Mozambique News Agency


No.297, 26th April 2005


Contents


Prime Minister warns of dangers of leaving developing countries behind

Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on 23 April warned that most developing countries are being left on the sidelines, with the advances in information and communications technologies still benefiting only the developed world. Speaking in Jakarta, at the Asia-Africa Summit, attended by about 50 heads of state and government, Diogo said "current reality has shown that the dividends from globalisation are only being reaped by the developed countries". Most other countries were pushed to the margins of the world economy.

Prime Minister Diogo lamented that hopes raised by the end of the cold war had been dashed. The end of the old east-west conflict, and advent of a new era of globalisation had created expectations of a promising future for the peoples of Asia and Africa. However, the reality had been far from encouraging.

The Prime Minister noted that the people of Africa and Asia are still those most affected by under-development, poverty, infectious diseases, conflicts and instability, as well as constant pressure and interference in their internal affairs by more powerful nations.

She called on the leaders of the two continents to make use of the opportunities opened by this summit to reflect jointly on the role this form can play for the good of African and Asian peoples.

Diogo argued that the countries of the South should continue their efforts to participate actively in globalisation, by stepping up "South-South cooperation", and developing mutually advantageous partnerships. "I think this summit will open a new stage in the relationship between the two continents", she said, just as 50 years ago, at the 1955 Bandung conference "our predecessors defined as their central goal the liberation of all countries from the colonial yoke and from apartheid".


Visa waiver agreement takes effect

As from 18 April, Mozambican citizens have been able to cross the border into South Africa, for stays of up to 30 days, without an entry visa, thanks to an agreement signed on 15 April between the interior ministers of the two countries.

According to Mozambican immigration sources contacted by AIM the agreement is being implemented smoothly. "We've been operating the agreement without any problems", the head of immigration at the Ressano Garcia border post, Orlando Cossa, told AIM, in a telephone interview.

The agreement hit the headlines of the Mozambican press, but does not seem to have been well publicised in South Africa. Cossa said that several South African visitors tried to purchase an entry visa at Ressano Garcia - a clear indication that they had no idea that the visa requirement has been abolished.

A border crossing fee of 28,000 meticais (about $1.40) continues to be charged by the Mozambican authorities at Ressano Garcia. This is currently the only charge being levied.

An entry visa to South Africa used to cost 430 rands (about $70), while South Africans had to pay 85 rands for a visa to enter Mozambique.


Infant and maternal mortality rates declining

Mozambique's infant mortality rate is declining thanks to improved access to health care, particularly ante-natal care, and to integrated treatment of childhood diseases, Deputy Health Minister Aida Libombo stated on 19 April.

Speaking to reporters during a national conference on child health care, Libombo also stated that the maternal mortality rate is falling. This she attributed to the sharp rise in vaccination of pregnant women, from 29 per cent in 1997 to 57 per cent in 2003, and in the number of expectant mothers receiving ante-natal care (rising from 71 per cent in 1997 to 85 per cent in 2003).

But there is still a long way to go in making childbirth safe for women and babies. Libombo said that 50 per cent of all births in Mozambique still take place outside of health units, and without trained midwives on hand.

Improvements in child health, she added, were also due to the routine vaccination against such potentially lethal diseases as measles, and to better health education for mothers.

Jean Dupraz, of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), told the conference that the level of infant mortality is directly related to the educational level of the mothers.

Mortality is higher among children born to illiterate women, than among those who have achieved at least basic education, and are better able to understand and accept health recommendations.

Dupraz said that malaria remains the main cause of death of Mozambican infants under one year old. This one disease accounts for 35 per cent of infant deaths, followed by acute respiratory infections (31 per cent), and malnutrition (eight per cent).

Malaria deaths could be cut dramatically if all children were to sleep under mosquito nets - but currently only 10 per cent of children under one year old are protected by such nets.

Other potentially lethal factors are that only 36 per cent of the population has access to safe drinking water, and only 45 per cent have basic, safe sanitation.

