Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia said on 21 March that his ministry is working to harmonise the second phase of the National Agricultural Development Programme (PROAGRI-2) with the challenges of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), particularly with the NEPAD Integrated Programme for the Development of Agriculture in Africa.
Speaking to reporters during a break in a joint meeting on NEPAD between his ministry and the Maputo representation of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Muteia said that many of the priorities laid down in PROAGRI coincide with those defined in NEPAD.
"NEPAD favours the development of infrastructures, rural development, and the development of human resources as fundamental, as well as access to technology, among other challenges", said Muteia. "Our task now is to ensure that our agricultural policy is in line with the NEPAD principles, because our leaders have pledged that this programme is the vision that will take Africa out of underdevelopment, and each country has its role to play".
Speaking at the opening of the one-day meeting with FAO, Muteia pointed to four main pillars on which the Mozambican agriculture sector should rest, in order to achieve the objectives advocated under NEPAD. These pillars were access to technology, access to markets, access to land and access to credit.
On technology, Muteia stressed that the greatest problem Mozambican agriculture faces is its low level of productivity. He thought it crucial to increase maize yields from the current average of just 1.5 tonnes per hectare, to four, five or even six tonnes per hectare. Only improved technology would lead to these improvements, but this also means that the agricultural research system must be prepared to pass on new knowledge to peasant farmers, through the extension network.
Muteia said that market access was a key component in persuading peasants to increase their production. If farmers "do not achieve economic gains, if they can't sell their produce at a good price, then they won't be motivated to produce".
"The market can't be seen just as the place where the peasant sells his produce", added Muteia, "but as the whole range of conditions that guarantees healthy relations in selling and buying produce. This has to do with access roads, the trading network, market information, and with agro-industry". The Minister argued that agro-industry could play a major role in stabilising prices.
Muteia said access to land was fundamental, and everything should be done to ensure that land was used rationally. He attacked those who obtain land titles, and then do not use their land. He thought some reforms to the land law were needed to ensure that the land is put to productive use.
As for agricultural credit, the harsh fact is that the commercial banks are not interested in lending money to farmers, who are regarded as high risk clients. Muteia did not have an immediate answer to this. He urged banks to change their minds and take risks, but past experience suggests that this appeal will fall on deaf ears.
President Joaquim Chissano has expressed fears that the negative impact of the United States-led war on Iraq may divert the attention of Mozambique and of Africa as a whole from their main priority, which should be the fight against poverty.
Speaking to reporters on 20 March, the last day of his official visit to Canada, President Chissano said that "the onset of the war may lead to a rise in the cost of living, reducing the means which we counted upon for our sustainable development, and thus compromising our economic growth".
"African countries, and Mozambique in particular, need sustainable growth. We cannot regress, we should always grow at an adequate level, of between seven and eight per cent a year. All those elements we are currently grasping with both hands should remain with us, including grants, loans, technical assistance, and others", he said.
He noted that, even the most developed countries, such France and Germany, may suffer the impact of the war, and "we may not receive what we expected from them. There is already a diversion of some of those countries' resources. There will soon be a summit of the G8 (the group of most industrialised nations) in Vienna, and discussions on the aftermath of the war on Iraq may steal more time than we expected, taking attention away from discussions on the implementation of NEPAD (New Partnership for African development)".
In a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, President Chissano called for multilateral coordination of efforts to ensure that Africa is not excluded from globalisation. "The globalisation process is pressing African states to interact, both in the context of the regional blocks of which they are members and at continental level", he said.
President Chissano warned "it is common knowledge that Africa has meagre capital and, if there is no new influx of foreign resources, the pace towards development will be severely slowed down".
Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira disappointed many of his listeners on 12 March when his annual report to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, contained no information on several high profile cases.
Indeed the only specific cases that Madeira dealt with in detail were the trials of the six men convicted of murdering Mozambique's top investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso, and of the railway workers blamed for the country's worst train crash, in which 195 people died.
He said nothing at all about the murders in 2001 of the interim chairman of the Austral Bank, Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, and of popular musician Pedro Langa. In last year's report Madeira accused police investigators in the Siba-Siba case of demanding extra payments, and "making impossible demands on the state". He also claimed that a suspect had been arrested in the Pedro Langa case. But this year he said nothing at all.
