The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 6 April approved the government five year programme for the period 2005-2009 by 152 votes to 76. All deputies present from the ruling Frelimo Party supported the programme, and all those from the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition opposed it.
During the debate on the programme, Finance Minister Manuel Chang accused Luis Boavida from Renamo of "lying to the Mozambican people".
Boavida claimed the programme did not mention the country's foreign debt, and that it "completely ignores" the question of inflation. On 1 April Chang responded by pointing to the pages and paragraphs of the programme which deal with these matters. Debt relief was dealt with in a section on international cooperation, which committed the government to "undertake activities leading to the reduction and/or elimination of the foreign debt".
Chang said this was a command for the government to continue the work of its predecessors in tackling Mozambique's debts. Debt cancellation under the two phases of the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief initiative had seen Mozambique's annual debt service cut by more than two thirds.
Chang said that debt servicing in 1999 was $169 million, but today the annual debt servicing has fallen to $55 million dollars, "and the programme orders us to carry on reducing the debt". "So Boavida should read the programme and stop lying to the Mozambican people", declared Chang.
As for inflation, far from ignoring it, the programme commits the government to ensure "low and stable" inflation. Chang explained "this means inflation of under ten per cent a year for a long time".
The previous day Boavida had tried to prevent government members other than Prime Minister Luisa Diogo from speaking in the Assembly. He claimed that Diogo herself had to reply to all the questions raised by deputies and that it was "unconstitutional" for other minister to speak.
So Chang quoted the exact words of the Constitution, which orders the Prime Minister to present the government programme, the annual plans and budgets, and government reports to the Assembly - but then adds "in the exercise of these duties, the Prime Minister shall be assisted by the members of the Government whom she indicates. So either Boavida hasn't read the constitution or he is lying", concluded Chang.
Health Minister Ivo Garrido denied claims by Renamo that there is political discrimination against opposition supporters in his ministry. It was wrong to conclude that people stopped being directors "because they're from Renamo, or they support the opposition, or anything of that sort", he said.
This was in response to allegations by Renamo deputy Rui de Sousa that two health workers in the central province of Sofala had lost their jobs because of their political affiliation. Garrido said he knew both cases, and he regarded both as good workers. However, he claimed that all that had happened was that they had once been district directors of health, and now no longer held that position.
The post of district director is an administrative one, and it is perfectly normal for district directors to be changed. Just because one director gives way to another does not imply any demotion of the first director, and has no impact on his position in the health service career structure.
The previous day, Minister of Industry and Trade, Antonio Fernando, warned that the key question facing companies was how to become competitive in increasingly globalized markets.
Deputies from Renamo had demanded that the government protect Mozambican industries, but Fernando warned "competitiveness is not necessarily protected by protectionism".
He pointed out that, under the SADC (Southern African Development community) trade protocol, tariff barriers within the region are to be dismantled by 2015. "If our industries are not competitive, we will just consume what is produced in neighbouring countries", he said.
Renamo had accused the government of failing to protect poultry producers against the dumping of cheap Brazilian frozen chickens on the Mozambican market. Fernando retorted "the government has not yet taken a decision on what to do in the short term". In other words, he did not rule out a protectionist measure to deal with an immediate threat - but in the longer term Mozambican poultry farmers would have to be able to compete with imports.
The main cost for the producers is chicken feed - which is imported. Fernando suggested solving this by growing the maize and soya used in feed in fields near the Maputo poultry breeders. Fernando also pointed out that chickens ought to be slaughtered when they are 33 days old: this does not happen, and so the chickens become more expensive to the breeders because with every passing day they are eating more feed.
The key to competitiveness was adding more value to produce within Mozambique, Fernando stressed. He wanted to see fruit juice and canning factories that would process the oranges of Inhambane province, for instance. (Currently almost all the fruit juice consumed in Maputo is imported from South Africa, despite the vast amount of fruit grown in Mozambique.)
People imagined that the spirit of apathy and drift that the government has identified as a major obstacle to development only existed in the public service, said Fernando. But employers who let their companies slide into bankruptcy, and workers who were habitually absent from their jobs were guilty of the same apathy and drift, he accused.
