The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, is ready to join in the battle announced by President Armando Guebuza against corruption and red tape, declared Assembly chairperson Eduardo Mulembue on 1 March, at the opening of a parliamentary sitting.
The election of Guebuza, and the formation of a new government, "has lifted to very high levels expectations that the valuable legacy of President Chissano in the consolidation of peace, the deepening of democracy and the struggle to eradicate absolute poverty will be preserved and enriched", he said. "Many Mozambicans have expressed the conviction that the consolidation of the country's stability, and the relaunching of the economy, will undergo a new dynamic, and will experience ever speedier rhythms".
"We parliamentarians are ready to share the trench with President Guebuza in the fight against the bureaucratic paralysis rooted in our public sector, and against the corrosive corruption that swallows up administrative probity".
Mulembue said "the first signs of dynamism" could already be noted in the activities of members of the new government. He hoped this would be a prelude "to the dawning of a new day in which all sectors of the country's political, economic, administrative and cultural life will march speedily, without faltering, towards the economic progress of our beloved motherland and the prosperity of our heroic people".
This sitting of parliament must approve the new government's five year programme, the economic and social plan for 2005, and this year's state budget. These documents are not yet in the Assembly's possession. They will be discussed at a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Frelimo Party before the government deposits them with the Assembly.
Buoyed by its overwhelming victory in December's general elections, Frelimo on 1 March served notice that it will no longer tolerate the threats, sabotage, libellous accusations and filibustering that have, for the past ten years, characterised the behaviour in parliament of Renamo.
In his speech at the opening session, the head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Manuel Tome, warned "we shall firmly and without hesitation support the chairperson of the Assembly when he intervenes to end any deviation from the agenda or the matter under debate, any offence to the decorum of the Assembly, of the deputies or of state bodies, any use of improper language, any threat to resort to violence".
Frelimo, he said, would make every effort to create a climate of "mutual respect" within the parliamentary chamber. "We shall fight for respect for differences of opinion, and for the dignity of our institution", declared Tome.
He hoped for "effective and productive collaboration" between the Frelimo and opposition benches. "The country deserves, and we desire, a sensitive, loyal, responsible and constructive opposition", Tome stressed.
Tome held out a hand of friendship to the new leader of the Renamo parliamentary group, Maria Moreno. He said he was "totally willing and open for us to work together to the benefit of all Mozambicans".
The offer was spurned. Moreno's opening speech was a bitter torrent of abuse against Frelimo, repeating Renamo's allegations of electoral fraud. The scale of the fraud in December's elections, she claimed, "raise it to the category of an electoral crime". It was a coup "against democracy and against the people". The election results were "a defeat not of Renamo, much less of President Afonso Dhlakama, but of democracy".
Moreno claimed that "if Frelimo had accepted the implantation of democracy in this country after independence, there would have been no war". She alleged that Frelimo was "forced to accept the introduction of democracy" because it was too weak to continue the war.
Frelimo now felt it had recovered, Moreno claimed, and so was "fighting to assassinate democracy". She claimed that the 90 Renamo deputies were "survivors of the electoral crime. They were truly elected by the people and not by the computers". Moreno claimed that "579,863 fictitious voters were introduced criminally into the computer system".
The Mozambique United Front (FUMO) has announced that it is to withdraw from the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, which consists of Renamo and nine minor parties.
FUMO president Jose Samo Gudo has announced that his party would not renew its coalition agreement with Renamo and intended to run on its own in the next general elections (scheduled for 2009).
FUMO failed to win a seat in the December 2004 parliamentary election. Only one FUMO candidate, Samo Gudo himself, was on the coalition lists, in third position for the Maputo City constituency. But Renamo-Electoral Union only elected two candidates in Maputo.
He said that the break with Renamo was a divorce, but not a bitter one. There was "no crisis or anger", he insisted. FUMO's decision not to renew the coalition pact was connected with the need for the party to grow, Samo Gudo said.
