Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza on 31 December promised to continue into 2006 the fight against poverty, "and against the obstacles to our development - red tape, the spirit of apathy and drift, corruption, crime and disease".In his end of year broadcast to the nation, President Guebuza declared "we are all called upon to make our contribution. By serving our people better, we shall also serve ourselves better. We have the political will to overcome this scourge, we have the patriotic enthusiasm to build a better Mozambique for all of us, and we have rich examples from our history which show that, when we are united around a dream, we can achieve it".
Each Mozambican, he urged, should habitually ask him or herself "am I contributing to freeing our people from poverty, or am I making the struggle we are waging more difficult?"
"We are a hard working people", the President said. "We are a dedicated people and we know what we want to do to achieve our dreams. Our country is endowed with resources that have a great potential for freeing us from poverty. Partnership with the national business class is becoming stronger every day, and the results of this partnership in job creation and in wealth creation are visible for all of us".
President Guebuza said he was convinced that "with our own efforts and with the support of those who sympathise with our cause, we can continue to eliminate more facets of poverty from our daily lives".
In particular, the President drew attention to the agreement with the Portuguese government, under which Mozambique will take a majority holding in the Cahora Bassa dam, the largest source of hydro-electricity in southern Africa.
While welcoming foreign aid, President Guebuza stressed that "solidarity from abroad will only have the desired impact if it is always regarded as complementing the efforts of Mozambicans and not as substituting for them".
President Armando Guebuza on 23 December swore into office the members of the Council of State, a new body that will advise the President.
Those sworn in were:
Eduardo Mulembue, chairperson of the Assembly of the Republic;
Luisa Diogo, Prime Minister;
Rui Baltazar, Chairperson of the Constitutional Council;
Joaquim Chissano, former President of the Republic;
Marcelino dos Santos, former chairperson of the Assembly of the Republic;
Afonso Dhlakama (leader of Renamo);
The seven figures chosen by the Assembly, namely:
Cardinal Alexandre dos Santos;
Deolinda Guezimane (veteran of the women's detachment of the Frelimo guerrilla army in the war for independence);
Teresa Tembo (former general secretary of the Mozambican Women's Organisation, OMM);
Malangatana Valente Nguenha (usually regarded as the country's greatest living painter);
David Alone, Jeremias Pondeca and Mario Naula (all former Renamo parliamentary deputies);
Three of those appointed to the Council by President Guebuza, namely: Alberto Chipande (former defence minister, and the man who fired the first shots in the liberation war); Bonifacio Gruveta (former guerrilla commander, and former governor of Zambezia province); Eduardo da Silva Nihia (former guerrilla commander, and former deputy defence minister).
The fourth of Guebuza's appointees, former first lady Graca Machel, was not sworn in since she is currently out of the country.
After the members of the Council of State were sworn in, President Guebuza urged them to deepen "the culture of peace, of tolerance and of respect for differences". With its "heterogeneous composition", he hoped that the Council would contribute towards "the consolidation of the spirit of national unity and of inclusion".
One minor incident occurred during the ensuing toast, when Marcelino dos Santos refused to clink his champagne glass against Dhlakama's. This is in line with earlier statements by dos Santos, who has demanded that Dhlakama issue a public apology for atrocities committed by Renamo during the war of destabilisation.
The ceremony was the first time Dhlakama has met with President Guebuza since the 2004 election campaign. Until Friday he had turned down every invitation from President Guebuza to state events, or even to informal meetings.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Dhlakama said he had decided to take up his seat on the Council of State, "because if I did not, it would create instability".
Reminded of a statement he had made in Cabo Delgado province earlier this month, that he feared Renamo members would abandon the party if he joined the Council of State, Dhlakama said that could still happen - he had felt it was in the country's interest that he take up his seat, even though this meant "betraying" the Renamo electorate.
Under the law on the Council of State passed in November, President Guebuza must consult with the Council over the holding of general elections, any dissolution of the Assembly, any declaration of war, or of a state of siege or of emergency, or on holding any referendum. He may also call Council meetings to seek advice at any other time he deems fit.
President Guebuza's conciliatory speech made it clear that he intends to hold regular meetings of the Council.
The Mozambican government on 28 December received 5,250 tonnes of rice, donated by the Japanese government, which will be distributed, via the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), to the victims of drought and hunger in southern Mozambique.
