The Mozambican government is opposed to threats by HCB, the company that operates the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi, to cut off the supply of power to the dam's main client, the South African electricity company Eskom. The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, told AIM on 18 October that the government believes it is still possible to reach "an amicable agreement" to cover all matters in dispute, and not just the price that Eskom pays for Cahora Bassa power.But the Mozambican state is a minority shareholder in HCB, owning only 18 per cent of the company. It is the Portuguese state that holds the other 82 per cent.
On 17 October the chairman of the HCB board, Carlos Veiga Anjos, speaking in Lisbon, threatened to cut off supplies to South Africa as from midnight, if no consensus was reached. Octavio Muthemba, the director for the Mozambican side on the HCB board, confirmed to AIM on 18 October that the supply of power from Cahora Bassa to Eskom had been cut. However, the supply of Cahora Bassa power to Maputo and the rest of southern Mozambique, which passes through South Africa along Eskom lines, has been safeguarded.
HCB has consistently argued that the price paid by Eskom is ruinously low, and does not allow HCB to clear its debts. Under an agreement of 1988, Eskom pays two South African cents (just 0.2 US cents at current exchange rates) per kilowatt hour. Eskom has always proved reluctant to pay a more realistic price, but for 2001 a temporary tariff of 3.6 South African cents was agreed.
The figure HCB wanted was 11.4 cents and it points out that its second most important client, Zimbabwe, is paying 15.4 South African cents, despite the country's economic crisis.
For 2002, no new tariff structure was agreed, so Eskom reverted to paying two South African cents.
Veiga Anjos, cited by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, said HCB is prepared to accept 3.6 cents temporarily until the Mozambican, South African and Portuguese governments reach a decision as to the future of the dam - but it will not accept two cents. Veiga Anjos said HCB wanted to switch the power off "because it's now a question of dignity, and not just of money".
A meeting on Cahora Bassa should have taken place in Lisbon but Eskom stated that its representatives would be unable to attend.
The contract between HCB and Eskom obliges HCB to supply at lest 750 megawatts to the South African company. Veiga Anjos said that it is in fact supplying between 900 and 950 megawatts. Zimbabwe purchases 500 megawatts and the total generating capacity at Cahora Bassa is 2,075 megawatts.
However, Langa told AIM that Mozambique's interest lies in reaching agreement, not only on tariffs, but also on a new shareholding structure for HCB, and on how to deal with the debt of about $2 billion to the Portuguese treasury. This debt was largely run up during the decade and a half that Cahora Bassa could not sell power to Eskom because transmission lines had been blown up by Renamo rebels.
Langa stated that all outstanding matters should be settled in an overall agreement between Mozambique, Portugal and South Africa.
He pointed out that, under the current agreements, Mozambique only has the right to draw 200 megawatts from Cahora Bassa. For anything above this figure has to ask permission from Eskom.
"The problem must be tackled in all its aspects, not just the price", Langa insisted. "We think an amicable solution should be negotiated, rather than resorting to threats".
The updating of the electoral registers, preparing for the municipal elections of 2003, should take place between 20 April and 4 June, if a proposal from the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the civil service, is accepted, reports "Noticias" on 18 October.
The document proposes that the elections themselves be held in the second half of September - which would be a delay of three months. The first municipal elections were held in June 1998, and the elected municipal bodies have a term of office of five years.
The STAE document must be approved by the National Elections Commission (CNE). This body does not yet exist - it is to be elected next week by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. STAE director Antonio Carrasco said that his institution had been working out a calendar of activities in preparation for next year's elections, even before the Assembly passed revised electoral legislation in September.
He said that it is STAE's task to prepare all the technical requirements for elections. "Whether or not the current STAE staff will conduct the coming elections, our job is to create conditions to ensure that those elections can be properly conducted", he said.
Carrasco added that, in addition to updating the electoral registers, the plan of activities includes the training of electoral administration staff, which is already underway, with 75 of them now trained at national level.
He noted, however, that most of the plans can only take shape with the setting up of the CNE, because it is this body which must appoint the STAE general director, and decide on a whole range of other matters determinant for the elections.
He also noted that STAE's proposal is based on the belief that the CNE will start functioning by November. This is by no means certain. 18 of the 19 CNE members will be elected by the Assembly on 24 October (10 appointed by the majority Frelimo Party, and eight by the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition). But the 19th member is the chairperson, and is to come from the ranks of Mozambican "civil society".
