The trial of the senior officers who stand accused of facilitating the escape of Anibal dos Santos Junior, alias "Anibalzinho" from the Maputo maximum security jail in September has heard of a number of strange happenings shortly before he was illicitly released from jail. In all seven police officers are standing trial for aiding the escape which took place in September 2002.
Anibalzinho was tried in absentia for masterminding the murder of Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso, and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. He was re-arrested in South Africa, and extradited to Maputo hours after the reading of the sentence, in January this year. The fact that his escape from prison required the assistance of those who were supposed to keep the prison secure has led many commentators to conclude that he was illicitly released on the orders of very powerful figures in Mozambican society.
On 14 August the Maputo provincial Judicial Court was told of a number "strange" facts shortly before, and after the escape of the prisoner.
It emerged that three of the accused had just been transferred to that prison: Pascoal Bucuane, was on his third day on duty in that institution; Alage Maquene was on his fourth day; while Manuel Macuacua, who was from the presidential guard, the "Casa Militar", had been there for only two weeks.
Another strange fact revealed by Bucuane was that there was a physical count (of the prisoners) on shift change, which has been ordered by a superior.
Bucuane claimed that although he was on duty on 1 and 2 September 2002, when it is believed that Anibalzinho escaped, he was not on duty on the post nine, near Anibalzinho's cell. He blamed a "forged roster" for evidence to the contrary of this. He blamed "sergeant Valentim" for this alleged forgery.
For his part, Maquene said that during his shift, between 12:00 and 16:00 hours, on 1 September, he saw Anibalzinho out of his cell. He added that when he returned for another shift - 20:00 to 0:00 hours - on the same day, he was sure that Anibalzinho was still in his cell since his colleague told him that "everything was all right, and nothing abnormal had happened".
Maquene also told the court that in his 20:00 to 0:00 hours shift, he was visited in his post by Bufalo Matos, a commander of the "Casa Militar". Maquene denied that on that occasion, Matos was being accompanied by Joaquim Pequenino, the prison directorate official on that day.
Maquene failed to explain how the bars to Anibalzinho's cell window were cut off, but he said that in the place of the cut off bars there was a piece of cardboard.
Manuel Macuacua said that from his duty post, a few steps from Anibalzinho's cell, he was visited by Matos, between 17:00 and 21:00 hours and, as they were talking, Anibalzinho asked, from his cell, whether that was "Comandante Bufalo".
Macuacua found it strange that nobody was appointed to relieve him between his normal shifts.
The trial began with the hearing of the first accused, Joaquim Pequenino, denying all accusations. Pequenino, a police inspector, who was in charge of the prison on the day of Anibalzinho's escape, said that he only learnt of the prisoner's escape through Alberto Sitoe, a commander of the riot police (FIR), and co-accused in the same case. FIR was one of the forces that, along with the Protection Police (PP), and the Presidential Police (Casa Militar), were in charge of the prison's security.
Pequenino told the judge that on 1 September 2001, there were two power failures in the prison, one at about 3:00 p.m., and another at about 7:00 p.m.
He said that after the last power failure the entire prison was left in the dark until the following day, except for the pavilions, the main gate, and the outside surroundings.
He said that he did not visit "Anibalzinho's cell after he learnt of his escape. He also said that he did not have any report of any other anomalous situation during that night on the part of the guards or the sentinels, whose positions are at about 20 metres from Anibalzinho's cell. Pequenino said that it is difficult to understand how the cell's bars could be sawn without being heard by the sentinels.
Public Prossecutor Arone Nhaca discards the hypothesis of Anibalzinho escaping through the sawn bars, for the straight forward reason that the gap was too small. Nhaca argued in court that the sawing of the bars was a deception.
Nhaca argues that the fact that Pequenino did not report the escape until 7:30 am on 2 September, was to give Anibalzinho time to cross the border over to South Africa.
Pequenino denied that, accompanied by Bufalo Matos, he visited Anibalzinho's cell. The prosecution accuses the two commanders of unlocking the door to the cell.
Among witnesses the Prosecution intends to call are Anibalzinho, Momad Assif Amdul Satar "Nini", FIR commander Zacarias Cossa, and deputy general police commander Jorge Kalau. Nini was co-accused, with Anibalzinho and four others, of the murder Carlos Cardoso.
