Brazil announced on 31 August that it has decided to write off $314 million, representing 95 per cent of the $331 million that Mozambique owes that country. The decision was formalised in one of the various agreements and protocols signed between Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and his Mozambican counterpart, Joaquim Chissano, who arrived in Brasilia on 31 August for a four day official visit to Brazil.
Speaking during the ceremony, President Lula said that more than simply relieving Mozambique of this debt, his country wants, through this gesture, to show that it is determined to help other countries, that are poorer and facing greater needs than Brazil. He said that it makes no sense at all that very rich nations - most of whose wealth was accumulated by exploiting other countries' resources - insist on collecting debts that have been proved definitely unpayable.
President Lula stressed that Brazil is in moral and material debt to Mozambique and to Africa as a whole, because the Brazilian economy was built on the labour of enslaved Africans. He said it was the millions of slaves and the descendants of slaves who contributed to the development of Brazil and other American countries, "while Africa remained stagnant". He reiterated that Brazil will continue its policy of supporting African countries, that was launched by his government when it took office two years ago.
For his part, President Chissano thanked the gesture of the Brazilian government, describing it as further proof that this country is determined to move from promises to actions. He said that writing off the Mozambican debt will allow the two countries to commit more efforts in promoting bilateral cooperation and new socio-economic investments.
During President Chissano's trip to Brazil, the Brazilian authorities reaffirmed their commitment to building a pharmaceutical plant in Mozambique that will produce generic anti-retroviral drugs, used to prolong the lives of people suffering from AIDS. When he visited Mozambique last November, Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva confirmed Brazil's interest in building this factory.
However, in early August a news item carried by the Portuguese news agency Lusa gave the impression that Brazil had torn up this pledge, citing the Coordinator of AIDS Programmes in the Brazilian Health Ministry, Pedro Chequer, as declaring "It's not worth building a factory making anti-retrovirals in Mozambique, for it to become a white elephant".
The story was then carried in much of the Mozambican media, much to the surprise of Health Minister Francisco Songane, who said he had received no information from the Brazilians that the agreement of 2003 was no longer valid.
A joint communiqué on 31 August following discussions between President Lula and President Chissano reiterates categorically that Brazil remains committed to the pharmaceutical factory. and will do all in its power to ensure that construction begins as soon as possible.
The two presidents stressed the promise to transfer Brazilian technology in the area of producing anti-retroviral drugs to Mozambique, in accordance with what had been agreed during Lula's visit to Maputo. They regarded this commitment as something that would prove the practicality of cooperation between countries of the south, and said it was their intention to increase still further mutual assistance in areas where one or other of their countries has a greater advantage.
The communiqué added that since Lula's visit, the two countries have exchanged technical missions which "have dealt with the operational aspects for the installation of laboratories for the production of anti-retrovirals". Not only was Brazil determined to build the factory, but it would also guarantee the training of the Mozambican staff who would operate the plant.
The two presidents added that they would do all in their power to ensure that more countries of the south became aware that, faced with the continued refusal of the north to change the rules governing world economics, only south-south cooperation could save developing countries.
They declared that "in the collective exercise of establishing a new international development paradigm, the group of developing countries should take on a preponderant role in a real effort to promote south-south solidarity and partnership".
For Chissano and Lula, the unequal terms of trade imposed by the industrialised countries of the north have been the main cause perpetuating the socio-economic backwardness of the so-called third world. They warned that, without a mutually advantageous trading system, it would be difficult to achieve progress and prosperity in developing countries.
The presidents argued that "incorporation of developing countries into the global economy necessarily involves access, without discrimination, to the markets of the rich countries". They noted the huge imbalances in international trade rules, and stressed in particular the importance of the negotiations on agriculture, since "this is a sector in which the countries of the south enjoy greater competitiveness, but it is also where there are huge distortions". To eliminate these distortions, Chissano and Lula urged the G-20 group that has been leading the southern countries in negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to do all they could to defend the national interests of developing countries.
Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party, and the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, on 1 September presented radically different visions of the voter registration that took place in June and July.
