The secretary general of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo party, Armando Guebuza, told a rally on 24 July in the central city of Beira that "corruption and inertia are the major evils that hamper development in Mozambique". Guebuza, who is the Frelimo candidate for the 2004 presidential elections, explained that those two problems will make it all the more difficult to fight against poverty, which is the main objective of the Frelimo programme for government.
"In the first place, it is necessary to solve the problems of the people, who are our employers, and who are the reason why we are leaders", he said. That was why solutions that can be found immediately should not be postponed.
"We have seen people who are forced to wait for a long time to obtain a simple certificate, merely because some civil servants subject them to excessive red tape. But these same civil servants never postpone their lunch, much less their wages", said Guebuza.
He reiterated that his party is fully committed to the fight against corruption because "it hampers the implementation of programmes aiming at improving the Mozambican people's living conditions. It will always be Frelimo's priority to create improved conditions for the people".
In his speech, Guebuza also attacked racism and tribalism as factors that endanger the national unity for which the Mozambican people fought the independence war. "We do not want tribalism, racism, or divisions, because we are defending national unity", he said.
He also urged every adult - aged 18 and above - to register in order to vote in the November municipal elections, as one of their civic rights.
During the rally, members of the crowd took the opportunity to voice their opinions and demands, and some took the chance to complain of the difficulties they face in registering as voters, mainly because of the shortage of registration material.
"We are worried because tomorrow the updating of the electoral registers ends, but some people cannot yet obtain their voting cards, because of the shortage of materials. We have been two weeks with our registration brigades paralysed", complained Alberto Nharingue, one of the participants.
Guebuza, is optimistic that Frelimo can win the November local elections in the central city of Beira. Speaking to reporters on his arrival in Beira on 24 July, Guebuza declared that Frelimo remains "very strong" in the city.
This optimism runs counter to the electoral mathematics: in the 1999 general election, the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition took over 60 per cent of the vote in Beira.
There is a Frelimo mayor and a Frelimo majority in the Beira Municipal Assembly - but only because Renamo boycotted the 1998 municipal elections.
One of the reasons that has brought Guebuza to Beira is the discontent within the party as to who will be the candidate for mayor. There were four front-runners: the current mayor, Chivavice Muchangage, the current chairman of the Municipal Assembly, Lourenco Bulha, the party's first secretary in the city, Jose Juga, and prominent businessman, Ganha Ah-Kom.
A source in the Frelimo Sofala Provincial Committee told AIM that the party's Political Commission, tired of Beira inner-party rivalries spilling into the public at large and damaging Frelimo's image, has solved this problem in a drastic manner by forcing the withdrawal of all four names.
This has given the green light to less well-known candidates, notably Djalma Lourenco (currently Sofala Provincial Director of Culture), and Jose Capece (director of the Beira branch of the Pedagogic University).
Guebuza also said he opposes any further delay in the local elections. The date has already slipped back from 28 October to 19 November, and pressure is building in some quarters for further delay because of problems experienced in the current updating of the electoral registers.
The registration of new voters began on 26 June, and was supposed to last until 25 July. But from all over the country have come reports of registration brigades forced to stop their work because they have run out of materials.
Guebuza warned that any attempt to prolong the voter registration period would have knock-on effects, forcing a further delay in the elections themselves. "We don't want the elections to be postponed", he insisted.
He thought the problem of shortages of supplies had already been overcome with the extra consignment of electoral materials imported last week, and supposedly dispatched from Maputo to the provinces at the weekend.
However, Jonito Jone, Sofala provincial director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the civil service, told the Beira daily "Diario de Mocambique" that he knew nothing about the arrival of any extra material.
The paper toured registration posts in Beira, and found that many of them were at a standstill for lack of materials, and were having to turn would-be voters away. This disorganisation, reporters found, united monitors from both Renamo and Frelimo in criticism of STAE.
The general secretary of the opposition Mozambique United Front (FUMO), Pedro Loforte, has announced that he is a candidate for mayor of Maputo in the local elections scheduled for 19 November.
FUMO is a member of the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition in parliament, but seems prepared to run on its own in the local elections. Although Renamo has not yet publicly announced any of its candidates, there is strong speculation that it will back businessman Artur Vilanculos for mayor of Maputo.
