Mozambique's municipal elections are now under serious threat, as the days slip by and there is still no announcement from the National Elections Commission (CNE) of the list of candidates for the mayors and municipal assemblies of the 33 cities and towns with local authority status.
According to the electoral law, the list must be published 30 days before the polling date. Since the elections are scheduled for 19 November, the list of candidates should have been published on Monday, 20 October. But instead, the CNE has been locked in meeting after meeting, as the minority of CNE members appointed by Renamo refuse to accept that some of their candidates do not meet the legal requirements and so cannot stand.
The key problem remains the Renamo candidate for mayor of Maputo, Artur Vilanculos. His initial nomination papers were 800 signatures short (all mayoral candidates must present a list of supporting signatures equivalent to at least one per cent of the municipal electorate).
Renamo was notified of the irregularity and had five days, as from 10 October, to produce the missing signatures. Apparently they more than fulfilled the requirement - Renamo turned in to the CNE lists of a further 1,600 Vilanculos supporters.
But AIM's CNE sources say most of these signatures were unacceptable, with many of the Vilanculos supporters signing two or more times under different names (but with the same voter card number). Others were names of people who had already pledged their support to other candidates. This fraud is easily detected when the data is fed into computers.
When the Vilanculos list was verified, he was still 400 signatures short. The first Renamo reaction was to denounce STAE and its computers. The Renamo CNE members demanded that Renamo be allowed to check whether all the lists submitted by Vilanculos had been correctly processed.
On 21 October this reverification began. The lists of signatures were counted one by one - and far from STAE making any of them mysteriously disappear, as Renamo had hinted, all 1,600 were there. The STAE staff appointed by Renamo were told they could look at each and every one of them and check the duplications.
There are fears that if Renamo continues to defy the CNE majority, and if Frelimo does not impose a vote, then the elections could well be postponed.
Police sources have denied that the case of the August 2001 murder of economist Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, interim chairman of the crisis-ridden Austral Bank, has been shelved.
The independent paper "Savana" had carried a lengthy article, citing police investigators, alleging that the murder investigation was now regarded as a hopeless case and had effectively been shelved.
This seems to have caused something of a stir, as "Savana" on 17 October says it has been approached by various sources involved in the case denying any intention to abandon the investigation. The police sources admitted that the case had been inactive, marking time, but was not shelved. Now a new team has been put in charge of the investigation.
The investigators have recently interrogated Momade Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), a notorious Maputo loan-shark who is already serving a 24 year prison sentence for his part in the murder of investigative journalist Carlos Cardoso.
Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira is said to be taking an active interest in the case - so much so that "Savana"'s sources claim that "the potentially most explosive elements" can only be revealed to Madeira.
The police have gathered data from the Austral Bank, notably contracts of the Bank's workers, bank statements, and other documents concerning non-performing loans.
"Savana" also reveals that, during the meeting in Paris earlier this month of the World Bank's Consultative Group on Mozambique, the government promised donors that investigations would continue, not only into the Siba-Siba murder, but also into the collapse of the Austral Bank in April 2001. It was this collapse, and the precipitate withdrawal of the Malaysian/Mozambican consortium which had owned 60 per cent of Austral, which forced the central bank to step in and appoint Siba-Siba, then the head of its banking supervision department, as chairman of the board, to ascertain Austral's true financial situation.
A government source told "Savana" that Madeira's office is investigating criminal acts that may have been committed by the Austral management prior to the collapse.
One of "Savana"'s sources told the paper that criminal charges may soon be laid against the former management of the bank. Some of those managers are Malaysian, and may be beyond the reach of Mozambican justice. But others are alive and well in Maputo. The consortium between SBB and several Mozambican companies, known as Invester, was headed by former industry minister Octavio Muthemba, who was chairman of the board of Austral between its 1997 privatisation and the April 2001 collapse.
Through the new curriculum for basic education, to be introduced in primary schools across the country as from next January, the Mozambican government hopes "to build a school of quality for all", declared Education Minister Alcido Nguenha on 22 October.
Briefing the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on the new curriculum, Nguenha said it was "one of the fundamental steps to improving the quality of education", by making the teaching "more relevant, in accordance with the needs of the individual, the family, the community and the country".