Carrasco doubted that this would be feasible to hold the elections on schedule, in June,. "The calendar we worked out shows that it will be difficult to keep to the June date because the electoral registers must be updated, and this cannot be done in the rainy season" (the rainy season is starting now, and lasts until the end of March). Hence the proposal to start the updating in April.
"One can thus forecast that the polling may only take place during the second half of September", added Carrasco. "This is STAE's view, in accordance with the existing legislation, but the final decision belongs to the CNE".
On 16 October Renamo retreated from threats that it would seek the expulsion of Renamo dissidents from the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
On 10 October the Renamo secretary for mobilisation, Raimundo Samuge, had declared that Renamo would no longer tolerate parliamentary seats being occupied by people who had left, or been expelled from Renamo. He threatened that Renamo would do all in its power to have such deputies expelled from the Assembly. On hearing this, deputies from the ruling Frelimo Party feared that it would be the prelude to ugly scenes at the start of the October-December parliamentary sitting.
But in fact, at the opening of the sitting, Renamo made no attempt to remove any of the five deputies who have left the Renamo parliamentary group - namely Raul Domingos, Chico Francisco, Almeida Tambara, Rashid Tayob, and Jose Lopes.
In his opening speech, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ossufo Quitine, attacked the five dissidents, who now sit as "independent" deputies, by claiming that neither the constitution, nor the Assembly's standing orders envisage any such thing as an "independent deputy". He declared categorically that "if any deputy leaves his party, he automatically loses his parliamentary seat".
But the Assembly's standing orders specifically envisage the case of deputies who do not belong to any political party's parliamentary group, and state that they must be guaranteed the right to speak in debates.
Renamo, declared Quitine, "will not allow the law to be violated. We will do everything to maintain legality in this house". But after these stirring words Renamo did precisely nothing. No motion to remove the five dissidents and replace them with candidate deputies from lower down the Renamo lists was moved.
Quitine also attacked parliamentary chairman Eduardo Mulembue for failing to ensure adequate protection for deputies. "How can we talk of peace when, because we defend our electorate, we are attacked and even killed", he declared. "What is most surprising is the silence of the Assembly chairman. In the final analysis he is responsible for this house and for all of us. He should guarantee the well-being and security of each of us".
No deputy has been killed, but Quitine was referring to the attack last month against Renamo deputy Luis Boavida, who was severely beaten by unidentified assailants in his hotel room.
Quitine protested that Mulembue has his own bodyguards, while other deputies are left to their fate, and accused him of being more concerned with his own comfort than with the security of deputies. "Your silence leads us to think that you know something about these criminals, those whom you have not had the courage to denounce", accused Quitine.
The head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Manuel Tome, gave a conciliatory opening speech, promising Frelimo's "total willingness" to work with Renamo "in search of consensus for greater efficiency and productivity in our Assembly".
He stressed the tenth anniversary of the 1992 peace accord, celebrated earlier this month, declaring that "peace is an irreversible gain of the Mozambican people. This culture of peace and reconciliation is an example for other countries that, with dialogue and tolerance, it is possible to understand our difference and diversity".
Tome warned of the threat posed by organised crime, with its "complex international network which includes corruption, money- laundering and drug trafficking". This threat "demands greater action and coordination from the institutions responsible for the administration of justice, as well as greater involvement from all of society", he said.
While Frelimo "encouraged" the efforts that had so far been undertaken, "more must be done, and the evils must be combated from within the institutions themselves", said Tome.
"The moralisation of society, of the state and of all its institutions is or unquestionable urgency", he stressed. "This is not an easy mission, much less one that produces immediate results, because it involves changing attitudes, behaviour, laws and systems of organising work".
"Magistrates, ministers, deputies, and political leaders must be to the forefront of this struggle to moralise society and the state", Tome insisted.
Minister of Justice Jose Abudo on 17 October painted a picture of the Mozambican justice system entirely at odds with that depicted by Attorney General Joaquim Madeira earlier in the year.
Both men were speaking in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Madeira giving the annual report from his office, and Abudo responding to requests from the deputies for information on the administration of justice and on the police.
Madeira's report, given in March, had been a shocking document, pointing to incompetence, corruption and abuse of power at all levels of the justice system - police, attorneys, judges, lawyers and prisons. But Abudo scarcely mentioned these problems and gave the impression that steady improvements are taking place.