Interviewed in "Noticias" on 18 July, Loforte said FUMO remained open to membership of an opposition coalition for other municipalities - but not for Maputo. Negotiations with Renamo were at an "advanced stage", he claimed.
Loforte said he wanted to decentralise the governance of Maputo by setting up "Juntas de Freguesia" (Parish Councils). This idea is lifted straight from Portuguese local government practice, and the use of the term "Freguesia", abandoned in Mozambique over a quarter of a century ago, shows FUMO's catholic roots.
The parish councils, he said, "would discuss the various problems that affect the city, particularly its outlying areas, in order to find local solutions that would later be transmitted to the City Council for implementation.
He said that FUMO had undertaken a study of Maputo and had identified "46 major problems and 108 solutions".
One of the pressing problems was the need for a new cemetery. Loforte said that, if elected, he would immediately close the existing Lhanguene cemetery, and a new cemetery would be opened on an area that FUMO has already chosen. He did not indicate in which part of the city this new cemetery could be placed.
As for garbage collection, Loforte said he would exempt citizens in the outlying neighbourhoods from the monthly garbage fee, and would urge them to bury their rubbish. In the modern part of the city, people in larger houses would pay more for rubbish collection than those living in flats, he promised.
At the moment, a flat rate of 20,000 meticais (about 80 US cents) a month is added to domestic electricity bills to pay for rubbish collection.
Philippe Gagnaux, head of the independent citizens group "Juntos pela Cidade" (JPC - Together for the City), has confirmed that he too will run for mayor. This will be his second bid: in 1998 he came second, with about 28 per cent of the vote.
Cited in the independent newsheet "Mediafax", Gagnaux said he wanted to reduce the dependence of municipalities on the central government. He proposed the creation of a municipal treasury quite independent of the government, and criticised the current system whereby municipal finances are largely controlled by the central government. He wanted to "decentralise" the collection of municipal taxes and fees: in his opinion, these would be enough to solve many of the city's problems - provide the money found its way into the municipal coffers, which is currently not the case.
Gagnaux strongly criticised the current mayor, Artur Canana, and his collaborators on the City Council for governing the municipality "in an arrogant fashion", and for being more interested in enriching themselves than in solving Maputo's problems. "The problem is one of management", said Gagnaux. "When the objective is personal benefit, then you can't develop the municipality".
Hard work and honesty was the motto for JPC in the 1998 elections, and will remain Gagnaux's theme this year. He pledged that his purpose is to serve the citizens of Maputo, and provide them with better living conditions, without turning the city council into a mechanism for enriching those who work there.
Prominent jurist Carlos Jeque on 14 July launched his campaign to become mayor of Maputo. He is standing as an independent, but says he will accept support from political parties.
Jeque was once deputy president of FUMO, but disagreements with the party's leader, Domingos Arouca, led him to abandon the party, and to run as an independent in the 1994 presidential election. The result was humiliating: Jeque picked up 0.7 per cent of the vote, and came ninth out of 12 candidates.
Since then, his political activity has been limited to the occasional article in the Mozambican press. He is a senior official in the Bank of Mozambique, where he heads the Internal Audit Office. He also lectures in law at two Mozambican universities.
Announcing his candidature at a Maputo press conference, Jeque put a heavy stress on "participatory democracy". He wants to revive "residents' associations" throughout the capital, and argued that Maputo should be jointly managed by these associations, the urban district administrators and the City Council.
He attacked "the inferno in which Maputo city is sunk". Among the evils plaguing the capital, he listed the sprawling and disorganised informal markets, the proliferation of unroadworthy minibus-taxis, "the garbage which is suffocating us", the spread of HIV/AIDS, "generalised prostitution and corruption in public institutions".
He claimed that vast areas on the periphery of the city have been abandoned, and that thousands of families have become "victims of a savage capitalism, which is concerned with macro-economic grandeur, without regard for its real impact on the life of each Mozambican".
He hoped for "a spirit of collaboration from the city's residents, regardless of party political colours or other differences", so that "together we can transform Maputo into a modern and pleasant city".