Despite the routine vaccinations, measles outbreaks still pose a serious threat. In 2003, 25,000 cases of the disease were recorded, with about 200 child deaths.

A mass vaccination campaign against measles will take place from July through to September, in which the aim is to vaccinate all children under the age of 15. The campaign will also be used as an opportunity for a further round of vaccination against polio (the current polio vaccination rate of 70 per cent is regarded as insufficient), and to provide all children with vitamin A supplements. It is hoped that this campaign will reach nine million children.


Renamo walks out of parliamentary session

Deputies from Renamo walked out of Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 22 April after they failed to prevent the chairperson of the Assembly's Plan and Budget Commission (CPO), Virginia Videira, from addressing the plenary.

Videira was replying to the debate over the previous two days around the general state accounts for 2002 and 2003. The written opinion from the CPO on the accounts was one of the key documents for the debate, and the assembly had agreed on 21 April that Videira would reply to points made.

However, it seems that Renamo changed its mind. As soon as it became clear that Videira intended to respond vigorously to Renamo attacks on the state accounts, the opposition attempted to shut her up.

First, Renamo deputy Luis Boavida raised a spurious point of order. He was cut off in full flow by the Assembly chairperson, Eduardo Mulembue, who declared "That's not a point of order", and told Videira to continue.

A few seconds later, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Maria Moreno, tried to censor Videira's speech. "This intervention has no legal standing", she declared. Mulembue overruled her, and once again told Videira to continue.

This was a very different Mulembue from the man who headed the two previous legislatures. For ten years Mulembue had tolerated Renamo abuses, always trying to reach accommodations with the opposition benches. Now, for the first time, Mulembue imposing respect for the standing orders, and for his own rulings.

Renamo reacted by walking out of the room en masse. The deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party gave them an ironic round of applause as they left.

Videira used the opportunity to refute allegations by Renamo of irregularities in the state accounts. For example, Maximo Dias, the top jurist in the opposition, had claimed that the government had breached the limits on expenditure set in the budget laws approved by the Assembly. Videira replied that, in its audit of the accounts, the Administrative Tribunal, the body that oversees the legality of public expenditure, found that, in both 2002 and 2003, the government had underspent.

As for Renamo calls to send the accounts back to the government to be corrected, Videira stated that this was money already spent. Each account was the summary of the execution of an entire year's budget. "To call for changes is to call for adulteration. Is that what Renamo wants?", she asked.

Renamo had also attacked the granting of treasury loans to companies which included leading Frelimo figures among their owners or shareholders. Renamo deputy Eduardo Namburete had accepted the legitimacy of the loans in principle, as a way of consolidating a national business class, but complained of "a lack of transparency".

"Renamo showed here that it knows the value of the loans, it knows the interest rate, it knows who owns the companies - it knows everything about them", Videira exclaimed. "So where's the lack of transparency?".

Later, she pointed out to reporters that, far from being clandestine, the loans were advertised in the main daily paper "Noticias". Companies that thought they were eligible for such loans were invited to apply. Namburete had mentioned just three companies - however, between 1999 and 2003, 53 companies had benefited from treasury loans.

Videira admitted that the Administrative Tribunal had warned in its document of failure to repay the loans. But this referred specifically to the ten treasury loans made in 2002. Taking the 1999-2003 period as a whole, 84 per cent of the money lent had been repaid. Videira regarded this as a good repayment figure, given that most of the loans had repayment periods of three to five years.

Contracts for the loans had been signed, under which the companies had given guarantees - including goods that could be seized if they defaulted. The Tribunal had called on the government to act on these guarantees.

Videira told reporters this was not always easy. One of the companies that has failed to repay a 1999 loan is Maputo's publicly owned bus company, TPM. The only assets TPM has that could be seized are its fleet of buses. Such a seizure would cripple public transport in the capital.

Videira confirmed that the worst of the recent debtors was a privately owned long distance bus company, TSL.

