Demining operations in Mozambique in 2003 cleared 6.9 million square metres of land, in the process locating and destroying over 10,000 land mines, according to the general director of the National Demining Institute (IND), Gamiliele Munguambe.
Munguambe revealed these figures during the fifth annual meeting between the IND and demining operators, held in Maputo on 26 February. The report was the occasion for making public the Annual Mine Action Programme.
The cost of demining in 2003 was about $17 million, mostly provided by foreign donors, particularly the United States ($3.4), Denmark ($2.8 million), Norway ($2.7 million) and Germany ($1 million). But the area cleared in 2003 is less than the 8.9 million square metres cleared in 2002. Munguambe blamed this on "the feeble participation of the commercial operators, who contributed just 858,000 square metres, compared with more than 3.9 million square metres in 2002".
Most of the demining work in 2003 was undertaken by humanitarian organisations. They cleared rather more than 5.2 million square metres, an increase on the 4.9 million square metres they cleared in 2002.
"The 6.9 million square metres cleared covers 136 villages out of a total of 719 identified", said Munguambe. "That is a reduction of 18.9 per cent. It benefits 325,905 people out of a total of 1,348,407 living in areas affected - which is a reduction of 24.1 per cent. In terms of devices, 10,116 land mines and 13,411 non-explosive devices were destroyed".
During 2003, there were 13 land mine accidents, resulting in six deaths (two men, three women and a child), and eight injuries (six men, a woman and a child). Of these 14 victims, four were sappers, and 10 were civilians.
Munguambe also stressed that in 2003, the Mozambican Defence Force (FADM) destroyed its last 1,350 land mines. This brought to an end the process of destroying stocks of mines which began in 2001. In all the FADM destroyed 37,818 anti-personnel mines, under the Ottawa Treaty outlawing these weapons.
Reconstruction of the Sena railway line that runs from Beira to the Moatize coal mines in the western province of Tete, with a spur into Malawi, has now covered a third of the 90 kilometres included in the initial stage of the project, reports "Diario de Mocambique" on 1 March.
The first stage of rehabilitation runs from Dondo to Muanza, a distance of 90 kilometres. So far the reconstruction brigade has completely rebuilt 30 kilometres of line, and are now at a point four kilometres beyond the station of Savane.
The Dondo-Muanza stretch is being rebuilt entirely with the funds of the Mozambican ports and railway company, CFM, itself, and was initially budgeted at $11 million. But so far, according to Adelino Mesquita, head of the reconstruction brigade, seven million dollars have been spent. It is hoped that the work will reach Muanza by the end of the year.
The Sena line was comprehensively sabotaged by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels in the mid-1980s, and is the only one of Mozambique's major rail lines that has not yet been rebuilt. The paralysis of the line has made it impossible to export Moatize coal (apart from small amounts trucked into neighbouring Malawi).
The whole line is about 600 kilometres long, and the international tender for the rebuilding is still under way. Just two consortia were pre-qualified to bid: Rites of India and the Tenwin-China Railways Construction Company.
Because of the complexity of the tender process, the winning bid will not be known until at least May.
Natural gas is now starting the long journey from the southern province of Inhambane to the chemical plants of the South African company Sasol in Secunda. According to a Sasol press release, the first gas was pumped into the pipeline from the Temane gas field to Secunda on 18 February.
The start of pumping followed the successful testing of the gas processing plant at Temane, as well as the conclusion of the 865 kilometre long pipeline.
Sasol is also continuing to convert its petro-chemical complex at Sasolberg to use natural gas instead of coal. This conversion should be completed in May or June. The Sasolberg plant used to be notorious for the fabulously expensive oil-from-coal technology designed under apartheid to help the South African regime circumvent the international oil embargo.
Now Sasol is cooperating to develop a Mozambican natural resource to the benefit of both Mozambique and South Africa. Mozambique's Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, welcomed the start of pumping. In a message sent to Sasol, Langa declared "the export of the first gas processed in Mozambique to South Africa is a historic landmark for both countries. I am pleased to witness this important event which will constitute a significant economic advance for Mozambique".
The total investment in the pipeline and the gas processing plant is about $1.3 billion.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, approved unanimously on 1 March a 20 point agenda to be worked on until 14 May.
The agenda includes a bill on social security and pensions for demobilised soldiers under the 1992 peace agreement, amendments to the Electoral Law, and a review of the law passed last year on additional measures against corruption.
In his opening speech, the Assembly's chairperson, Eduardo Mulembue, urged the deputies to make good use of this sitting, scheduled to be the last in this legislature. The country's third multi-party general elections, which will elect a new parliament, are due to be held by the end of this year.
