President Armando Guebuza on 21 May called on all Mozambicans "galvanised by the desire to see Mozambique free of poverty, to involve themselves with enthusiasm, creativity and patriotism" in the celebrations of 30 years of independence.
He was speaking in Nangade, on the border with Tanzania, at a ceremony that marked the lighting of a torch, known as "the Flame of Unity", that will be carried on a march of 3,000 kilometres, arriving in Maputo's Independence Square on the date of the anniversary, 25 June.
This recalls a similar march, bearing a similar torch, 30 years ago. At the same time, the country's first President, Samora Machel, addressed a series of rallies on his triumphal journey, from the Rovuma to the Maputo (the rivers that mark the country's northern and southern boundaries), that culminated in the proclamation of independence on 25 June 1975.
This time, the march is taking place under the theme "From the Rovuma to the Maputo: Together in the Struggle against Poverty".
After the national anthem was played, the torch passed into the hands of Gen Alberto Chipande, the man who fired the first shots in the national liberation struggle, on 25 September 1964, and later became Mozambique's first defence minister.
Chipande passed the torch on to veteran nationalist and poet Marcelino dos Santos, who was holding it as President Guebuza lit the torch. Simultaneously a group of children released balloons and doves.
The torch then set off southwards, carried by a 30 year old, born in the year of independence. Those accompanying him were carrying other symbols, a book, symbolising education, and a hoe and a hammer, symbolising "the worker-peasant alliance for development".
President Guebuza recalled the role of Nangade district in the liberation struggle. It was here that Frelimo had some of its earliest liberated areas, and here that the guerrilla army set up its "Base Beira", from which military operations in the northern part of Cabo Delgado, from the Tanzanian border to the Mueda-Mocimboa da Praia road, were coordinated.
He described "the Flame of Unity" a "a symbol of our history" which would light the people's path "to the consolidation of independence and the construction of their well- being".
"Handing this torch over to a youth symbolises our certainty that the combat we wage against poverty will be continued by our young people, guardians of our glorious political, historical and cultural heritage", President Guebuza declared.
The President said he had come to Nangade to find inspiration to face the challenges of the present and the future and to restate the pledge to maintain and preserve the ideals of those who fought for the liberation of Mozambique. Citing words from the national anthem, he added that he had also come to Nangade to proclaim to the entire world "no tyrant shall ever enslave us".
The ceremony was blessed by traditional, Moslem and Christian prayers. Veterans of the liberation struggle, and citizens who celebrate their 30th birthday this year marched past the viewing stand. All pledged to continue the fight against poverty.
Of the 30 year olds, President Guebuza said "they are citizens who share their age with that of our independence. They are now mature men and women, working on various fronts for the development of our beloved motherland".
On its 35 day journey to Maputo, the Flame of Unity will be carried by groups who have already been organised in every district through which it will pass.
On 11 May the leaders of Mozambican opposition parties said that they are prepared to join actively in the celebrations to mark 30 years of independence.
During a meeting with the Minister in the Presidency for Parliamentary Affairs, Isabel Nkavandeka, the opposition politicians acknowledged that this is an event that concerns all Mozambicans, regardless of their political affiliation, and thus the participation of all is "imperative".
They praised the government initiative of consulting with them on the programme for such an important event, and encouraged the government to keep up this practice.
The participants made several proposals for celebration activities and the type of symbols to be used. All agreed that the festivities should be led by the government, but noted that the programme should cater for all sectors of society.
Maximo Dias, leader of the Mozambican National Movement (MONAMO), one of the minor parties in the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, suggested that the festivities should include a lunch offered to abandoned children. Nkavandeka welcomed the proposal, adding that it should be extended to all provinces.
As for the symbols, many participants advanced proposals, which were welcomed by the Minister, who promised to channel them to the government's Commission on Major Events to study them and take the appropriate decisions.
The opposition leaders also agreed to the invocation of the names of all Mozambican leaders in the different stages of the country's history, acknowledging that "nobody can ignore history".
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, took its final vote on the 2005 budget on 13 May, passing it by 138 votes to 79, with all votes in favour coming from the ruling Frelimo Party, with all Renamo deputies present voting against.
Giving the Renamo declaration of vote, Abel Mabunda repeated claims made during the budget debate and promptly denied by the government. Thus he claimed the budget was unconstitutional because it supposedly ignores people who were disabled during the war of destabilisation, and who are specifically offered protection by the constitution.
