President Joaquim Chissano on 17 February appointed Finance Minister Luisa Diogo as the country's new Prime Minister, arguably making her the most powerful woman in the country. Pascoal Mocumbi was relieved of office at his own request, in order to take up the position of High Commissioner of a new international health body, the Europe-Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership (EDCTP). This organisation has been set up to research and develop new drugs, microbicides and vaccines, particularly against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Mocumbi had been Prime Minister for almost a decade.
The appointment of Diogo marks a generational leap. She was born on 11 April 1958. Mocumbi is 60. Diogo was only 17 when the country won its independence in 1975 - and took no part in the armed struggle for independence waged by the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo). Her appointment can be viewed as passing the baton from the generation that fought for independence to the one that has been trained since independence.
Diogo is from the province of Tete, and did her primary education at the Dona Maria school in Tete city until 1970. She then studied at the Tete Commercial School until 1974.
She completed her mid-level education after independence at the Maputo Commercial Institute, and then studied economics at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University, obtaining her bachelor's degree in 1983. Diogo took her masters degree in finance economics by correspondence course from the University of London, concluding in 1992.
She began working in the Finance Ministry in 1980, and became a department head in 1986. Between 1989 and 1992 she was National Budget Director.
From 1993-1994 Diogo was World Bank Programme Officer in Mozambique, and often stood in for the Bank's representative when he was absent. This experience has helped her in subsequent negotiations with the Bretton Woods Institutions.
After the 1994 general elections, she accepted President Chissano's invitation to leave the World Bank and join the government as Deputy Finance Minister. She was promoted to full minister after the December 1999 elections.
President Chissano will not need to find a new Finance Minister. He has decided that Diogo will combine the posts of Prime Minister and Finance Minister.
Unlike the two previous prime ministers, Mocumbi and Mario Machungo, Diogo is not a member of the Political Commission of the ruling Frelimo Party, which is in practice the most powerful Frelimo body. She was, however, elected onto the much larger Central Committee at the Frelimo Eighth Congress in 2002.
Diogo is married to one of the country's top lawyers, Albano Silva, and they have three children.
Deputy Agriculture Minister Joao Carrilho urged his ministry's staff on 5 February to pay particular attention to water resource management and soil fertility in implementing the second phase of the Special Food Security Programme (PAN-II).
Speaking during the ceremony to launch this programme, the first phase of which was undertaken between 1997 and 2002, Carrilho said "the fight against hunger requires a broad approach, taking measures not only to increase production among peasant farmers, but also setting up programmes to give greater access to food to needy people, both in rural and urban communities".
PAN-II, financed by the Italian government to the tune of $3.5 million for the next five years, will benefit 25,000 peasants in three provinces, namely Maputo, Sofala, and Manica.
"In this phase, the programme will, unfortunately, cover only three provinces, although the number of districts has doubled, from six to 12", Carrilho said. "The most important aspect is that, instead of benefiting only 300 farmers, as was the case in the first phase, it is now to cover about 25,000".
The second phase will essentially focus on two main areas, namely participatory extension, and assessment in the area of food security, in the districts of Boane, Matutuine, Manhica, and Moamba, in Maputo province, Nhamatanda, Gorongosa, Caia, and Maringue, in Sofala, and Gondola, Sussundenga, Guru, and Machaze, in Manica.
Carrilho explained that PAN-II, assisted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), "is part of the overall strategy for the fight against absolute poverty, which is also part of the Mozambican government's programme, in line with its national food security strategy".
The newly elected mayor of Maputo, Eneas Comiche, promised on 5 February that he will work for the construction of a bridge across the bay of Maputo, linking the city to the outlying locality of Catembe.
Currently Catembe is only accessible by boat, and those who live in Catembe, but work or study in Maputo, are dependent on an inefficient and overcrowded ferry service. A bridge would also dramatically improve communication with tourist resorts such as Ponta de Ouro, on the border with the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal.
Comiche stressed that he fully intends to implement the manifesto he presented in the November municipal elections. But his immediate priority will be civic and health education, in order to halt the cholera epidemic in Maputo, which has taken 27 lives since the outbreak began in late December.
Comiche, who was speaking to reporters after the elected Municipal Assembly was sworn into office, said that to defeat cholera, it was necessary to promote personal hygiene. But the municipal authorities also had a key role to play in garbage collection, in cleaning up the city's drainage system, and in ensuring that citizens have clean water to drink.