All that the public knows is that there has been no trial in either case, and that there are no signs of any serious police investigation.
Even more surprising, Madeira said nothing about the inquiry has office has been undertaking into the illicit release from the Maputo top security prison of Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"). Anibalzinho, the man who organised the death squad that murdered Cardoso, disappeared from prison on 1 September, and was tried in absentia. He was arrested in South Africa on 30 January, and extradited to Maputo the following day, arriving just hours after judge Augusto Paulino had given him a prison term of 28 years and six months.
Madeira also failed to mention the state of investigations into corruption inside the Sofala and Cabo Delgado provincial governments.
He did, however, speak of the recently established anti- corruption unit in his office. Its activity, he said "has already begun to disturb some areas of the world of crime who were not previously inconvenienced: as a result one of the unit's members was recently attacked".
He was referring to an attempt on the life of Assistant Attorney-General Isabel Rupia on 18 December, which only failed because the would-be assassin's gun jammed. Rupia is the attorney heading investigations into the purchase of stolen vehicles by the Planning and Finance Directorate in Cabo Delgado, and alleged embezzlement by the former director of finance in Sofala.
Madeira declared that he was indignant, though not surprised, "at the almost total silence of our society in relation to that attack". Only a religious body, the Inter-Faith Council of Mozambique, and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is the main foreign donor to Madeira's office, had expressed their solidarity in the wake of the attempted murder. "No other official or private voice publicly condemned the attack or showed any solidarity with our institution, at a time when everybody is shouting about the need to fight corruption", said Madeira. If the intended victim had been anyone other than a prosecuting attorney, then the press "would have gone into a frenzy", said Madeira.
The critical situation in Mozambican prisons has not improved over the past year, and in some aspects, such as overcrowding, it has worsened, Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira told the Assembly of the Republic.
He recalled that when he gave his annual report on the justice system in March 2002, he had spoken of overcrowding, poor hygiene and diet, deteriorating prison buildings, and a large number of escapes. This year, he could report no improvement, and the physical deterioration of some prisons was now such as to put the lives of inmates at risk.
Madeira said that, when he had visited several prisons in late 2002, he had found "not just overcrowding, lack of hygiene and the prevalence of disease, but a real lack of control". By this he meant that no-one was checking on how long detainees were held before they were brought to trial.
He had found prisoners who had been charged, but were still awaiting trial a year or more later. Perhaps even worse were the cases of prisoners who had been detained and eight months or more later had not even been charged. The prosecutors with the case papers had not decided whether they were going to press charges or drop the cases. There were prisoners who had appealed against a guilty verdict, and a year later the appeal had not been heard. Worst of all were cases where prisoners spent longer in jail than the courts had ordered: they served their sentences, but nobody was controlling the dates on which they should be released.
He announced that his office and the Supreme Court have agreed to carry out a joint survey of the prison situation of detainees, with the intention of launching a speedy campaign of trials, to reduce the backlog.
As for the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), Madeira could report some progress in removing investigating functions from the control of the Ministry of the Interior, and placing them under the Public Prosecutor's Office.
30 people with university degrees have already been trained as the nucleus of what will be called the Judicial Police, and a further 100 candidates, with the minimum educational qualification of 12th grade, are being recruited. There would also be "profound training in ethics". Thus rather then bodily transfer all existing PIC agents to the Judicial Police, Madeira prefers to build a new unit from scratch, marking a clean break with the past.
The known death toll from the tropical depression Delfina, which hit the northern provinces of Nampula, Zambezia and Cabo Delgado at the beginning of the year, stands at 46, according to a report given on 20 March to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
The Assembly's own Social Affairs Commission sent teams to nine of the country's 11 provinces, and the resulting report covers Delfina and the drought affecting much of southern and central Mozambique. A fortnight ago the commission made a second visit to Inhambane and assessed the damage done by cyclone Japhet.