Speaking at the end of a sitting of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, the head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Manuel Tome, said the registration "once again showed the civic sense and maturity of Mozambicans, through the broad participation of the people in an unequivocal proof of their willingness to choose freely their rulers".
But while Tome praised mass participation, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ossufo Quitine, claimed that vast numbers of people had been deliberately left out of the voter registration, and so would be unable to vote in the December general elections. He claimed that Frelimo had programmed the updating of the electoral registers so that brigades in the north and centre of the country would run out of stocks. He claimed that in some areas the stocks of registration materials only lasted for three days.
Quitine alleged that "in a machiavellian way, they reduced the number of registration brigades, in the centre and north, and prioritised Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces". This showed, he alleged, that "for Frelimo, those who live in the centre and north are second class citizens".
The registration process was not run by Frelimo, but by the country's electoral bodies - the National Elections Commission (CNE), and its executive organ, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE). Renamo is heavily represented on both these bodies.
The figures from STAE do not support Renamo's argument. There were 2,494 registration brigades - the same figure as in the 2003 updating of the registers, and many more than were used in either 1994 or 1999 when the entire electorate was registered.
The province with the largest number of brigades was not in the south - it was the central province of Zambezia with 456 brigades. The four southern provinces (Maputo City and Province, Gaza and Inhambane) had 626 brigades between them. The vast majority of the brigades (1,868) were in the centre and north. 1,868 is almost exactly 75 per cent of 2,494. So, contrary to Quitine's claims, 75 per cent of the brigades were allocated to 75 per cent of the population.
STAE estimated that there were about 700,000 people to be registered this year - in fact, it vastly exceeded this figure, and registered over 1.2 million. 697,000 of these were first time voters - the rest were people transferring from one polling station to another, or who applied for new voter cards because they had lost the old ones.
Quitine, however, claimed that the true number of people to be registered was 2.4 million. However, according to the latest projections from the National Statistics Institute (INE), based on the 1997 census, there are 9.1 million Mozambicans of voting age (18 and above). In 1999 and 2003, 8.4 million people were registered, the vast majority of whom are still alive.
Responding to Quitine, Tome recalled Renamo's demand that the whole registration exercise be repeated, its claim that the problems that did exist in the registration were a prelude to electoral fraud. "The losing party and its leader (Afonso Dhlakama) want to present a justification in advance for their defeat in the coming elections", Tome declared. "This is also part of the exercise carried out ad nauseam by our parliamentary opposition to discredit the country's institutions, since their attempt to destroy them, in the war of destabilisation, failed".
Quitine spoke in favour of the right of Mozambicans living abroad to vote in the elections. If Frelimo thought it had the emigrant vote sewn up, it was wrong, he said, "because it has forgotten that these citizens abandoned the country because of Frelimo atrocities".
Tome reminded him that previously Renamo had been opposed to giving emigrants the vote. "It was thanks to the firm position taken by Frelimo publicly, and within the electoral bodies, that our fellow citizens living abroad can finally enjoy their constitutional right of voting", he said. "Renamo always fought, both publicly, and within the electoral bodies, to prevent the exercise of this right".
Tome accused Renamo of remaining a fundamentally intolerant and anti-democratic force. It was continuing to intimidate citizens, "with threats that there will be a return to war if Renamo loses the elections". It continued to physically assault citizens, including local Frelimo officials, and promoted attacks on institutions, including the police, as happened a in August in the central town of Inhaminga. "The purpose is for Renamo to present itself deceitfully with an image of strength that it does not really possess", said Tome.
Quitine also mentioned the Inhaminga clashes between the riot police and armed members of the Renamo "Presidential Guard". He claimed that "atrocities" had taken place in Inhaminga, and that members of the riot police from the southern provinces had been mobilised "to murder citizens of the centre and north". However, according to Renamo itself, the only people who died in Inhaminga were policemen. Renamo claimed that its men killed nine policemen: the police put the death toll at one. Renamo and the police agreed that no Renamo supporters were killed in the incidents.
For Renamo and Dhlakama, Tome said, "the freedom of expression has become the freedom to lie. They lie publicly, they lie to diplomats, they lie when they go abroad. But only those who don't know them let themselves be deceived".