But Mulembue himself was the focus of the main issue of disagreement on this opening session. For the programme for this sitting includes a 10 day interruption, when Mulembue is to attend the inauguration of the African Parliament, in Addis-Ababa.
The opposition Renamo-Electoral Union raised a strong objection, pointing out that, under the parliamentary standing orders, when the chairperson is absent, one of the deputy chairpersons should be appointed to replace him.
Mateus Katupha, spokesperson for the Assembly's governing board, its Standing Commission, expressed surprise that the head of the Renamo group, Ossufo Quitine, should make such an objection. For the matter had been discussed in the Standing Commission, of which Quitine and other opposition members are part, but they did not raise any objections, and the decision was taken by unanimity.
However, this discussion could go no further in plenary, for Mulembue interrupted, and declared that the issue would be discussed again at the Standing Commission, after which a new decision will be announced to the plenary.
"Renamo has fought and won", declared the head of Renamo-Electoral Union parliamentary group, Ossufo Quitine, in his speech at the formal opening session.
He listed the Renamo "victories" as the 1992 peace agreement, the fact that there has been no subsequent war, the decision to make the date of the agreement, 4 October, a public holiday, and the adoption of a new national anthem. Quitine also boasted that Renamo had won in five municipalities in the November local elections.
Quitine dismissed the current massive fraud trial, involving the 1996 theft of 144 billion meticais ($14 million), from the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), as "mere theatre and manipulation of truth and of justice".
Quitine also tried to make political capital out of the current hysteria around alleged trafficking in human body parts in the northern province of Nampula. He claimed that "an international gang, linked to high ranking Mozambican personalities, are dedicated to the trade in organs".
For his part, the head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Manuel Tome, took a more measured view. Stories about the kidnapping and trafficking in children, and the trafficking in body parts were nothing new - in fact, references to such crimes date back to the colonial era. There was a strong political will to see such crimes fought against, and "we should all, particularly the police and judicial institutions, act with greater determination".
But he also insisted on the need "to fight the lobby of lies, rumour or cover-up, just as we should consider it gravely immoral to exploit these emotions and anguishes for political purposes".
This was a situation, added Tome, that "requires a cool head, and a great deal of calm. We should, at all costs, avoid exacerbating emotions and precipitate judgements".
He urged the police and the judiciary "to act with the greatest of rigour and professionalism." They should pursue their investigations for as long as necessary, "collecting evidence that leaves no room for doubt and brings the truth to the public".
Labour Minister Mario Sevene told the Assembly of the Republic that the National Social Security Institute (INSS) is yielding good results, despite some setbacks, mainly due to the lack of contributions from a large number of companies.
He revealed that although the INSS was created in 1989, the institution only produced its first accounts last year. But he promised that such documents will be produced every year, from now on, for which the planned computerising of the institution is expected to contribute positively.
Sevene complained that, while some companies are not channelling contributions to the INSS, because they are technically bankrupt, in other cases, the failure to pay is just a matter of bad faith. In the latter cases, he said, the INSS is now responding by forcibly collecting the money.
But the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, which tabled the issue, questioned the use of the INSS's funds, claiming that they benefit, not the contributors, but a few members of the ruling Frelimo party.
Dionisio Quelhas said that the INSS has been buying shares in various institutions, including banks, hotels, the beer company CDM, and others, and challenged Sevene to explain in what way the contributors benefit from dividends on those shares. He also asked Sevene to explain the criteria to select the INSS managers and to whom they are answerable.
Sevene explained that a nine member board manages the INSS, with three members appointed by the government, three by the employers, and three by the trade unions. Thus, he said, the institution's management is transparent, under the responsibility of the three partners jointly.
As for the proceeds, he gave the example of the INSS investment in the country's largest bank, the International Bank of Mozambique (BIM). That yielded 83 million meticais (about $3,450) in 1998, over 208 million meticais in 1999, and more than 250 million meticais in 2000.
As for CDM, the INSS invested in this company in 2001, and collected 2.5 billion meticais from its holding in 2002.
Sevene noted that in those companies, the INSS is a minor shareholder, hence the apparently small dividends.
As for the benefit to contributors, Sevene said that the INSS pays out pensions - the minimum pension is 590,000 meticais (about $24) a month, slightly over half the statutory minimum wage - and allowances paid to the contributors in cases of illness, invalidity, and maternity leave.
The Japanese government pledged on 23 February over 9.6 million Yen (about $79,300) for a community project in the locality of Munguine, in the southern province of Maputo.
