Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza on 5 December told reporters he hopes that the forthcoming ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Hong Kong will be characterised by an attitude of dialogue and a willingness to find solutions to the problems of the poorest countries.
Speaking in Bamako to the Mozambican journalists who covered the Franco-African summit in the Malian capital, President Guebuza pointed out that the rules of international trade are currently skewed in favour of the developed world, but impose great difficulties on developing countries.
For President Guebuza, the key problem was access to the markets of the rich world, and a prerequisite for this was the abolition or reduction of the huge subsidies offered to the farming lobbies of the developed nations. "This is a very important step that could help Africa gain access to European markets, while at the same time not facing in their own markets unfair competition from European agricultural produce", he said.
During the Bamako summit, the Association of African Cotton Producers distributed a statement pointing out that Africa lost over $400 million between 2001 and 2003 because of the dumping of northern cotton, due to the huge subsidies given to the cotton producers of the rich north.
When he addressed the summit, French President Jacques Chirac posed as the champion of African farmers, and urged the United States to abandon its regime of cotton subsidies "which impoverish millions of African small farmers" - farmers who would be competitive were it not for the American subsidies. But the hard fact is that at home, Chirac has vigorously defended the subsidies that are the backbone of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, and from which French farmers are the main beneficiaries.
President Armando Guebuza on 27 November praised the cohesion and sense of solidarity of the Commonwealth. Speaking to the Mozambican reporters who covered the Commonwealth summit in the Maltese capital, Valletta, President Guebuza said the organisation acted as a united family that never abandons one of its members in need.
As an example, President Guebuza cited the efforts of the Commonwealth to support those of its members who are developing country sugar producers (including Mozambique). For decades these countries have been able to export sugar to the European Union under an arrangement which guarantees a price that is much higher than the world market price. This is about to end with the reform of the EU sugar regime: cuts in the guaranteed price of around 40 per cent are expected over the next two years. President Guebuza said that, during the debates around this subject in Valletta, the non-sugar producers gave their support to the producing countries who are calling, not for the maintenance of the status quo, but for more time to adjust.
A statement from the Valletta summit insisted that there should be "symmetry" between the compensation the EU intends to pay to its own sugar producers, and that which the Commonwealth producers should receive.
Asked what other benefits Mozambique derives from its Commonwealth membership, President Guebuza pointed out that the Commonwealth is a forum with a great deal of weight and influence in international politics. He recalled the moral and material support Mozambique had received from the Commonwealth in the days when it was standing up to aggression from the racist regimes of Ian Smith's Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.
The Commonwealth had also been active in electoral support, including sending observer missions to monitor Mozambican elections, added the President. This was in addition to such concrete matters as the provision of scholarships for Mozambicans.
The Assembly of the Republic, the Mozambican parliament, on 1 December passed the first reading of a bill to create a new national Tax Authority, with 155 votes in favour (all from the ruling Frelimo party), and 77 against (from the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition).
Presenting the bill, Finance Minister Manuel Chang explained that the idea is to "modernise the state's management apparatus, an aspect that has deserved special attention from the government in the last few years".
He explained that this reform aims at simplifying procedures and modernising the tax machine, which calls for a "reformulation of the bodies in charge of carrying out these reforms".
The Mozambique Tax Authority is essentially a merger between the tax and customs directorates, and is to be autonomous in terms of its administration. It is to be an organ of the central government, supervised by the Finance Ministry, but not answerable to it. The Finance Minister will have the power to appoint and dismiss the Authority's chairperson and some other senior staff, but will not be able to intervene in day-to-day management.
The opposition saw no point in this sort of autonomy. Renamo deputy Jose Palaco argued that the new body would merely increase state expenditure. He argued that its officers would be highly paid, and so any gains from increased tax revenue would simply be eaten up by the Authority's own running costs.
The Assembly of the Republic on 24 November passed the second and final reading of a government bill that will simplify the country's currency, the metical, by knocking off three digits.
