Some 20 months after the murder of Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, interim chairman of the Austral Bank, the police have arrested a suspect. According to a report in "Mediafax" on 24 April, police picked up Carlos Silva Armacao in Inhambane province during the previous week. What is most chilling about the accused is that he should already have been in jail. He was sentenced to a 24 year prison term in 1997 for murdering the artist Eugenio de Lemos. But on 13 July 2001, Armacao "escaped" from the Maputo top security prison. Less than a month later, on 11 August, Siba-Siba was murdered. The suspicion must be that he was released specifically in order to assassinate Siba-Siba.
When Carlos Armacao and three others murdered Eugenio de Lemos, Armacao was a member of what is supposed to be a highly disciplined police unit, the "Casa Militar" (Presidential Guard). And in 2001, when Armacao escaped, the top security prison was being guarded by members of the ordinary police, the riot police - and the Casa Militar.
There seems to be a clear connection between the murder of Siba-Siba and that of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso in November 2000. Both men were investigating banking scandals: Cardoso was demanding that those responsible for stealing the equivalent of $14 million from what was then the country's largest bank, the BCM, be brought to trial, while Siba-Siba was chasing up the many individuals and companies that owed money to Austral, and trying to ascertain the true financial state of the bank.
During the trial, held from November 2002 to January this year, of the six men charged with murdering Cardoso, the Siba-Siba case was mentioned by several witnesses. Perhaps the most significant of these was convicted car thief, Marcial Muthemba. He got to know the assassins of Cardoso in prison and one of them, loan shark Momade Assife Abdul Satar "Nini", recruited him as an errand boy. Letters and mobile phones were smuggled in to Satar via Muthemba.
Muthemba overheard highly incriminating conversations between Nini Satar and the other murderers. In particular, he found that Satar had a hit list of people to be eliminated, including "somebody in the bank whose name I don't know".
Discussions were held about how to dispose of this unnamed banker. One idea was to release Carlitos Rachid, the man who pulled the trigger in the Cardoso assassination.
"Rachid didn't tell me who this person in the bank was, but he said he was to be executed", Muthemba told the court. Rachid was to be freed from prison to commit the murder, and payment for the killing was to come not from Satar, but from one of his associates, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya. Muthemba said this discussion took place before the murder of Siba-Siba, but he could not confirm who was the target.
Another witness at the trial, Gerry Opa Manganhela, specifically mentioned Siba- Siba. Opa was serving a 10 year sentence for firearms offences in the top security jail. He struck up a friendship with Satar in the jail, and told the court that Satar asked him to murder Siba-Siba.
The plan was to corrupt a policeman named Manhica, who would release Opa from jail in order to assassinate Siba-Siba, for which Satar would pay a billion meticais (about $42,000). The plot fell through when Manhica delayed in responding.
If these two witnesses were telling the truth, an inevitable question arises - did Satar and his accomplices, having failed to release either Rachid or Opa to commit the murder, succeed with Armacao? Furthermore, Nini Satar was known to have corrupted members of the Casa Militar. Only after one of the Cardoso assassins, Anibal dos Santos Junior "Anibalzinho" mysteriously "escaped" in September was the Casa Militar removed from the prison.
When "Mediafax" contacted Custodio Zandamela, national director of order and public safety in the Interior Ministry, he confirmed that the police had re-arrested Armacao. "There's been a major effort in searching for this individual", he stated. "We're still working on the case, and we'll only give more information after we've concluded the work".
He would not confirm whether the police were looking for him in connection with the Siba-Siba murder, as well as with his escape from jail.
Eugenio de Lemos was murdered, and his car stolen, on 8 March 1995, at Costa do Sol, on the outskirts of Maputo. The police arrested three of the four killers. Armacao and a second member of the gang, Iziquiel Xavier, were members of the Casa Militar. The Maputo City Court heard that one of the killers, wearing a police uniform, stopped Lemos and asked him to give the four a lift. He did so, but once in the car the uniformed man pointed a gun at Lemos and forced him to surrender control of the steering wheel. The gang then drove the car to Costa do Sol, where they murdered Lemos.
"Mediafax" also cites a source in the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) as saying that Armacao was suspected of involvement in the murder of Jose Lima Felix, a Portuguese banker who was an administrator in the International Bank of Mozambique (BIM).
This seems quite impossible. Armacao was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment on 29 October 1997. Lima Felix was murdered on 2 December 1997. As far as we know, Armacao was in jail between 29 October 1997 and 13 July 2001.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 28 April unanimously passed the first reading of a bill to introduce tighter measures against corruption, despite an attempt by the opposition party Renamo to derail the debate.
