On 18 November the trial begins in Maputo of six men accused of murdering Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, on 22 November 2000. It is the most important trial in the country since the acquittal, a decade ago, of the former chief of staff of the armed forces, Sebastiao Mabote, on coup plot charges.
Among the accused are two members of the powerful Abdul Satar business family - Momade Assife Abdul Satar (who goes by the nickname of "Nini"), and his brother Ayob Abdul Satar - and their close associate, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya.
Ramaya and the Satar family have been linked to the huge bank fraud through which the equivalent of $14 million was siphoned out of the country's largest bank, the BCM, on the eve of its privatisation in 1996. When the fraud was uncovered, serious corruption in the Attorney-General's Office meant that the case never came to court, and key members of the Abdul Satar family fled to Dubai.
Carlos Cardoso pursued the case tenaciously, particularly after a prominent deputy for the ruling Frelimo Party, Eneas Comiche, named the Satars and Ramaya from the parliamentary tribune in March 2000, and denounced the Attorneys involved in the case. The chain of events that this unleashed led to the sacking of Attorney-General Antonio Namburete, and all six of the assistant attorney-generals.
Cardoso not only demanded that those who defrauded the BCM be brought to justice - he also began investigating the Satars' other business activities. Ayob Satar owns the Unicambios chain of apparently legitimate foreign exchange bureaux, and several other Maputo shops - but there were strong suspicions that some of this property was acquired with BCM money.
According to the prosecution case, when the Satars and Ramaya decided to eliminate Cardoso, they recruited Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho") to organise the murder. He in turn picked Manuel Fernandes and Carlitos Rachide Cassamo.
On the night of the murder, Cardoso left the office shortly after 18.30. According to the prosecution, as the "Metical" Toyota pulled away, a red Citi-Golf driven by Anibalzinho followed it: in the back seat were Fernandes and Cassamo, the later cradling an AK-47 assault rifle that Nini Satar had provided.
A couple of hundred metres from the "Metical" office, the Citi-Golf pulled in front of the Toyota, forcing it to a halt. Cassamo allegedly opened fire, and eight bullets struck Cardoso, killing him instantly. Cardoso's driver, Carlos Manjate, was severely injured, with a bullet wound to the head, but he survived.
Under public pressure, the police investigation, after a shaky start, led to the arrest of Anibalzinho in Swaziland in February 2001. Over the next few days the other five were all picked up.
Delay after delay followed, largely because the defence lawyers were exploiting every loophole to avoid a trial. Appeals were launched, up to the Supreme Court, against the case going to trial, and Nini Satar at one stage even attempted to have the judge, Augusto Paulino, replaced, on the grounds that he was "biased".
Everything was prepared for a trial in September 2002 - when, on 1 September, somebody unlocked the padlocks on Anibalzinho's cell in the Maputo top security prison, and this key suspect walked free. The former head of the Maputo Criminal Investigation Police, Antonio Frangoulis, had warned Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje well in advance that Anibalzinho might try to escape. Despite this, no measures were taken to tighten security.
The commanders of the three police units guarding the prison that night were arrested - but it is widely believed that the order to release Anibalzinho came from somebody higher up. Since then Anibalzinho has mocked his pursuers, sending messages containing death threats to Frangoulis's mobile phone.
The court had to wait 60 days, to give Anibalzinho a chance to surrender. He did no such thing, and now he will be tried in absentia.
Over the last few weeks other names have floated to the surface. Nini Satar has allegedly claimed that he was only a middleman in the assassination - among those he named as giving the instructions are Namburete and other former attorneys, a former industry minister, Octavio Muthemba, and Nyimpine Chissano, businessman son of President Joaquim Chissano.
It is too late to put these names into the case that opens on 18 November, but Judge Paulino has said they will be questioned - and, if these is any evidence against them, a second, autonomous case against them will be opened.
The Attorney-General's Office has ordered the detention of Jose Beirao, former director of finance in the central province of Sofala, on charges of theft.
Few details of this case are yet available. Approached on 15 November by the Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique", assistant attorney-general Isabel Rupia would only say that the case "is complicated". She said it was "not opportune" to reveal the amount of money allegedly stolen, and would not say whether anybody else was involved.