With this donation, the WFP plans to assist over 100,000 vulnerable people up until March, as part of its efforts to mitigate the effects of drought.
This aid is valued at $1.3 million, and is intended to complement a donation of 100 tonnes of tinned tuna which arrived in Mozambique in October.
According to the WFP, 38 private companies will be involved in transporting the rice from warehouses in Maputo city to the distribution points in Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces.
Since the start of this year, WFP-Mozambique has handled 73,029 tonnes of food aid. 42 per cent of this amount (30,950 tonnes) was for consumption in Mozambique, while the rest was in transit to the neighbouring landlocked countries of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland, who have also been seriously affected by drought.
United States donates 4,000 tonnes
The donation from Japan follows the promise on 12 December from the government of the United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), to donate 4,000 tonnes of food aid.
USAID director for Mozambique Jay Knott said that this is in addition to the 34,000 tonnes that this institution has granted since June, through the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
The food (maize, beans and sorghum) is valued at a total of about $16 million, and represents about half the amount pledged by the United States to the WFP for "Long Term Assistance and Recovery Operations in Mozambique".
USAID is also to grant $1 million through various NGOs, to promote agricultural and water management projects, and a similar amount is to go into food security programmes in the semi-arid districts in the northern part of Inhambane. This funding also includes "food for work" programmes.
USAID says it is currently supporting the Mozambican government in finding long term solutions to problems related to food security through six programmes, costed at $85 million in the central provinces of Sofala, Manica and Zambezia, and in Nampula in the north.
Knott said that more than 287,000 rural households have been benefiting from these programmes, intended to improve their productive, and to market their surplus crops.
Meanwhile, on 16 December the Chinese government, through its Embassy in Maputo, donated a million dollars to Mozambique to help minimise the effects of the drought. Some of the money is to be spent opening wells and building small dams.
Rainfall in south still insufficient
Despite recent heavy rains in much of southern Mozambique, meteorologists fear that rainfall is still insufficient for the requirements of the 2005-06 crop growing season.
The National Meteorology Institute (INAM) had forecast normal or above normal rains, for the first half of the rainy season (October to December), in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane. However, it seems that this forecast was too optimistic: rainfall began late and in insufficient quantities for the requirements of rain-fed agriculture.
Speaking to the Maputo daily "Noticias" during a seminar on weather forecasting and the media, INAM meteorologist Julio Langa expressed concern that even in the second, usually wetter, part of the rainy season (January to March), the rains might not be sufficient for the crops in the southern provinces.
However, prospects look much brighter for the rest of the country. Like the south, much of central Mozambique suffered from drought in the 2004/05 season: but this rainy season rains have been falling regularly in the central provinces. As for the three northernmost provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado, rainfall is described as "normal".
Cautiously, INAM forecasts that as from January the north will continue to experience "normal rainfall". But its forecast for the centre and south is for "normal to below normal rains".
In some provinces, confident forecasts are being made about the 2006 harvest. Thus in the central province of Sofala, the provincial agriculture directorate says it expects a harvest of 520,000 tonnes of the main crops (including both food crops, and cash crops such as cotton). This would be a dramatic increase on the 2005 figure of 327,000 tonnes.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has praised Mozambique for its economic performance, particularly in its handling of the international hike in oil prices and the effects of the drought that has hit large parts of the country.
Meeting on 19 December, the IMF's Executive Board reviewed the country's economic performance, with special reference to the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement - under which the IMF has already released $7.1 million. In response to the positive review, the IMF will now release a further $2.3 million dollars.
The IMF Board took into consideration the drought, which has resulted in higher grain imports. According to Takatoshi Kato, the IMF's Deputy Managing Director, "the Mozambique economy continued to perform well in 2005 despite the spike in petroleum prices and the impact of the drought".
Kato added that "the authorities are to be commended on their improved programme performance, which has helped maintain macroeconomic stability and contributed to robust economic growth. The good fiscal performance is especially noteworthy".
The senior IMF official also praised progress in tackling poverty, stating that "the authorities' medium term framework provides a firm basis for the new Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA) for 2006-09. Prudent macroeconomic policies, the launching of a second wave of reforms, and continued donor assistance should help Mozambique move toward achievement of the Millennium Development Goals".
The PRGF is the IMF's concessional facility to help low income countries carry out their poverty reduction programmes. PRGF loans carry an annual interest rate of 0.5 per cent and are repayable over 10 years with a 5.5-year grace period on principal payments.