Renamo deputies claimed that the presentation of the bill on 24 April by Ali Dauto, chairman of the Assembly's Legal Affairs Commission, was illegitimate because it had not been agreed with the full commission beforehand. It was, they alleged, just a "personal" presentation.
So on 28 April Dauto attempted to give a more technical outline of the bill - but Renamo objected to that too. Didn't this mean that Dauto was giving two presentations? What was the guarantee that the second one would represent the views of the Commission, asked Luis Boavida.
Francisco Machambisse declared "Dauto shouldn't make the presentation since we don't know what he's going to say". He called on the Legal Affairs Commission to meet (thus ensuring that the anti-corruption bill could not be discussed in plenary at all).
For the majority Frelimo Party, Teodato Hunguana denounced the Renamo objections as just another time-wasting manoeuvre. "Dauto made a presentation last week", he said. "We can agree or disagree with it, like it or loathe it. But no presentation can replace the object that is being presented. It's a waste of time to debate the presentation rather than what is being presented - the main thing is to discuss the bill".
He was supported by the main jurist on the opposition benches, Maximo Dias. Breaking ranks with his colleagues, Dias declared "Well or badly, the presentation has been made". For him, it didn't matter whether the presentation was formally from the commission or not - instead it was important "to get on with the debate".
With those preliminaries out of the way, it soon transpired that deputies broadly agreed over the need to fight against corruption. But there were significant differences on some key details: the Frelimo bench wanted to strengthen existing institutions - for them the key body in the fight against corruption would be the Attorney- General's Office (PGR).
The bill proposes creating a Central Anti-Corruption Office, directly subordinate to the Attorney-General. Since the bill was drafted (over 18 months ago), the PGR has moved in that direction, setting up its own Anti-Corruption Unit: the bill may require a change in the name of this unit, and will define its tasks more closely.
But Renamo has counter-proposed setting up an entirely new body, a High Authority Against Corruption. This, said Renamo deputy Linete Oloffson, should be "completely independent" of all state organisations.
Ironically, this is the same proposal as one made by the government several years ago, and which was thrown out by the Assembly on the grounds that you do not fight corruption effectively by multiplying institutions, but by strengthening existing legal structures.
In the light of the debate, and the large number of proposed amendments it threw up, the bill must now be substantially redrafted by the Legal Affairs Commission.
Among the issues that must be addressed is the declaration of assets by state employees. Currently, only government members are obliged to declare their assets, and update these declarations on a regular basis. These declarations are not made public but are lodged with the Administrative Tribunal, the body that oversees the legality of public expenditure.
The bill would make anyone working in the state apparatus declare their assets. Suggestions were made in the debate that only those "in decision making positions" should declare their assets. The Commission will now have to define this in appropriate legal terms.
Some Frelimo deputies objected to the clause on "tacit authorisation". This states that, if a request to a state body has received no reply within the time span laid down for dealing with the matter, then it is regarded as automatically granted. Teodato Hunguana warned that this could be wide open to abuse. He admitted that the current situation was highly unsatisfactory in that, when no reply was received it was assumed that the request was rejected - this was a form of "tacit denial". "But we should not accept 'tacit authorisation' as a general principle", he argued. "If we do, we may be providing even greater opportunities for corruption".
Eneas Comiche, also of Frelimo, wanted to see greater involvement of the private sector in the fight against corruption, and warned that the clause in the bill demanding anti-bribery clauses in contracts would only be effective if international corporations dealing with Mozambique also put such clauses in their contracts.
Comiche pointed out that the bill does not cover conflicts of interest. He wanted to see included the principle that "under no circumstances should the decisions of an official be influenced by his personal interests, or those of his relations and friends".
He wanted leaking information on public tenders to be treated as an offence, and measures to ensure that fiscal benefits are not given to companies, just because they are owned by relatives of the officials making the exemption.
The first Mozambican factory to produce teabags is scheduled to start production in June, in Gurue district, in the heart of the tea producing area in the central province of Zambezia.
According to the Agriculture Ministry, the factory belongs to the company Chazeira de Mocambique, which is part of the local Gulamo Group. The teabag production line "will meet a growing demand for this product", the Ministry says.
The new production line will produce 250 tonnes of teabags a year "which will allow the company to diversify its production for the national and international markets".
Last year Chazeira de Mocambique produced 12,000 tonnes of tea. This year production should reach 15,000 tonnes, mostly for export.
The teabags will be sold under the brand name "Five Stars", obviously to compete with the South African brand "Five Roses", which has inundated Maputo shops.
