Mozambique News Agency
The poverty that still plagues Africa "threatens to undermine the very meaning of our liberation and of human dignity", declared Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on 11 January. He was speaking at the opening session of the inaugural meeting of the Africa Forum, a forum of former heads of state and government from the continent that had been organised by President Guebuza's predecessor, Joaquim Chissano.
"Like the struggle for our political emancipation, the struggle against poverty demands that we promote self-esteem and sharpen our sense of serving our people and the Continent", President Guebuza said to the 16 former heads of state attending the meeting.
"It demands that we unite and that each of us gives the best of ourselves to ensure freedom from this scourge", he added. "It also demands that we stop looking for the motive of our misery in others, or in what others are doing or are not doing".
President Guebuza was confident that Africa could meet this challenge. It had already beaten colonialism, chalked up successes in building nation states, and embarked on regional integration, showing that Africa "can make the leap from thought to action, from wanting to do something, to doing it".
President Guebuza said that those attending included members of the generation that fought for the continent's freedom from colonial rule, "combatants who did all they could for Africa to occupy its rightful place in the world".
The former presidents, he added, "are our libraries, our encyclopaedias. Each of you brings rich experiences of struggle and of building nations out of the ashes of division, stereotypes and hatred, promoted by those who never wanted to see our people united in brotherhood".
Joaquim Chissano said he believed that the experience and expertise of former heads of state could make a valuable contribution to Africa's development. "As former African heads of state and government", he said, "we have the duty to put Africa first. Our first priority and obligation is to Africa and the people of Africa. That was certainly what motivated the creation of this forum".
"At a time when Africa is experiencing a feeling of fatigue with regard to external initiatives, we need the Forum to face the challenge of taking up initiatives that are designed, appropriated and funded in the first place by the Continent", Chissano declared.
The Forum would be an informal network, he explained, that would support implementation of the general objectives of the African Union (AU) and of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).
The Forum, Chissano stressed, shared the AU's goal of placing African countries "on the path to sustainable development so as to end the economic and political marginalisation of Africa and promote full and beneficial integration of the continent into the world economy".
One of the Forum's main aims, he added, would be "to contribute to developing and maintaining a positive image of Africa in the international arena".
The former heads of state would also "concentrate our energies on promoting peace, security and stability on the continent, as fundamental factors in implementing the AU's development and integration agenda".
Dictators and war criminals excluded
By no means all former heads of state were invited to the Maputo gathering. Although he mentioned no names, Chissano made clear that dictators and war criminals, such as Charles Taylor or Hissene Habre, are not welcome.
He said that the Forum was only open to former heads of state "who have democratic credentials. Such leaders should have made a significant contribution to promoting and sustaining democratic governance in their own countries, and in the continent".
Speaking for the visitors, former South African President Nelson Mandela said the idea of the forum was not "to rule from the grave". Instead, it was in line with the African principle of "learning from the wisdom of elders", whose collective experience might prove helpful in conflict resolution.
Mandela praised President Guebuza for his commitment to "the values of democracy, human rights and good governance", and cited Mozambique as "an example of how people in Africa can solve their problems through dialogue".
In addition to Chissano and Mandela, the former Presidents attending are from Zambia (Kenneth Kaunda), Botswana (Quett Masire), Malawi (Bakili Muluzi), Burundi (Pierre Buyoya), Nigeria (Yakubu Gowon), Cape Verde (Aristides Pereira and Mascarenhas Monteiro), Mauritius (Karl Offman, and Cassam Uteem), Ghana (Jerry Rawlings), Benin (Nicephore Soglo), Guinea-Bissau (Henrique Rosa), Sao Tome and Principe (Miguel Trovoada) and Madagascar (Norbert Ratsirahonana). Apologies had been received from several former presidents who were unable to travel to Maputo, including Benjamin Mkapa and Ali Hassan Mwinyi of Tanzania, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria, Alpha Konare of Mali, and Manuel Pinto da Costa of Sao Tome.
Former OAU general secretary, William Eteki Mboumoua was present, and apologies were received from Salim Ahmed Salim, who had held the same position, former secretary general of the UN, Boutros Ghali, and the former secretary general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku.
Torrential rains that have fallen over central and southern Mozambique since Christmas have killed 22 people and destroyed 5,000 hectares of crops. A dozen people died in Sofala province, four in Zambezia, three in Gaza and two in Nampula. However, according to Paulo Zucula, director of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), there situation does not warrant the term emergency yet.
The central government has approved a sum of six billion meticais (about $240,000) from the state budget to support the efforts of the provincial governments.
Speaking to reporters on 13 January, Zucula said that the main loss of crops has been in the central province of Sofala - 4,000 hectares were lost in the basin of the Pungue river in Dondo district. 1,080 hectares were lost in Gaza province (mostly in Xai-Xai district), while localised flooding on the Mutamba river in Inhambane province caused the loss of 21 hectares in Jangamo district.