The inefficiency of the current system is sharply illustrated by failure and drop out rates. In the first level of primary education (grades one to five), 8.4 per cent of pupils drop out, and 26.5 per cent fail. The situation worsens in second level primary schools (grades six and seven), with a failure rate of 28.3 per cent, and a drop-out rate of five per cent.
The attrition continues into secondary education: in grades eight to ten, 32 per cent of students fail, and five per cent drop out. In pre-university education (grades 11 and 12), 28.8 per cent fail and 0.7 per cent drop out.
This situation means that Mozambican education starts out with a very broad base in grade one, but narrows to a tiny pinnacle in the higher grades. As this happens the sexual balance changes, with a sharp reduction in the percentage of girl pupils.
This situation was recognised as intolerable, and so the Ministry of Education set out to "bring the content of education into line with the needs of current scientific and technological development", and "promote teaching that is pupil-centred", said Nguenha.
The most significant change in the new curriculum is the introduction of mother tongue education. Under the old system, all teaching was in the country's official language, Portuguese, even though only 6.5 per cent of Mozambicans (according to the 1997 census) regard Portuguese as their mother tongue.
Thus six or seven year old rural children, who had no Portuguese at all, would enter school for the first time in the lives, to find the teachers speaking at them in a language they did not understand. Nguenha said it was the language problem that had led so many children not to participate in class.
The extraordinarily high failure and repetition rates in primary education are widely believed to result directly from being taught in Portuguese, rather than in mother tongues.
The new curriculum has been tested in pilot schemes in 43 schools - 29 of them using Portuguese, and 14 adopting bilingual methods, Portuguese plus the local mother tongue. Ten Mozambican languages have been tested so far in these schools, and five more will be added in 2004.
The result was, according to Nguenha, "greatly improved participation and communication in the classes. Local languages provide an agreeable environment in the classroom, and in interactions between pupils and between pupils and teachers".
Under the new curriculum children will start primary school in their mother tongue, and will learn Portuguese as a foreign language. "Children will have the right to be educated in their mother tongue, thus respecting pedagogic and cognitive principles, and preserving their culture and identity", said Nguenha.
Bilingual education will be optional - nobody in the (essentially urban) minority for whom Portuguese really is their mother tongue, will be forced to learn in a Mozambican language.
Other changes include the introduction of English in primary schooling, and classes in arts and crafts "to develop skills linked to life" - an admission that the previous model was excessively biased towards theory rather than practice.
Pupils will also be taught "moral and civic education". Nguenha said the content of such classes would concern "moral, civic, patriotic and spiritual values".
The Assembly of the Republic on 21 October passed the second reading of an amended bill setting up a Constitutional Council.
This is the body empowered to decide whether legislative and statutory acts of state bodies are in accordance with the constitution, to settle conflicts of competence between sovereign state bodies, and to supervise elections. It is the Constitutional Council that must take the final decisions on electoral complaints, and validate election results.
The Constitutional Council will eventually have seven members - five elected by the Assembly, one appointed by the President of the Republic, and a seventh member chosen by the other six. All must possess law degrees, and must have practised a legal profession for at least eight years without interruption.
But initially the Assembly will only choose three of its members - since the election is in proportion to seats held by each party, this means that Frelimo appoints two and Renamo one.
It is now known that the Frelimo nominees are Teodato Hunguana, who is a practising lawyer, and one of the country's top experts on constitutional law, and Lucia Ribeiro, head of the law faculty at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University. Renamo is proposing lawyer Orlando da Graca.
Since membership of the Constitutional Council is incompatible with membership of the Assembly, Hunguana will have to resign his parliamentary seat - the Frelimo group will thereby lose one of its most outspoken and combative voices.
The Assembly of the Republic on 16 October unanimously passed a bill introducing new anti-corruption measures.
The bill had passed its first reading at the last parliamentary sitting in April, and in the intervening period the Assembly's legal affairs committee amended it in line with the April discussion.
The changes strengthen the bill in that they afford added protection to whistle-blowers. The bill specifies that nobody who denounces any act of corruption can be subject to any disciplinary measures at their workplace, or any other form of harassment.