President Armando Guebuza on 1 March called on all those involved in the administration of justice "to struggle more vigorously against insecurity and crime", so that the criminals "are put on the defensive". President Guebuza was speaking at a ceremony marking the opening of the 2005 judicial year, and he made no secret of his belief that the Mozambican institutions of justice are not pulling their weight.
The public was pleased when it heard from the media that the police had arrested gangs of dangerous criminals, said President Guebuza - but then became sceptical because it heard nothing more about the fate of those detained. "Dismantling gangs involves prosecution, trial and eventual imposition of a sentence. Fundamentally these steps are not sufficiently transparent for citizens, who are eager to know the outcome", the President added. "This situation creates suspicions of impunity, and corrodes the credibility of the institutions of justice".
The public was also concerned at the slow pace of legal proceedings. "Slow justice ends up as a denial of justice", he warned. "It generates frustration among those who want to see the restoration of their rights that have been violated, and weakens the democratic authority of the state".
President Guebuza said that unethical practices, noted by bodies such as the Bar Association and the Supreme Council of the Judicial Magistrature (which disciplines judges), "must be fought against if we want to improve the integrity and probity of our courts". When legal personnel acted unethically, that affected "citizens' trust in the state", and also "inhibits the emergence of a healthy business environment".
"Investors, whether national or foreign, need stability and credible institutions", said President Guebuza. "They need officials who have integrity, and they need procedures that are predictable and simplified".
President Guebuza admitted that the legal system is short of staff, but believed it could do much better with its existing resources. "We need to make the best use of the resources that are available", he said. "We need to improve productivity. We need to show in our actions greater love and consideration for our people".
Red tape and the spirit of drift, of just letting things go, were damaging the services to the public provided by the legal sector. "We have to discourage our cadres from the habit of accumulating excuses", said President Guebuza. "They should not feel pleased just because they've found an explanation for something that's going wrong or doesn't work. Our cadres, including legal professionals, should understand that what is important are results, not excuses or justifications".
He added that the independence of the judiciary did not mean that it worked in isolation, and called for collaboration between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature "in the spirit of the separation and interdependence of powers".
"With greater openness and greater creativity, you can find ways of improving the exchange of information and maintaining a permanent dialogue, guided by the spirit of partnership and complementarity", he said.
President Guebuza warned that no institution should try to keep its internal weaknesses secret, particularly when they involved "concrete cases of corruption and other reprehensible conduct".
The President demanded rapid improvements in the performance of the legal system. "This isn't the time for a stroll, but the time to pick up our pace, if we are committed to ending the undeserved suffering of our people", he stressed.
President Guebuza told the assembled judges, attorneys and lawyers that he was counting on them "as strategic partners in this war we have declared against the obstacles to development". He wanted them to be "ready to seek and find specific ways of participating in the struggle against poverty", and to "defend and promote the credibility of our institutions".
The President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze, said that courts face a huge backlog of over 100,000 pending cases. He said that, at the start of the 2004 judicial year, there were 103,059 cases pending. During the year 25,079 cases were heard, but a further 28,470 cases entered the system. This meant that the 2005 judicial year was opening with 107,047 cases pending.
The real situation is probably much worse. For Mangaze's figures refer only to the Supreme Court and the 11 provincial courts. He admitted that he had no full figures from the dozens of district courts.
Mangaze thought the courts had performed better in 2004 than in 2003 - the provincial courts had tried 6,311 more cases in 2004 than in the previous year. But this was virtually cancelled out by the fact that 6,169 more cases entered the system in 2004 than in 2003.
Mangaze was pleased that the number of disciplinary cases against judges and other law officers had declined, from an average of 20 cases a year, to just 10 (one judge and nine law officers) in 2004.
The most pressing problem facing the court system, he insisted, was the shortage of judges. Currently, Mozambique possesses just 184 judges (or about one judge per 100,000 inhabitants), and only 91 of them have a university degree. The system as currently structured, Mangaze said, needed at least 500 judges.