Rupia headed a team from the Attorney-General's office which came to Beira specifically to investigate this case. "Diario de Mocambique" ascertained that this team interrogated Jose Beirao at length, after which he was immediately detained and taken to Beira Central Prison.
After the detention, rumours spread in the city that Beirao was being held in connection with the murder in July of the head of the treasury department in Sofala, Josefa Afonso. She had allegedly discovered a theft of eight billion meticais (about $336,000) from the state coffers in the province.
But the director of public order and security in the provincial police command, Leonardo Nhantumbo, assured reporters that the Beirao case is separate from that of the murder of Afonso. "The police are investigating the murder, while it is the attorney-general's office that is dealing with Beirao", he said.
Shortly after the murder, the Beira police arrested seven people, whose names have not been made public.
Interestingly, it was just a few days after Afonso's death that Beirao was removed from his job as provincial finance director. He was placed in the Central Regional Inspectorate of the Finance Ministry, but was specifically forbidden from inspecting the Sofala provincial treasury.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 14 November once again failed to elect the National Elections Commission (CNE), the body which must supervise the municipal elections scheduled for 2003.
The CNE consists of 19 members - an independent chairperson chosen from civil society, and 18 others elected by the Assembly in proportion to the parliamentary seats held by each party. In practice, this means that the ruling Frelimo Party appoints 10, and the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition appoints eight.
But Renamo has run into problems with its candidates. One of the people it has proposed, Jose de Castro, is ineligible for CNE membership. He is a member of the Renamo leadership (he is a party department head, and sits on the Renamo Political Commission), and, under an amendment to the law on the CNE which was proposed by Renamo, and passed unanimously by the Assembly in September, no member of a leading body of a political party may sit on the CNE. Yet Renamo has refused to withdraw Castro's name. Their solution to the problem has been to postpone the election.
There were five items on the Assembly's agenda on 14 November, and item four was electing the CNE. But in fact, the Assembly never got beyond item one, which was concluding the debate on the General State Accounts for the year 2000. The Renamo tactics were quite clear: not only did deputy after deputy demand to speak on the State Accounts, all saying much the same thing, but whenever a Frelimo deputy spoke, there was a barrage of spurious points of order and "requests for clarification" from the Renamo benches.
The first Renamo deputy to start spinning things out was Dionisio Quelhas. Frelimo had no doubt what was going on, and alerted the Assembly chairman, Eduardo Mulembue. "Beware ! This is a time-wasting tactic so that we can't finish our agenda", said Alfredo Gamito.
There were just ten minutes left before the end of the session when the debate on the General State Accounts finally finished. Mulembue proposed extending the session into the afternoon to deal with the rest of the agenda - but Renamo flatly refused. "We have other things to do this afternoon", said the head of the Renamo group Ossofo Quitine.
Since Frelimo possesses an overall majority, and can make up the parliamentary quorum on its own, it could have continued the session without the Renamo deputies. But it declined to do so.
"It's been clear for some time that there is a group of deputies who do not want us to work productively during this session", said the head of the Frelimo group, Manuel Tome. "They have constantly resorted to manoeuvres so that we cannot discuss very important matters on the agenda".
"Although Frelimo constitutes the majority, we don't want to discuss these key matters on our own", he added. "But let Renamo take responsibility for this damage to the work of the Assembly".
Mulembue then adjourned the Assembly plenary until 26 November.
The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service, has drawn up a plan of activities in preparation for the municipal elections scheduled for next year - but the assumption behind the plan was that the National Elections Commission (CNE) would be formed and operational by the start of November.
STAE general director Antonio Carrasco gave a detailed outline of his institution's plans at the Coordinating Council of the Ministry of State Administration in the resort of Bilene, in the southern province of Gaza. But putting the plans into action depends on the CNE, which is the political body in overall charge of elections - and the CNE does not yet exist.
As outlined by Carrasco, STAE's plans envisage 2,949 voter registration brigades who will update the electoral registers of 1999. This is 29 per cent more brigades than in 1999 - because this time there will be no mobile brigades, and so the number of fixed brigades must be increased substantially in order to allow all potential voters to reach them.