Mabunda thus ignored the explanation given by Finance Minister Manuel Chang - namely that the war disabled (including disabled Renamo fighters) had their disability pensions granted in 1994. These are included in the state pension fund, which is part of the budget.
For good measure, Mabunda argued that the budget was illegal because it was presented late. Indeed it was - but it could hardly be debated in December, the normal month, because the country's general elections were held then.
For Frelimo, Acucena Duarte declared "it has once more been shown that it is the vote of the Frelimo deputies that allows the institutions of our country to function".
"By voting against the budget, Renamo has ostentatiously shown that it is against the development of the country, against poverty reduction, against economic growth and the reduction of regional asymmetries", she said. "It only want to use the fruits of the Frelimo government's work to demand privileges in the Assembly" (a reference to Renamo's demand for state vehicles for all deputies).
"We voted in favour of the budget", Duarte added, "because, although the resources are few, faced with the enormous needs, they are rationally distributed, and 66 per cent are allocated to the priority sectors for the poverty reduction strategy".
The Assembly of the Republic also approved the government's Economic and Social Plan for 2005 by 140 votes to 79. Once again, the vote was along party lines.
The resolution approving the plan, drawn up by the Assembly's Plan and Budget Commission, also contained a series of recommendations to the government. It told the government to provide, when it draws up its balance sheet on the first six months of the year, information on the restructuring of the Mozambique Cereals Institute (the state grain marketing body), and on the industrialisation of the cashew sector.
The resolution also told the government to continue selling off state-owned rural shops (many of which are still in ruins, after they were burnt down by Renamo during the war of destabilisation).
The government was instructed to take measures to discipline artisanal mining activity, with particular attention to mining activity inside conservation areas.
The resolution wanted the government to monitor electricity tariff policy for industry and agriculture, continue to ensure public lighting in cities and towns, and identify districts and localities that will be covered by expansion of the electricity grid.
The resolution also wanted the government to draft new legislation, notably on transforming the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) into an autonomous body (i.e. no longer dependent on the Interior Ministry).
It urged the government to start the construction this year of new court complexes (to be known as "palaces of justice") in Maputo City, and Inhambane and Niassa provinces.
Renamo deputies attacked this from two angles. First, Luis Boavida claimed that these were all recommendations that the government had rejected during the debate.
Maximo Dias took a completely different approach. He argued that, by making recommendations to the government, the Assembly would be "interfering in the activities of the government", and thus violating the separation of powers enshrined in the constitution.
This claim amazed Parliamentary chairman Eduardo Mulembue who remarked "so the government brings us its programme, but we should have nothing to say because it's the government!".
Frelimo deputy Hermenegildo Gamito pointed out that the Constitution specifically empowers the Assembly to decide upon the main lines of the state plan and budget. But he added "we're wasting our time debating something that Renamo has already decided to oppose. However, we must show the people we are going forwards, not backwards".
Ismael Mussa demanded that the government rewrite the plan, and then Renamo would support it. He launched into an attack on official statistics, claiming that there are too few deputies from Inhambane province in parliament, and too many for Gaza. This was all the fault of the National Statistics Institute (INE).
But Mussa seemed unaware that the INE does not draw up the electoral registers. The registers for Gaza and Inhambane are certainly wrong, as they are for every other province in the country, with duplications of names and failure to remove the names of voters who have died. But that is the responsibility of the National Elections Commission (CNE) and the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), bodies on which Renamo is represented, and has nothing to do with the INE.
For Frelimo, Ali Dauto said that the resolution reflected the debate on the plan, both within the working commissions and in the Assembly plenary. "If the resolution did not reflect the debate, that would be a reason for rejecting it, but it does reflect the debate", he said.
Alfredo Gamito remarked "We're watching a film that's been shown before. We conclude that Renamo has not read the resolution, or does not understand it. Everything it contains is already budgeted for".
He called for an immediate vote and so brought the debate to an end.
Finance Minister Manuel Chang confirmed to AIM that there are no extra budgetary costs in the resolution. The building of new courts can be found "on page 32 of the budget document", he said. The difference is that they have now been rebaptised "palaces of justice".
Planning Minister Aiuba Cuereneia agreed - there was no extra cost involved in drawing up new legislation, as the resolution demanded. That was done by existing staff, and needed no new resources.