The ruling Frelimo Party had wanted to know about measures to speed up court cases. But according to Abudo, that is already being done.
The number of cases completed in the Supreme Court rose from 185 in 2000 to 298 in 2001, a rise of 61.1 per cent. In the 11 provincial courts, the number of cases dealt with rose from 17,626 to 18,514.
But this is not so impressive, when one considers the enormous backlog in the courts. 1,179 cases in the Supreme Court were not dealt with in 2001, and passed over into 2002. The number for the provincial courts is 128,039.
At the current rate, it will be impossible to deal with all these cases - yet Abudo looked on the bright side, and declared that the backlog in the Supreme Court had shrunk by 4.5 per cent, and in the provincial courts by 1.9 per cent.
Asked about simplifying procedures for citizens' access to the constitutionally enshrined right to defence, Abudo claimed there was "nothing to simplify". If citizens could not obtain the services of a lawyer, then the court would appoint an "official defender".
He saw no problem - but anyone who has observed the work of "official defenders" knows that these often untrained individuals have enormous difficulty in representing the interests of accused persons.
Frelimo also asked about "institutional mechanisms" to coordinate the various bodies involved in the administration of justice. Abudo implied that this too already existed, when he replied "there should continue to exist the most perfect relationship possible between the Supreme Court, the Attorney General's Office, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Justice".
Abudo mentioned the Legality Commissions set up in every province, which bring together judges, attorneys and the police. He claimed these had detected "cases of manifest illegality in the deprivation of liberty". But these commissions were established mainly to end overcrowding in the prisons, which can be achieved by ensuring that as many detainees as possible await their trials at home. This has not happened: every report into the prisons indicates that the majority of inmates are still pre-trial detainees (often accused of petty offences), rather than convicted prisoners.
Renamo asked about the police, and what it was doing to stamp out crime. Renamo made the point that people's freedom of movement is restricted when they are afraid of crime on the streets.
Abudo, however, claimed that it was "evident and irrefutable that the action of criminals does not hinder the free circulation of people and goods". Among his "irrefutable evidence" was the monthly average of 334,000 people crossing Mozambique's borders.
Abudo reeled off crime statistics for the first six months of this year. Crimes against property had risen by five per cent - from 11,528 in the first half of 2001 to 12,110 this year. Crimes against persons, however, had fallen by 9.1 per cent, from 7,102 to 6,453. A third category, "crimes against public order and tranquillity" had fallen by 27 per cent - from 858 to 626.
However, half these cases are minor drug offences, usually the consumption and trafficking in cannabis. The major problem with these statistics is that they only refer to crime that is reported to and registered by the police.
For murders, the figures are likely to be accurate - but crimes such as muggings and other forms of theft are grossly under-reported.
Abudo also claimed an extraordinarily high clear-up rate for the police. Of the 19,407 crimes reported between January and June, the police had "clarified" 14,808, or 76.3 per cent (that is, the police claim they know who the culprit is - which is no guarantee that the case will ever come to trial).
Listing police successes in the first six months of the year, Abudo said 209 criminal gangs, 46 of them armed, were dismantled, and 16 arms caches were discovered. The police recovered 228 stolen vehicles, and 89 stolen head of cattle. 8.9 tonnes of rice stolen from the World Food Programme (WFP) was also recovered.
As for drugs, Abudo reported the seizure of 633 kilos of cannabis, and the destruction of 2.5 hectares of cannabis fields. He said absolutely nothing about hard drugs.
The Minster praised the "selflessness" and "patriotism" of the police, and noted that in the last six months, six policemen had been killed and 25 injured in clashes with criminals. "The professional behaviour, dedication and commitment of the police to the patriotic cause is encouraging", Abudo declared.
He admitted that there were some policemen "who violate disciplinary regulations and even commit crimes". In the first six months of the year 43 such policemen were expelled from the force for "theft, bribe-taking, covering up for criminals and disobedience".
But Abudo said absolutely nothing about gross corruption with the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC). On this subject, Madeira had reported "Cases concerned with theft from the state, from banks and from other private bodies make no progress. The papers disappear, and nobody knows about them because they've been shelved, hidden or even destroyed".
Abudo did not so much as mention the mysterious removal of Antonio Frangoulis, the man who led investigations into the murder of journalist Carlos Cardoso, from his job as head of the Maputo City branch of PIC.
