The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service, has proposed 3 December as the date for the country's third multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections.
The proposal comes in a plan of activities presented on 16 March at an expanded consultative council of STAE, held at the Pequenos Libombos resort, some 40 kilometres west of Maputo.
If accepted, this proposal means the elections will be held five years to the day since the last ones, which took place on 3- 5 December 1999. The date must now be considered by the National Elections Commission (CNE), the body in political charge of elections, which will then propose a date to the government. Under Mozambican electoral legislation, it is the government that has the final say.
3 December is an inconvenient date this year for exactly the same reason that it was in 1999. By early December the rainy season has begun, and this could make it difficult or impossible to establish polling stations in remote rural areas, where access roads have become impassable.
This was exactly what happened in 1999, when heavy rains made it impossible to take ballot papers and other electoral materials to about eight polling stations in parts of Zambezia province.
Even more serious, the STAE proposal leaves no latitude for possible delays. All Mozambique's past experience shows that electoral timetables slip, and the polling date has to be postponed. But any postponement this time would mean pushing the elections even deeper into the rainy season - or, more likely, into April 2005, an outcome that nobody wants.
According to a report in "Noticias" on 17 March, STAE is budgeting this year's voter registration and elections at $21.5 million. This is a fairly modest sum, given that the initial STAE estimate for the costs of the November 2003 municipal elections was $25 million (eventually cut back to $12.5 million).
STAE also proposes that updating the electoral registers should take place from 15 June to 8 July, and estimates that there will be some 700,000 people to be registered.
A glance at the 1997 population census shows that around 320,000 of these are people who attain voting age (18) this year. The rest will be people who, for one reason or another, did not register in previous years, and those who have changed their address, or have lost their original voter's card.
STAE envisages using 2,494 voter registration brigades, exactly the same number as last year. But whereas in 2003 each brigade had four members, this time some money will be saved by cutting the size to three.
One problem is that alterations to the electoral law have yet to be decided by the country's parliament. However, the amendments under discussion will not affect voter registration, and so STAE should be able to push ahead with this part of its work.
Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) is to hold a municipal by-election in the southern city of Xai-Xai following the sudden death of Xai-Xai mayor, Ernesto Mausse.
Opening a meeting on 15 March of the Expanded Consultative Council of STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat), the electoral branch of the civil service, CNE chairperson Arao Litsuri said that, as soon as the CNE learnt of Mausse's death, it started consultations, in order to meet all the logistical and other conditions necessary for a by-election.
Mausse, the candidate of the ruling Frelimo Party, was elected mayor of Xai-Xai in the country's second local elections, held on 19 November.
Litsuri said the CNE was determined to respect the law on local elections.
The law states that, in the event of the death, resignation or permanent incapacity
of a mayor, a new election must be held within 60 days.
In the interim, the chairperson of the municipal assembly takes over the mayor's duties. In Xai-Xai, the assembly chairperson, Rita Muianga, has already been sworn in as interim mayor.
Holding a new election implies costs, and it is not at all clear where CNE and STAE will find the money. Xai-Xai is a Frelimo stronghold. In November, Mausse won a crushing 95.4 per cent of the vote. In the 31 member municipal assembly, Frelimo holds 30 seats, and the opposition Renamo- Electoral Union coalition just one.
Cuban technicians are to work with their Mozambican counterparts in designing programmes for the National Social Security Institute (INSS) Professional Training Centre, in Chokwe district, in the southern province of Gaza.
Mozambican Labour Minister Mario Sevene made this announcement on 4 March shortly after signing an agreement to that end with his Cuban counterpart Alfredo Morales Cartaya. In the terms of the agreement, Cuban technicians are to come to Mozambique and work in the areas of social security, employment, professional training, and labour inspection.
The document also provides for Mozambican technicians to visit Cuba to exchange experiences and attend courses in professional training.
So far 59 people have been questioned in connection with the murder in August 2001 of Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, the interim chairman of the crisis-ridden Austral Bank, Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira revealed on 11 March to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
Deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party were surprised that Madeira's report to the Assembly on the previous day made no mention of the Siba-Siba case, or of other high profile murders, such as those of musician Pedro Langa, and the former director of the top security prison, Armando Ossufo.
"Last year we were told that the Siba-Siba case was advancing, but this year there has been no mention of it", protested Fernando Saide. "Last year, we were told that somebody had been arrested in connection with the Pedro Langa murder, but now we are told nothing".