The report put the number of houses destroyed by Delfina in Nampula at 17,444, and over 212,000 people in the province were affected by these storms. Many roads in Nampula were cut, as was the railway line from the port of Nacala to Malawi.
Four pylons on the electricity line to Nampula city were blown down, and so the provincial capital was without its normal power supply for a fortnight. The water supply to several small town, including Monapo, Namapa and Meconta, was knocked out. At least 72 classrooms were destroyed, and over 11,200 hectares of crops were lost. There was less damage in Zambezia, with about 36,500 people affected, and 269 homes destroyed. 52 classrooms and one health post were destroyed, and 3,200 hectares of crops lost.
In Inhambane, the commission found that cyclone Japhet had done severe damage, particularly in Vilanculo district. In this district alone, 269 classrooms were destroyed or damaged, as were 110 homes for teachers, and the offices of 25 school directors.
The commission also found that 38 schools and five health units were damaged by the cyclone in Massinga district, and roofs were blown off 15 classrooms in Morrumbene.
Large numbers of coconut palms and cashew trees were uprooted, and large craters were opened in the main north-south road which runs through the middle of the province. Many secondary and tertiary Inhambane roads became impassable.
The Nampula provincial government showed "a praiseworthy performance", the report said, but its efforts "are insufficient to minimise the suffering of our fellow citizens".
Other provincial governments came in for some harsh reprimands. After visiting centres where victims of the 2001 Zambezi floods are still living, the commission concluded that the Tete provincial government "does not really know what is happening on the ground".
Comparing this year's visits with those made in 2002, the commission verified that very little resettlement had happened. The Tete government's excuse was lack of funds.
The commission urged the Tete authorities to set up health units and schools in the accommodation centres, and to ensure that the combat against HIV/AIDS is taken to these places (Tete province has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the country).
NGOs hired to undertake work in the Tete centres had not done their work properly, the report accused, due to lack of inspection, and to "complicity" between the NGOs and the local authorities. Some of the material to be used in NGO projects was stolen and sold - this was the case with the National Union of Peasants (UNAC), the commission said.
About 141,000 children, aged between five months and five years, and 71,000 pregnant women in 22 Mozambican districts seriously affected by drought, are being supplied with soya as a food supplement, aiming to reduce levels of malnutrition.
This programme, an initiative of the Mozambican government, through the Health Ministry, in coordination with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the US-based NGO World Vision, is being carried out in districts in Gaza and Inhambane provinces in the south of the country, and Manica, Sofala, and Tete in the central region.
The head of the Maputo office of the UNICEF Health Department, Viviane Van Steirteghem, said that this programme costing $1.5 million granted by the British government is to last for six months.
She added that, while hunger is nothing new in Mozambique and people have always found ways to respond to it, today things are made more difficult by the AIDS epidemic, that is claiming the lives of the main producers at household level. A UNICEF team visited Cahora Bassa district in Tete recently, where they advised the local people on the best ways to prepare a soya meal, and on how best to use the locally existing crops and fruits to prepare highly nutritious meals.
The Portuguese Industrial Association (AIP) has granted $250,000 as part of the money needed to build a campus for the Higher Institute of Transports and Communications (ISUTC), one of Mozambique's private universities.
The money is to be repaid over a 10 year period, free of interest, and is part of the estimated total of $2.5 to $3 million necessary to carry out the work.
Through this cooperation, the two institutions are committed to developing a continuous process of granting information and knowledge for Mozambican business activities and to closer ties between the Mozambican and the Portuguese business communities.
Speaking at the signing of the agreement, ISUTC representative Andre de Carvalho said that this is his institution's first step in raising funds to build the campus. "We do not yet have established dates for starting the work, because we are dependent on the availability of funds, and we are still seeking partners who are prepared to help us in seeing through this project", he said.
The AIP will make available the first 10 per cent of the pledged amount as soon as the project is approved, and the remainder will be disbursed as the work progresses.
The document was signed by Carvalho, on behalf of ISUTC, Jorge Rocha de Matos, the AIP chairperson, and Rui Lousa, a representative of the Transports and Communications Consultancy and Audit Company (TRANSCOM).
