 per cent.
Only a minority of farms grow cash crops. 6.1 per cent of farms grew cotton, 2.3 per cent grew sugar cane, 1.9 per cent grew tobacco, and 0.7 per cent grew sunflower.
A majority of farms - 2,139,255 (69.8 per cent) - bred chickens, but the average number of chickens per farm was about 11. 27.8 per cent of farms owned goats with an average of six goats per farm.
There were pigs on 19.7 per cent of the farms, ducks on 21.8 per cent and cattle on just 4.4 per cent.
The total number of livestock was put at: 23.58 million chickens; 4.13 million ducks; 5.05 million goats; 2.4 million pigs; and 722,199 cattle.
Of the 6.9 million plots of agricultural land, only 138,439 used irrigation in the 2000-2001 crop year, only 150,022 used pesticides, and only 154,187 used any kind of fertiliser (including manure).
The level of organisation among the peasants remains very low: out of over three million agricultural households, only 67,271 have members in any form of agricultural association.
Most of the farms have no access to credit. Only 122,334 farms (four per cent) obtained credit for the 2000-2001 year. Banks provided just 328 farmers with credit: the rest obtained their credit from NGOs (24,692), cooperatives (9,513), the government (6,460), and "other sources" (81,342).
The European Commission on 21 August promised to buy 40,000 tonnes of surplus maize in northern Mozambique for distribution in drought-stricken areas in the south and centre of the country.
The head of the European Commission delegation in Mozambique, Javier Puyol, made this pledge in Maputo at a meeting between the Mozambican government's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), and donors, which discussed the current humanitarian situation in Mozambique and in the rest of southern Africa.
Puyol noted that farmers in the northern provinces are selling their surplus maize over the border in Malawi, even though the food is needed elsewhere in Mozambique. This is essentially because of the logistical headaches involved in moving large quantities of food from the north to the south of the country. To applause from the meeting, including its chair, Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao, Puyol said he was well aware of the extra costs imposed by Mozambique's poor road network.
Simao announced at the meeting that the Mozambican government wishes to obtain laboratory capacity to analyse certain imported food to see what kind of genetic modification it has undergone. Simao recognised that genetically modified crops do have a significant potential in dealing with hunger crises. On the other hand, if southern African farmers start planting genetically modified maize, they could become dependent on what is an expensive and imported technology.
The Mozambican government's position is that any genetically modified grain sent to the country must be processed immediately, before it is sent on to the final beneficiaries, thus avoiding any risk that it will be used for planting. Currently there are 4,544 tonnes of genetically modified maize in silos in the southern city of Matola, awaiting milling, before they can be consumed by drought victims.
As for the overall food security situation, Simao described it as "under control". He said that the second (cool season) sowings had gone ahead without significant problems. The second sowings are normally responsible for between 10 and 15 per cent of annual agricultural production. They also produce seeds for the coming rainy season sowings.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 19 August warned the National Roads Administration (ANE), the authority charged with the implementation of the Third Roads Programme (TPE or ROCS III), that Mozambican society expects to see optimum quality roads in the country.
"Society's expectation is to see top quality roads", said Mocumbi, during the official launching of the TPE, a programme to be implemented during the next 10 years, and which is budgeted at $1.7 billion.
The programme will cater not only for the main roads, but also for tertiary roads. The top priorities, however, are the main north-south highway, including a projected new bridge over the Zambezi river, at Caia.
Mocumbi said that improved roads will both give access to the rural areas and make it easier for landlocked countries to use Mozambican ports. The international traffic generated by good roads, he added, which will earn the country necessary revenue for the fight against absolute poverty.
Public Works Minister Roberto White told reporters that the money available now, resulting from fuel tax, is not enough to cover maintenance costs. Road users in will therefore almost certainly have to pay higher taxes in order to ensure that roads rebuilt under TPE/ROCS III can be maintained properly in future.
White added that, besides improving the revenue collecting mechanisms for road maintenance, the government is also considering introducing toll gates on some major roads.