Huge devaluations in the late 1980s and in the 1990s has resulted in consumers no longer buy goods in meticais, or hundreds of meticais, but in thousands or millions. Manual accounting has become a problem because there is not enough space in the columns to write all the zeros.
So, in a simple currency reform, three zeros are being removed. As from 1 January, what the government describes as "the new family" of the metical will come into existence, in which one metical equals 1,000 old meticais.
The reform is simple, and has been broadly welcomed by business. But the parliamentary opposition, the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, although it voted in favour of the bill on the first reading, voted against once all its amendments were thrown out.
Renamo's main demand was that the Assembly itself vet the design of the new metical notes and coins. But such matters have always been in the hands of the central bank. The majority Frelimo Party pointed out that a law of 1991 specifically grants the power to design new notes and coins to the Bank of Mozambique.
No problem, retorted Renamo deputy Luis Boavida. The Assembly could just use this bill to revoke the 1991 law. Boavida was concerned that future banknotes might contain images of "figures who are not consensual" "There are people who might be good people now, but not tomorrow", he continued. And so that no-one might mistake his meaning, Boavida added "Some people were presidents, but they were later put on trial for crimes".
Renamo had also demanded that issuing new notes should wait until the national emblem is changed. (Renamo objects to the current emblem, largely because it contains a picture of a rifle, and a "communist" red star).
The Assembly of the Republic on 17 November passed the first reading of a government bill to establish the Order of Doctors, the body that will represent and discipline the medical profession.
Under the bill, membership of the Order of Doctors becomes a compulsory requirement for anyone wishing to practice medicine or dentistry in Mozambique. This makes it quite different from the existing Association of Mozambican Doctors, where membership is voluntary.
The key tasks of the Order include the defence of professional ethics and qualifications, in order to ensure the constitutionally enshrined right of Mozambican citizens to skilled medical care.
The Managing Council of the Order is the body that must decide on cases of serious professional misconduct. In such cases a five member commission of experts, including two appointed by the doctor under investigation, looks into the case. On receiving the opinion of the commission, the Managing Council decides whether to bar the doctor concerned from further practice of medicine.
The doctor may appeal against the Council's decision to the courts.
The bill is entirely uncontroversial, and was approved unanimously.
The Assembly of the Republic on 17 November passed unanimously the second and final reading of a bill regulating the Council of State, a body that will advise the President of the Republic.
Deputies from the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition thus abandoned earlier attempts to extract privileges for members of the Council. Renamo had initially demanded that Council members should be paid, should receive free medical care, should each be given a state vehicle, and that diplomatic passports should be offered, not only to the Council members, but to their wives and children as well.
But none of this was raised in the shape of amendments to the bill, and all 221 deputies in the chamber voted in favour. The bill will thus take effect as soon as President Armando Guebuza has promulgated it, and it is published in the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica". Thus the Council of State could be functioning before the end of this year.
The Council is chaired by the President, and its other members are the chairman of the Assembly (Eduardo Mulembue), the Prime Minister (Luisa Diogo), the President of the Constitutional Council (Rui Baltazar), the Ombudsman (a position still vacant), the runner-up in the last presidential election (Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama), any previous heads of state (Joaquim Chissano) and any previous heads of the Assembly (Marcelino dos Santos). In addition, Guebuza will appoint four "personalities of recognised merit" to the Assembly, and the Assembly will elect seven more.
The President is under no obligation to accept the advice offered by the Council, but he must consult with it at least once every five years, when fixing the date for the next general elections. He must also consult the Council over any dissolution of the Assembly, holding any referendum, and any declaration of war, a state of siege or state of emergency - events which must be regarded as extremely unlikely.
President Guebuza may also seek advice from the Council on matters of less weight whenever he deems appropriate.
Mozambique's Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Minister, Alfredo Namitete, died of an unspecified illness in Maputo Central Hospital on 27 November.