Comiche urged Maputo residents to contact his office about anything going wrong in the city. To this end, he pledged to appoint a municipal ombudsman, who will receive all complaints. He said they can be sent in writing, by e-mail or over the phone.
Comiche also announced that he has resigned his seat in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in order to devote himself to his municipal responsibilities.
Meanwhile, immediately after taking office, the Maputo Municipal Assembly elected Elina Gomes, of the ruling Frelimo Party, as its chairperson. Also elected were Antonio Simbine as deputy chair, and Edgar Muxlhanga, Femerete Geremias, and Domingas Moiane de Sousa, as the first, second and third secretaries. All are from Frelimo.
Frelimo has an overwhelming majority in the Assembly - 48 of the 61 assembly seats are occupied by Frelimo members. Renamo has eight seats, and the independent civic group "Juntos pela Cidade" (JPC - Together for the City) has five.
During the opening session, the head of the Renamo group, Artur Vilanculos, urged the majority not to resort to a vote to choose the Assembly's officials.
After a short consultation with her colleagues, the head of the Frelimo group, Celina Cossa, who is also chair of the powerful Maputo union of agricultural and livestock cooperatives, said there had to be a vote, because that was what the law demanded.
Renamo had proposed Cossa for chairperson of the Assembly, as offer she politely declined.
JPC seems in danger of losing its independence, since it presented no list of its own, but supported the names proposed by Renamo.
14 other Municipal Assemblies took office on 5 February. This means that, for the first time ever, a body controlled by Renamo is now legally in control of a significant part of Mozambique. This body is the Beira Municipal Assembly, which consists of 25 members of Renamo, 19 of Frelimo, and one from the Institute for Peace and Democracy (IPADE).
The Assembly promptly elected Renamo members Boris Cassicussa, Alberto Antonio and Jose Carlos Cruz as chairperson, deputy chair and secretary. They were unopposed. In the election, the Frelimo members of the Assembly mostly cast blank ballots.
The outgoing deputy chair, Frelimo member Manuel Gumancaze, said "It would have been ridiculous for us to present candidates, knowing in advance that we stood no chance of winning, since we're in the minority. We're a mature party and we act according to the circumstances".
Spanish Health Minister Ana Pastor on 9 February described the Manhica Health Research Centre, about 80 kilometres north of Maputo, as a model for Africa.
The research here includes preventive and clinical medicine, with a particular stress on malaria. Pastor thought that the staff, mostly Mozambicans, are contributing to the improvement of the quality of health care for everybody in the country.
Speaking to reporters during her visit to the centre, Pastor praised the staff because they had made the institution a model, and particularly because they are directing all their efforts and resources to the fight against poverty. "The centre is making a very important contribution to the fight against malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, diseases that are worsening the suffering of people here in Mozambique", she said.
For his part, Mozambican Health Minister Francisco Songane described as very sound the relations between the two countries, adding that further efforts are to be directed into training medical staff to face the current challenges, particularly in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
He said that cooperation with Spain would include visits by Spanish specialists to improve the clinical capacity of the country's hospitals, particularly the Beira Central Hospital, and also through the sending of Mozambican doctors for special training in Spain.
Songane said institutions similar to the Manhica centre will be created elsewhere in the country, relying on the cooperation of other partners, besides Spain. This will not only expand areas of research, but will also arouse more interest on the part of the Mozambican staff.
"Creating more such undertakings guarantees staff allocation in different areas of the country", said Songane, adding that Beira will be the next step.
Speaking of the malaria vaccine tests started about two years ago, the centre's scientific director, Pedro Alonso, told AIM that his institution, in cooperation with the Health Ministry and international partners, has been working on the most advanced malaria vaccine in the world, and the studies are promising good results within the next few months.
The total amount of Spanish aid to the Mozambican health sector is $3.2 million per year.
The central branch of Mozambique's publicly owned ports and railway company (CFM-Centro) has failed to attain its targets in terms of cash collected, and it blames the situation largely on the economic crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe, its main client, reports "Diario de Mocambique" on 11 February.
Of the targeted 445.7 billion meticais (about $18.6 million), the company collected last year only 426.4 billion meticais, resulting from the handling of various types of cargo along the Beira Corridor.