The first phase of TPE is costed at $703.6 million, of which $211.3 million will come from the government's own funds, and $492.3 million out of foreign aid.
Some of the phase one projects were begun under the controversial ROCS (Road and Coastal Shipping) programmes of the 1990s, largely funded by the World Bank, and criticised for their use of inappropriate technologies.
Examples of projects begun under ROCS and to be completed under TPE are the rehabilitation of several key sections of the main north-south highway (the 107 kilometre stretch between the Save river and Muxungue, and the 335 kilometres from the Inchope crossroads to Caia on the south bank of the Zambezi) and of the road between Pemba and Montepuez, the two main towns in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. A further $135.8 million of World Bank loans are expected to be used in the first phase of TPE.
Mocumbi announced that the government intends to ask for a loan from the World Bank to supplement money promised by donors to build a new bridge over the Zambezi river.
The planned bridge, linking Caia in Sofala province to Chimuara in Zambezia, is regarded as fundamental to the country's north-south transport network. Currently vehicles crossing the river at Caia have to use a ferry service.
Mocumbi described the bridge as "a strategic objective", to be undertaken during the current five year term of office of the government. The government was therefore prepared to ask the World Bank for a loan to complete the required funding for the bridge.
The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) has promised $25 million for the bridge, and, according to Roberto White, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has promised a similar amount.
White put the total cost of the bridge at between $70 and $90 million, depending on the technical choices made.
The Mozambican government signed in Maputo on 19 August a new programme with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for the improvement of living conditions of Mozambican children.
The programme, budgeted at $86 million, will cover the areas of education, health, nutrition, water supply, sanitation, social policies and communications, and is part of the UNICEF Master Plan in Mozambique for the period from 2002 to 2006.
The key aims of the programme are to reduce child mortality, improve health and reduce mortality among women, reduce malnutrition among new-born infants and their mothers, prevent infection by the HIV virus that causes the lethal disease AIDS, and take care of people infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Other objectives include ensuring special measures to protect and take care of children in a situation of risk, and to prevent humanitarian crises.
A Tourism and Hotel Faculty has been opened in the southern city of Inhambane. Classes in the Higher School for the Hotel and Tourism Industry (ESHTI), which is part of the country's oldest higher education institution, the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), are due to start in February 2003.
Initially, ESHTI will offer three courses, namely tourism operation, hotel management and food production management. Thirty students have already enrolled for the first year. Business people have been demanding improvements in the hotel and tourism trade, through the appropriate training of skilled staff.
The new faculty will operate in premises borrowed from the Mozambique ports and railway company (CFM). The building used to be the national railway school.
The Labour Ministry has announced that some of the former migrant workers in the now defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR) have begun to receive their cheques for the social insurance contributions paid in Germany, and which the Mozambican government pledged to return.
But the spokesperson for the Forum of Returnees from the GDR, Alberto Mahuaie, promptly denied the Ministry's claims, and told AIM that "nobody" has gone to receive "the crumbs" offered by the government.
For years, the former migrants - known colloquially as Majermanes - have claimed that the Mozambican government still owes them money that was deducted from their wages in Germany and transferred to Mozambique. In particular, they want the return of their social insurance contributions. The government announced in April that it was conceding this demand.
According to the government's figures, the total amount to be paid to the 11,252 former migrants who have registered with the Labour Ministry is the equivalent of $7.5 million (an average of $667 each).
The first 20 per cent of this money ($1.5 million) is being paid now, 40 per cent will be paid in 2003, and the remaining 40 per cent in 2004. But the Forum has dismissed this offer as "insignificant" and has demanded over $100 million, a sum the government cannot possibly provide.
The construction of the pipeline connecting the natural gas fields of Temane and Pande, in the southern province of Inhambane, to Secunda, in South Africa, is advancing at a rate of almost two kilometres a day, and the current forecast is that the 865 kilometre gas pipeline will be completed within 17 months.