According to the brief biography accompanying the government press release that announced his death, Namitete was born in 1953, in Milange, in the central province of Zambezia.
He was only 12 when he went to Tanzania to join the national liberation movement, Frelimo, in 1965. He was educated at the Frelimo secondary school, the Mozambique Institute, in Dar es Salaam, and later the Tanzanian Mbeya Secondary School.
After independence, he held posts in several state-owned companies, before becoming national director of merchant shipping, and director of the Naval Projects Office (GAPROMAR).
After taking a doctorate in nautical sciences in Britain in 1996, he held senior office in the Southern African Transport and Communications Commission (SATCC), a specialised body of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
He was appointed governor of Maputo province in 2000, and Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade this year.
Namitete leaves a widow and three children.
Minister of Public Works and Housing Felicio Zacarias on 25 November said that only about 40 per cent of the Mozambican population currently has access to safe drinking water. He blamed this situation on difficulties in impounding, treating and distributing water.
Zacarias was speaking in Maputo at the opening of a meeting of the Expanded Working Group (GTA) of his Ministry. This group was set up to work on revising water legislation, and to draft a National Water Resource Policy. The meeting was held to discuss means of achieving the water supply targets included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted by the United Nations in 2000.
The target set in the MDGs is "to halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water". To meet this ambitious target, the government intends to raise the percentage of the population with access to clean drinking water from 40 to 70 per cent. A second goal is to raise those with access to decent sanitation from 33 to 60 per cent of the population.
Zacarias pointed to a shortage of funds to expand the country's water systems: those actions which have been undertaken depended essentially on foreign funding. To improve the situation, the government has opted to build small dams and systems to harvest rain water. It was hoped that this would provide a minimum of water for agricultural purposes, and thus help guarantee food security.
Mozambique should have plenty of water, given that it is crossed by some of the largest rivers in southern Africa. Zacarias noted that the government has embarked on a series of joint studies, with the neighbouring states, on the use of shared watercourses - such as the Incomati, Umbeluzi and Maputo rivers in the south of the country, and the Pungue in the centre.
The National Health Service still covers less than half of the country's population, Health Minister Ivo Garrido admitted on 21 November.
Speaking at the biannual meeting of the Health Sector Coordination Committee, that is to analyse the work done since the last meeting, and define areas of action for the coming period, Garrido said the existing health network is suffering from serious weaknesses.
He pointed out that Mozambique remains a country where malnutrition is still a serious problem, worsened by the prevalence of poverty-related infectious diseases. He stressed that vulnerability to floods and drought worsens the nutritional situation in the country, particularly among pregnant women and children aged under five, who often suffer from diarrhoea, malaria, tuberculosis and other respiratory diseases.
He said that the preliminary results of a recent survey among children aged between 6 and 59 months in all districts of the country show that Cabo Delgado and Nampula in the north, Zambezia in the centre of the country, and Inhambane in the south are the provinces with the worst levels of malnutrition.
Garrido said the government is also concerned about the slow pace of expansion of the health network, and about the fact that over 80 per cent of health units, including some central and provincial hospitals, are running short of power and water supplies.
In Zambezia, for instance, there are 10 health units where building work has been paralysed since 1997, and in Nampula the health network has not expanded in the last four years.
Garrido warned that improving the health of the population is an essential condition for victory over poverty.
The trial of Anibal dos Santos Junior ("Anibalzinho"), accused of recruiting the death squad that murdered Mozambique's top investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, in November 2000, has begun in Maputo under tight security.
Among those due to face questioning by the court is businessman Nyimpine Chissano, son of former president Joaquim Chissano. In the first trial, one of those found guilty of ordering the assassination, Momad Assife Abdul Satar ("Nini"), admitted paying Anibalzinho the equivalent of $46,000, but said he did so at the request of Nyimpine Chissano. Furthermore, the man who fired the fatal shots that killed Cardoso, Carlitos Rashid Cassamo, testified that he had seen Anibalzinho meet with Nyimpine.