As for the company Panga-Panga, whose owners include senior Renamo figures, Videira corrected a Frelimo deputy who on 21 April gave the impression it too had benefited from a treasury loan. Panga-Panga had defaulted, she said, but its loan had come, not from the treasury, but from the privatised Austral Bank (which almost collapsed under the weight of non-performing loans in 2001).

Videira stressed that nobody was fully satisfied with the state accounts, but the amount and quality of the information they contained was improving year by year.

Mulembue mandated the CPO to produce a resolution on the state accounts, including recommendations for further improvement, which the Assembly will vote on.


Renamo aims to expel election agent

Renamo has announced that it wishes to expel its election agent from the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. Renamo, has "advised" the party's national election agent, Francisco Machambisse, to resign his parliamentary seat.

Within Renamo, Machambisse has been made the scapegoat for the party's poor showing in the December 2004 general elections, in which its vote collapsed and it lost 27 of its 117 seats. Machambisse is blamed for failing to lodge Renamo's protest against the election results within the legal deadline, which meant that the Renamo complaints could not be considered, either by the National Elections Commission (CNE), or by the Constitutional Council, the body that has the final word in election disputes.

At a Maputo press conference on 19 April, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama said that the Renamo National Council decided that Machambisse should leave the Assembly of the Republic. He would be reassigned to unspecified "other duties" within Renamo.

Dhlakama assured the journalists that Machambisse knew about this decision, and that "he will indeed resign his seat". But immediately after the press conference, AIM phoned Machambisse and found that he had not been informed of any decision by the National Council.

"Advice is just advice", he said. "I have received no document containing this decision". Nor did he know what "other tasks" Dhlakama had in mind for him. Since he had received no notification from the National council, he had not yet decided whether to renounce his seat.

Dhlakama claimed that Renamo can move its deputies at will, since voters choose a party list. But this is not the full truth. For the party list consists of named individuals, and once the list has been submitted the party cannot alter it. No political party can sack a member of parliament, and so Machambisse will only be replaced if he voluntarily resigns his seat. This remains the case, even if he were to be expelled from Renamo.

Dhlakama also announced that the National Council has "advised" three Renamo-appointed members of the CNE, Raimundo Samuge (one of the two deputy chairs of the CNE), Lucas Guimaraes, and Izequiel Gusse, to resign.


Renamo sets up shadow cabinet

Afonso Dhlakama also announced the creation of an "Advisory Office", which is equivalent to a shadow cabinet. This office, where each member has a defined portfolio, should, Dhlakama argued, make Renamo's monitoring of government activities more efficient. "You can't inspect the government performance in an area, unless you understand that area", he told a Maputo press conference.

The shadow cabinet includes many familiar faces. Thus a former Renamo general, Ossufo Momad, appointed the party's general secretary on 16 April, will combine his new job with the post of advisor on Renamo "veterans".

Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, is the Advisor on the Mass Media, while the man who ran the Renamo election campaign, Eduardo Namburete, becomes the Advisor on Foreign Relations.

The other positions announced by Dhlakama are as follows:

An experienced Renamo parliamentarian, Angelina Enoque, is given the task of coordinating the new office.

Dhlakama said that several other members of the office, dealing with such matters as "justice, health and economics", are currently outside the country. He did not give their names.


Leaders end NEPAD forum with optimism

The 20 members of the Implementation Committee of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) ended their one day meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheik on 19 April, with optimism about the future and the effectiveness of this continental economic body.

During the meeting, President Armando Guebuza, participating for the first time as head of state in a NEPAD gathering, reiterated his determination to honour the commitments pledged by his predecessor, Joaquim Chissano.

Foreign Minister Alcinda Abreu said that the meeting was successful in that it approved the reports on the Committee's activities during the last three months, and drafted new proposals for work to be undertaken by the NEPAD secretariat and its experts. She said that some concrete projects are underway in the context of NEPAD, covering areas such as education, infrastructures, agriculture, and communications.