At least 650,000 people in Mozambique are in a situation of food insecurity, as a result of the drought that is affecting much of the south and the centre of the country for the second consecutive year, according to data in the Action Plan for Mitigating the Effects of Drought, launched in Maputo on 22 July. The Mozambican government estimates that implementing this plan will cost around $4 million over the next six months.
The 650,000 people at risk are living in 57 southern and central districts, the areas worst hit by the poor rainfall of the last two years, believed to be linked to the "El Nino" weather phenomenon. This is an anomalous warming of the surface waters of the Pacific Ocean that disrupts weather systems across the globe.
Presenting the plan. the National Director of Agriculture, Sergio Gouveia, pointed out that in several drought-hit districts what little harvest could be produced was then damaged by cyclone Japhet, which hit parts of Inhambane, Sofala and Manica provinces in March.
Gouveia stressed "In 2003, the picture of poor rainfall worsened, and the occurrence of tropical depressions and cyclones has helped push the number of people facing food insecurity to 650,000".
In general, the rainfall recorded in the 2002/03 growing season, "was lower than average, and the distributed irregularly over the season, particularly from January to March", he said.
"As a result, we estimate that maize yields in the south will be 50 per cent lower than in 2002, and that harvest too was poor". Nonetheless, a total of about four million hectares was planted across the country, and, thanks to the fertile northern province, the grain harvest was about 1.8 million tonnes (of which 1.3 million tonnes is maize). It is also estimated that over 6.1 million tonnes of cassava were produced.
As for plans to increase food security, Gouveia stressed the need for better management of water resources. This strategy rests on building or rehabilitating small and medium-sized irrigation schemes, expanding areas under cultivation, and investing in drought-resistant varieties.
Transport Minister Tomaz Salomao announced in the central port city of Beira that practically all the obstacles in the way of rebuilding the Sena railway line have been removed.
The Sena line runs from the port of Beira to the coal mines of Moatize in the western province of Tete, with a spur into Malawi. It was comprehensively sabotaged by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels in the early 1980s, and it is the only major Mozambican railway that has yet to benefit from rehabilitation.
Speaking after a visit to the 90 kilometre stretch of the line (between Dondo and Muanza) that is currently being rebuilt, Salomao revealed that the entire Sena line now has the go-ahead from the World Bank. The World Bank institutions involved in viability studies on the line recently concluded that rebuilding can go ahead without waiting for the implementation of other development projects in the Zambezi Valley. This World Bank position comes as a relief for the government, since there was previously considerable uncertainty about financing the rebuilding. Salomao said the Bank let the government know its position last month, during a visit by President Joaquim Chissano to Washington.
Earlier the bank had posed as a fundamental pre-condition for rehabilitating the Sena line, guarantees of sufficient cargo. That meant that the line had to be closely connected with new investment in the Moatize coal mines: coal exports are likely to be the major cargo carried by the line, followed by sugar from the Marromeu mill, timber, grain and cotton.
Also connected with the Sena line are other Zambezi Valley projects, such as a thermal power station at Tete, using Moatize coal, and the development of a new mineral port at Savane, to the north of Beira, which could take ships of up to 100,000 tonnes.
"There used be a current of opinion which said that rebuilding the Sena line should wait for the development of the other projects", said Salomao. But the government had now won the argument that the Sena line can advance first - although Salomao accepted that the railway was closely linked to the other plans for developing the Zambezi valley. He said the government had created conditions for all the projects to go ahead in parallel.
The publicly owned port and railway company, CFM, now estimates that between $100 and $140 million will be needed to rebuild the Sena Line, and a similar amount for acquiring locomotives and rolling stock.
The government intends to launch an international tender on 31 July to select a company or consortium to which the Sena line will be leased. This company will have to find much of the money required to put the line into working order, while the Mozambican government's participation will be financed by the World Bank.
So far, four bidders have been pre-qualified, and Salomao stressed two of them - namely the Tenwin-China Railways Construction Company, and the Spoornet-NLPI consortium of South Africa. The South African group has already won the lease to operate the Maputo-South Africa railway.
Most of the leases on Mozambican ports and railways run for 15 years - but because of the massive investment needed merely to get the Sena line running again, the lease for this railway will be for 40 years.
CFM has already begun the reconstruction with its own funds, and is advancing from Dondo towards the limestone quarry at Muanza at a rate of 300 metres a day.