As for Renamo's claim that the Plan and Budget Commission was making changes against the government's will, Cuereneia said that in reality "the Commission asked for additional information, we gave it to them, and on the basis of that they made their recommendations".
After the first reading of the resolution was passed, the Assembly went through it article by article, and a series of Renamo amendments were all defeated by 138 votes to 79.
Giving a final declaration of vote from Frelimo, Carlos Moreira said "We supported this plan because it responds to the objectives the government intends to reach. It is aimed at concrete actions in expanding education and health, expanding the road and electricity networks, combating crime, corruption and HIV/AIDS".
"Frelimo has the historic task of raising up the country from the ruins of war", he said. "But Renamo is still unable to disguise its prowess at destabilisation and vandalism, of doing all it can to impede, or even paralyse, the progress of Mozambique".
For Renamo, Maximo Dias retorted "it's not true that the opposition doesn't want to fight against poverty. We voted against this resolution because we defend the constitution. We are against the parliament interfering in the government's affairs".
To laughter from Prime Minister Luisa Diogo, Dias declared "if I were Prime Minister, I could not accept this resolution".
Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) has scrutinised the votes in the mayoral by-election held on 21 May in the northern town of Mocimboa da Praia so that it can verify that the Frelimo candidate, Amadeu Pedro, legitimately won the close contest against his Renamo rival. The official tally put Pedro 602 votes ahead of Saide Assane, but there were an unusually high number of invalid votes - 779.
The CNE has now looked closely at these invalid votes, which Renamo complains were disproportionately cast in Assane favour. Renamo alleges that in many cases the votes were invalidated by dishonest polling staff smearing ink over the ballot paper.
In all elections, national or municipal, the CNE is charged with looking at all votes declared invalid. Polling station staff tend to be strict in interpreting the rules, rejecting as invalid ballot papers where the voter has not put his cross in exactly the right position, even though he has expressed a clear preference.
The CNE rescues such votes and allocates them to the relevant candidates. In the last municipal election in Mocimboa da Praia, in November 2003, 192 votes were declared invalid at the polling stations, but the CNE requalified 48 of these as valid.
This time, according to the Mozambican Television (TVM) report from Mocimboa da Praia, there were 779 invalid votes - 7.2 per cent of all votes cast, and almost three times higher than one would expect, given past experience - in 2003 only 2.66 per cent of the Mocimboa da Praia votes were declared invalid at the polling stations.
According to TVM the result as declared locally was as follows:
Total number of votes cast 10,763
Total number of valid votes 9,852 (91.53 per cent)
Blank votes 132 (1.23 per cent)
Invalid votes 779 (7.24 per cent)
Candidates (percentages of valid votes)
Amadeu Pedro (Frelimo) 5,227 (53
Saide Assane (Renamo) 4,625 (47 per cent)
The CNE is due to give its findings on the election shortly.
Minister of Industry and Trade Antonio Fernando has expressed concern that the dismantling of the European Union's current sugar regime could suffocate the Mozambican sugar industry, reports "Noticias" on 21 May.
To date Mozambique and other sugar producers of the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) group have been allowed to sell sugar on the EU market at a fixed, preferential price, and under a quota system.
The reforms currently being pushed by the European Commission would slash the fixed price by 37 per cent.
Speaking on 20 May in the southern city of Matola, where a meeting of the Consultative Council of his meeting was taking place, Fernando said Mozambique favoured liberalisation of the sugar market - but this should be done gradually.
The problem for Mozambique is that its sugar industry was devastated during the war of destabilisation. From the late 1990s, massive investments have been made, notably by Mauritian and South African investors. Four of the country's six sugar mills are now functioning, and produce between them over 200,000 tonnes of sugar a year.
But the investment has not yet been recouped, and there is still a long way to go in improving the efficiency, and hence competitiveness, of the Mozambican industry.
Fernando argues that the industry will not become competitive if it is suddenly faced with a drastic cut in the price paid by the EU. He warned that the EU's proposed measure could force Mozambican sugar companies to lay off staff in order to reduce production costs. It was possible that some of the mills might even have to close.
The sugar industry employs about 30,000 people directly, in Sofala and Maputo provinces, while many others depend on it indirectly. Furthermore, plans to resume sugar production at the two mills still paralysed (Buzi and Luabo) are unlikely to get off the ground if the European Commission has its way.
Currently ACP countries can sell their sugar on the European market at the CIF price of €632 (about $830) a tonne. This is three times higher than the current world market price.
