The Maputo City Court on 31 January found all six men charged with the murder of Mozambique's top investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso guilty, and sentenced them to prison terms of up to 28 years and six months.
All six were also found guilty of the attempted murder of Cardoso's driver, Carlos Manjate, who was severely injured in the November 2000 ambush.
The man who received the longest jail term is Anibal dos Santos Junior "Anibalzinho". He was tried in absentia, because he was illicitly released from the
Maputo top security prison on 1 September 2002. However, South African police arrested him on the outskirts of Pretoria on 30 January, and he arrived back in Maputo the next day, just three hours after the Maputo City Court sentenced him to 28 years and six months imprisonment for his part in the murder.
The court found that Anibalzinho recruited the death squad that murdered Cardoso and drove the car used in the ambush. He was sentenced to 22 years for first degree murder, 18 years for attempted murder, 10 years for criminal conspiracy, 10 years for the theft of the car used in the assassination, 9 years for illegal use of a firearm, 14 months for the use of a false passport, eight months for two counts of the use of false names, and four months for making false statements to the authorities.
This was consolidated into a single prison term of 28 years and six months. This is longer than the usual maximum of 24 years, partly because of the multiplicity of crimes committed, and partly because the court decided that Anibalzinho is "a habitual delinquent".
The two other members of the death squad, Carlitos Rachide (who fired the fatal shots), and Manuel Fernandes (who acted as look-out), each received a sentence of 23 years and six months.
Telling marginally in their favour was the fact that they had both freely confessed to the crime, which the court regarded as a mitigating circumstance.
The other three accused were all found guilty of ordering the crime. Loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini") was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment, and his brother, Ayob Abdul Satar, owner of the Unicambios foreign exchange bureau, is to serve 23 years and three months. Their associate, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, received a sentence of 23 years and six months.
In addition, the court ordered the six to pay compensation of 14 billion meticais ($588,000) to Cardoso's two children, 13 year old Ibo and seven year old Milena, and 500 million meticais to Carlos Manjate.
This is 100 per cent of the compensation which the lawyers for the Cardoso family and for Manjate had demanded. In addition, the court ordered Anibalzinho and Fernandes to pay $12,000 to the company that owned the stolen Citi-Golf used in the murder, even though the company had not asked for compensation.
The court decreed that a variety of goods seized from the assassins are forfeit to the state. These include all the mobile phones that they were using illicitly in the prison, and cars purchased with the payment for the assassination. One of these cars is a Mercedes-Benz acquired by Anibalzinho immediately after the murder. The presiding judge, Augusto Paulino, noted that this car "has miraculously returned to a relative of Anibalzinho from the police car park where it was being held". He issued a warrant ordering that the Mercedes be seized at once, and returned to police custody.
In the four hour ruling, giving the court's reasons for its verdict and sentence, Paulino stressed that "others" could also have been involved in the murder. The court agreed with the prosecution that the reason why the Satar brothers and Ramaya wanted to eliminate Cardoso was because of his investigation into the massive fraud in which the country's largest bank, the BCM, lost 144 billion meticais ($14 million at the exchange rate of the time). The money was stolen at Ramaya's BCM branch, through accounts opened by members of the Abdul Satar family. But Paulino did not rule the possibility that other people may have been involved in the assassination for "other motives".
The court believed that the murder had been plotted at conspiratorial meetings held in mid-2000 in the Rovuma hotel. But the judges believed that there had been other meetings "which included the participation of individuals other than the defendants". These meetings had taken place at Unicambios, at the house of rich businesswoman Candida Cossa, and at Expresso Tours, the company owned by Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano.
Paulino noted that these meetings, at which Nyimpine Chissano was allegedly present were reported by Nini Satar to Antonio Frangoulis, the then head of the Maputo branch of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC). Frangoulis reported this to his superiors (including Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje), following which he was sacked.
The court could neither condemn or acquit Nyimpine Chissano, since he is not a defendant in this case. But the fact that Paulino mentioned Nyimpine and Expresso Tours will certainly give further impetus to the separate case file, currently in the hands of the Public Prosecutor's Office, in which Chissano Jr is a suspect.