In reality, he continued, Renamo neither wanted to wage war, nor had the means to do so. The war of destabilisation had depended on support from Ian Smith's Rhodesian, from the armed forces of apartheid South Africa, and from the Malawian dictatorship of Hastings Banda - and all of these regimes were dead and buried. All that Renamo could do now was resort to "acts of pure gangsterism", and libellous claims against Frelimo leaders, Tome declared.
The Assembly of the Republic on 1 September passed by consensus the final reading of two bills, on a new Civil Registry Code and on the organisation of the Assembly itself, after the opposition Renamo- Electoral Union coalition dropped a couple of controversial amendments.
The civil registry code expands the period in which parents can register their children free of charge from 30 days after birth to 90 days.
Renamo had proposed an amendment whereby the 90 days would only be for people living in the cities - people living in rural areas would have a full year in which to register the birth of a child without payment.
However, in the final committee stage of the bill, on 31 August, Renamo dropped its amendment, and Frelimo agreed to extend the period of free registration of births to 120 days.
In the bill on the organisational structure of the Assembly itself, Renamo wanted to limit to 35 the total number of staff whom the political party parliamentary groups could employ. It also proposed that, at the end of each legislature these political party staff should be given jobs as full time civil servants.
Frelimo saw no reason to limit the right of the political parties to employ whoever they liked. But to parachute these people into government employment when their contracts were over, would be "to politicise the civil service".
In commission, Renamo dropped its demands. The recruitment of these political staff members will lie entirely in the hands of the parliamentary groups - and if they were recruited from the civil service, they would retain any acquired civil service rights. But merely working for a political party would not give them a ticket into the civil service.
The Assembly of the Republic on 24 August unanimously approved a new Family law that sweeps away the male chauvinism inherent in the Civil Code inherited from Portuguese colonial rule. An earlier version of the bill was passed in December 2003, but was vetoed by President Joaquim Chissano, who feared that some of its provisions were unconstitutional. The Assembly's Legal Affairs and Social Affairs Commissions reworked the bill in the light of President Chissano's objections, and presented their work to the Assembly plenary.
President Chissano's main objection was that the Assembly's blanket approval of religious and traditional forms of marriage, putting them on an equal footing with civil marriage, called into question the constitutionally enshrined lay nature of the state.
The law as passed in December simply said that monogamous religious and traditional marriages were of equal value to civil marriage "when the formalities concerning their celebration have been observed".
On revisiting this clause, the two commissions agreed with President Chissano that this formulation "could undoubtedly lead to ambiguity in interpretation because it does not impose legally established requirements. To say that a marriage has legal value once religious or traditional norms have been followed may indeed endanger the lay nature of the state".
So the redrafted bill makes it clear that traditional and religious marriages will only be recognised on a par with civil marriages if they observe the same requirements as civil marriage. These include a minimum age of 18 for marriage (or 16 in "exceptional" circumstances, and when the parents agree), and a ban on marriages between close relatives.
In the case of religious marriages, the redrafted bill insists on the publication of marriage bans in registry offices. When no-one comes forward with an objection to the marriage, the registrar draws up a certificate which is given to the religious figure who will perform the marriage.
President Chissano also warned that the December bill was too lax on the question of adoption, and did not offer enough safeguards for adopted children. So the redrafted version includes a clause obliging the government's Social Welfare Services to check regularly on the well-being of adopted children, and report annually to the court which had permitted the adoption.
At President Chissano's urging, the new law will only take effect 180 days after its publication in the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica". This is to allow time for amendments in other legislation affected by the changes, such as the inheritance law, and Civil Registry Code, as well as to train registrars, and religious and traditional dignitaries, in what the law requires of them.
President Chissano had no objection to the main burden of the Law, which is to improve the status of women in the household and in society. Massive chunks of the colonial civil code have now been jettisoned. Thus the husband is no longer automatically head of household, and no longer automatically represents the family - either partner may do so. The right of husband or wife to work may not be restricted by the other partner. The wife no longer needs to ask her husband's permission to go into business or contract debts. The couple will still be expected to live in the same house - but not necessarily the husband's house.