He said nothing either about the escape from the Maputo top security jail of one of those charged with the Cardoso murder, Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), or about the progress (or lack of it) in the investigations of other high profile murders, such as that of banker Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua in August 2001, or of musician Pedro Langa in November 2001.
This rosy picture failed to convince either Frelimo or the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition.
In the ensuing debate, Frelimo deputy Sergio Vieira protested at the failure to punish corrupt judges severely. He said that the main sanction used against such judges was simply to transfer them to another part of the country. "Transferring corrupt, drunken magistrates to other districts leads to discrediting justice", he warned. "We see this happening in several districts".
Vieira suggested that the Supreme Council of the Judicial Magistrature (CSMJ), the body that disciplines judges, "should come down from its ivory tower".
He lamented the absence of a proper judicial inspectorate to check on judges' performance. The result was that, when considering judges for promotion, the only criterion taken into account was how long they had been doing the job.
Vieira attacked the "extreme slowness" of the courts, warning that "the citizens need justice, but when justice is heavily bureaucratised it becomes injustice".
For Renamo, David Alone noted that Abudo had said nothing about organised crime, or about a string of high profile scandals, particularly involving drug trafficking. "Have you forgotten about Costa Virott ?", he asked, referring to a Spanish businessmen accused of drug trafficking, but who was allowed to leave the country in 1997.
Alone accused both Abudo and Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje of "collaborating with crime". "Crime is professionalised, and it has its masters in the Interior and Justice Ministries", he declared.
As for the escape on 1 September of Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), Alone asked "Is it true that he escaped, or did they just open the doors for him? Justice only exists for those who steal chickens, not for those responsible for heinous crimes".
Alone concluded his speech by calling on Abudo and Manhenje to resign "because of your incapacity and incompetence".
The Assembly of the Republic on 16 October unanimously passed the first reading of a government bill introducing compulsory third party insurance for all vehicles on the country's roads.
Previously, third party cover has only been compulsory for businesses operating passenger or freight vehicles. There was no insurance obligation for private car owners. As a result most Mozambican vehicles are not insured.
Introducing the bill, Transport Minister Tomas Salomao said there are currently 135,000 vehicles registered in Mozambique. Over the last two years there have been 10,000 traffic accidents, in which over 1,800 people have died and 12,000 have been injured.
The lack of insurance means that there are heavy costs for the state, said Salomao, since it is the health service, rather than insurance companies, that pays the medical costs for people injured in accidents.
Renamo has announced that it will stand alone, without any coalition partners, in the 2003 local elections.
Cited in "Noticias" on 12 October, Renamo spokesman Fernando Mazanga insisted that Renamo was not abandoning the "Electoral Union" coalition with ten minor parties, that ran in the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections. But there would be no coalition candidates in 2003. "Each party will compete on its own, to test out its popularity", Mazanga said.
At the end of September, the minor parties met, and expressed a wish to keep the coalition intact for the local elections. They sent a petition to this effect to Renamo - but so far Renamo has not replied. Mazanga claimed to know nothing about this document.
Mazanga said Renamo already has candidates for the 33 municipalities, but he declined to reveal their names. He did not rule out the possibility of fresh coalitions in the future, including with parties that are not currently members of the Electoral Union.
As from 2003 Mozambique expects to produce about 300,000 tonnes of sugar a year, thanks to the rehabilitation of the sugar industry now under way.
The director of the National Sugar Institute (INA), Arnaldo Ribeiro, told AIM on 10 October that the current sugar campaign had so far produced 150,000 tonnes - more or less enough to supply the entire domestic market for a year. By the end of the campaign, in December, a further 50,000 tonnes should have been produced. This will be an increase of 200 per cent on the figure for 2001, when 67,000 tonnes of sugar were produced.
This spectacular growth is due to the rehabilitation of four mills - Xinavane and Maragra, in Maputo province, and Mafambisse and Marromeu, in the central province of Sofala - at a total cost of around $300 million. But Mozambique's sugar quotas for exports to the European, American, and SADC markets remain very low, Ribeiro said, amounting to about 30,000 tonnes. For this preferential quota, the price is relatively good.
But the remaining 170,000 tonnes must be sold domestically, or on the world market, where prices have collapsed to $150 a tonne. Although total consumption is estimated at 150,000 tonnes, Ribeiro thought that local production would only satisfy two thirds of this. The other 50,000 tonnes consumed will be contraband sugar from neighbouring countries. Ribeiro thought there had been some success in recent months in the battle against sugar smuggling, but he warned that there could be no relaxation.