Madeira insisted that these cases were still active, but declined to go into specific details. He gave no indication as to whether the 59 people interviewed in the Siba-Siba case included any of the bank's debtors whom Siba-Siba had threatened to take to court.
He said that the investigation needed to continue outside the country. Some of this could be done by correspondence, but it might also be necessary to send an investigator to the countries concerned.
He did not say which countries he had in mind, but Malaysia is certainly one of them, since the Malaysian Southern Bank Berhard was the majority partner in the Malaysian/Mozambican consortium that purchased 60 per cent of the Austral Bank (then known as the People's Development Bank, BPD) in 1997.
Three and a half years of ruinous private management followed. At a shareholders meeting in April 2001, the consortium refused to participate in the recapitalisation of the bank, and just handed its shares back to the Mozambican government. It was at this point that the central bank intervened, and appointed a new board under Siba-Siba to run the bank until a new buyer could be found.
Madeira may also wish to send an investigator to Portugal. A key suspect, Portuguese citizen Luis Cabaca Viegas, who worked in the Financial Directorate of the Austral Bank, is believed to be one of the last people who spoke to Siba-Siba on the day of the murder He was allowed to leave the country in September 2001 for 30 days holiday in Portugal - and he has never returned.
As for the Pedro Langa murder, Madeira simply said that the investigations are continuing, and that the suspect he had mentioned (both in 2003 and 2002) had been released because the period of preventive detention had expired.
Madeira failed to add that this man, newspaper seller Rogerio Sitoe, was entirely innocent. He was locked up for 17 months because the police could not be bothered to check with Langa's widow, Meme Torcato, who witnessed her husband's struggle against his killers. When she saw Sitoe in court in April 2003, Torcato said he did not look anything like the murderers.
As for the extraordinary case of eight cars, some of which were apparently stolen in South Africa, but which the Cabo Delgado provincial government purchased from a company which turned out not to exist, Madeira made clear his disagreement with the verdict of the Cabo Delgado court - which acquitted all those involved. "But my power ends where that of the judge begins", he said. "I can put in appeals and the Supreme Court will have the final word".
Renamo deputies presented a string of complaints concerning alleged harassment of Renamo by the police, or by the ruling Frelimo party. Virginia Dinis claimed that former Frelimo guerrilla fighters in Changara district, in the western province of Tete "do not allow any Renamo activity".
Madeira said he was under the impression that a case in which the Renamo delegate in Changara had been stoned had already gone to court. Vociferous shouting from the Renamo benches made clear that it had not. Madeira promised to follow the matter up. "We insist that citizens must be free to undertake political activities", he said.
He was also surprised that the case of Joao Trindade, a man in Angonia district, also in Tete, who was tied up and beaten by the police so badly that he lost the use of his arms, had not yet been heard - although Renamo had raised it a year ago. He promised to look into it.
Renamo deputy Rui de Sousa protested that no measures had been taken against Albuquerque Lobo, an election official, who in the November local elections tried to alter polling station results sheets in Beira in favour of Frelimo. Madeira assured Sousa that Lobo has been charged under the electoral legislation and that the case is in the hands of the courts.
The governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Adriano Maleiane, said in Maputo on 17 March that $12 million is now available to finance those institutions that wish to offer micro-credit services in remote rural areas.
Maleiane was speaking at a joint session of the plan and budget and legal affairs commissions of the Assembly of the Republic who are studying a government bill on credit institutions and financial companies.
He said that new micro-credit bodies would help solve the problem of people living in remote areas who find that they have nowhere where they can safely keep their money. He cited the districts of Mabote and Funhalouro, in the arid and sparsely populated interior of Inhambane province. Here people can either ask local shopkeepers to look after their money, or they can walk many kilometres to the towns of Massinga or Vilanculo to the nearest banks.
Maleiane said that the Bank of Mozambique has negotiated lines of credit totalling $32 million from the World Bank, and from the British government's Department for International Development. Of this, $12 million is for micro-credit.
He added that funds are also available for those banks willing to open branches in remote areas - their "social costs" can now be subsidised. He stressed that the key problem facing many people in rural Mozambique is not how to obtain credit, but to find somewhere where they can deposit the money they already possess without walking long distances.
The government bill also envisages using the Mozambican post office for banking purposes - many post office branches in rural areas have managed to survive, although others were destroyed during the war of destabilisation.
President Joaquim Chissano and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame on 15 March discussed African security issues on the first day of President Kagame's three day visit to Mozambique.