Renamo had also demanded that the government legalise informal traders. Fernando replied that the government's strategy is to formalise the informal sector. But he warned that people must have somewhere decent to buy and sell produce - not on the street corners, or on the pavements in front of formal sector shops, who then complained of unfair competition. "Only in clean and organised markets can we do good business", said Fernando.
He pointed out that, in Maputo alone, there are 5,000 empty stalls in the municipal markets. Thus nobody can claim that they are selling on the streets for lack of space in the markets.
The Assembly of the Republic on 6 April voted unanimously to set up a 15 member ad-hoc commission to revise the national flag and emblem. This commission is a concession to Renamo, as a promise to review the flag and the emblem was part of the price paid to ensure that Renamo would vote in favour of the constitutional amendments approved last November.
The main objection raised to the current flag and emblem is that they include the image of a rifle. In both there appears the image of a crossed hoe and rifle, above a book - these items symbolise production, defence and study.
The new ad-hoc commission is chaired by Frelimo deputy Hermenegildo Gamito, and its rapporteur is Renamo deputy Jose Manteigas. Like all Assembly commissions, 10 of the members come from the majority Frelimo Party, while five are from Renamo.
The ad-hoc commission must present a new flag and emblem to the final sitting of the Assembly this year (which will probably be held between October and December).
Previous experience is not encouraging. An earlier attempt was made to change the flag and emblem in the mid-1990s. A public competition was held, and artistically-minded citizens sent in their suggestions. But none of them were regarded as having the quality required of a national flag.
The Assembly also voted unanimously to change the law on the National Elections Commission (CNE). The CNE should have been dissolved at the end of the last parliament, and a new CNE elected at the beginning of this one.
But since the Assembly has set up a commission to revise the entire package of electoral laws, this no longer makes much sense. For it is possible that the nature of future Electoral Commissions may be fundamentally changed - there is, for example, a strong feeling in civil society that the CNE should no longer be appointed on a party political basis.
The amendment extends the term of office of the present CNE. It will only be dissolved after the electoral legislation has been altered and a new body is set up.
Thus it will be the existing CNE, under chairperson Rev. Arao Litsuri, that will oversee the municipal by-election in the northern town of Mocimboa da Praia in May. This election arises from the death of the Mocimboa da Praia mayor, Cassimo Abdala, last October.
The governor of the northern province of Nampula, Filipe Paunde, has ordered the cancellation of a World Bank funded capacity building seminar on coastal biodiversity.
According to a report in "Diario de Mocambique" on 6 April, the seminar was organised by the Nampula Provincial Environment Directorate - but Paunde overruled the directorate on the grounds that the seminar was part of a project under way since 1999 which has merely spent money, without producing any improvement in the lives of local communities.
The cancellation was made public by the administrator of Mossuril district, David Joel, during a visit by Paunde. Joel approved of the governor's measure - he said the Environmental Directorate has held one seminar after another since the project was launched in 1999, but without any visible results.
The cancelled seminar would have cost about 50 million meticais ($2,500) - but the Mossuril community had been requesting money for its own projects for healthy management of the marine environment, and no funds had been channelled to them.
The Environmental Directorate's justification for the project was that it was establishing the conditions for coastal communities to adopt sound practices - such as ceasing to use mosquito nets for fishing, and no longer cutting down mangrove forests for fuel.
But even last year the usefulness of the project was being questioned. All it had produced was seminars, plus the inevitable acquisition of 4x4 vehicles (Nissan Patrols). "Diario de Mocambique" recalls a participant at one of last year's meetings arguing it would be better to shut down the project rather than "spend money in the name of the communities when in reality it is not the communities who benefit".
Paunde declared that he would no longer tolerate such waste in a provincial government that he headed. He said he would take the matter up with the Minister of Environmental Coordination, Luciano de Castro.
The project spans three areas - Mossuril and Nacala in Nampula, and Pemba in the neighbouring province of Cabo Delgado. It has received World Bank funding of around nine million US dollars.
Alberto Vaquina, governor of the central province of Sofala, on 31 March, sacked Fernando Languane, director of health in Chemba district.