The Maragra sugar mill in the southern district of Manhica, 78 kilometres north of Maputo, is seeing a clear recovery, and is expected to produce 55,000 tonnes of sugar this year, which is about 27.5 per cent of the country's total projected sugar production.
Maragra general director Tony Currie recalled that production at the factory was resumed in 2001, after a costly rehabilitation. Maragra had been paralysed for 14 years, between 1984 and 1998, partly due to the war of destabilisation, and partly to the obsolescence of its equipment.
Currie said that in 2000, when the company was at an advanced stage of rehabilitation, it was hit by catastrophic flooding on the Incomati river, that destroyed 4,000 hectares of sugar cane.
For his part, Maragra assets administrator Eduardo Ferreira said that the floods also destroyed all the water pumping infrastructures, and it took a great deal of effort to repair them.
"When the waters had evaporated, in June 2000, we resumed planting cane, and repairing the pumps and the irrigation system", Ferreira said, addressing reporters who accompanied a group of participants from the Sugar International Conference, held in Maputo between 10 and 12 October.
Ferreira said that his company invested $37 million in the rehabilitation of Maragra, which includes $15 million used to repair the damage caused by the floods.
"This speedy recovery was only possible with the support of Ilovo, our mother company, which assisted us and granted us credit", he said. (Ilovo is a South African sugar company, and is the dominant shareholder in Maragra.) He added that in 2001, the company produced only 15,000 tonnes of sugar, but this year it is set to produce about 55,000 tonnes of refined sugar, from 430,000 tonnes of cane.
Maragra is working on 6,300 hectares of cane, and employs a 3,000 strong workforce during the sugar harvest.
Ferreira said that the minimum wage in the company is between 850,000 and 900,000 meticais ($35 to $37) a month, compared with the minimum statutory wage of 812,163 meticais.
However, there is still some tension between the cane cutters, who went on strike in July, in protest against a unilateral attempt to change the payment method, and the management, although the latter downplays the situation. Speaking to AIM, some of the workers are still complaining of low wages, of the employer's apparently contemptuous attitude towards the Mozambican staff, and of differences in wages paid to workers holding the same category and the same qualifications.
The United States government is prepared to finance the Nacala rail corridor in northern Mozambique, in exchange for use of the Nacala air base, according to a report in "Mediafax" on 11 October.
The management of the Nacala port and railway is in the hands of the private consortium SDCN. This includes a variety of Mozambican companies, including some linked to leading politicians, such as the general secretary of Frelimo, Armando Guebuza, and former defence minister Alberto Chipande. Foreign partners in the consortium include two US companies, Edlow Resources, and the Railway Development Corporation, and the Portuguese company Tertir. But to date, the consortium has not found a partner prepared to inject the capital it requires. SDCN has been looking for a total of $52 million.
"Mediafax" says that some of this money will come from a US government agency, the Overseas Private Investment Coporation (OPIC), which grants loans to American companies investing overseas, and guarantees them against political risk. The paper says a meeting between the SDCN and OPIC will take place shortly.
The Nacala Corridor was one of the questions on the agenda when the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner, visited Mozambique in May. He travelled to Nacala, where he met with Mozambican Transport Minister Tomas Salomao, and ministers from Zambia and Malawi, the two countries who should benefit most from the Nacala Corridor.
"Mediafax" quotes an anonymous source "close to the negotiations" as saying that everything indicates that OPIC will provide a loan of $22 million.
There are two key stretches of track that need to be improved. One is the final 77 kilometres of the main line from Nacala to Malawi. The second stretch is the branch line from Cuamba to Lichinga, capital of Niassa province. Upgrading this line is key to supplying much of Niassa with fuel and other basic goods at reasonable prices.
If all goes well, the Nacala Corridor could become the main outlet to the sea, not only for Malawi, but also for Zambia and even for much of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"Mediafax" claims that in return, Washington wants facilities at the Nacala air base. This used to belong to the Mozambican air force, but for several years the government has been promising to turn it into a civilian airport. Its location, close to the best deep-water port on the east African coast, make the air base of interest to a US administration that sees its strategic interests as spanning the entire globe. But when "Mediafax" tried to confirm this, a US diplomatic source said he had no knowledge of any official information indicated an American interest in the air base.
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