According to President Chissano, "we had identical points of view on the positive evolution concerning the solution to the conflicts, since no new conflicts have risen".
President Chissano said that the current challenges are centred on the management of old conflicts, which are also tending to an end. Commenting on the discussions with President Kagame, he said that the two briefed each other on the situation in their respective countries, on southern Africa and the continent as a whole. He said that both agreed on the need to put all efforts into ensuring peace in Africa as a means to create conditions for socio-economic development.
For his part, President Kagame described his meeting with Chissano as very fruitful. "We had very useful talks on what is happening in the continent and, most of all, on the ways to improve the management issues related to peace and security in Africa", he said.
Kagame said that the discussions also broached Africa's socio-economic development and bilateral cooperation between Mozambique and Rwanda.
Rwanda has been through an ethnic conflict, that led to the 1994 genocide, that claimed thousands of lives of civilians. Ten years after the end of that conflict, about 2.5 million Rwandan refugees are still scattered in different countries, including Mozambique.
Kagame's agenda during his visit includes an address to the Assembly of the Republic, a meeting with Mozambican business people, and a visit to the aluminium smelter Mozal.
The central provinces of Manica and Sofala will now receive electric power from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi, following the inauguration of the Chibata substation in the Manica district of Gondola, on 10 March.
The substation, that cost €7 million ($8.6 million) granted by the French Development Fund, was inaugurated by President Joaquim Chissano, on the final day of a three day visit to Manica.
Vicente Veloso, the chairperson of the board of directors of the publicly owned electricity company, EDM, said, on the occasion, that with this new substation his company will be able to supply the various districts, administrative posts and villages in the two provinces.
He said the Chibata undertaking was to meet the growing needs along the Beira Corridor that the local hydroelectric dams of Mavuzi and Chicamba can no longer satisfy.
Veloso noted that this undertaking came at a time when important new socio-economic projects in the region are demanding more and better quality electric power. These include investments in the processing of grain, timber, and meat, and the supply to other infrastructures in the sectors of education and health, and to irrigation systems.
He said that his company is planning to extend the power supply from Cahora Bassa to the northern provinces of Cabo Delgado and Niassa by 2005.
In his speech President Chissano stressed the importance of electricity as a propeller of socio-economic and human development, and of the fight against poverty.
Salomao said that negotiations begun with international partners interested in the project, and particularly with Zimbabwe, are continuing at a good pace. But Salomao admitted that as long as the political and economic crisis continues in Zimbabwe, the country regarded as Mozambique's main counterpart in the project, it will be difficult to implement the Beira Development Corridor.
He added that there is good will among foreign investors and donors towards the project - but they will only release funds for the corridor once political and economic stability is guaranteed in Zimbabwe.
The problem is that Beira port and the railway to Zimbabwe were built to serve what was then the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Without Zimbabwean trade there is a severe slump in activities along the Beira Corridor, and the reality is that the Zimbabwean economic crisis has severely hit the country's ability to trade with the rest of the world.
The idea of transforming transport corridors into development corridors was launched about ten years ago. Significant steps have been made in two of the corridors, the Maputo Development Corridor in the south, and the Nacala Development Corridor in the north.
That leaves Beira - but because of the Zimbabwean crisis it has so far proved impossible to hold the planned international conference to launch the Beira Development Corridor. A series of dates have been proposed, but the Mozambican government has always postponed the event.
Apart from Zimbabwe and Mozambique itself the Beira Development Corridor SDI could be of benefit to three other landlocked SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries - Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. Its economic impact could even extend to Lumumbashi, in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The General Secretary of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party, Armando Guebuza, has urged the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, to stop "witch-hunting" Frelimo members.
Simango is a prominent member of the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, and was elected mayor of Beira in November. Recently he claimed that he had "dismantled" a Frelimo branch in the Beira municipal council which had been forcibly deducting contributions to Frelimo from the wages of municipal workers.
When these allegations were put to him at a press conference on 5 March at the Pequenos Libombos resort, 40 kilometres west of Maputo, Guebuza smiled, and said "this shows that Simango is still at the phase of witch-hunts, and is not yet looking for solutions to Beira's problems".
He said that he knew that Simango was a highly intelligent person, and hoped that he would soon take "a different attitude", and would "stop making accusations all over the place". He said that, in those municipalities (five out of 33) where Frelimo had lost in the local elections, it was committed to "constructive opposition". He pledged that Simango would have Frelimo support "if he acts within the law".