Mozambican tea production collapsed during the war of destabilisation, when most of the tea processing factories in Zambezia were destroyed by the then apartheid-backed Renamo rebels.
Bit by bit, the industry is being rebuilt, and the Ministry expects total production this year to reach 30,000 tonnes.
The tea units in Gurue and Ile districts have been rehabilitated, leaving only one unit, in Milange district, to be restored.
To the surprise of Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), Renamo has demanded the sacking of the top election officer, Antonio Carrasco, general director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).
STAE is the electoral branch of the civil service, but during electoral periods it is subordinate to the CNE. The CNE takes the political decisions, and STAE works as its executive arm.
On 24 April Renamo general secretary Viana Magalhaes suddenly demanded that Carrasco leave his post within ten days, and that the CNE start the process of recruiting a new STAE director, by advertising for applications. Magalhaes threatened that if Carrasco stays at his post, Renamo will regard the municipal elections, scheduled for 28 October, as "invalid".
The Renamo demand comes as a surprise because three weeks ago the CNE decided that it was quite impractical to try and elect a new general director for STAE before the local elections. Some of the Renamo appointed minority on the CNE demanded that Carrasco be sacked, but they were persuaded that this would be a bad idea, given the time constraints facing the electoral bodies.
CNE members appointed by the ruling Frelimo Party argued that there was simply not enough time to invite applications for the top STAE posts, and go through the proper recruitment procedures, if the municipal elections are indeed to be held in October. STAE cannot go into hibernation: it must prepare the updating of the electoral registers (to take place from 4 June to 4 July), which involves training thousands of members of the registration brigades. This must be followed by training of polling station staff, and all the other preparatory work needed prior to the actual elections.
On 3 April, the CNE decided "by consensus" that STAE would be restructured gradually. This would start with the establishment of STAE offices at district level, running alongside voter education campaigns and the updating of the electoral registers. Only after the local elections, would the posts of STAE general director and provincial directors be advertised.
Now it seems that the Renamo leadership has changed its mind and is going for Carrasco's scalp, even if that means compromising the local elections.
Commenting on Magalhaes' demand, the CNE spokesperson, Filipe Mandlate, cited in "Noticias" on 26 April, said it made no sense to re-open this debate. The CNE, he said, "has already decided to keep the general and provincial directorates of STAE in place, in order to guarantee the updating of the registers, and the holding of the elections on 28 October".
Minister of State Administration Jose Chichava told "Noticias" that Magalhaes' demand revealed "total ignorance" of the country's laws. He also challenged Renamo's apparent belief that STAE should be a politicised rather than a technical body. The political work was done by the CNE, and that was where political parties appointed members: the tasks of STAE were administrative.
He thought Carrasco had proved himself "an excellent professional", and the question now raised was did the country want "a politician or a professional" to run STAE?
Mozambican sport has been plunged into mourning by a road accident in which 12 members of the Wane Pone football club in the southern province of Inhambane lost their lives. Those who died in the crash were six players, four managers and coaches of the team, the driver of the minibus, and a student who hitched a lift.
The accident occurred on 22 April when the team was returning from the northern city of Nampula, where it played at the weekend losing 2-0 to Ferroviario de Nampula. The disaster occurred at night at Malica, in Jangamo district, about 60 kilometres south of Inhambane city.
This team, based in the small fishing town of Inhassoro, became something of a sensation last year when it qualified, for the first time, to enter the Mozambican premier league. It is the only Inhambane team in the league.
The team had hired a private minibus to take them back to Inhassoro. This vehicle ran into the back of a truck belonging to the South African petro-chemical company SASOL, that was carrying tubes for the construction of the gas pipeline from the Temane gas field to South Africa. The minibus was carrying the Wane Pone players, the coach, and various club officials and members. 13 other people in the mini-bus were injured, and three are in a serious condition.
Wane Pone is a team that emerged from obscurity last year to win, first the Inhambane provincial championship, and then the southern regional championship. This put the team into the premier league, and it became one of the contenders for the 2003 national championship.
Reacting to the accident President Joaquim Chissano has expressed his "deep sorrow and shock". He described the deceased as "dedicated men, who committed themselves to make their team emerge from complete obscurity to take an outstanding position in the country's sports".
For its part, the South African petrochemical company SASOL and others taking part in the natural gas project in Inhambane, announced that, to support the government's efforts to deal with the tragedy, they have made available a light plane to evacuate the injured people from Inhambane hospitals to Maputo.
The owner of the club, Wane Pone, told AIM that the best way to pay a tribute to the ill-fated players "is to continue with the sport", although the club has lost some of its best athletes. "I am very shocked. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. There is nothing I can say at this moment. I need some time to recover", he said.