The bill also imposes new obligations on auditors. Whenever an audit reveals signs of corrupt practices, the auditors must inform in writing the Central Anti-Corruption Office (a body functioning under the Attorney-General). Failure to do so will lead to temporary suspension of the auditor's licence, and fines of up to two billion meticais (about $84,000).
But the amendments weaken the original bill's attack on the discretionary powers of officials. The bill discussed in April said that, unless other laws specify a different time limit, all requests to a state authority must be answered within 45 days. If there is no answer within that time, the request is automatically deemed to have been granted.
The amendments bring the time limit down to 30 days - but remove the whole point of the exercise by saying that if, after 30 days, there is no reply, the request will be deemed to have been rejected.
The bill is aimed at all corrupt dealings involving officials who work in the state, municipalities, publicly-owned companies, private companies in which the state is the main shareholder, or companies that have been granted leases to operate public services. Any of these officials who requests money or other advantages in return for abuse of their positions can be sentenced to up to eight years imprisonment.
Any official who deliberately fails to carry out his or her duties, or holds them up, can be sentenced to a year in jail. Such officials will escape penalties if they voluntarily repudiate the bribes or hand the money back before they have carried out the corrupt act or omission requested of them.
Delivering the declaration of vote from the majority Frelimo Party, Eneas Comiche warned that "corruption empties power, devalues institutions and discredits political agents". It was the poor who suffered most from corruption, he stressed, since it "increases inequalities, widens imbalances, and increases the gulf between the haves and the have-nots".
But it was not enough to pass laws, Comiche stressed: "Now we must act, with courage and determination to get rid of corruption in hospitals, pharmacies and schools, in the police and the customs service, in state departments, in municipal administration, in tenders, in business, in NGOS, in banks and in other public or private companies".
"Mozambicans have the right to reject the moral scum who are suffocating them!", Comiche exclaimed. "Mozambique has the right to dignity and respect".
For the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, Maximo Dias was more sceptical. He noted that back in 1991 the then Attorney-General Eduardo Mulembwe (now chairman of the Assembly) had promised a war against corruption, which turned out to be "no more than one of those good intentions that pave the road to hell".
"The failure to punish the corrupt is not because there is any shortage of norms that incriminate these acts", said Dias. "It's because there's been a lack of political will to judge and sentence the corrupt, starting with those who are recognised as untouchables".
Nonetheless, he thought the bill was a step forward, but regretted that it was aimed only at the public sector. "The phenomenon of corruption is now emerging in private activities", he said, "in order to obtain jobs, or to buy illicit favours, or to discriminate against third parties".
Dias was not sure whether it was really necessary to include anti-corruption clauses in all contracts signed by state bodies "since it is implicit in all acts of public administration that corruption is not allowed". Nonetheless, he thought it might be "a good idea to remind the contracting parties of the anti- corruption principle".
He hoped that in the near future, members of the central or provincial governments "and not just low level officials" might be hauled before the courts under this law.
The Assembly of the Republic on 20 October amended the law on office-holders in local authorities, removing the restriction that, in theory, prevented mayors or local councillors from undertaking any other paid work.
The law of 1997 listed incompatibilities between holding local government office and various other activities. Thus nobody could be a mayor or a councillor, while also holding the post of National Director in a Ministry, or member of the board of a public corporation.
But the law then added the sweeping provision that no full- time local official could undertake "any other private or public remunerated activity". If this were to be taken literally, they could not even be paid for giving a lecture or writing an article.
An amendment from the ruling Frelimo Party removed this restriction, and received support from the opposition Renamo- Electoral Union opposition coalition.
A written opinion from the Assembly's Legal Affairs Commission said that "maintaining this provision would discourage people with appropriate training from becoming involved in local authority administration". It would discourage "people who have been involved in various activities and do not wish to be entirely removed from them for such a long period as five years" (the length of an elected mayor's term of office).
The amendment was passed unanimously, but Renamo is now trying to push through several further amendments to the law, a few of them uncontroversial, but others implying significant extra expenditure.
Thus Renamo wants to give any Mayor leaving office an extra 12 months salary as "a reintegration subsidy". This will certainly be rejected, since Renamo has not calculated how much money would be involved, and all bills presented to the Assembly must be accompanied with an estimate of their impact on the state budget.
President Joaquim Chissano said in Maputo on 22 October that, in the context of its reforms to improve the political, economic, and social environment, the government has established a permanent dialogue with the business community.