More than two million voters have been registered during the registers updating process, which took place in Mozambique between 26 June and 25 July, said a source of the National Elections Commission (CNE).
In spite of some logistical and other problems, the process has been considered satisfactory, taking into account that the target was to cover 2.5 millions voters. The updating of the census is in preparation for the municipal elections, due in November 19, and the general elections, scheduled for 2004.
According to a source from the Maputo province Technical Secretariat of Electoral Administration (STAE), from the targeted 141.522 voters it recorded 136.088, corresponding to 96.1 per cent of the total.
Speaking of Maputo province, the head of the Department of Electoral Operations, Dinis Chambal, said that despite the problems that affected the census, namely rainfall and stocks disruption, the results achieved in most of the districts should be considered positive.
The municipalities of Matola and Manhica had expected to register 77,174 and 15,056 voters respectively. However, the final figures were 72,583 and 6,796 voters.
The district of Boane registered 10,822 against the expected 9,657, Magude 8,073 against 7,700, Manhica 11,926 against 15,056, while Marracuene registered 6,526, instead of 7,099, and Matutuine 5,326 compared to 5,611 that were the target. Moamba counted 7,300 against 7,083, and Namaacha had 5,761, more than the expected 5,377.
Thus, noted Chambal, but for those problems, the initial target would have been easily reached.
Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi reiterated on 14 August that the government is committed to fight against every form of corruption.
Prime Minister Mocumbi was commenting on the ongoing trial of seven police officers, accused of facilitating the escape from the Maputo maximum security jail, in September last year, of Anibal dos Santos Junior, best known as "Anibalzinho", the convicted mastermind of the assassination of Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso.
"Anibalzinho" was tried in absentia, and sentenced to 28 years in prison. He was re-arrested in South Africa, and extradited to Maputo hours after the reading of the sentence, in January this year.
Asked during his usual media briefings whether the trial of the seven police officers was not besmirching the state's image, Mocumbi said that on the contrary, this shows that the government will not allow corrupt people among the civil servants.
He stated that good police training is important in the efforts to combat corruption, which the government's is committed to providing. He noted that five years ago the police did not have a single officer with higher education qualification. This would render it difficult for them to follow the discussions with their counterparts in the region, and also to carry out a quality investigative work. This is why the government has decided to create a police academy.
On the assassination in August 2001 of the Mozambican economist Siba-Siba Macuacua, former chairman of the management board of the Austral Bank, which is yet to be solved, Prime Minister Mocumbi said that in such cases, "patience is very important".
Mocumbi gave the example of the assassination of Cardoso, where investigations took two years.
Representatives of the Mozambican Trade Union Federation (OTM-CS) from across the country met in Maputo to discuss mechanisms for a deeper involvement of the workers in the fight against corruption in the different sectors of the country's economy.
OTM-CS spokesperson Francisco Mazoio told AIM that the five day meeting was aimed at empowering the trade union members with knowledge to improve their performance. "We believe that the trade union members can play an important role in the fight against corruption, that is felt in most institutions in the country", he said, adding that this is all part of the global efforts to eradicate absolute poverty.
"We believe that, by strengthening the trade unions, we will be fighting against absolute poverty in the country, and we are certain that we will be adding to the government's efforts to grant an improved quality of life to the Mozambican people", said Mazoio.
He reiterated that the trade unions are prepared to work hand in hand with the employers to denounce cases of corruption, both among the workers and among the management staff.
The Mozambican Investments Promotion Centre (CPI) approved investments amounting to $100 million during the first half of this year. Direct investments amount to about $37 million, of which $26 million are from abroad. The remainder $63 million are in respect of bank loans or donations.
CPI has approved 50 investment projects in different areas of the country's economy which, if implemented, will create about 3,000 job posts.
In terms of foreign investment, the United Kingdom is the country that has contributed most, with $10 million, followed by South Africa, with about $6 million, and Lebanon with $4 million.
South Africa is the country with the most projects approved, totalling 16, while the United Kingdom is prepared to invest in five projects.
Lebanon is to invest in a detergents factory, a joint-venture with Mozambicans, in Nacala, in Nampula province.