The brigades are expected to register 2.5 million voters: this figure includes people who have reached voting age (18) since 1999, those who, for whatever reason, did not register earlier, and those who have changed address or lost their voting card.
The registration brigades will work for 45 days, and, on average, each brigade is expected to register 30 people a day.
For voter education campaigns, STAE expects to recruit 1,200 agents. But Carrasco stressed that such education cannot be left up to STAE alone, but should also involves NGOs, churches, trade unions and the other organisations of civil society.
Carrasco said that STAE currently owns a fleet of 154 vehicles - but it will need 400 to do its job properly. It will achieve this, not by buying more vehicles, but by hiring them, or even by asking friendly businesses to lend vehicles to STAE.
STAE also expects that it will need one light aircraft and six helicopters to take the registration brigades and their materials to places where access by road is impossible.
All of these plans, however, depend on the existence of a functioning CNE.
Only half of the money which foreign donors pledged to Mozambique for reconstruction after the devastating floods of February 2000 has been disbursed. Public Works Minister Roberto White gave the Assembly of the Republic the disheartening figures on 12 November, showing that donors are much better at providing fine words than hard cash.
In 2000 much of southern and central Mozambique was under water, as massive floods struck every river valley south of Beira. The Mozambican government, working closely with the United Nations, drew up an appeal for post-flood reconstruction costed at $450 million, which was presented at a donors' conference in Rome in May 2000.
To the government's pleasure and surprise, donors promised more money than requested. When the pledges were added up, they came to $470.9 million. But it is easy to make promises, less easy to honour them.
Two and a half years later, White told the Assembly, only 56 per cent of that money, $238.5 million, has actually been disbursed. And only $96.5 million was channelled through the Mozambican treasury: the rest went through the UN, through separate accounts set up by donors themselves, or through NGOs.
"On the basis of past experience, now that so much time has elapsed, we don't expect any significant increase in disbursement", said White. Floods hit the country again in 2001, this time mainly in the Zambezi Valley. The government did not hold a pledging conference in 2001. But it did submit a list of requirements to donors, which amounted to $132 million. So far the response has been miserable, at $13 million, or just 10 per cent of requirements. The government could take some small comfort from the fact that all this money went through the treasury.
The failure of donors to keep their promises meant the government was forced to revise its reconstruction plans in line with the money actually available. This was a particular problem with the health sector. In the 2000 floods, 83 health units were destroyed or damaged - but so far the government has only had the money to restore 21 of them. As for the 45 health units damaged in the 2001 floods, White said no funds had been forthcoming to repair any of them.
White was giving the government's position in a debate on a report presented on post-flood resettlement by the Assembly's own Social Affairs Commission. In the debate, by and large the ruling Frelimo Party accepted that the government was doing a reasonably good job, while Renamo denounced alleged abuses but without giving any convincing details.
The Assembly of the Republic on 31 October passed the first reading of a bill to set up the Constitutional Council, a body that will decide on whether laws or government decisions are in accordance with the country's constitution.
Although the Constitutional Council is a body whose powers are set forth in the 1990 constitution, it has never been established, and for the past 12 years its duties have been exercised on a temporary basis by the Supreme Court. The tasks of the Constitutional Council, as outlined in the constitution, are to strike down any laws or government statutory acts that it considers unconstitutional, to settle any conflicts of competence between sovereign state bodies, and to pronounce upon the legality of referenda.
The Constitutional Council is also the highest electoral body. It must verify whether candidates for the post of President of the Republic meet the legal requirements, take the final decision on any electoral complaints, and validate and declare the final results of elections.
The bill passed on 31 October establishes that the judges sitting on the Council must have a law degree, must be at least 35 years old, and must gave been working in the legal profession uninterruptedly for at least 10 years.
Eventually, there will be seven judges on the Council - but a proposal from Ali Dauto, chairman of the Assembly's Legal Affairs Commission, that at first only five should be appointed seemed to enjoy general support. Dauto argued that there are simply not enough constitutional disputes, or elections, to justify a council of seven members.
Cutting the number down to five would also save a considerable sum (at least 4.2 billion meticais - about $177,000 - a year, judging from the figures produced by the Legal Affairs Commission). One major issue remains unresolved - how the judges, whether five or seven, are to be appointed.
The opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition insists on completely politicising the Council - it wants the judges to be elected by the Assembly, in accordance with the number of seats each political party holds. This means, in practice, that Frelimo would appoint four of the seven judges (or three of the five), and Renamo would appoint the other three (or two).
The Frelimo proposal is that the chairperson of the Constitutional Council should be appointed by the President of the Republic, three judges would be elected by the Assembly (two appointed by Frelimo and one by Renamo), and three would be elected by the Supreme Council of the Judicial Magistrature (CSMJ - the governing body for the legal profession). Frelimo did not make it clear how this would be adjusted in the event of only five judges being appointed.
The mode of electing Constitutional Council members has now been remitted to the Legal Affairs Commission, in the hope of finding a consensus. But the two sides are so far apart that the matter is almost certain to come back to the plenary for a vote.
A group of 30 newly trained officials in various fields of criminal investigation has been set up as the nucleus of the future Judicial Police, which will work in close cooperation with the Attorney-General's office. The announcement was made by Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira on 5 November, during the ceremonies to mark Mozambican Legality Day.
Speaking to reporters, Madeira said that the only way to combat illegality is through legality, which is why the Mozambican authorities are committed to the new police unit.
All criminal investigation work has previously been done by the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), which operates under the Ministry of the Interior. The idea now is to make it autonomous of the government, and bring it under Madeira's office.
For many years Mozambican jurists have been virtually unanimous in demanding that PIC should be taken out of the Ministry of the Interior, and should work much more closely with public prosecutors.
Asked of the future destiny of the existing PIC, Madeira let it be understood that it will eventually be dismantled. He stated, delicately, that PIC had been able to respond, "within its limited human and material capacities", to the demands of the Attorney-General's office, in terms of gathering the necessary evidence to allow prosecutors to do their work.
Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), the company that operates the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi, resumed power supplies to South Africa at zero hours on 14 November, after the South African electricity company Eskom agreed to increase the price it pays.
The power supply from HCB to Eskom was cut on 18 October after nine months of futile attempts to persuade Eskom to pay a reasonable price. The price paid in 2001 was 3.6 South African cents (about 0.36 US cents) per kilowatt hour. This was a temporary price valid only for 2001: it was expected that the three governments concerned (Portugal and Mozambique as owners of the dam, and South Africa as the main consumer) would fix a definitive price during the year.
This did not happen - and, rather than continue with the price of 3.6 cents, as of 1 January, Eskom reverted to the old price of two South African cents per kilowatt/hour.
HCB refused to accept payments at this price, and all attempts, from February to mid-October, to reach an understanding with Eskom failed. So on 18 October HCB took the drastic step of switching off the power to Eskom.
Eskom has climbed down and will revert to the 2001 price of 3.6 cents per kilowatt hour, backdated to 1 January. This price remains provisional. The HCB proposal for the new price is 11.4 cents, which is still less than the amount of 15.4 cents per kilowatt hour paid by the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).
The national council of Renamo on 16 November chose Viana Magalhaes as the party's new general secretary.
The 33 year old Magalhaes has a degree in linguistics, and joined Renamo in 1992 - thus he is not linked to Renamo's military wing, and did not play an active role in the war of destabilisation.
Speaking to Mozambican Television (TVM), Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama defended the appointment of Magalhaes as part of a policy of promoting a younger generation of politicians.
Renamo's last general secretary was Joaquim Vaz, elected at a Renamo congress a year ago. He lasted just eight months in the job. Vaz was forced to resign in July, after his plans to visit the party's offices in the provinces were blocked by other Renamo leaders. He faced opposition because of his friendship with Raul Domingos, the former head of the Renamo parliamentary group, who was expelled from the party in 2000.
Immediately after his appointment, Magalhaes said that his top priority was to prepare Renamo for the municipal elections of 2003, and the general elections scheduled for 2004.
The Cotton Company of Zimbabwe (CCZ) is setting up a joint venture with the Mozambican company SOGIR, which is a subsidiary of the Zambezi Planning Office (GPZ), to promote cotton production in the central provinces of Tete and Manica.
A source in the Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM) told AIM that the two companies have already signed an agreement to set up such a joint venture, to be named "Zambezi Cotton Company", in which CCZ will hold 75 per cent of the shares, while the remaining 25 per cent will belong to SOGIR.