Not only does the law put religious and traditional marriage on a footing of equality with civil marriage, but it also, for the first time, recognises "de facto unions" - i.e. couples living together in a stable relationship who do not bother with any kind of marriage. Any couple who have lived together for at least a year will be regarded as a "de facto union", and the children of this union will have the same protection as children of any marriage. If such a union breaks up, the man will no longer be able to shrug off responsibility for the children, and may find himself obliged to pay maintenance to his ex-partner.
Since deputies on the two commissions from both the ruling Frelimo Party and the opposition Renamo-electoral Union coalition were in agreement on the amendments, and since the principles of the bill had been thoroughly discussed in 2003, there was no debate in the Assembly plenary, and the amended bill was passed unanimously and by acclamation.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has pledged that the country will not slip back to war. Speaking to reporters on 26 August, on his return from a visit to China at the invitation of the Chinese authorities, Dhlakama categorically ruled out any return to war, despite the clashes earlier this month between armed members of Renamo and the riot police in the central town of Inhaminga.
"When I went to Rome to sign the general peace agreement (in October 1992), the genuine intention was not to return to arms at some future date, but to engage in reconciliation and let the country grow", said Dhlakama.
Asked about the danger that the Inhaminga incidents might pose to peace, Dhlakama said that one group of soldiers in one district could not pose a threat to an entire country of 18 million people. He said that he intends to visit Cheringoma in the near future in a journey that will take him across the country to reassure citizens that war really is a thing of the past, and will not flare up again.
Nonetheless, Dhlakama claimed that Renamo "has always been the victim of provocation" whenever general elections approach. "We (i.e. Renamo and the ruling Frelimo Party) are good friends for five years of democracy, but then it's time for elections, and various kinds of provocation are orchestrated against Renamo", he alleged.
As for his visit to China, Dhlakama said he had noted "excellent" opportunities for increased cooperation between Mozambique and China, particularly in agriculture. "You all know that China, the most populous country in the world, does not have huge areas for the practice of agriculture, but due to its high degree of scientific and technological development, it produces enough to feed its population", he said.
He declared that during his visit he sought to represent, not Renamo, but the Mozambican people.
The Mozambican riot police in Cheringoma district, in the central province of Sofala, are reported to have been involved in a shoot out with a group of armed men belonging to Renamo, but apparently neither side suffered any casualties.
Unofficial sources are cited in the Maputo daily "Noticias" on 24 August, as saying that the armed men in question are those who were driven out of the district capital, Inhaminga, earlier this month after a confrontation in which the Renamo members, who call themselves the "Presidential Guard", shot dead a policeman.
Some of them were seen moving between the localities of Maciambosa and Nimba, and several are believed to be hiding in the Nimba area. When the police encountered a group of these men, a few kilometres outside Inhaminga, the shooting lasted for about an hour.
Sofala police commander Augusto Mutaca stated that "the supposed guards of the presidential residence of (Renamo President) Afonso Dhlakama will never return to Inhaminga. We know that they are scattered in small groups in the bush, intending to return to the town, but we will not allow them to do so".
As for life in Inhaminga, the local education authorities are worried that some teachers and pupils have not yet returned after fleeing in panic during the clashes between Renamo and the police. Some of them fled south to the cities of Dondo and Beira, while others went north, to the sugar town of Marromeu on the banks of the Zambezi.
Sofala provincial education director Felix Wilson lamented the fact, adding that even some of the pupils who did not leave Inhaminga are still afraid of going to school. "This is a perfectly understandable fear, but we are working with the local education and administrative authorities to persuade both teachers and students to return to school", he said.
The only company in Mozambique that produces serum for medical purposes has been forced to halt production because thieves have stolen several of its computers.
The company, "Final Farmaceutica", is owned by Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana. Cited in the Maputo weekly "Zambeze" on 2 September, Sumbana said ruefully "somebody told me I'd gone into the wrong business".
The factory, located in the southern city of Matola, has been beset with problems and has operated for less than nine months. Part of its initial production was offered to Maputo Central Hospital, and part was sold to some private clinics.