Portugal, traditionally the largest investor in Mozambique, saw only five of its projects approved during the first half of this year, worth $700,000. However, in terms of where the projects are to be implemented, one finds that the southern Maputo province is still in the lead with 22 projects, while the central Zambezia, and the northern Nampula, have eight and six respectively. Cabo Delgado has four projects, Manica and the southern Inhambane have two each, while Sofala has only one project approved.
Mozambique has been a preferred investment destination for many countries because of its peace and stability and the incentives that the government will grant to the investors.
Poachers of Malawian and Tanzanian origin are accused of jeopardising wildlife in the natural reserve of the northern province of Niassa. Niassa Provincial Tourism director Pinto Madeira told AIM that these foreigners, in collaboration with some nationals, slaughter elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, hippos, rhinos and other species. Recalling one of the most recent cases, he said that the poachers slaughtered two elephants for their tusks, last month.
He also stated that Mozambican rangers found 10 elephant carcasses in different areas of the Niassa reserve, and the poachers left vehicles tracks leading to Malawi and Tanzania.
"With this situation, the Mozambican state is losing, not only on the species as such, but also in terms of revenue, because, for instance, a license to slaughter an elephant costs 100 million meticais (about $4,170), to be added to the hunting license tax".
The governments of Italy and Sweden have pledged financial support to the building of the long-planned bridge over the Zambezi river, to link the central and the northern regions of Mozambique, reports "Noticias" on 1 August. Italy has promised to disburse $20 million, while Sweden is granting $25 million.
The announcement was made by Public Works and Housing Minister Roberto White, during a meeting of his ministry's Consultative Council, that is taking place in Namaacha, near the border with Swaziland.
He said that this money represents a little more than half of the estimated cost of the undertaking, which is to start in 2004. The World Bank has also expressed interest in lending financial support.
Tenders have already been launched to select suitable companies to conduct environmental impact studies and to inspect the works.
That bridge, to be name "National Unity Bridge", was planned decades ago, but the lack of funds and the war of destabilisation in Mozambique, that ended only in 1992, made it impossible to carry out the plan.
Without that bridge, any vehicles travelling from the southern and central regions to the north needs to use the ferry to cross the Zambezi river between the central provinces of Sofala and Zambezia, or take a detour of about 600 kilometres, through neighbouring Malawi.
The Namaacha meeting is making a balance sheet of the ministry's activities since the last Consultative Council, that took place in Chimoio, the capital of the central Manica province, in November last year.
The South African electricity company ESKOM has finally agreed that as from 2007 it will pay R0.13 cents per kilowatt for electricity supplied by the Mozambican Cahora Basa Hydroelectric (HCB).
In terms of the document, ESKOM also agreed to the backdated tariff of 4.6 cents per kw in 202, and 6 cents per kw for the year 2003. However, no agreement has yet been reached on the prices of HCB electricity to ESKOM for the period between 2004 and 2007.
The Maputo Judicial Court has so far tried about 800 cases in its marathon trials in the Maputo Civil and Central prisons, reports "Noticias" on 9 August.
The process, being carried out by seven district judges and five linked to the Maputo city jurisdiction, covers those detained for minor crimes, and is aiming at reducing the overcrowding in the Maputo jails, and at preventing cases where the suspects end up staying in jail longer than the sentences applicable to their crimes.
Maputo Judicial Court presiding judge Benvinda Levy said that the judges have been dealing with the cases of those who have been in detention longer than two months. She explained that this process is continuing, and the result so far is that overcrowding has shown a significant drop, leading to a reduction in prison problems such as a lack of food and contamination by transmissible diseases.
Levy stated that at Maputo Central prison the population has declined from 2,600 inmates to only 1,800. "Since there are many alternative measures to imprisonment, we have tried to apply other methods, such as immediate release, suspended sentence, and replacement of prison terms by fines, and all this helped reduce the number of prisoners in jail", she said.
Levy explained that "by norm, a person should be heard by a judge 48 hours following his detention, which is not happening, in many cases. Detainees are presented to the judge after five days, which is not correct. Once presented to him, the judge should legalise the detention and, from then on, the process should follow its normal course".
She strongly criticised arbitrary detentions by the police. "If arbitrary detentions are to continue, prison overcrowding will not be solved", she said.
The World Bank has granted $4 million to finance works on the Corumana dam, in the district of Moamba, in the southern province of Maputo.