The Assembly of the Republic, the Mozambican parliament, approved on 20 December the government's Economic and Social Plan for 2006 by 152 votes to 80. All the deputies present from the majority Frelimo Party voted for the Plan, and all from the Renamo- Electoral Union opposition coalition voted against.
The plan is the necessary complement to the State Budget for 2006, which was passed on 16 December. The two documents were debated for three days in the Assembly plenary.
Delivering Frelimo's declaration of vote, Damiao Jose said the plan will allow the government to carry out its five year programme, which means "more schools, more hospitals, and more water sources".
The opposition denounced the plan arguing that it contained nothing that would enhance the country's development.
The Assembly also approved legislation that will allow the government to revise several of the obsolete legal codes inherited from Portuguese colonial rule - notably the Commercial Code, the Civil Procedural Code and the Civil Registration code.
Here there was no dispute - the Renamo and Frelimo groups agreed that government experts, rather than the deputies, should handle the nuts and bolts of modernising these complex codes.
Speaking after the closing of the session, and commenting on the performance of the parliament and the government during this year, Prime Minister Luisa Diogo expressed satisfaction, describing it as "very fruitful".
"We have managed to maintain economic stability and low inflation, and now, at the end of this Assembly session, we, as the government, have been allowed to produce specific laws, that are within the competence of the parliament, and we will make sure that we deserve the trust of the parliament".
She described the year ahead as one of "major engineering work, including the bridges over the Zambezi, Rovuma and Lugela rivers, that will create a large number of jobs".
On this year's drought, Diogo remarked "Mozambique has no shortage of water. What is lacking is the management of this resource. We need to improve our water management capacity".
At the end of the session, Assembly chairperson Eduardo Mulembwe announced that all deputies had agreed to contribute one day of their wages in support of the people affected by the drought. This sum amounts to about 273 million meticais ($10,920).
The South African authorities on 29 December repatriated 940 Mozambicans, described as "illegal immigrants". But they did so without giving the Mozambican authorities any advance notice, and so the arrival of the deportees at the border came as a complete surprise. This operation violated the memorandum signed between the two countries which is supposed to govern repatriation of "illegals".
Speaking to Mozambican Television (TVM), Deputy Interior Minister Jose Mandra said that the Foreign Ministry would have to intervene and demand an explanation from the South Africans for their unilateral action.
President Armando Guebuza on 20 December laid the first stone for the construction of a new bridge spanning the Zambezi river, between Sofala and Zambezia provinces. The bridge is a key link in Mozambique's main north-south highway, and will replace the current ferry service across the Zambezi.
Speaking at the town of Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi, President Guebuza said that the bridge will open a new page in the development of the central provinces, and of the country as a whole.
The bridge, which is a key part of the government's five year programme for 2005-2009, was transforming into reality an old dream of the Mozambican people, he declared.
The construction work will create many new jobs, President Guebuza said, and he urged businesses to take full advantages of the opportunities that would become available.
The bridge will be 2.3 kilometres long, and should be completed by 2008.
The construction work is being funded by the European Union (€25 million), Sweden (€21 million) and Italy (€20 million). In addition, Japan has provided $9 million for "complementary activities", including resettling people who have had to be moved from the construction area, and improving health and water supply infrastructures on both banks of the river.
First stone laid for Limpopo bridge
President Armando Guebuza on 23 December laid the first stone for the construction of a new bridge over the Limpopo river in Gaza province, linking the districts of Guija and Chokwe.
The construction work is budgeted at around €12 million (about $14.4 million), financed by the Nordic Development Fund and by the Mozambican government.
The Portuguese company Teixeira Duarte won the tender to build the bridge, and the work should be complete by the end of 2007.
According to the Mozambican Minister of Public Works, Felicio Zacarias, the two-lane concrete bridge will be 500 metres long. The work also involves putting a tarred surface on the road from the bridge to the town of Chokwe (on the right bank of the river).
The people of the two districts have been waiting for decades for this bridge. As the crow flies, the towns of Guija and Chokwe are only five kilometres apart - but anyone hoping to travel by road between the two districts has to take a 50 kilometre detour via Macarretane.
Seeking a definitive solution, the government and the Nordic Development Fund singed a financing agreement in 2001 to the value of €13.4 million. Of this sum, €11.2 million was for building the bridge, and the rest was for consultancy services and support in the social and environmental areas.