CFM has made $11 million available for this work, and expects the Dondo-Muanza stretch to be complete by September 2004. When that happens, the Muanza limestone can be taken by rail rather than road to the Dondo cement factory, allowing a very significant saving in transport costs.
Salomao believed this would lead to a fall in the price of cement, which would stimulate the building industry. "The cheaper the cement, the cheaper and more rapid will be construction work", he said.
The Portuguese government will only transfer its shares in the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi to Mozambique, if the accumulated debt to the Portuguese treasury, which Lisbon claims is over $2 billion, is paid.
The Portuguese state holds 82 per cent of the shares in the dam operating company, HCB, and Mozambique holds the remaining 18 per cent. Back at the time of Mozambican independence, in 1975, it was envisaged that, as the debts involved in building the dam were paid off, then so shares would be transferred from Portugal to Mozambique. That has never happened. Speaking to AIM in Lisbon, the Portuguese secretary of state for cooperation, Antonio Lourenco dos Santos, claimed "the conditions still do not exist to start to carry out this transfer". He alleged that these conditions must involve negotiations between Mozambique and South Africa, so that "HCB can operate properly".
HCB's largest client is the South African electricity company Eskom, which pays a price for Cahora Bassa power that was fixed in 1988, and which HCB regards as derisory. Eskom is paying 3.6 South African cents (about 0.4 US cents) per kilowatt-hour, while HCB believes that a just price would be 13 South African cents.
Lourenco dos Santos claimed that the Eskom attitude was the main obstacle to implementing the 1975 protocol, and passing ownership of the dam into Mozambican hands. Only when the South Africans were paying a realistic price for Cahora Bassa power could the transfer of shares take place. He also insisted that the debt must be paid, though payment might be "by alternative means", which he did not specify.
It is far from clear how the figure of $2 billion was reached. While there is no doubt that it was injections of Portuguese cash that kept Cahora Bassa ticking over throughout the 1980s and early 1990s (when the power lines south had been sabotaged by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels), the calculation of the debt is questionable.
The latest tripartite meeting between Mozambique, South Africa and Portugal over Cahora Bassa, held in Johannesburg last week, was a fiasco with Eskom refusing to budge an inch.
Before returning to Lisbon, the chairman of the Standing Joint Commission on Cahora Bassa, Mira Amaral, warned that anyone who thought that Portugal "will stop fighting for its rights in one of its major investments outside the country is much mistaken. As the majority shareholder, Portugal has the patience, the time and the capacity not to give up the struggle for its legitimate rights".
After Portugal had paid for the construction of the dam, its maintenance during Renamo's war, and the rebuilding of the power lines "the least that can be expected is that these costs be reimbursed through the sale of electricity", said Amaral.
Portugal is again threatening to take Eskom's refusal to pay a market price for Cahora Bassa power to international arbitration. HCB had lodged an action against Eskom with the Paris Arbitration Tribunal in 1999. It suspended the case, and then dropped it altogether in October 2002 as part of a deal between Eskom and HCB after HCB had disconnected Eskom.
Eskom had then, in order to restore supplies of Cahora Bassa power, agreed to an increase in the price from two to 3.6 South African cents per kilowatt hour. HCB dropped the threat of legal action, in the belief that it would shortly be able to negotiate an entirely new contract with Eskom. Nothing of the sort has happened, and relations between the two companies are colder than ever.
After the latest failed negotiations, the chairman of the HCB board, Carlos Veiga Anjos, declared "It makes no sense for Portugal and Mozambique to subsidise South Africa, but that's what's happening because the tariff being charged is completely unrealistic".
The Mozambican authorities, however, refuse to discuss tariffs on their own. For Mozambique, the price charged for Cahora Bassa power cannot be dissociated from the HCB shareholding structure and the alleged debt to Portugal. The Mozambican government wants all these issues dealt with simultaneously.
The Mozambican and Japanese authorities signed an agreement in Maputo on 18 July under which Japan will finance the acquisition of 16,000 tonnes of rice, valued at about $4.2 million, to be distributed through Mozambique's normal commercial channels.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Mozambican Minister of Industry and Trade, Carlos Morgado, praised Japan for its confidence in Mozambique, expressed in the aid it has been providing. Morgado told reporters that the rice is not for free distribution, but will be sold in the normal commercial circuits. The counterpart value in local currency (meticais) from these sales will be used in development programmes.