The trial of the murderers "was a very fine tribute to Carlos and to his work" his widow, Nina Berg, told AIM.
She agreed with the statement made in the summing up by the Cardoso family lawyer, Lucinda Cruz, that "this trial can be seen as Carlos's last report".
Berg said she felt "very relieved that, after two long years of fighting for this to happen, and for the investigation to continue, the trial is finally over. We have been fighting step by step, never giving up. But I'm relieved that it's finished".
"I trust the judgement of this collective of judges", she said. "They were very professional and competent. I admire the way Judge Augusto Paulino and his colleagues handled the case, despite being in the public eye for so long".
Berg said she was not surprised by many of the revelations made during the trial, because she had lived with the investigation for the past two years. "The biggest surprise was that the trial happened at all", she declared. "Initially we didn't think there would ever be a trial".
She thought it "a very wise decision" by Judge Paulino to allow live broadcasts of the trial proceedings. "That was a good way of honouring Carlos. Now the things Carlos was fighting far are known to a much broader section of the public".
This moment "is a kind of closure for us", added Berg. "This struggle has been my way of coping with the way Carlos died, this is how I have tried to deal with the loss. I have tried to keep him alive for these two years, but I must now accept that he is never coming back, and we must continue our lives".
Despite this, Berg said that she intends to follow up both the appeals which the defence lawyers have promised to lodge, and the second case file on the murder, in which Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of President Joaquim Chissano, is a suspect.
She added that the family has not yet decided on its role in this second case. "I have drawn no conclusions about this case yet", she said, "but I hope we will see it properly investigated".
"I hope it will not be necessary for the family to be so heavily involved this time", said Berg. "I hope that the legal system itself will function properly, and take the correct measures".
As for the re-arrest of Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), the man who organised the death squad that killed her husband, Berg was "intrigued" at the timing.
The German company Boehringer Ingelheim is to make available in Mozambique, free of charge, the anti- retroviral drug Nevirapine, which can prevent the vertical transmission of the HIV virus from mother to baby.
The German company made the offer two years ago to all developing countries, including Mozambique. However, one of the pre-requisites for introducing treatment with nevirapine is the creation of appropriate conditions in the country's hospitals. They must be equipped to administer this drug, and to inform pregnant women and their families of the advantages of using it.
In the initial phase, the drug will be made available in Beira central hospital, in Sofala province, and in the Manica provincial hospital in the city of Chimoio. Manica and Sofala are two of the provinces with the highest rates of HIV infection.
Somewhat later, nevirapine will also be administered in the provincial hospital in Gaza, in the south of the province. HIV infection has been rising alarmingly in Gaza, and this is believed to be due to the large number of Gaza men who migrate to work on the mines and farms of South Africa.
The drug has been shown to cut by half the number of babies who are infected by their HIV-positive mothers. It thus reduces dramatically the chances of babies falling ill with AIDS.
The numbers of people in need of food aid may increase in Mozambique during the next few weeks, due to factors such as the serious drop in household food reserves, the brown streak virus, that attacks cassava crops, and the increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs, hitting peasant families' purchasing power.
The food security data from August 2002 led to estimates that 587,000 people would need food aid up until March this year.
However, according to "Noticias" on 27 January, a more recent assessment concludes that the situation has worsened, with high levels of malnutrition in all areas affected by the drought in Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, Manica and Tete provinces.
The study found that about 6.6 per cent of people living in these provinces are suffering serious malnutrition. In Gaza the figure reaches about 10 per cent, and 7.7 per cent in Maputo province. Rates of malnutrition are deemed "acceptable" when not exceeding five per cent, "bad" between five and nine per cent, "serious" between 10 and 14 per cent, and "critical" when go over 15 per cent.
The Mozambican Vulnerability Assessment National Committee recommends that assistance to minimise the effects of drought be directed with priority to the most vulnerable groups, namely under-fives, pregnant and breastfeeding women, households headed by elderly people, and those where a seriously ill adult is taking care of children.
It is feared that food reserves will continue to dwindle until March/April, when the next harvest begins to come in.