Some 520 kilometres of the pipeline are in Mozambique, and the entire area through which the pipeline passes has been demined, and cleared of bush.
On 13 August, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, visited the work under way between the districts of Moamba and Magude, in Maputo province. Accompanied by officials of the South African oil company SASOL, which has the rights to the Inhambane fields, and South African High Commissioner Jessie Duarte, Langa spent some seven hours observing and discussing work on the pipeline.
So far 125 kilometres of pipes have been laid, awaiting the delicate task of welding them together. Over 375 kilometres of pipes have been unloaded at Maputo port. These pipes were supplied by the Japanese company Itochu, and each is subject to strict quality control at the port by representatives of Itochu and of the construction contractor, GLMC.
In all, there will be 48,056 pipe sections, and transporting them from the ports to the pipeline route will require 5,500 trips by truck.
According to SASOL, the area where the gas processing facility will be built at Temane has been cleared, and construction work has started.
The total investment in the project is estimated at $1.2 billion. $500 million will be spent on developing the gas fields and the processing facilities, including alterations to the SASOL refineries at Secunda and Sasolburg. $400 million will be spent on the pipeline, and the remaining $300 million on converting the existing gas pipeline network inside South Africa.
SASOL forecasts that the gas will begin to flow down the pipeline in the first quarter of 2004, and that it will transport 120 million gigajoules of gas per year. A gigajoule is a measurement of energy, equivalent to the burning of 40 kilos of coal.
At the height of gas extraction there will be 33 wells operating - 18 in the Temane field and 15 at Pande.
The prosecution has demanded "exemplary punishment" in the trial of four railway workers, accused of responsibility for the deaths of 195 people in Mozambique's worst ever rail accident. The trial of the four, on charges of manslaughter, began in the Maputo Provincial Court, in the city of Matola, on 20 August.
The disaster occurred on 25 May at Tenga, on the Maputo- South Africa railway, when passenger carriages were abandoned by the crew, rolled down a slope, and smashed into stationary goods wagons full of cement.
The prosecution case is that right from the start of the journey, at Ressano Garcia, on the border with South Africa, the train was operating defectively. Yet the crew continued, and showed more interest in the fate of the goods wagons that the train was pulling, than in the passenger carriages.
The 475 workers of the Maputo tyre factory, Mabor, went on strike on 20 August in pursuit of higher wages, the re-introduction of bonuses, the sacking of the company's finance manager, and the payment of one month's wage arrears, reports "Noticias".
The minimum wage at Mabor was fixed at one million meticais a month in 1999, and has not changed. A million meticais was worth about $70 at 1999 exchange rates, but subsequent devaluation means that today it is worth only $42.
The Mabor trade union committee claim that this conflict has been dragging for the last three years, and that the union followed all necessary legal steps before calling the strike. But Hermenegildo Gamito, of the Mabor board of directors - and also a Frelimo parliamentary deputy - described the strike as illegal, although he acknowledged legitimacy of the workers' demands.
The mayor of Beira, Chivavice Muchangage, has acknowledged that the city is facing a vast range of problems.
Speaking during celebrations of the 95th anniversary of the elevation of Beira to city status on 20 August, Muchangage stated that "our city faces today the effects of erosion along the coast, the impassability of some of our roads, defective operation of the sanitation network, and difficulties in expanding housing, because of Beira's geological characteristics and geographical location".
However, he described the municipal authorities' performance during the four years since he was elected mayor as "progress", mentioning some improvements in the road and sanitation networks, and also in rubbish collection and in transport and communications.
"New schools have been built and others are being supplied with desks, and there is also a positive tendency to improve the quality of education", he said. "It has also been possible to improve water supply in many suburbs".
He described the first four years of his term of office as "serious, constructive, and promising".
He urged all Beira citizens to take part in the battles against crime (particularly the theft of electricity cables, which has plunged large parts of the city into darkness), against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and against the common practice of defecating in the open.
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