"We shall use these funds for rural development", said Morgado, "and so we must identify an area where we can undertake concerted action".
The rice will be unloaded at the three main international ports, Maputo, Beira and Nacala, and will be purchased by wholesalers through public tender.
Nishiyama Sakanori, a representative of the Japan Corporation System (JCS), a Japanese non-profit making body which is at the head of this programme, said that a tender will now be opened in Japan to choose the suppliers of the rice. He expected the rice to arrive in Mozambique by January 2004. Last year Japan financed the purchase of 18,500 tonnes of rice for Mozambique, acquired from South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
Thousands of compact discs and audio cassettes were seized from shops in Maputo on 23 July during a police operation, designed to remove counterfeit products from the market.
Those products were seized because they did not bear the seal to prove their authenticity, as established by the Mozambican Culture Ministry in April. The Ministry insists that, to defend both the consumers and Mozambican musicians, only goods bearing the seal may be sold.
The campaign was launched on 23 July and is conducted by teams from the National Book and Record Institute (INLD), the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) and the Municipal Police.
Some of the shop owners protested against the seizures, claiming that they were not informed of the law obliging them to obtain seals of authenticity for their goods. But the authorities have retorted that "everybody was notified of the deadline to legalise their products, and thus there is no reason for complaint".
The law was passed in April and all authorised dealers were given 90 days in which to acquire and apply the seals, so that, as from July, all music products by Mozambican and foreign musicians should have the authenticity seal.
A source in the Culture Ministry said "this operation is here to stay because, despite the fact that the law has been enforced there are still people who do not abide by it. Every Compact Disc or cassette found without the seal will be seized and destroyed and their owners will be fined".
During this first stage, which is scheduled to last until 5 August, the operation is covering shops, but it will later be extended to street vendors and to suspected pirate industries, manufacturing counterfeit discs and cassettes.
The European Union has pledged 600 million euros ($670 million) to support research programmes in Africa into diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
The director for research in the European Commission, Octavio Quintana, gave this figure during the opening in Maputo on 23 July of the Second Meeting of the Coordinating Committee of Developing Countries. This two-day event falls under an EU programme entitled "European partnership against poverty-linked diseases" (EDCTP). This is a programme recently established between the EU and developing countries in order to promote research and clinical tests in the areas of malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
The European funding is intended to equip the centres that will be carrying out clinical tests of this sort over the next five years.
Mozambican Health Minister Francisco Songane told reporters that the meeting is the first step towards harmonising the various research programmes into these diseases, already under way in several African countries.
"We want to organise ourselves so that together we can face these diseases which are responsible for most deaths on our continent", said Songane.
Mozambique has a malaria research centre in Manhica district, about 80 kilometres north of Maputo. Under the EDCTP, the specialists working in Manhica will be able to establish partnerships with scientists in other parts of Africa.
The Mozambique Red Cross (CVM) announced on 22 July that it is to introduce a new Early Warning System in three of the provinces believed to be the most vulnerable to natural disasters.
This is a Community-based Readiness for Disasters Programme that the CVM is carrying out in Inhambane, in the south of the country, and Sofala and Zambezia, in the central region, that will rely on community members to disseminate early warning information on oncoming disasters.
CVM secretary general Fernanda Teixeira, who was presenting the World Disasters Report for 2003, produced by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that the three coastal provinces were chosen because they are believed to be the most vulnerable to natural disasters.
Speaking of CVM activities over the past year, Teixeira said that 272 volunteers from her institution have been involved in various activities across the country, including floods, major road and rail accidents, and drought.
Among them she mentioned rescue actions at Tenga railway station, in the southern district of Moamba, site of the country's worst ever rail disaster, in May 2002, and assistance to the victims of the cyclones "Delfina", that hit the north of the country in January this year, and "Japhet", that struck Inhambane and Sofala in March.
CVM volunteers were also involved in appraising the damages caused by the explosions from a military arsenal that caught fire last year on the outskirts of the central city of Beira They also worked with multi-sectoral teams organised by the government to assess the needs for food security in the areas hit by the current drought.
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