The Agricultural Markets Information System (SIMA), of the Agriculture Ministry, has found that the family sector is marketing ever smaller quantities of stored maize because people are holding the product back for their own consumption. Despite this, there is still a surplus north of the Zambezi, and peasants, particularly in Zambezia provinces, are continuing to sell maize across the border into Malawi.
Prominent journalist Salomao Moyana, one of the candidates defeated in the election for the chairperson of Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), has thrown his weight behind the winner, Rev Arao Litsuri of the Mozambique Christian Council (CCM).
Moyana, who is director of the independent weekly "Zambeze", described the election of Litsuri as "the right choice, since he has proven to be a thoughtful person, with an open mind, and who works with dedication, zeal and competence".
Interviewed in "Noticias" on 27 January Moyana said he had known Litsuri since 1973, when he was teaching French in a Maputo school. His relations with the Lutheran pastor had always been good, and he recalled that, in the years when he had edited another weekly, "Savana", he had often invited Litsuri to participate in workshops and seminars organised by the paper.
Moyana had no hard feelings about losing to Litsuri. "What's really happening is that for the first time civil society is directly involved in the electoral process, particularly in electing the head of the CNE, and that's very positive", he said. "But everyone should understand that the process has only just begun. This participation by civil society must continue, collaborating with the CNE so that its work is just, impartial, transparent, and, above all, credible".
He hoped that the CNE would operate in an open fashion to provide a space for all Mozambicans interested in working for the success of the forthcoming municipal elections.
He pointed out that Litsuri became a candidate after another churchman, Anglican bishop Dinis Sengulane, had declined to stand. At the meetings of the Movement for Peace and Citizenship, Sengulane's name had been the most consensual. Only when the bishop made clear he was not available, were the names of Moyana, teacher Ana da Graca Ernesto, and human rights activist Alice Mabota, put forward.
The anti-corruption team from the Attorney-General's office has been questioning the former governor of the central province of Sofala, Felisberto Tomas, in Beira since 27 January, "Mediafax".
Anonymous sources in the Sofala provincial attorney's office told the paper that Tomas is under interrogation about various irregularities that took place while he was governor.
One of these concerns the theft of about eight billion meticais ($336,000) from the public treasury. The main suspect in this case is the former provincial planning and finance director, Jose da Silva Beirao.
The theft occurred while Tomas was governor: his term of office ran from 1995 to 2000. But it was only discovered last year: when the theft was discovered, the head of the treasury department in the Sofala finance directorate, Josefa Afonso, began investigating. Clearly this earned her powerful enemies - for on 17 July last year she was shot dead outside her house.
Within a week seven people had been arrested in connection with the murder, and it is believed that statements made by them have led to the accusations against Beirao.
Beirao was briefly detained on the orders of Assistant Attorney-General Isabel Rupia. But, much to her anger, a Beira court subsequently ordered his release. Prosecutors also want Tomas to explain the tendering process for the construction of public buildings. The current governor, Felicio Zacarias, has been discovering a range of irregularities in building work - including lack of transparency in the awarding of contracts, and the delivery to the provincial authorities of poor quality buildings. Some of these schools and other buildings were so badly built that Zacarias has refused to inaugurate them.
The anti-corruption team also plans to question inspectors of the Sofala public works and housing directorate, since the inspectors are responsible for approving building work. Only after the inspectors have given their go-ahead can contractors hand buildings over to the state.
Oddly enough, the inspectors gave the buildings a clean bill of health, but when the time came to inaugurate, they were visibly of poor construction. So much so that in some cases cracks in the walls were already evident.
Inspectors approved the work, and then the contractors were paid by the state, with the blessing of Felisberto Tomas - a practice which Zacarias has brusquely interrupted.
Prosecutors are also investigating irregularities in Beira municipality. In December the city's mayor, Chivavice Muchangage and local officials of the state housing body, APIE, were questioned about how, in several instances, the same parcel of land had come to be attributed to two people, and who authorised the construction of buildings on improper sites.
The Governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Adriano Maleiane, announced on 23 January that the annual rate of inflation in 2002 was 9.1 per cent, and that over the year the Mozambican currency, the metical, only depreciated by 2.3 per cent against the US dollar.