Guebuza was speaking to reporters after a tour of Maputo province, taking him to Matola city, and the districts of Namaacha, Moamba and Matutuine. This is part of his work to prepare the party machinery for the elections later this year in which Guebuza will be the Frelimo presidential candidate.
In public meetings, Guebuza had discovered two major concerns - cattle rustling in Moamba, and land conflicts in Matutuine. He thought the problem was not the land law in itself, but failure to implement it properly, particularly the clauses which insist that local communities should be consulted before land titles are granted to companies and other investors.
As for problems along the coast, where foreign vessels are accused of raiding Mozambique's marine resources, Guebuza said it was urgent to carry out a proper survey of Mozambican waters, and ensure adequate patrolling of the coastal area to protect the country's maritime wealth. Measures also had to be taken against vessels that pollute the country's waters by washing out their tanks in the Mozambique Channel.
Renamo plans to move one of its heavyweight figures, prominent parliamentary deputy Vicente Ululu to the far north of the country to deal with a crisis in his home province of Cabo Delgado.
The Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, cited in the weekly paper "Zambeze", confirmed that Ululu will shortly take up his new post in the Cabo Delgado provincial capital, Pemba.
This follows a coup last month in the Renamo office in Pemba. Former Renamo guerrillas seized control of the office and sacked the political delegate Cornelio Quivela.
They accused Quivela of regionalism, saying that he favoured his own relatives and people who came from the southern part of the province where he was born. Worse still, he treated the former guerrillas with contempt. He is even alleged to have called them "armed bandits who were press-ganged" into Renamo. He, however, had joined Renamo voluntarily, which made him superior to the former fighters.
Such claims infuriated Quivela's opponents, and the last straw was the list of Renamo members for the Pemba municipal assembly. It is alleged that the list was manipulated so the Quivela's relatives and friends would occupy Renamo's ten seats in the Assembly.
After the scuffles at the Renamo office, Quivela disappeared. He may have gone into hiding since the former guerrillas threatened to "seek him out and capture him".
Immediately after driving Quivela out, the Renamo insurgents appointed the unknown Armindo Milaco as provincial delegate.
The Renamo headquarters in Maputo is not pleased with these developments and is sending Ululu to sort out the problems in Pemba.
Cabo Delgado is a stronghold of the ruling Frelimo Party, which holds 16 of the province's 22 parliamentary seats.
The newly appointed Maputo city police commander, Jose Mahunguele, says that one of his priorities is to set up a team of committed officers to bring peace, security and tranquillity to the city, "Noticias" on 9 March.
He said that his plan is to "clean up" the traffic police and the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), and put "the right man in the right place".
Mahunguele explained that "as a first step, I need to identify all those who show an ability to carry out these tasks, because I do not want to risk trusting officers who take no initiatives, and, consequently, see the entire project fail. For my purposes, I need dynamic and capable people so that we can face the problems".
However, he said that he needs first to examine the staff with whom is to work, before he decides who he will remove and who he will promote. "I must say that I need to put the right man in the right place, and whoever shows weakness, will be removed", he declared.
Commenting on crime in Maputo, Mahunguele said that the essential thing is to change the mentality towards work among the police, because they must understand that more important than anything else is to think of the benefit they can bring to society.
Mahunguele said that the project for community police fits perfectly into the efforts to fight crime, because it brings direct participation of the citizens, in looking out for suspect activities in their neighbourhoods.
"Because people are gradually understanding that they should not be left outside in this movement, but should contribute with their knowledge to the fight against crime, we think it important to implement this project in almost all neighbourhoods. Only thus we can be sure of counting on the participation of society in eradicating these problems", he said.
Commenting on the alleged lack of resources for police patrols, such as vehicles and fuel, Mahunguele said that the solution is to reorganise the sector so that it can function with the existing resources. For that end, he called for the establishment of priorities in terms of areas where patrolling should be concentrated, in order to rationalise resources.
"Even if we have large amounts of fuel, if we are not organised, complaints will remain. Thus, the best way to end complaints is to organise ourselves, avoid misusing resources, and prioritise the areas that need more protection, because we know that not all areas need the same kind of protection", he said.
On the issue of purifying the ranks of the police force, he said "what is needed is courage to remove those people (those with poor performance), and tell them that they are performing poorly or that they are not responding to expectations. We must remove those people and reorganise the structure of PIC and the Traffic police, as a means to regain respect, and ensure security, peace and tranquillity".
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