On average just five Mozambicans with law degrees per year have opted to follow a career as a judge. Mangaze thought that until recently there had not been sufficient incentive - but now, with a recent sharp rise in judges' wages, the situation was changing and in 2004 the number of candidates to enter the magistrature "increased significantly".
The courts employed 1,065 other staff, and while court clerks ought to have at least a bachelors degree, the reality was that only three per cent of court personnel had a degree. 53 per cent did not even have secondary education.
Mangaze argued that one way forward would be to scrap much of the existing legal codes inherited from Portuguese colonial rule, particularly the procedural codes, which are the main obstacle to a speedier dispensation of justice. "I have always said that we will never bring about the speed we desire in handling cases, if we do not take bold steps in legal reform", said Mangaze. "And the boldness I mean is breaking the backbone on which the legislation inherited from the colonial period rests".
The Mozambican government's Water Supply Assets and Investments Fund (FIPAG) has launched a public tender to select contractors to rehabilitate and expand the water supply systems in the towns of Chokwe and Xai-Xai, in Gaza province, and Maxixe and Inhambane, in Inhambane province, in order to more than triple the number of people in these towns benefiting from piped water.
This will require an investment estimated at $15.6 million in a first stage, that will benefit a further 150,000 consumers.
FIPAG official Pedro Paulino, cited in "Noticias" on 2 March, said that currently 74,280 consumers benefit from piped water services in these four towns.
The work, that is due to start in September, should take about 21 months in the first stage and 18 months in the second. The job is to rehabilitate the degraded systems and extend the network by installing new connections and building new dams.
In Maxixe the plan is to build a new dam and treatment centre, with a capacity of 300 cubic metres an hour, three new water depots, and the installation of 75 kilometres of piping, 1,923 new connections and 12 public standpipes.
As for Chokwe, the work is to rehabilitate the system and install a production capacity of about 2,400 cubic metres a day, which implies the opening of a new borehole and the building of two depots. The network will be expanded by over 31 kilometres of piping, and 1,182 new connections will be installed.
The work in Xai-Xai is to expand supply by 14,000 cubic metres a day, to bore 16 new wells, corresponding to about 580 cubic metres an hour, to build nine new depots, and install 77 kilometres of piping and 5,600 new connections, benefiting an extra 60,000 consumers.
In Inhambane the job is to build a new dam, with a capacity to produce 322 cubic metres an hour, to install an additional 50 kilometres of piping and 3,414 new connections, to cater for an additional 40,000 clients.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 2 March elected its eight working commissions, each composed of a chairperson, a rapporteur and 13 other deputies.
In line with the make-up of the Assembly, which contains 160 deputies from the ruling Frelimo Party, and 90 from the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, each Commission has ten Frelimo and five Renamo members. Five of the commissions have Frelimo chairs, and the remaining three are chaired by Renamo deputies. Where there is a Frelimo chairperson, the rapporteur is from Renamo and vice versa.
The full list of commission chairpersons
and rapporteurs is:
Plan and Budget Commission: Chairperson: Virginia Videira (Frelimo) Rapporteur: Abel Mabunda (Renamo)
Social, Gender and Environmental Affairs Commission: Chairperson: Alexandre Vicente (Frelimo) Rapporteur: Luis Boavida (Renamo)
Agriculture and Local Government Commission: Chairperson: Alfredo Gamito (Frelimo) Rapporteur: Anselmo Victor (Renamo)
Economic Activities and Services Commission: Chairperson: Lutero Simango (Renamo) Rapporteur: Feliciano Mata (Frelimo)
Defence and Public Order Commission: Chairperson: Jeronimo Malagueta (Renamo) Rapporteur: Rosalia Lumbala (Frelimo)
International Relations Commission: Chairperson: Leopoldo Ernesto (Renamo) Rapporteur: Carlos Silia (Frelimo)
Legal Affairs and Human Rights Commission: Chairperson: Ossumane Aly Dauto (Frelimo) Rapporteur: Saimone Macuiana (Renamo)
Petitions Commission: Chairperson: Acucena Duarte (Frelimo) Rapporteur: Rui de Sousa (Renamo).