According to a report in "Diario de Mocambique", on a visit to Chemba Vaquina, who is a medical doctor by profession, was shocked at the state of the local health centre. He interrupted his tour of the centre because of the poor state of the wards he visited. He found lack of hygiene, and negligence in preserving the building. Vaquina also accused Languane of failing to programme activities for the health sector in the district.
The following day, the director of the health centre was suspended, and the Sofala provincial health director, Alberto Baptista, set up a commission to run the centre until a new director is appointed.
The Spanish foundation ISCOD has granted $110,000 to fund poverty fighting projects through the promotion of self-employment in Mozambique.
Speaking shortly after the signing of the agreement in Maputo on 28 March, the chairperson of the Mozambican Trade Union Federation (OTM), Amos Matsinhe, said that, in the first stage, the project is to offer management courses to 60 people during the next 12 months. "This is the culmination of a training programme for potential candidates to manage small scale projects, that started three years ago. They were trained to carry out correct and sustainable management", he said.
The money is to be managed by OTM in cooperation with the Mozambican NGO Kulima. Matsinhe said this NGO was chosen because its activities are especially directed to the target group.
Candidates to these funds should submit projects on how they plan to promote self-employment, as a means to fight against poverty in the country.
During the same ceremony, Karem Macdonald, of ISCOD, expressed hope that this project, that will grant small loans, will create the basis for the development of businesses. "This first stage is being launched in Maputo, but it is set to cover the entire country. We believe that Kulima has the capacity to manage these funds", said Macdonald.
For her part, Malena Vacas, of the Spanish International Cooperation Agency, said that her department has a programme of support for civil society, which is working with this initiative. Vacas hoped that initially the scheme would generate employment for 210 people, and would strengthen Kulima.
The document was signed by Vacas and Macdonald, on behalf of their respective institutions, Dominico Luize, on behalf of Kulima, and Boaventura Mondlane, for the OTM.
The Mozal Association for Community Development and the Aga Khan Foundation on 29 March signed in Beluluane, on the outskirts of Maputo, an agreement to renew their partnership during the present year.
The Association was set up by the largest factory in Mozambique, the MOZAL aluminium smelter, as its development arm.
Under the agreement the two organisations are to disburse $50,000 each, to be used in the project "Strengthening Agricultural Education in Cabo Delgado", benefiting particularly the rehabilitation of the Bilibiza Agriculture School in that northern province.
The project has rehabilitated the school's classrooms and research infrastructures, other buildings, including the kitchen and the dormitories, and the water supply system.
The second phase, for which the $100,000 will be used, involves purchasing the equipment necessary for the agricultural school to function properly.
This project is part of the Mozambican Coast Integrated Development Programme in Cabo Delgado, that the Aga Khan Foundation has been implementing since 2001, to benefit more than 40,000 people in 35 villages in the districts of Quissanga and Ibo.
A multilateral mission, headed by Peter Piot, the Executive Director of the United Nations Programme against AIDS (UNAIDS), on 23 March, at the end of a two day visit to Mozambique, recommended "greater donor coordination and continued leadership from the government to strengthen the national AIDS response".
Other members of this high level delegation included the Norwegian Minister of International Development, Hilde Johnson, the World Bank's Vice-President for Africa, Gobind Nankani, the Permanent Secretary of the British Department of International Development (DFID), Suma Chakrabarti, and the general director for development cooperation at the Swedish Foreign Ministry, Ruth Jacoby.
At a Maputo press conference the delegation noted that, as international finance for the struggle against AIDS increases, so does the challenge of applying the funds effectively, "targeting those most vulnerable to HIV, as well as those living with and affected by AIDS".
Piot said that the current HIV/AIDS situation is serious - the latest statistics indicate that almost 15 per cent of Mozambicans aged between 15 and 49 are HIV-positive, which puts Mozambique in tenth position on the list of worst-hit countries in the world.
Piot stressed the need for joint work between the government and civil society in combating the disease. He thought it urgent to endow the National Council for the Fight against AIDS (CNCS) with "the appropriate resources and authority to enable it more effectively to lead the national AIDS response".