This project, being carried out by KULIMA, a Mozambican NGO, is intended to strengthen the farmers' organisational capacity in Munguine and Maluana and help them take full advantage of their land's agricultural potential.
The money is earmarked for the building of two houses for the rural extension technicians, a barn, a community centre, and two poultry pavilions. Some of the funds will also be spent one training associated farmers in the two localities.
Japanese support for community projects in Mozambique now totals about $1.6 million, used in social sectors such as agriculture, education, water supply, health, and land mine clearance, among others.
Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey announced on 22 February that her country is to grant 24 million Euros (about $30.4 million) to Mozambique to be used in a number of programmes in various sectors during this year.
Speaking shortly after a meeting with her Mozambican counterpart, Leonardo Simao, she said that the money is earmarked mainly for the fight against poverty and for fiscal reform.
She expressed her country's commitment to support programmes for the improvement of health care, water supply and agricultural development.
Simao told reporters that the meeting discussed a variety of issues, including the crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe. He briefed Calmy-Rey on the intervention of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which, he claimed, had prevented the outbreak of "a civil war" in that country.
An audit of Swedish funds donated to the Ministry of Education has shown that several of the scholarships intended for ministry staff have gone to people with no contractual links to the ministry, including relatives of the Minister, Alcido Nguenha, reports "Savana" on 27 March.
The Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), says the paper, suspected abuse of its funds, and decided to hire the company Ernst and Young, which audited the use of 60 million out of the 124 million Swedish crowns donated to the Mozambican education sector since 2000.
It found that, of 33 people benefiting from Ministry of Education Scholarships, 18 have no contractual link with the Ministry. These include, "Savana" says, the Minister's brother, studying for a masters degree in business administration in the United States, and two of his children, who are studying in South Africa.
Other scholarships had gone to a daughter of the planning director in the ministry, Virgilio Juvane, also studying in South Africa, and to two journalists of Mozambique Television (TVM), who are studying in a private Mozambican university.
The director of human resources in the Ministry told the auditors that one important criterion for allocating the scholarships was that "they are only granted to MINED staff who have been working for at least three years in the Ministry".
"Savana" says that SIDA has frozen funds pledged to the Education Ministry, and that a new, long term programme of support will depend on the results of the full audit.
The delegation in South Africa of the Mozambican Labour Ministry has described as "shocking, ridiculous, and manipulated" the lenient sentence handed down by a court in the town of Nelspruit against a local farmer who murdered a Mozambican employee in February 2002.
The Labour delegate, Pedro Taimo, cited in "Noticias" on 27 February, said he intended to submit an appeal to the South African Supreme Court.
Taimo protested that, despite evidence of the brutal and racist nature of the crime, and of the farmer's repeated attempts to obstruct justice, the Nelspruit judge sentenced him to only two years in prison, which can be converted into a fine of 36,000 rands (about $5,350), plus another two years suspended for five years.
During the trial, witnesses told the court how Gerrit Maritz, the accused, sought out the Mozambican worker, Jotamo Mandlate, in his room for failing to show up for his shift. Maritz assaulted the victim, knocked him down, and ran him over repeatedly with his vehicle, until he was dead. He then put the body in the car and left. All this was done in the presence of the other workers.
The witnesses added that on the following day, Maritz, with the help of a friend of his in the police, took the body to the Komatipoort police station, where he intended to dump it in the adjacent morgue without any registration.
But the senior police officer on duty at the station refused to collaborate, and asked for details on the origin of the body and the cause of death. This called for an investigation, which led to the arrest of the farmer.
Taimo found it strange that nothing happened to the policeman who helped Maritz, and he is still working as if nothing had happened. Up to the last day of the trial, Maritz insisted that he was innocent, but after the witnesses' statements, the court advised him to confess.
He did so, and this now looks like a sordid deal: in exchange for a guilty plea, the judge had promised a lenient sentence, bearing no relation to the premeditated and brutal nature of the crime. "The sentence delivered by the court on 18 February shocked the audience, particularly the family of the victim", said Taimo. "The verdict was manipulated to benefit the defendant, in a clearly racist plot that started during the trial".
He added that such a light sentence "will not deter other white farmers from ill-treating their black employees, particularly Mozambicans, with near absolute impunity".
Taimo said that the Labour delegation will not only appeal against this sentence to the Supreme Court, but will also demand compensation for the victim's family.
This action is also supported by the secretary of the Mpumalanga provincial branch of the South African Council of Churches, G.M. Mthembu, who has been following the matter, and raising support for Mandlate's family.