The new company will operate in the districts of Cahora Bassa and Changara, in Tete, which had formerly been conceded to the "Clark Cotton" company, and in Tambara and Guru districts in Manica, where the company Textafrica, based in the provincial capital, Chimoio, once operated. Textafrica, which is mostly Portuguese owned, is paralysed, and thus forfeited its concession rights.
The Mozambican government's Water Supply Assets and Investments Fund (FIPAG) is set to invest about $105 million in the rehabilitation of the water supply systems in five Mozambican cities, over the next five years, reports "Noticias" on 14 November.
The cities in question are the capital Maputo, Beira, and Quelimane, in the centre of the country, and Nampula and Pemba, in the north.
FIPAG director Miguel Alves said that the sum mentioned is for the expansion of the water supply networks and will also cover the costs of management by Aguas de Mocambique, the private consortium, that won the tender for managing water supply in these cities about five years ago.
The money has been provided by the African Development Bank, the World Bank, and by the Dutch and French development agencies.
The expansion work, that should take five years, is designed to cater for more than 60 per cent of the population in the urban and peri-urban areas. At the moment, the coverage rate is estimated at only 30 per cent.
Deputy Environment Minister Francisco Mabjaia has guaranteed that fishermen whose nets were ruined by a spillage of fuel oil from the Matola port fuel terminal on 29 October will be compensated.
Accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Esperanca Bias, Mabjaia visited the site of the spill on 1 November. He stressed that under Mozambican law, those who cause environmental damage are obliged to pay compensation.
Both the Maputo port authorities and the state oil company Petromoc, which owned the fuel oil, "are interested in assessing the possible environmental impact so as to implement the measures that may be necessary".
The spill was relatively small, estimated at between 400 and 600 litres of fuel oil. But this was quite sufficient to ruin the nets of a number of fishermen who operate in Maputo bay.
Mabjaia said these fishermen should be compensated "as quickly as possible", so that they could resume their normal activities.
The oil has not damaged beaches in Maputo bay, and the slick is presumed to be still at sea.
Over 30,000 people are going through a severe hunger crisis in the district of Manjacaze, in the southern province of Gaza, due to the prolonged drought affecting the southern African region, reports "Noticias" on 29 October.
Local people warn that the situation is so serious that some people may soon die of hunger if emergency measures are not taken.
During a recent visit to the district, Gaza provincial governor Rosario Mualeia was told that the drought cost local peasants the loss of about half of the 30,000 hectares of planted crops.
A report presented to Mualeia by the Manjacaze administration says that there 19,000 families facing serious hunger, of whom only 2,800 are benefiting from the assistance of the World Food Programme (WFP), through the "Food for Work" programme.
Mualeia also learnt that despite the drought, peasants in much of the district are committed to production, and have ploughed their fields, but are facing a shortage of seeds for the 2002/2003 agricultural campaign.
The Mozambican government hopes to raise rice production to over 200,000 tonnes in the 2002/03 agricultural campaign. The key province for this drive is Zambezia in the centre of the country, which should account for between 120,000 and 150,000 tonnes. Zambezia farmers had already prepared an area of 100,000 hectares for rice, Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia told AIM.
Indian technicians arrived in Zambezia a month ago to assist in the rice campaign. They are working to rehabilitate the Micelo irrigation system, in Nicoadala district. The Indians are also promoting rural extension schemes with peasant rice producers.
The other key provinces for rice production are Sofala and Gaza. The Gaza district of Chokwe contains the largest irrigation scheme in the country, but it was severely damaged in the floods of 2000.
The Ministry is forecasting a total grain harvest of 1.9 million tonnes in 2003, compared with about 1.8 million tonnes this year.
One of the Mozambican politicians who allegedly owes large sums to the reprivatised Austral Bank is the chairman of the country's parliament, Eduardo Mulembue - but he insists that is regularly paying off his debts.
According to "Mediafax" on 31 October, sources in the bank say that Mulembue's name figures on a list of debtors, and that he owes more than a billion meticais ($420,000). But Mulembue told the paper that he has been repaying the bank - although he admits to a two month delay in meeting the repayment schedule.
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