Addressing the opening session of a meeting of the Bank's Consultative Council, held in the southern city of Matola, Maleiane said these figures meant that "overall we attained our objectives".
He said that stabilising the currency, and holding inflation to less than ten per cent, "allowed interest rates, both on the interbank money market, and in transactions with the public to fall, as from the third quarter". He expected the decline in interest rates to continue in 2003.
The Bank of Mozambique's own key interest rate has fallen from 35 per cent in 2001 to 22 per cent. However, commercial interest rates, which reached 37 per cent in 2001, have only fallen to between 32 and 34 per cent, according to the figures AIM obtained at the meeting.
Maleiane stressed that the central bank's main goals are to contribute to macro-economic stability, and strengthen business confidence in the country's financial institutions. Low inflation, and less volatility in exchange rates "contribute to the desired improvement in the economic environment, help businesses take decisions on saving and on investments, and influence positively expectations for the future".
He promised that in 2003, the Bank of Mozambique will work "to maintain financial discipline, and to promote a healthy and solid financial sector".
"We are implementing a monetary policy consistent with the objectives of government economic policy - holding inflation to one digit, ensuring economic growth of over 10 per cent, and ensuring an adequate level of external resources to cope with import requirements", Maleiane said.
He added that the role of the banking supervision department was strengthened in 2002. Measures taken against some banks and foreign currency bureaus (such as fines, suspension of licences, and, in the case of the bankrupt cooperative bank Credicoop, closure) "are part of the necessary stabilisation of the financial sector", said Maleiane.
The sustainable and balanced development of Mozambique depends to a large extent on the country's ability to realise its productive potential, Deputy Agriculture Minister Joao Carrilho said on 24 January. This, he argued, would only be possible "by democratising markets and access to financial resources, particularly those based on domestic savings and oriented towards productive investment".
He was speaking in the city of Matola during a debate on "The role of Micro-Finance in the Promotion of Economic Development", organised by the Bank of Mozambique.
Carrilho stressed the government's commitment to drafting the legal framework for developing the micro-finance sector in the country, in order to expand the access of small scale businesses to financial resources. Without access to some form of credit, it would not be possible to make proper use of productive potential, he warned.
He said that in 1998, the government set as a target that the micro-financial market should benefit about 100,000 clients by 2005, and so far there are about 30 micro-finance initiatives with about 50,000 clients.
But the money is not going into production. A rapid analysis of the micro-financial market shows that 57 per cent of the operations are to support informal trade. 10 per cent of the credit is for other services, and only 18 per cent is for agriculture, and 15 per cent for manufacturing.
"As you can see, the micro-financial services are oriented towards consumption and not production", said Carrilho. This would have to be reversed if the Mozambican economy was to grow in a sustainable fashion.
The loans are normally equivalent to $20 to $30, with a repayment period of between three and six months. But clients, most of whom are women, can increase their loans to between $300 and $600.
Drought is likely to continue this year over much of southern and central Mozambique, Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia has warned.
Cited in "Noticias" on 23 January, Muteia described the failure of the rains as "dramatic". He said that as from March, farmers should be bringing in the new harvest - but crops have failed, for the second year running, across much of the south of the country.
Muteia, who has been visiting drought stricken areas, said the government is focusing on water supply in 15 highly vulnerable districts. They are Mabalane, Massangena, Chigubo, Massingir and Chicualacuala in Gaza province, Funhalouro, Mabote and Govuro, in Inhambane, Machanga and Muanza in Sofala, Tambara and Machaze in Manica, Changara and Mutarara in Tete, and Chinde in Zambezia.
These districts are to benefit from the opening of more boreholes and, where possible, small dams. In all, according to Muteia, 1,000 boreholes, 500 wells and 40 small dams will be rehabilitated or constructed.
Muteia believed that the action plan implemented last year helped cushion the impact of the drought, which affected some 600,000 people. That plan of action will now be adjusted, at a meeting in February between Muteia's ministry and the administrators of the affected districts.
While the south of the country has been suffering drought, the north has been battered by tropical storms, which have washed away crops. A mission from the Disasters Management Technical Council overflew Moma, Larde and Aube, the localities in Nampula province worse hit by tropical depression "Delfina" earlier this month. The mission noted that roads are being reopened, and the local residents are gradually resuming their normal lives. The main requirement is for seeds, so that households that have lost their crops can replant.