The delegation was particularly concerned that donors should not take control, and that there should be proper coordination. Piot said "much has already been achieved in Mozambique in improving donor practice. There is now a broad consensus that Mozambique should be in charge of its own development, and that PARPA (the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty) should be the single framework for moving forward. But challenges still remain, including donor accountability".
The delegation believed that the infection rate can be reduced. It noted that "Community-based projects offering HIV prevention and care services are already in place, but they need to be scaled up at the national level".
While prevention remained the most cost-effective way of dealing with the epidemic, the delegation insisted on the need for "a comprehensive response that also includes providing care and treatment to the 1.4 million Mozambicans living with HIV and AIDS, and support for the 273,000 orphans who have lost their parents because of AIDS".
Piot recognised that most of the organisations working on AIDS are concentrated in urban areas, particularly in Maputo, which means that people living in rural areas of the interior are being overlooked.
Mozambique needs a dramatic increase in the number of people covered by its water supply and sanitation networks, if it is to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals, the Minister of Public Works, Felicio Zacarias, said on 22 March.
Speaking in Boane district, some 30 kilometres west of Maputo, at celebrations of World Water Day, Zacarias said that Mozambique needed to increase the percentage of its population with access to clean drinking water from the current 40 per cent to 70 per cent, by 2015, in order to meet the target of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water that is contained in the Millennium Development Goals.
The government's five year programme envisages significant moves towards this target. If the programme is successfully implemented, safe supplies of water in the countryside will reach 55 per cent of the population, and in the towns 60 per cent, by 2009.
To meet these targets, improvements are under way in the water supply systems in most of the country's major cities - namely Maputo, Matola, Xai-Xai, Chokwe, Inhambane, Maxixe, Beira, Tete, Quelimane, Nampula and Pemba.
In the countryside, Zacarias said, 4,000 water sources are being built or rehabilitated, which should benefit some two million people.
As for sanitation, a strategic plan had been drawn indicating the scale of investments needed in the cities of Maputo, Matola, Beira, Dondo, Quelimane, Nampula and Pemba.
"Action is under way to mobilise resources to implement this plan", said Zacarias. "The prevention of cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases necessarily involves a combination of supplying safe drinking water, proper sanitation, and good hygiene", he added.
Southern Mozambique is running out of cement, and, given the completely unregulated nature of the market, the price of cement has risen sharply, reports "Diario de Mocambique" on 8 April. The problem is that a major breakdown occurred about a month ago in the cement factory in the city of Matola, which normally supplies the whole southern third of the country.
According to Daniel Fumo, chairman of the National Engineering Laboratory (LEN), a specialist body of the Ministry of Public Works, Mozambique consumes more than 800,000 tonnes of cement a year. Normally between 80 and 90 per cent of this is produced by the three factories owned by the company Cimentos de Mocambique (in which the major shareholder is the Portuguese cement giant, Cimpor).
When the Matola factory, the largest of the three plants, stopped producing, stocks of cement began to run out, and the only alternative was to import cement.
Prior to this crisis cement was selling for 160,000 meticais (about $8) for a 50 kilo sack. Now the price has risen to 190,000 or 200,000 meticais.
Fumo said there is nothing the Public Works Ministry can do about the rising price. The market is liberalised, operating according to rules of supply and demand, he said - so anyone selling cement can charge whatever price they like, and would-be purchasers can take it or leave it. "The only regulating factor we have is the Matola factory", said Fumo. "If it were operating, the market requirements would be met, and there would be no room for price speculation".
Francisco Maingue, political delegate of Renamo in the central province of Sofala, has again insisted that Renamo will not disarm the illegal force that it has stationed in the Sofala districts of Maringue and Cheringoma. "Anyone who goes to Maringue and tries to disarm (Renamo President Afonso) Dhlakama's security, will leave there at a run", he boasted, in an interview published in "Savana" on 18 March.
He defended the continued existence of Renamo's "Presidential Guard" with a grotesque misreading of the 1992 peace agreement. He claimed that the agreement envisaged the integration of the men stationed in Maringue and Cheringoma into the police force.