Over 177,000 weapons of different types and millions of rounds of ammunition have been destroyed in Mozambique as part of the joint Mozambican and South African police operations, code-named "Rachel", over the last nine years.
The general commander of the Mozambican police, Miguel dos Santos, said that this figure includes 20,000 forearms, 70,000 grenades, 87,000 mortars and bombs. Dos Santos said that this could only be achieved thanks to the cooperation of civil society, and the activities of the Arms to Hoes (TAE) Project, of the Mozambique Christian Council (CCM). He said that despite various difficulties and logistic problems, the operation has been a success.
Mozambique is set to approve, in the near future, the creation of a Commission for the Prevention, Combat and Eradication of Illicit Trafficking in Firearms (COPRECAL), which is to be headed by the Interior Minister.
Mozambique has become the first African country to introduce subjects on the prevention of HIV/AIDS in its military training curriculum, in the context of United Nations efforts to fight the disease.
The Mozambican government, represented by the Interior and Defence Ministers, Almerino Manhenje and Tobias Dai, on 20 February signed with the United Nations Organisation for the Fight Against AIDS (UNAIDS) a partnership agreement to introduce education on prevention against HIV/AIDS in the defence forces training curriculum.
The agreement is also to ensure the sustainability of this programme through coordination, cooperation and strengthened and institutionalised partnership, aiming at expanding local capacity to provide efficient health care and treatment to people living with the AIDS virus within the defence forces and, thus, ensuring maximum impact of new and additional resources.
Signing for the United Nations was Ulf Kristoffersson, director of the Office for Security and Humanitarian Response in UNAIDS. He said that the agreement will help educate soldiers about AIDS, and provide assistance for military units on international peace missions.
Tobias Dai said that the agreement complemented the programme of the government for fighting against AIDS, which it regards as a threat to the country's stability. He gave no figures as to how many Mozambican soldiers are HIV-positive, but stressed the importance of making soldiers and policemen aware of the dangers posed by the virus.
The latest Ministry of Health figures estimate that over 13 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 49 - or about 1.3 million Mozambicans - are HIV-positive.
The Mozambican customs services collected last year the equivalent of $266.7 million, which corresponds to a 19 percent growth when compared with the previous year's revenue, but remained below the target of $277 million, reported "Noticias" on 20 February.
Speaking during a meeting in Maputo of the customs services of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP), the general director of the Mozambican customs, Barros dos Santos, blamed the failure to attain the target on the drop in imports as a result of adverse external economic factors.
Among such factors he counted the slackening of the world economy, and the strengthening of the European currency, the Euro, and the South African rand. Most products sold in Mozambican markets are imported from South Africa.
Concerning cross-border contraband, dos Santos said that control at the borders has been improving, due to the reform process, that started back in 1996.
The three day meeting is seeking improved ways of cooperation and mutual assistance between the member countries of the community in terms of institutional development. They have also pledged to help each other to overcome the language barrier to understand important instruments adopted, usually in English, in conventions and organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and the World Customs Organisation.
"We must be on the inside of the Merchandise Coding and Harmonised Designation System", said Barros, explaining that only thus will the CPLP be working to facilitate international trade.
President Joaquim Chissano decorated former Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 18 February with the "Eduardo Mondlane Order, First Degree", the highest Mozambican award, as an acknowledgement of his services to the country.
The ceremony was attended by members of the government and other officials who, directly or indirectly, worked with Mocumbi at various stages, including high ranking officials of the ruling Frelimo party.
Speaking on the occasion, President Chissano praised Mocumbi's commitment to the cause of national independence, and his dedication to the country's sovereignty, territorial integrity and sustainable development. "Our country saw many achievements when comrade Mocumbi was Prime Minister, the work he coordinated has received a great deal of praise".
President Chissano recalled the time when he and Mocumbi lived abroad, both during their studies and during the liberation struggle, and also after independence, stressing that Mocumbi was always trustworthy and reliable, this being the reason why he came to be Prime Minister, after holding various lesser positions in the government.
President Chissano expressed hope that Mocumbi will continue making valuable contributions to the country, in his new role as High Commissioner for the Europe-Developing Countries Clinical Tests Partnership (EDCTP). "He is leaving for a noble task, because the world is worried about diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria", said Chissano, stressing that this is a task that comes in response to the challenges of the new millennium.
For his part, Mocumbi thanked those present for all the cooperation he had received during his work. "As an individual, I do not deserve what has been said about me. It was thanks to working with a team that we achieved good results", he said.
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