Abreu pointed out that, for instance in Mozambique, several schools are being computerised, with funds granted through NEPAD.

She rejected claims that NEPAD is a "white elephant", that has been doing nothing concrete. She argued that, despite the fact that it is new, it already has achievements to its credit that inspire optimism in the future of the African Continent.

She believed that NEPAD, as an African economic instrument, will bear the fruits Africans expect, in the same way as did the Liberation Committee of the now defunct Organisation of African Union (OAU) in the fight against colonialism.

"It is necessary to bear in mind that, if colonialism was yesterday Africans' common enemy, poverty is today's enemy. We are, therefore, fighting an economic war that will obviously not be won in just a few years, but we can already see some gains, thanks to NEPAD", said Abreu.

She acknowledged that most of NEPAD's projects are still on paper, but stressed that they are realistic and feasible ideas.

Abreu said a further issue broached at the meeting was the progress recorded in the implementation of the African Peer Review Mechanism, that won the applause of the participating heads of state.

Abreu said that this mechanism will certainly improve "good governance" in Africa, and more countries are joining, which means that they agree to be submitted to this kind of inspection of the activities of their respective governments. During this meeting, Sudan joined the 23 countries that had earlier signed up for peer review.

Abreu said that the inspection process is already underway in Mozambique, and the respective report may be presented to the next meeting of the committee.


Maputo governor visits Namaacha

The governor of the southern province of Maputo, Telmina Pereira, on 14 April expressed her pleasant surprise at the "noteworthy" economic undertakings in the district of Namaacha, on the border with Swaziland.

During her visit to the district, Pereira commended the initiative to introduce alternative crops to face persistent drought and the creation of small agro-industries by local and foreign business people, that help reduce the levels of unemployment.

She cited the example of the Libombos Macadamia, a private undertaking that introduced the production of macadam nuts - a new crop in Mozambique, but one that is highly sought after on the international market.

"This can be the opportunity to launch the country in this product, that is valued for consumption and for oil production", she commented.

During a meeting with the Namaacha business community, Pereira heard their problems, that include land disputes between businesses and peasant farmers, lack of veterinary assistance, and poor marketing of their products, which often end up rotting. They also complained of the lack of an efficient transport system and of an office of the Finance Ministry in the district. They suggested that the government should encourage small investors in the processing industry, who would open factories to process fruit and vegetables to supply the national market, that is still largely dependent for canned foods on imports from South Africa and Europe.

For her part, Pereira suggested that each operator should specialise in one area if they are to improve their results. "Accumulation of activities leads to poor production", she claimed.

There is already some industry in Namaacha, including the bottling of mineral water, and the production of sunflower oil and cassava flour. Notwithstanding such efforts, Namaacha residents have been complaining of poor agricultural production because of drought, caused by irregular rainfall.

Residents of the localities of Khulula, Matsequenha, Changalane, and Mahelane, said that their harvest was poor in 2004. Namaacha administrator Margarida Matsinhe confirmed that production of the main staples, cassava and maize, was particularly poor.

As for strawberries, which used to be produced in the district, Matsinhe said that the plants have shrivelled in the intense heat.

District agriculture director Manuel Maluane said that one way his sector has found to circumvent the problem has been to encourage people to plant drought-resistant crops, such as pineapple, sweet potatoes, and bananas, and to introduce cassava in those areas where it was not previously planted.

Another problem denounced by the Namaacha authorities is uncontrolled bush fires connected with slash and burn agriculture and the felling of trees for charcoal and firewood. Such problems have led to serious deforestation in the districts. Since the production of charcoal is an important local business, Pereira advised the residents to replant the trees as they are felling them in order to conserve the environment and their own livelihoods.


Nampula governor sacks administrator

The governor of the northern province of Nampula, Filipe Paunde, has sacked the administrator of Erati district, Carlos Rafael, after he was accused by local residents of corruption, negligence and passivity, reports "Noticias" on 15 April.