Deputy Water Supply national director Olinda de Sousa said that "works will start within the next two months on the Corumana dam, and will take about 11 months. It will not be for rehabilitation, but to complete the installation of some components that were not put in place during the building of the dam, in the 1980s, for lack of funds".
She said that the World Bank is disbursing this money as part of the National Programme for the Development of the Water Supply Sector.
She explained that these works are part of a first stage, and there will be a second stage consisting of purchasing and installing floodgates and the building of a dike. De Sousa said that studies have been done, and the next step will be to raise the necessary $20 million.
Although the dam is functioning at only three quarters of its capacity, for the lack of the floodgates, it is supplying water to various undertakings along the Inkomati river. The Corumana dam is producing electricity and also supplying water for irrigation along the Sabie valley.
There is strong evidence of the practice of child trafficking in Mozambique to supply markets, particularly in the neighbouring countries, concluded child protection-orientated NGOs operating in Mozambique, cited in "Noticias" on 5 August.
A spokesperson of the Foundation for Community Development (FDC) said that most of the victims will not denounce the traffickers for fear of reprisals. The source also noted that the Mozambican law is lacking in this matter.
In its campaign against child trafficking, FDC has asked the Mozambican Journalists Trade Union (SNJ) to compile and organise information on the matter, which is becoming an increasingly serious concern for the government and the society at large.
A recent report published in London by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) says that about 1.2 million children world wide are trafficked every year, particularly in West Africa.
Grabriel Pereira, of UNICEF, explained that, contrarily to the report, that said that Mozambique is free from this ill, evidence shows that this practice is of great concern here.
He said that his institution is to give all the necessary support to uncover the traffickers' networks, and also encourages the country to ratify the conventions on the matter and work out laws to protect children and take the criminals to justice.
Leia Boaventura, of Terre des Hommes, an NGO involved in a Campaign Against Child Trafficking in Southern Africa, said that her institution concluded that there is a large number and diversity of child trafficking syndicates, involving Chinese, Russians and local people.
Boaventura said that studies have concluded that about 1,000 Mozambican children are trafficked every year, earning large amounts of money to the syndicates. She also cited the South African NGO "Molo Songololo" as saying that most of the trafficked children in South Africa are from the southern part of Mozambique. She noted that the victims are particularly vulnerable because of poverty, that leads them to accept any promise of improved living conditions.
Other Mozambican NGOs, such as the Child Network, and the FDC itself, say that a survey has found a strong evidence of child trafficking from the locality of Mahubo, in the district of Boane, in the southern Maputo province.
A trans-border tourism project, involving Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Zambia, is in an advanced stage of preparation before its effective implementation, according to Luis Namanhe, Tourism director in the western province of Tete.
The project, known by the acronym ZIMOZA, is to cover some areas of Tete, northern Zimbabwe, and eastern Zambia, and is aiming at establishing a common management, between the three countries, of the forest and wildlife resources, and promote tourism in those areas.
Speaking during a National Seminar on Tourism Inspection, Namanhe said that members of the Implementation Technical Council, representing the governments of the three countries, have been consulting with the people dwelling in the covered areas to work out a management plan that caters for the needs of the people.
Admitting the possibility of having to resettle those people, he said that "we are working with them so that, when the time comes for the implementation of the project, all will be sorted out with the local communities".
Namanhe added that a joint management office has been set up in Luanga, in Zambia, with the task, among others things, of supplying equipment such as firearms and boats for the inspection work.
In Mozambique, the project covers the districts of Magoe and Zumbo, in Tete, where a community-managed programme, Tchuma Tchato, is already being developed. But Namanhe said that ZIMOZA may later be extended to other districts.
Under Tchuma Tchato, 33 per cent of the gains with local resources are to benefit the local communities, while another 30 per cent go into the provincial government's coffers, 30 per cent are for the central government, and seven per cent for the programme's management technical committee.
Namanhe called for a closer economic partnership between the government, the private sector, local communities, and NGOs, as a means to ensure a sustainable development in the conservation areas.
Explaining the advantages to implement ZIMOZA, Namanhe said that it will help control and bring order to the circulation of people from one country to another because, "as you know, there is no border demarcation fence in that region".
The Great Limpopo Park is another transfrontier tourism initiative, which is now under consolidation, covering the parks of Kruger in South Africa, Gonarhezou in Zimbabwe, and Limpopo in Mozambique.
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