ISUTC was established three years ago, and is offering courses in Computer Science, Telecommunications, Transport Engineering, and Management and Finances, and expects to graduate, by next year, some of the 240 students who are presently enrolled.
Trade unions and the employers' associations have reached agreement on this year's increase in the statutory minimum industrial wage.
At a meeting on 20 March of the tripartite negotiating forum between the unions, the employers and the government, the unions and employers jointly tabled a proposal for a 24 per cent rise in the minimum wage. This would bring the minimum wage from the current figure of 812,163 meticais a month to 1,007,082 meticais (about $42).
This is the first time employers and unions have presented the forum with an agreed figure. Previous years have seen lengthy, and sometimes bitter, disputes over the minimum wage, with the government sometimes obliged to step in and fix the final figure.
This time it was the government, apparently surprised by the consensus among its partners, that was forced to ask for time to analyse the proposal. "The proposal was only presented today", Labour Minister Mario Sevene told reporters. "We need some time to analyse it, and the government's position will be given at the next meeting of the forum".
The police force has recently expelled 60 policemen - or the equivalent of two platoons - from its ranks in the northern province of Nampula, according to provincial police commander Jose Wang Sen, cited in "Noticias" on 18 March. The 60 were accused of a variety of offences, including lack of discipline, and associating with criminal gangs.
A further 100 Nampula policemen (equivalent to a company) have disciplinary proceedings under way which should culminate in their expulsion from the force in the near future.
Alberto Mondlane, the deputy vice-chancellor of the Police Academy (ACIPOL), speaking to members of the provincial government and of the Nampula Municipal Council, said that the "unforgivable" behaviour of some policemen, including their participation in armed robberies resulted from faulty recruitment mechanisms.
"One of the major problems that damages the quality of our agents has to do with the fact that we don't know who we're recruiting when they enter the police, and this must stop", said Mondlane.
Mondlane was in Nampula to present the provincial government with the Interior Ministry's strategic plan to improve the work of the police.
The South African company Sasol has announced that it is searching for more natural gas in Mozambique. Exploratory drilling is to start in two weeks time in the existing gas fields at Pande and Temane.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Sasol's Executive Director Pat Davies said he was confident there were more natural gas reserves near the Pande and Temane fields. He told Reuters that "we know there's more gas out there. It could be double the amount of gas we have right now." It has been estimated that the two fields hold 85 billion cubic metres of natural gas. The gas field at Temane will be tapped first, and it is planned to bring the field at Pande on line three years later when the pressures of the Temane reservoir drops to the same level as the Pande field.
Sasol is building an 865 kilometre pipeline from the gas fields to its own chemical plants in Secunda in South Africa, which is set to cross the national border between the two countries soon. The 1.2 billion dollar project is due to be operational by June 2004.
It is estimated that the Mozambican state will earn two billion dollars in taxes and royalties, while the South African state will receive 3.2 billion dollars in taxes, during the 25 years of its expected life. Economists have calculated that the project will eventually contribute more than 20 per cent to Mozambique's GDP.
The rehabilitation of the Sena railway line, that runs from the central port of Beira to Malawi, and to the Moatize coal mines in Tete province, is under threat because of the theft of rails and ballast.
According to the Beira daily "Diario de Mocambique", the thefts are occurring on the 20 kilometre stretch of line between Dondo and Savane, the only part of the Sena line where new rails have been laid.
The thieves are using sophisticated equipment to cut the rails, which leads railway officials to assume that this is a highly organised robbery. According to the director of the Sena Line Reconstruction Brigade, Adelino Mesquita, so far none of the thieves have been caught, and nobody knows where the stolen rails are taken.
Unless the thefts are halted, then the $18 million raised so far, to rehabilitate the first 90 kilometres of the railway (from Dondo to Muanza), are at risk.
Despite the sabotage, Mesquita remains optimistic. He said that new concrete sleepers will soon be laid along the first ten kilometres of track.
The Sena line was comprehensively sabotaged by the apartheid backed Renamo rebels in the early 1980s, and not a single train has run along it for almost two decades. The paralysis of the line is the main reason why Mozambique has been unable to export coal from Moatize to overseas markets for the past 20 years.
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