Although the thefts have only now come to the notice of the press, they took place in June. According to the factory's director, Zini Neto, "in the first theft, they stole a computer from the director's office. The next week they came back and stole two more computers, one of which was the central computer which controls the entire factory".
Sumbana told "Zambeze" that he had conceived of Final Farmaceutica as a tribute to his mother, who had died after a long illness in what was then the Miguel Bombarda Hospital (today's Maputo Central Hospital). "This was the way I found to avenge the death of my mother, who was hospitalised for years", said Sumbana. "I did it to prevent other Mozambicans from dying as she died, but I see I've got myself into a difficult business".
"Don't be surprised if one day you find I've gone crazy", he added, "because I don't know what to do now. This happened when we thought the worst was over and we were ready to restart production".
Neto thought this was no ordinary robbery, but deliberate sabotage by people who did not want serum produced in Mozambique. Prior to the building of Final, every drop of serum used in the country was imported, and this was clearly good business for some people.
Neto noted that the thefts occurred "a few days before we were due to resume production", and that the thieves had been highly selective. They had ignored an easily accessible room full of computers which, to people who knew nothing about the factory, looked the same as the ones that were stolen.
"They didn't take any of those", said Neto. "Instead they broke down a door to reach the computers they wanted, because they were following instructions from somebody. The computers they didn't steal look identical to the ones they did".
"I think that when they took the first computer, the person who hired them saw that wasn't the one he wanted, and gave correct instructions about the targets, which they only obtained in the second break-in", he added.
Nonetheless, after the second robbery, there were three other attempts to burgle the factory, all of which were frustrated by the security guards. But the guard who was on duty the nights of the successful break-ins, an employee of the private security company Delta, did not show up for work subsequently, and has disappeared from his house.
Nonetheless, Final is determined to repair the damage and resume production. Neto said it has spent $10,000 to buy new equipment from South Africa - including the computer programmes required to replace the stolen ones. The Ministry of Health has expressed an interest in buying Final's serum, but there is as yet no agreement. "We want the Ministry to become our main client", said Neto. "Our factory can produce as much as is requested".
The total installed capacity is 2.5 million litres. Final hopes to resume production this month, starting with 50,000 litres a month, rising to 100,000 litres as from December.
Eduardo Namburete, director of the election office of Renamo, on 1 September confirmed to AIM that he has been dismissed from one of his two jobs at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University. Namburete said that the university's vice-chancellor, Brazao Mazula, has relieved him of his duties as head of the university press office, a decision that was communicated to him on 31 August.
Namburete retains his second post, that of Director of the university's School of Communication and Arts (which is supposed to train media professionals).
Although Namburete has not been sacked from the university, Renamo have alleged that Mazula's decision amounts to political harassment. Speaking in the Assembly of the Republic on 1 September, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ossufo Quitine, claimed that Namburete was removed from the press office "after attempts were made to persuade him to drop his willingness to head the Renamo election office".
The ruling Frelimo Party, Quitine said, was angered "by the fact that senior cadres are joining Renamo". The dismissal of Namburete had "the sole purpose of intimidating Mozambicans", he declared.
The African Development Bank (ADB) has approved funding of $2 million to build a pre-university school in Caia district, in the central province of Sofala. Construction has been under way since mid-August, and is in the hands of a Chinese building company. The school should be complete in the first quarter of 2005.
The Sofala provincial education director, Francisco Itai Meque, told AIM that the school will have 20 classrooms, and a hostel with the capacity to accommodate 120 students. The complex also includes eight houses for teachers, offices and a laboratory.
Itai Meque said the school will draw its students from the northern part of Sofala - which covers the districts of Chemba, Marromeu, Maringue, Cheringoma, Muanza, Gorongosa and Caia itself. Previously pupils from these districts who wanted to study for university entrance had to attend pre-university schools in Beira or Dondo, a long way from their homes.
This is one of the largest public education projects undertaken in Sofala in recent years. Itai Meque stated that, once this school is operating, it will open new development prospects for the whole northern part of the province.
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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