Speaking at the ceremony, President Guebuza said that construction of the bridge opens prospects for the development of both districts. It will improve trade, and facilitate investment, he said.
The newly appointed chairperson of the board of directors of Mozambique's publicly owned electricity company, EDM, Manuel Cuambe, has announced that his company is committed to extending the national electricity grid to all the country's districts by 2010, reports "Noticias" on 19 December.
Cuambe was speaking during the closing session of a meeting with the company's staff that he called to prepare the plan for the period 2006/2010 and the budget for next year.
Among the districts yet to be electrified, he mentioned Guru and Catandica, in Manica province, Caia, Marromeu, Inhaminga and Nhamatanda, in Sofala, Montepuez, in Cabo Delgado, and Namapa, in Nampula. Where power is available in such districts, it comes from expensive diesel-fired generators.
To meet this target EDM has planned to invest between $45 and $50 million a year, part of which the company is to pay from its own coffers, while the rest will come from its international partners.
EDM has been investing between $30 and $40 million a year, and is prepared to increase its investments so that by 2010 it can guarantee the electrification of all districts in the country.
The fourth contingent of Mozambican troops who served for six months as part of the peace-keeping force in Burundi returned to Maputo on 31 December. 180 Mozambican troops departed for Burundi in June, but only 175 returned. Four of the Mozambicans died in a road accident on 22 November and a fifth was injured. The bodies of the dead men were returned to Maputo in November, as was the wounded soldier.
At Maputo airport, the commander of the Mozambican contingent, Lt-Col Jacinto Rudes, told reporters that the troops had "carried out their mission successfully", despite the constraints they had faced.
The experience, he said, consolidated the understanding of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) about peace keeping missions, and meant that the FADM now had a nucleus of troops specialised in such missions.
Lt-Col Rudes declared that the FADM is "ready to embark on the next activity for which we may be requested".
Interior Minister Jose Pacheco on 30 December told reporters that an audit of his ministry has revealed that 220 billion meticais (about $8.8 million) cannot be accounted for.
The audit confirms what has long been suspected - that there was gross mismanagement, and possibly serious corruption, within the ministry under Pacheco's predecessor, Almerino Manhenje. Manhenje held the post of Interior Minister from November 1996 until January 2005.
Pacheco said that the auditors decided to make a thorough check on all the Ministry's assets, and on all its staff. The audit checked the physical existence of all the people drawing wages from the Ministry, one by one - and discovered that there were 55 "ghost workers". These were people who had either died, or had never existed in the first place - but their wages were paid every month.
Pacheco said that criminal proceedings would now be initiated against certain officials - he did not reveal who would be charged. He announced that the final results from the audit should be made public in February.
The number of Mozambicans working in the South African mines has fallen by around 16 per cent over the past nine years, according to a report on 30 December in the Maputo daily "Noticias".
The manager of the Mozambican branch of the mine recruitment company, TEBA, Jose Carimo, said that in 1996 Mozambique supplied about 55,000 workers to the South African mining industry. This was the peak of post-independence recruitment. The numbers fluctuated in subsequent years, but the long term trend was downwards. In 2005, the number of Mozambicans recruited was about 46,000.
One reason for the decline is the new South African immigration law that took effect in 2004, which fixes quotas for the foreign workers that each company can employ, in an attempt to promote jobs for South Africa's own workers.
But perhaps of greater significance is the decline in gold mining. The known reserves of gold in South Africa are being exhausted - leading in some cases to the closure of mines, and in others to ever deeper shafts.
Carimo cites specialists who claim that the gold reserves will only last until 2015. How long mines can remain open will also depend on the world market price for gold. If the price remains high, then it will be economically feasible to dig deeper shafts, and exploit marginal gold seams.
Currently gold prices are high, at over $500 an ounce, but if they fall, the viability of many mines will be called into question.
The largest known platinum reserve in the world has recently been discovered in South Africa's Limpopo province. But platinum mines will not simply absorb Mozambicans who can no longer work on the gold mines. According to Carimo, although the platinum mines do employ some Mozambicans, they are less interested in recruiting foreign labour than the gold mines.
Furthermore the Mozambican work force on the mines is ageing. About 75 per cent of the Mozambican miners are 48 years or more old. Since retirement age on the mines is 55, it seems that a sharp reduction of the number of Mozambicans digging gold out of the South African subsoil is inevitable.
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