The company's executive director, Joaquim Verissimo, says there are a number of factors to explain this shortfall of 19.2 billion meticais, about 4.3 per cent of the expected sum. But the main factor, he stressed, was the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, which uses the Beira port and rail system for much of its imports and exports.
The economic chaos in Zimbabwe means that the country's trade has shrunk, and that it is unable to pay on time for its reduced use of the Mozambican facilities. Currently, according to Verissimo, Zimbabwe owes CFM-Centro $336,000, that it is not paying "for lack of hard currency". The debt must be paid in hard currency - CFM stopped accepting Zimbabwean currency two years ago.
Furthermore, CFM's counterpart, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) "is in no condition to meet the established indicators in terms of 'transit time', the length of time that CFM wagons stay on the other side of the border, and also it fails to make available in time the necessary rolling stock", said Verissimo.
CFM-Centro's response to lower than expected income is to reduce production costs. This was partly managed last year, when 216 billion meticais were spent, instead of the expected 232.4 billion, a reduction of about seven per cent.
These costs concern the maintenance of equipment, including wagons, locomotives and other rolling stock, and the repair and protection of infrastructures. Verissimo said that to render this area more profitable, the company is striving to create stocks of spare parts "to allow maintenance operations to become regular and continuous", and also should have a procurement system, whereby "whenever there is need of spare parts we may be able to locate the supplier in time to solve specific problems, and always have equipment available".
The company has also decided to get rid of its own body of security guards, since Verissimo believed that it is CFM's vocation to manage a security force. Instead, this job has been given to a private company, and CFM will no longer have to manage and pay for its own security guards. Any losses through negligence will be charged to the private company, rather than paid for by CFM.
Speaking of the dramatic scaling down of the workforce, Verissimo said that the process has been almost completed. Out of a total of 6,014 workers the company once had, CFM-Centro is now left with only 1,148.
This has permitted a substantial increase in the wages of those who remain and, through a social reinsertion programme, the retrenched workers have received training in various areas, and many have started their own small businesses. The minimum wage at CFM has now risen to 2,151,000 meticais (about $88) - more than double the statutory minimum of 994,611 meticais a month.
Poor rainfall in some districts in four provinces in the southern and central regions has left their inhabitants still dependent on food aid, reports "Noticias" on 13 February.
Rogerio Manguele, of the planning department of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), said that his institution needs about 53,000 tonnes of foodstuffs to assist needy people in some districts of Gaza and Inhambane provinces in the south, and Manica and Sofala in the centre of the country, up until June.
He said that by December 2003 the INGC had assisted, either through the Food For Work programme or through free food distribution, 587,957 of the total of 659,000 victims of the drought - or about 80 per cent of the target population. For the period until June, the INGC has available 30,500 tonnes, corresponding to about half of the needs.
The government and its cooperation partners are preparing an assessment mission to the affected provinces during February to identify the level of the intervention needed to minimise the food shortages.
Weather forecasts indicate that poor rainfall in these provinces will prevail during this season, making 2004 the third consecutive year of drought.
Convicted murderer Carlos Arrumacao is said to be in a coma after a failed attempt to escape from Maputo's top security prison on 3 February, reports "Diario de Noticias" on 12 February.
Arrumacao, a former member of the Presidential Guard, is serving a 24 year prison sentence for the 1995 murder of the artist Eugenio Lemos. He has escaped from the prison on two previous occasions. The last time he was at liberty was from July 2001 to April 2003.
According to some press reports, he has confessed that during this period he took part in the murder, on 11 August 2001, of Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, the interim chairman of the crisis- ridden Austral Bank. May 2003 reports had Arrumacao claiming that he was the lookout during this murder, but giving no details of who had hired him.
In the early morning of 3 February, Arrumacao, accompanied by two other prisoners going under the nicknames of "Snack-Bar" and "Tiger", escaped from his cell and tried to cross the prison yard to reach the wall.
They were caught, and Arrumacao was then savagely beaten. According to the paper's sources, the beating of Arrumacao lasted for two hours. These anonymous sources thought the intention was to kill Arrumacao.
His two companions were also beaten, but not so severely, because Arrumacao was believed to be the brains behind the escape attempt.
If Arrumacao really is comatose, this may come as a relief to some people, since he will no longer be able to say what, if anything, he really knows about the Siba-Siba murder.