If the EU, under pressure from the free trade ideologues of the World Trade Organisation, and from large scale producers of sugar such as Brazil, goes ahead with the current plans, the price will fall, over a couple of years, to €398 a tonne.
The European Commission announced on 20 May that it has disbursed €43.8 million (about $54 million) in direct support for the Mozambican state budget for 2005. This is 20 per cent of the total direct budget support envisaged for this year.
The money consists of a fixed tranche of €30 million and a variable tranche of €13.8 million. Disbursement of the fixed tranche depended, according to the European Commission, on the Mozambican government's "implementation of a stable macro-economic policy and of progress achieved in the priority areas identified under PARPA (the government's Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty)".
The variable tranche "is proportionately related to the results attained by the Mozambican government in 2003 in the social sectors, particularly health and education, and in the management of public finance, in accordance with the performance indicators previously agreed".
Disbursement of this money follows immediately after the recent meeting between the government and the 17 donors who give at least some of their aid directly to the state budget. The meeting was the culmination of a joint review which made remarks highly critical of the performance both of the government, and of the donors.
The agreed Aide-Memoire from the review criticised Mozambique's ineffective legal system, and its inability or unwillingness to cope with corruption cases. It also lamented the continued "fragmentation" of donor aid, with the administrative burden this puts on the Mozambican state.
The funds are part of a total of €184.4 million pledged under a budget support programme for 2002-2005, and funded from the European Development Fund. The European Commission is preparing the next budget support programme, to cover the 2006-2007 period, and this will be negotiated with the Mozambican government by the end of the year.
The Muiane tantalite mine in Gile district, Zambezia province, is to invest more than $11 million in the acquisition of new equipment, seismic prospection, and various other studies in preparation for relaunching production later this year.
Mozambique was once the world's third largest producer of tantalite, due to Muiane and the nearby mine of Morrua. But both were shut down in the 1980s, during the war of destabilisation waged by the South African apartheid regime The concession on Muiane used to be held by ITM Mining, which is mainly a diamond mining company. ITM abandoned Muiane, and the concession has now passed into the hands of the South African company, TAN Mining and Exploration.
TAN has already invested $6 million in mining prospection in the area. According to a report in the magazine "African Mining Review", the feasibility study undertaken by TAN involved "5,000 metres of drilling and some 3,000 assays to define the ore body".
The reserves are estimated at two million tonnes of ore, and TAN plans to mine it at a rate of 420,000 tonnes a year. The lifespan of the mine will therefore be no longer than five years.
According to TAN director Andy Johnson, cited in "Noticias" on 19 May, his company is rebuilding the mine, and that, to reduce production costs, his company is planning to set up a laboratory in Gile to evaluate the quality of the product, rather than sending the samples to South African laboratories.
When the Muiane mine is fully operational, it is expected to employ between 100 and 130 workers, recruited locally.
Through complex processing, the metal tantalum is extracted from tantalite. Tantalum is used to produce electrical components, notably tantalum capacitators, used in computers and mobile phone. It is also used to produce surgical instruments.
Mozambique's National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), the country's relief agency, in partnership with United Nations agencies, has decided to continue monitoring the impact of drought in parts of southern and central Mozambique, where about 150,000 people are currently receiving food aid.
The National Director of the INGC, Silvano Langa, met on 24 May with the heads of mission of the UN agencies concerned, to analyse jointly the assessments of the impact of the drought undertaken by the World Food Programme (WFP) and by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The WFP/FAO report on the current drought and food security situation should be published in the near future.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Langa said the current drought is very serious, and that a million people may have been affected. "We've decided to continue monitoring the situation on the ground", he said, "and to analyse the FAO and WFP assessment reports which will give us a clear indication as to how many more people need food aid".
Efforts were under way to mitigate the effects of drought, such as the construction of small scale retention dams for agricultural purposes, he said.
He guaranteed that some of the food needed to support the population of drought-affected areas would come from the northern provinces, where there was good rainfall, and agricultural surpluses were produced.
It is estimated by the National Directorate of Agriculture that at least 237,000 peasant family farms have been affected by drought in the 2004/2005 agricultural campaign. The agricultural authorities had initially predicted a harvest of about 2.1 million tonnes of grain, 336,000 tonnes of legumes, and 6.5 million tonnes of cassava, but the real figures, is likely to be lower.
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