The peace accord said no such thing. The relevant clause reads: "Renamo shall be responsible for the immediate personal security of its top leaders. The Mozambican government shall grant police status to the members charged with guaranteeing such security". This clause was included in a list of "specific guarantees for the period between the ceasefire and the elections". It therefore ceased to have any effect after the 1994 elections.
But more than a decade has passed and these supposed bodyguards continue to cause disturbances and occasionally deaths - the last was in August, when members of the Presidential Guard killed a member of the riot police in a clash in the Cheringoma district capital, Inhaminga. So far nobody has been arrested for this murder.
As for guaranteeing the "immediate personnel security" of Dhlakama - the Renamo guards in Sofala cannot do that, since Dhlakama lives in Maputo, and hardly ever visits Maringue or Cheringoma.
Although granting the Renamo guards "police status" between the ceasefire and the 1994 election is not at all the same thing as incorporating them into the police force, in the late 1990s the government repeatedly offered police training for the Renamo guards.
At least some of them could have joined the police - but since that would have meant ceasing to take orders from Renamo, Dhlakama, in January 1998, categorically refused to send any of the guards for training as policemen.
Interior Minister Jose Pacheco has warned that the new government does indeed intend to disarm the "Presidential Guard", by force if necessary - though he gave no timetable for this. And clearly, despite Maingue's bluster, the government could, if it wished, mobilise enough policemen, or even troops, to root out a couple of hundred people living in old Renamo bases in the Sofala bush.
The Mozambican agriculture ministry has warned that land titles will be cancelled in all cases where the title-holders are not using the land.
Under the Mozambican constitution there is no private ownership of land. All property in land vests in the state, and land cannot be bought or sold. Land titles are issued, valid for a specific period, and for specific purposes - but there have been many reports of clandestine markets in land, and of people applying for titles and then leaving the land unused, apparently hoping to cash in, if land is privatised at some date in the future.
To end any speculation in land, Deputy Agriculture Minister Caterina Kassim has ordered the National Land Directorate to draw up a survey of all title holders who are not complying with the land use plans they submitted in order to obtain the titles. Kassim also demanded a list of all state officials who have obtained land but are not using it - particularly in fertile areas in Maputo province.
She issued these instructions after a visit to Boane district, some 30 kilometres west of the capital, where she found that large areas of fertile land were not being tilled. Kassim remarked that land title-holders who were not exploiting their land "are blocking the country's development".
She made clear that she was in favour
of cancelling the land use titles of people who produced nothing, and allocating
the land to others.
The Mozambican government launched on 7 April a mass vaccination campaign against measles aimed at all children under the age of 15. The date chosen for the launch is doubly symbolic - it is World Health Day, and also Mozambican Women's Day (celebrated as a public holiday).
President Armando Guebuza administered the first doses of the vaccine in the Maputo suburb of Mavalane as the symbolic launch of the campaign. Health officials told reporters that this was the start of mobilisation among the population: the mass vaccination itself will not occur for several more months, in northern and central Mozambique in July and August, and in the south of the country in early September.
"Vaccination is a weapon against poverty, because a healthy child will contribute to the country's socio-economic development", said President Guebuza, adding that the health of women and children are a vital requisite for a sound society.
"This act to launch the vaccination campaign is proof of the government's commitment, in the context of its five year programme, passed in parliament on Wednesday, to ensure health services to an ever growing number of people", said the President.
For his part, Health Minister Ivo Garrido praised Mozambican women, particularly women health workers, who "tirelessly, day and night, have been giving their best to care for the Mozambican people".
He recalled that during the last five years, the coverage of the vaccination programmes in the country increased from 47 to 63 per cent, noting that this helped reduce the child mortality rate.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) say that the challenge now is to vaccinate every child aged up to 15.
Measles outbreaks still occur in Mozambique, and it is suspected that one reason for this is that the vaccination programme broke down in parts of the country during the war of destabilisation. Thus there are many teenagers who were not vaccinated during the war and the period immediately following. Thus a major attempt will now be made to reach every child under 15, to ensure that there will be no pools of unprotected children who can be hit by the disease.
The campaign will also be used for a further round of mass polio vaccination, and to distribute vitamin A supplements to all children.
This campaign is expected to cover
about 8.7 million children across the country, and the cost is estimated at
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