According to a source in the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), seeds will be distributed to at least 18,000 peasant households.
Negotiations for Zambia to become the third country to join the Nacala Development Corridor "are going well", according to official sources contacted by AIM.
The transformation of the Nacala port and rail system in northern Mozambique into a "development corridor" dates from 28 September 2000, when Presidents Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and Bakili Maluzi of Malawi signed an agreement on the matter. That agreement left open the possibility of other countries joining.
Negotiations on the inclusion of Zambia in the development corridor took place this week in Maputo between Mozambican, Malawian and Zambian experts.
A source close to these negotiations told AIM "the talks are going well, and certainly an agreement to incorporate Zambia into the Nacala Development Corridor could happen at the investors conference due to be held next month in Nacala". There are some technical details to be sorted out - such as the geographical limits to those parts of Zambia's territory that will be served by the Development Corridor.
Furthermore, the Zambian rail network does not yet physically connect with the Nacala railway. For that to happen a new 30 kilometre stretch of line must be built between the Zambian town of Chipata, and Mchinji, on the Malawian border.
Last November, the Zambian Deputy Minister of Transport, Willie Nsanda, said that a map had already been drawn up showing the areas to be covered by the Nacala Development corridor. This included the Northern, Eastern and Central provinces, as well as the capital, Lusaka - in all, about half the country. The railway, from Nacala, through Nampula and Niassa provinces in Mozambique, and then across Malawi, is a total of 795 kilometres long.
Clearing goods through Mozambican customs should be somewhat simpler with the abolition of the "pre-declaration", the form that all importers were supposed to deliver to customs announcing the goods they were intending to import.
The "pre-declaration" replaced the old import licence system in December 1998. Importers objected largely because they had to make a deposit of 15 per cent of the customs duties owing, every time they made a "pre-declaration". The remaining 85 per cent was paid when the goods entered the country. This has now been swept away, and no deposit is required.
For the goods that are subject to pre-shipment inspection, all the importer need do is submit the relevant pro-forma invoice to the inspection company, the British firm Intertek Testing Services (ITS), and request the inspection.
The great bulk of goods are no longer subject to pre-shipment inspection. In these cases, the importer submits directly to customs the "documento unico" ("single document") used for all customs purposes, importing and exporting.
The only goods still subject to pre-shipment inspection are grains, flour, sugar, vegetable oil, cement, chemical products, pigments, most medicines, dry cells, used clothes, paper, tyres, and vehicles. In the cases of grain, flour, cement, paper, used clothes and vegetable oil, if the amount imported is small (less than 100 kilos or 20 litres), it is exempt from inspection.
The maximum rate for customs duties on consumer goods has been cut from 30 to 25 per cent. Also reduced is the consumption tax on luxury goods, particularly on items used in the tourism industry. Thus the consumption tax on everything used for line fishing and for aquatic sports has been cut from 40 to 15 per cent. There is the same reduction for equipment used in several other sports, including golf and tennis.
Wine lovers should also benefit: the consumption tax on wine falls from 65 to 40 per cent. There is no such cut for whisky and other spirits, where the tax remains 65 per cent. (It should be noted that the consumption tax is in addition to customs duties and to Value Added Tax, which remains unchanged at 17 per cent.) The Mozambican customs service has also changed the way it assess the "customs value" of goods. Previously, it used the Brussels Customs Declaration, under which duties were charged according to the market value of goods. Now it has adopted Article seven of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), under which duties are calculated according to the "transaction value" of the item.
This change means that now the invoices presented by importers will be given greater weight. If an importer presents a "credible invoice", a customs spokesman told AIM, that will be the basis on which duties are charged, even if it is below the market value of the goods.
The spokesman did not think this would necessarily open the doors to a flood of false invoices, since customs has its intelligence channels for checking the credibility or otherwise of invoices.
As for the customs tariffs book, this has been changed to bring it into line with the 2002 harmonised version of the classification of merchandise adopted by the World Customs Organisation.
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