Addressing the opening session of a three day Commonwealth Conference on Investment in Mozambique, President Chissano stressed that the political and macro-economic environment created in the country is yielding encouraging results of great impact on the national economy.
To illustrate his point, he mentioned the examples of the aluminium smelter Mozal, one of the largest in the world, the Chibuto and Moma heavy sands projects, in Gaza and Nampula provinces respectively, and the gas pipeline, linking the Temane natural gas fields in Inhambane province, to the Sasol petrochemical plants in Secunda, in South Africa.
President Chissano invited the 300 participants to the conference to visit some of those undertakings and bear witnesses to the Mozambican people's efforts.
He reiterated the Mozambican government's commitment to implement the strategies of good governance, legality, and justice, as instruments to ensure justice for all citizens and respect for human rights.
During this conference, the participants will assess the progress attained since the last meeting, that took place in February 2002, and will be briefed on the business opportunities in sectors such as tourism, the development of small and medium size enterprises, in agriculture, transport, infrastructures, among others.
The foreign exchange house Unicambios, closed down by Finance Minister Luisa Diogo on 29 September, is demanding not only that her decree be reversed, but that the government pay it compensation.
According to a report in "Diario de Noticias" on 22 October, the lawyer for Unicambios, Domingos Arouca, has appealed to the Administrative Tribunal, and is demanding compensation of $3,000 for every day that Unicambios is closed. This figure is calculated on the basis of a thousand dollars a day for each of the three branches of Unicambios.
95 percent of the shares in Unicambios are owned by convicted murderer Ayob Abdul Satar. He was among six men found guilty in January of the assassination of Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.
Arouca argues that Diogo's dispatch is "illegal" because the Supreme Court has not yet heard Satar's appeal against his conviction. But either Arouca has not understood the grounds for closing Unicambios, or he is deliberately muddying the waters. For Diogo did not shut the exchange bureau because its owner was found guilty of murder, but because of evidence that Satar offered in his own defence, freely and in public, in the early stages of the trial.
During this evidence, Satar had admitted that Unicambios moved large sums of money outside of the control of the banking supervision department of the Bank of Mozambique. This hinged on complex loan arrangements involving the Polana Casino and a wealthy South African named Bachir Abdullah. These transactions were clearly illegal, and led the trial judge, Augusto Paulino, to exclaim at one point "I can see there's a lot of trafficking in foreign currency going on".
The Mozambican and Norwegian governments signed an agreement in Maputo on 10 October, under which Norway has pledged to donate $6 million for the rehabilitation of tertiary roads in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
Signing the agreement were Mozambique's Deputy Foreign Minister Frances Rodrigues, and Norwegian ambassador Henning Stiro.
The ambassador stated that Norwegian aid to Mozambique has mostly gone towards health, energy, fisheries and rural development, He considered the rehabilitation of tertiary as falling within the category of rural development.
Speaking to AIM after the signing ceremony, Rodrigues described Mozambique's relations with Norway as "good", and said this Nordic country was making a major contribution towards Mozambique's poverty alleviation programmes.
Total Norwegian aid to Mozambique is currently running at about $50 million a year.
The first issue of a new daily publication, "Diario de Noticias", distributed by fax and e-mail, appeared in Maputo on 21 October.
The director and editor of the new paper is Ericino de Salema, who was formerly chief news editor on the independent weekly "Zambeze". He has taken with him former "Zambeze" reporter Paulo Machava, as well as Rui de Carvalho, who used to work on the oldest of the country's faxsheets "Mediafax". These three are clearly the editorial nucleus of "Diario de Noticias".
The front page editorial of the first issue declares "This will be a different paper, or rather a paper that makes a difference, and its goal can be summed up as: complete information". It promises that the paper will give primacy to "economic policy, that is, to the intervention of public powers in the sphere of the economy".
Salema and his colleagues are entering a crowded market. Apart from the pioneer in faxed newspapers, "Mediafax", which was created by the late Carlos Cardoso in 1992, there are at least four other daily faxsheets - "Vertical", "Correio de Manha", "Expresso da Tarde" and "Imparcial" (which is just a propaganda sheet for the former rebel movement Renamo).
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