However, on 2 December Anibalzinho in court repeatedly denied that Chissano Jr had anything to do with the case, and tried to cast the whole blame onto Nini Satar, his brother Ayob, and their associate, former bank manager Vicente Ramaya.
Anibalzinho is pleading not guilty to murder, but the prosecution is using a video-cassette that Anibalzinho had sent to the Maputo City Court in December 2002 as key evidence, in which he confessed to the murder.
Anibalzinho is being retried, because of his failure to appear in the 2002 trial along with his five co-defendents. In September 2002, before the beginning of his first trial, Anibalzinho walked out of the Maputo top security prison and fled to South Africa.
The Mozambican jails are having problems in keeping Anibalzinho from walking through their front doors. During the trial Anibalzinho described his second escape from the Maputo top security prison, in May 2004, was "a miracle of God". According to Anibalzinho, on 9 May after he had attended mass and gone for an afternoon stroll in the yard, "I found there wasn't much security and I walked out of the front door".
Following his "escape" he made his way to Canada using a forged Portuguese passport. On arrival in Canada he applied for asylum, which was eventually refused and he was deported back to Mozambique.
Now there is speculation in the media that a break-out on 26 November of five prisoners from the cells in the Maputo City Police Command was an abortive attempt to set free Anibalzinho.
According to the independent newsheet "Mediafax", the attempt was frustrated because a new police guard, on duty at the time, noted something strange going on near Anibalzinho's cell. "Two steel doors had already been opened, and there was just one more left to be opened to facilitate Anibalzinho's escape", said the source.
The doors left open did allow five other dangerous prisoners to flee, including Luis Jesus Samuel (also known as "Todinho"), who is accused of participating in the murder of Jorge Microsse, director of the Maputo Central Prison, on 21 October.
The police version, told to reporters of the daily paper "Noticias", does not involve leaving doors open. The police say that the five escapees used a saw to cut through the bars on a window of their cell. Supposedly the prison guards did not notice the considerable noise made by a saw cutting through metal in the middle of the night, because they were all watching Anibalzinho's cell. The police also claim that the prisoners were singing loudly to disguise the noise of the saw.
Eight policemen have been detained in connection with the escapes, one of whom holds the rank of police inspector.
The AIDS epidemic is killing between 500 and 600 Mozambican policemen a year, according to the general commander of the police, Miguel dos Santos, quoted in "Noticias" on 18 November.
He said that currently there is one police officer for every 1,100 inhabitants (which, given the current size of the population, means that the police force is about 18,000 strong). In the past, the commander added, the ratio was one policemen for every 400 or 500 people.
Dos Santos was commenting on the graduation of 1,195 new police officers on 18 November at the Matalana basic police training centre. He feared that these new graduates may not represent much of an improvement in terms of numbers if one takes into account that another 600 or so policemen are likely to be lost to AIDS within the next 12 months. He said that the police train about 1,200 new officers every year, but that does not produce the desired effect because of deaths, notably from AIDS, and also because of the regular expulsion from the force of policemen who commit serious disciplinary offences.
Dos Santos added that these new officers will be allocated to various posts across the country to guarantee public order, particularly with the approach of the festive season, when crime tends to increase. Most of them will be stationed in Maputo city and province, in the central province of Zambezia, and in Nampula in the north, because these are the areas reporting the highest crime rates.
The Mozambican road safety authorities have expressed concern about the large number of people who continue to drink and drive. In November, the traffic police reintroduced the use of breathalysers to test for alcohol is in drivers' blood, resulting in the National Traffic Institute (INAV), in cooperation with the police, confiscating 172 driving licences.
The chief of the INAV inspection department, Elias Chirrime, said "these people will be banned from driving for a year. This is a measure against which there is no appeal, because it is people's lives that may be lost because of this irresponsible attitude on the part of some drivers".
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