In the light of strong criticism made in January of the country's electoral legislation by the Constitutional Council, the body that validates election results, the Assembly decided to set up an ad-hoc commission to review the legislation.
A similar commission worked on the laws from 2000 to 2004, but despite the time and resources at its disposal, produced a law governing general elections which contains contradictory deadlines, and makes life difficult for candidates and election officials alike.
The new commission is chaired by Frelimo deputy Alfredo Gamito, while Joao Alexandre, a former Renamo general secretary, is the rapporteur.
Assembly chairman Eduardo Mulembue told the commission to present its programme of work and its budget later in this parliamentary sitting. He stressed the urgency of revising the legislation, since elections for provincial assemblies are due in 2007.
The Interior Ministry on 2 March received a donation from China, valued at $3 million to boost the capacity of the police force.
The donation included 300 motorbikes, 500 helmets, bullet-proof jackets and masks for the riot police, 100 large tents, 5,000 police uniforms, 6,000 torches for the traffic police, 25 computers, 15 fax machines, and even equipment for the police band.
"The Interior Ministry will do all in its power to ensure the correct use of this equipment, not only as a basic administrative requirement, but also in recognition of the good will of the Chinese government in supporting Mozambique", promised the Minister, Jose Pacheco. He said the donation was important to help the police defend the rights and freedoms of citizens and the security of their property.
Pacheco said he hoped that China would also support other areas of his ministry's work, including strengthening the capacity of the fire brigade, ensuring protection of Mozambique's coastal waters and rivers, and police training.
The donation results from an agreement on economic and technical cooperation signed in Beijing in April 2004.
Finance Minister Manuel Chang has promised to take measures against debtors who refuse to repay loans from the treasury. Interviewed in the weekly paper "Embondeiro", Chang said these treasury loans were actually money provided by foreign donors. After the end of the war of destabilisation, in 1992, the government placed this donor money in the treasury, and made it available for people willing to invest in difficult areas.
In the immediate post-war period, for example, this included passenger transport, which had almost ceased to exist in much of the country.
But several of these treasury loans have not been repaid - including, "Embondeiro" pointed out, a loan to the fishing company Mavimbi, in which President Armando Guebuza is one of the shareholders.
Chang insisted that the ownership of companies makes no difference. "When I was director of the treasury (in the 1990s), when we analysed loan proposals, we talked to the company managers, without bothering to find out who the shareholders were", he said.
"It's true that some are repaying and others are not", he continued. "When we reach the conclusion that there are people who don't want to pay, we will do everything we can to penalise them. But right now we don't have any reason to go ahead with such measures".
If he had wanted to give illicit benefits to anyone when he was running the Treasury, "then I would have started with myself", said Chang. "But I didn't, I have a clear conscience, and if anyone wants to investigate, let them do so".
Asked about the non-performing loans from the Austral Bank, which were handed over to the Treasury, as part of the deal for the second privatisation of the bank, in 2001, Chang said the debts were being collected. To date, 52 per cent of the Austral debts (which had brought the bank close to ruin) had been collected.
Chang confirmed that the government plans to expand its payroll considerably this year. 10,000 new staff will be recruited for the public service, about half of whom will be teachers. Total public expenditure for 2005 will be 44,000 billion meticais (about $2.3 billion, at current exchange rates), a very substantial increase on the 34,000 billion meticais spent in 2004. As usual, most of the budget will be paid for by foreign grants and loans - Chang said that foreign aid would finance 52 per cent of the budget.
The Mozambican balance of payments, the Minister said, remains $600 million in deficit.
In order to develop the Mozambican business class, it is essential to modernise the country's industrial and commercial legislation, and to remove barriers to commercial activities. declared the Minister of Industry and Trade, Antonio Fernando, on 25 February.