Paunde said that he was thus responding to local complaints against Rafael and to calls for his sacking, but the move was also the result of the provincial government's assessment of Rafael's behaviour.

The people's call for the sacking of Rafael had also been presented to the country's President, Armando Guebuza, during his visit to Erati in March. The residents claimed that Rafael's behaviour was the cause of the poor socio-economic and political development of the district. They accused him of looking after his own interests, while the district stagnated.

To replace Rafael, Paunde reshuffled several other district administrators. Agostinho Chelua was moved from Moma district To Erati, while the former administrator of Nacaroa district, Cassamo Mussagy, took over in Moma. To fill up the vacancy created in Nacaroa, Paunde said that the provincial government is in discussions with the ruling Frelimo party to find a suitable replacement.

Commenting on the changes in district administrators, Paunde said that his provincial government will always take such measures, whenever the need arises to find a person who will bring a new dynamic to the development of a district, and will respond to people's expectations.


Japan finances pesticide project

The Japanese government on 13 April formalised a grant of $1.5 million for the second phase of a project to remove obsolete pesticides from Mozambique.

The agreement to this effect was signed in Maputo by the Ministers of the Environment and of Agriculture, Luciano de Castro and Tomas Mandlate, Japanese ambassador Kanji Tsushima, and the interim representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Frans Van de Ven.

The first phase of this project took place from August 2003 to December 2004, and involved training staff in how to handle chemicals safely, and drawing up an inventory of all stocks of obsolete pesticides. This phase was also financed by Japan, and cost about $850,000.

The survey established that there were 1,538 tonnes of pesticides in the country - of which only 841 tonnes were definitely usable. 454 tonnes were obsolete, and the remaining 243 tonnes still required tests.

Luciano de Castro announced that, under the second phase, the obsolete pesticides will be stored in a national network of warehouses that meet internationally accepted safety standards.

The project will also develop a communication strategy aimed at advising the public on how to use pesticides correctly, and warning against the accumulation of obsolete pesticides.

"The government is concerned to achieve a sustainable use of these products through handling them safely so as to improve agricultural yields", said Castro.

He added that after the obsolete pesticides have all been safely stored, a third phase will follow in which they will be re-exported. so that they can be safely destroyed outside of Mozambique.

The government is not repeating the mistake it made in an earlier project in the late 1990s, when it proposed to incinerate hundreds of tonnes of obsolete pesticides in the furnaces of the cement factory of the southern city of Matola. This caused a storm of protest from environmental groups and from the press. Eventually the government backed down, no incineration took place, and those pesticides were re-exported to Europe.


Maputo Special Reserve to double in size

The Maputo Special Reserve (REM - sometimes known as the Maputo Elephant Reserve) is set to double its area from the current 800 to 1,600 square kilometres in the next two years. The head of the Parks and Reserves Department of the Tourism Ministry, Julieta Lichuge, told AIM that this move is to allow the free circulation of animals within the park.

The Mozambican authorities are trying to overcome conflict between local farmers and wildlife (particularly elephants) by fencing off the Futi Corridor, a migratory route between Mozambique and South Africa used by elephants.

This has proved controversial, in that rural communities complain that the government is denying them access to the natural resources they need. However, the plan involves a fence which animals cannot cross, but with gates that people can use to enter the forests.

According to Lichuge, increasing the area of the reserve is aimed at creating a cross border conservation area that includes some areas in Mozambique, South Africa, and Swaziland, as a means to facilitate the management of habitats in the region of the Libombos mountains.

The Mozambican Tourism Ministry has been studying ways to relocate people residing in the reserve. Lichuge said that, for this purpose, her ministry has set aside a financial package for resettlement.

This area is high in biodiversity, and the coastal areas include turtle nesting sites and one of the richest varieties of bird life in southern Africa. "Our idea is to turn this region into a pole of development for eco-tourism", said Lichuge. She added that poaching in the reserve has been brought under control.


This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact aim@tvcabo.co.mz


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