He added, however, that his wish is to continue working with the club, although it is left with only six players. "The best players were lost. It is true that we are in mourning, but within a month we will be ready to resume work", he said.
The police have arrested a businessman in the town of Dondo, about 30 kilometres west of the central port of Beira, after they uncovered 140 tonnes of stolen rails in a warehouse.
The businessman, Faruk Mahomed, is believed to be working in association with Anuario Mahomed, an Indian citizen, who was also arrested about two weeks ago while preparing to export another load of 80 tonnes of stolen rail, as scrap metal, through the port of Beira.
This adds up to about 200 tonnes of rail, all stolen from the Sena line, which runs from Beira to Malawi, and is currently being rebuilt by the rail and port company, CFM. Over seven kilometres of the railway have been destroyed, and the cost to CFM is estimated at $460,000.
Dondo police commander Fernando Ribeiro said the police believes that the theft involved the use of heavy machinery and a workforce of petty thieves, which the police are working to dismantle.
In his statement to the police, Faruk declared that all he did was store the product, which he says belongs to Anuario. The rails had been cut into pieces one or two metres in length, to fit into containers before exporting them to India as scrap.
Besides the rails, thieves are also stealing ballast, presumably for use in the construction industry. Adelino Mesquita, the executive director of the Sena Line rehabilitation brigade, estimated at $60,000 the cost of the stolen ballast.
Members of the governments of the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane are to meet in Vilankulo, in Inhambane, on 16 May to draw the attention of their development partners to the Pafuri Corridor project, and the need to raise funds for it.
The project is to build a new road from Inhambane province, across Gaza, and into South Africa's Northern Province at Pafuri.
The road would start at Mapinhane, in Vilanculo district, and cross Mabote, Chigubo and Chicualacuala districts. The estimated cost of the road is 160 billion meticais (about $6.7 million). Inhambane provincial Public Works Director Afonso Chissano told AIM that studies have been conducted by teams from the Environment and Public Works Ministries, as well as from the southern regional directorate of surveying and land tenure. All found that this road is economically and environmentally viable.
Afonso Chissano said that the "Pafuri Corridor" will reduce the distance from Vilanculo to South Africa by about 300 kilometres. South African tourists wishing to visit the beach resorts of Inhambane would no longer have to drive via Maputo. The road would stimulate economic activity along its route. Chissano thought it would assist in balanced development in the southern region through the enhancement of tourism, trade, fishing and other activities.
He said "there are no funds available for the project, as yet, but some investors expressed enthusiasm during the donors' conference last year". He added that the governments of Germany and Ireland informally expressed interest in funding the undertaking.
The rebuilding of the electricity substation at Chimuara in the central province of Zambezia, will allow the distribution of electricity from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi river to a further six towns and districts, in the central region of the country, reports "Noticias" on 18 April.
The Chimuara substation was destroyed by the apartheid- backed Renamo rebels during the war of destabilisation. But it is now been entirely rebuilt with funds granted by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and on 17 April it was reinaugurated by President Joaquim Chissano.
The substation will extend the Cahora Bassa distribution network to Morrumbala and Mopeia, in Zambezia, Caia and Sena in Sofala, and Mutarara and Chipanga, in Tete.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 11 April inaugurated a totally rehabilitated apartment-hotel, now owned by the Portuguese Visabeira group.
The four-star Girassol hotel enjoys a spectacular view across Maputo bay. Visabeira acquired it two years ago, and has spent $4.8 million completely rebuilding it.
Prime Minister Mocumbi pledged the government's commitment to promoting Mozambique as a tourist destination. He pointed out that entry visa formalities have been relaxed, so that tourists can purchase their visas at their points of entry.
Mozambique was also working to persuade its partners in SADC (Southern African Development Community) that a "single visa" policy should be adopted, whereby an entry visa for one SADC country is valid for all of them.
The Mozambican government on 15 April approved a 21 percent increase in the statutory minimum wage for industry and services, and a 25 percent increase for the agricultural sector, to take effect as from this month's pay packet.
The government accepted the proposal presented on 14 April by the tripartite negotiating forum that brings together trade unions, employers and the government.
Labour Minister Mario Sevene explained that only the lowest paid workers in the state apparatus will receive the full increase of 21 percent, while intermediate categories will see their wages rise by 17 percent. The highest paid state employees will receive an increase of only 14 percent.
A 21 percent increase in the minimum wage, fixed last year at 812,163 meticais a month means a rise to 982,717 meticais (about $41).
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