Speaking at the close of a one day meeting of his ministry's Consultative Council, Fernando also called for a battle against corruption in licensing procedures, and within the ministry's inspectorate. (Businessmen have frequently complained that government inspectors use their position to demand bribes.) Fernando also stressed that it is a government priority "to improve infrastructures that facilitate trade and reduce transaction costs".
Fernando stressed that in his first 100 days as minister he wanted all members of the Consultative Council (which includes all the national and provincial directors of the ministry) to take an active part in publicising the new regulations on licensing commercial activities.
The regulations throw out most of the red tape which previously forced applicants to wait for six months or more because they could register a company. Now it should take no more than 30 days to register a commercial company that will then be entitled to operate throughout the country - and just one day to authorise a petty trader to set up a stall in a village.
Fernando said that within the Ministry he was setting up mechanisms to ensure control and follow-up of decisions taken, and he wanted the provincial directors to do likewise. "Only with clearly defined tasks and efficient methods of control will we be able to achieve what we have proposed to build: a public administration increasingly oriented towards satisfying the needs of our people".
During the final discussions, the deputy minister, Alfredo Namitete, warned that the Ministry was taking seriously the election campaign slogan that the ruling Frelimo Party is "the force for change". That slogan was implemented in the provinces after the last Frelimo Congress (in 2002), he said, and it was no coincidence that all those who were provincial governors have now been brought into the central state apparatus, as ministers or deputy ministers. The former governors had been brought in "to activate the changes needed", he declared. "We're driving a powerful train", he said. "People who get travel sick should get off".
Negligent behaviour by local officials has held up payment of wages to 413 teachers in Gile district, in the central province of Zambezia. This situation was disclosed to the newly appointed provincial governor, Carvalho Muaria, during a visit on 2 March to the Gile District Education Directorate.
Muaria ordered an inquiry to determine who was responsible for the non-payment of teachers' wages for two months, and recommended strong measures against any officials found to have held up payment. He gave the directorate a 20 day deadline to produce a report on the issue.
There is no great mystery about who is responsible. For during his visit, the governor found that the January wage sheets are still sitting, unprocessed, in a drawer of one of the officials in the education directorate. This official should have verified the wages sheets and passed them on to the District Finance Directorate for purposes of payment, but had not done so.
Muaria warned that delay in paying teachers' wages may have unpredictable consequences, not only for the teachers themselves, but also for the communities they serve.
There are also reports that teachers in some districts in Zambezia are yet to receive their 2004 end of year bonus (known as the "thirteenth month", since it is equivalent to an extra month's wages).
One of the issues discussed during the latest meeting of the Zambezia Education and Culture Provincial Directorate was the alleged shortage of funds, which leaves teachers for months without payment.
This situation of late and irregular payments has lasted for at least three years. Despite this, teachers in Zambezia have not gone on strike, but have attempted to negotiate a solution with the provincial directorate - apparently without success.
During his visit, Carvalho urged officials to strive to improve the quality of education, which implies improving conditions for teachers by giving them decent housing and regular wages.
Education Minister Aires Aly on 2 March ordered an end to trips abroad for Ministry staff that merely cost money and bring the Ministry no tangible benefit. Addressing about 1,000 education staff at a meeting held in Maputo, Aly said that many trips had proved useless. Money had been poured into sending staff on seminars abroad "which have nothing to do with Mozambique".
This did not mean an end to all travel. In "Noticias" on 3 March Aly said he was open to trips that really would bring advantages to Mozambique, by forging partnerships in the education sector. "Our concern should not be to participate in international workshops or seminars, but to work internally and get to know the reality of the schools in this country", he urged.
Aly recognised that his decision might be "maliciously interpreted", but he insisted that "irrelevant travel outside the country is suspended".
In his first month as minister, he revealed, he had approved just two requests from ministry staff to leave the country - and had turned down "a heap of others" (he did not say exactly how many requests were rejected).
Aly urged education staff to abandon "intrigue, hatred and laziness", and to "renew the spirit of working as a collective, mutual aid, and discipline".
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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