Despite every effort to improve the productivity of Mozambique's cashew orchard, the cashew nut harvest from the 2003/04 season is likely to show a 20 per cent decline on the previous year.
Announcing this bad news in Maputo on 9 February, the director of the National Cashew Institute (INCAJU), Clementina Machungo, blamed the decline on irregular rainfall, and fungal infections. She said that INCAJU had received about $14 million from the European Union and from the French Development Agency (AFD) to plant more cashew trees, and to restore the existing ones to health, including through a campaign of chemical spraying. This programme has been underway for four years, and in that period INCAJU has planted over 100,000 new cashew trees.
The figure may sound large, but it is nowhere near enough. Back in 1997, the study on the cashew trade by the consultancy firm Deloitte Touche warned that a million cashew trees were dying every year, and disease had drastically cut the production of many others. To halt the decline, the study suggested the government should plant 1.5 million trees a year.
"INCAJU is continuing with the projects identified five years ago", said Machungo. "These are projects that seek to increase the levels of production and processing". She said that in the initial years of the programme production rose, but this season had seen a sharp drop.
As for processing, the industry now barely exists. Most of the factories remain closed thanks to the sharp reduction in protection, demanded by the World Bank, and the encouragement of the export of raw nuts to India.
President Joaquim Chissano said in Maputo on 3 February that national unity is still one of the most powerful weapons in the fight against the ills affecting the country, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, cholera, corruption and illiteracy.
"To fight against poverty means to be united against cholera, that has been claiming many lives, it also means to be united against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, against malaria, against corruption, against organised crime, against hunger, and against illiteracy", he said.
President Chissano was addressing a rally in a Maputo suburb, during the celebrations of Mozambican Heroes Day, which marks the anniversary of the assassination of the founder and first president of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane, on 3 February 1969.
The ceremony took place at the Polana Canico primary school, following the traditional laying of a wreath at Mozambican Heroes Square.
In his address, President Chissano highlighted the third multi-party general elections as one of the most important events to take place in the country this year, and urged all Mozambicans to take part, as a means of deepening democracy in the country.
"Let us all vote. One can only win by voting, not by sitting back and drinking tonthontho (a traditional alcoholic drink)", he said. President Chissano was making a veiled reference to the high rate of abstention in November's municipal elections, when only about 25 per cent of the registered electorate cast their votes.
As for Heroes Day itself, President Chissano said "we think that we should all celebrate this day. Those who do not want to speak of Frelimo because they think of competition between parties, they should at least respect that part of history. Let them give their own meaning to ''Viva Frelimo'' (Long live Frelimo), but they cannot avoid it, because Frelimo liberated the country from colonial rule".
"Competing does not mean fighting against each other, but to engage in a path of harmony. Difference does not necessarily mean division", he said.
Commenting on the criteria used to decide who is and who is not a hero, Chissano explained that no legislation can eliminate a certain degree of subjectivity. He said that those who have been declared national heroes were chosen to represent the many Mozambicans who made themselves outstanding on various fronts in the fight against colonial occupation, and for national independence and development.
"What identifies a Mozambican as a hero is not the fact that his body is kept at the Heroes Monument, but all that he achieved during his life for the Mozambican people's welfare. Heroes are not only those who fought for national independence. They include all those who played an outstanding role in the fight against colonial occupation, against Portuguese colonialism, and those who were outstanding in other sectors of life, for the people's welfare", he said.
The funding is now available to start work on rehabilitating the fishing port in the central city of Beira according to the Fisheries Ministry. The total cost of the work is put at $10.7 million, of which $9 million will be provided by the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), and $1.7 million will come from the Mozambican state budget.
It was the IDB that financed the feasibility study for the project, which was concluded in 2002. In September 2003, the bank agreed the credit of $9 million to implement the work.
A detailed project will now be designed, and preparations are under way to launch the tender to choose a contractor for the building work in the port.
Meanwhile, the government is negotiating funding with Japan for the final phase of rehabilitating the Maputo fishing port. This involves rebuilding the industrial quay, used by the largest fishing vessels.
The fist phase, undertaken with Japanese funding, and concluded in 2000, consisted of rehabilitating the quay for semi- industrial and artisanal fishing boats, installing a new ice- making factory, and upgrading cold store facilities.
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