Zucula was optimistic for the future. Despite the losses, and although the rains started late all over the country, he believed that the agricultural campaign was going well.
Sena line work hit
The heavy rain has halted work on clearing land mines from the Sena railway line. The demining teams were working in Tete province between the towns of Mutarara and Moatize.
The Sena line runs from the Moatize coal mines to the port of Beira. No trains have run on it for over two decades due to sabotage during the war of destabilisation. Before the line can be rebuilt, demining must be concluded.
Nino Carvalho, of the management of the demining company, Ronco, told "Noticias", that the "excess of humidity" had made it impossible to continue. Nonetheless, he thought that Ronco could make up for lost time, and that the work would be concluded, on schedule, by October.
The director of the Sena Line Reconstruction Brigade, Adelino Mesquita, pointed out that the rains have inundated the areas of Camulatsissi and Doa, making both demining, and clearing bush away from the line of rail difficult.
Demining of the Sena line began in September 2004, and the 360 kilometres from Dondo to Sena have been cleared, as has the Inhamitanga-Marromeu branch line. Once the Mutarara-Moatize stretch is cleared, the demining teams will turn their attention to the spur from Mutarara into Malawi.
Further south the rains have shut many roads, cutting off whole districts. Attempts are being made to provide temporary repairs to the road from Buzi town to Tica in Sofala province, in order to break out of Buzi's isolation. This road has been cut in 18 places.
After the rainy season the Buzi-Tica road will undergo complete rehabilitation, involving the installation of 20 aqueducts, and raising the platform of the road.
Meanwhile, in the south the Limpopo line that links the port of Maputo to Zimbabwe has been damaged in five places in Gaza province by mudslides.
Apart from the cost of repairing the line, there is also a heavy cost in cancelling trains, which as of 12 January amounted to over $350,000.
Effects of drought continue
Despite the heavy rain, southern Mozambique has not yet recovered from last year's drought, and the main dams in Maputo and Gaza provinces are far from full.
According to Belarmino Chivambo, head of the technical department of the southern regional water board (ARA-Sul), the Massingir dam, in Gaza, has 205.64 million cubic metres of water: ideally it should contain 580 million cubic metres. Thus the dam is only 35 per cent full. This dam is located on the Elephants River, the main tributary of the Limpopo, and is regarded as key for controlling the flow of water for the irrigation schemes on the middle and lower Limpopo).
The Corumana and Pequenos Libombos dams, on the Sabie and Umbeluzi rivers in Maputo province, are both 77 per cent full.
The accumulated inflation rate in Mozambique for 2005 reached 14 per cent, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE). This is a serious blow to the government, which had set a target for inflation of between seven and eight per cent. The figure for 2004 was 9.3 per cent.
The early months of 2005 were encouraging, as prices remained stable. But in the final two months of the year, inflation rocketed. In November prices rose by 2.8 per cent (the highest rate for that month since 2001), and in December the rise was an alarming 5.5 per cent.
Part of this may be the delayed impact of fuel price rises in June (42 per cent for diesel and 45 per cent for petrol), and part may be due to the unscrupulous behaviour of some traders and businesses, hiking their prices for the festive season.
The main problem in December was food. In the INE's classification the group of foodstuffs, drink and tobacco saw an average price rise that month of 8.5 per cent - in the other 11 months of the year taken together, the price of these goods had only risen by 6.3 per cent.
The most significant price rises in December were for white maize (42.9 per cent), second grade frozen fish (16.8 per cent), live chickens (26.2 per cent), tomato (18.4 per cent), and potatoes (18.2 per cent). Taking the year as a whole the most significant price rises were white maize (65.9 per cent), kerosene (the fuel of the poor - 54.7 per cent), passenger fares charged by private transport operators (36.2 per cent), potatoes (27.7 per cent), rice (27.6 per cent), and firewood (21.3 per cent).
But with the end of the festive season, some prices are falling. In the week 3-10 January, the only significant price rise in Maputo was for imported eggs, up by 30 per cent. On the other hand, the price of imported cooking oil fell by 10 per cent, of potatoes by six per cent, and of imported frozen chickens by three per cent.
In the country's second city, Beira, there were no price rises. The price of imported onions fell by 10 per cent, and of locally produced rice by nine per cent.
The government's inflation target for 2006 is seven per cent.
Four years after taking responsibility for collecting some of the largest debts to the privatised Austral Bank, the Mozambican state has only managed to recover $850,000 out of a total of $14.4 million, according to "Savana" on 13 January.
Austral was once the state-owned People's Development Bank (BPD). After enormous pressure from the World Bank and the IMF, in 1997 the Mozambican government sold off 60 per cent of the BPD to a consortium of Malaysian and Mozambican businesses, headed by the Malaysian Southern Bank Berhard (SBB).
The new owners changed the bank's name, and embarked on massive and reckless lending, which, by April 2001, had brought the bank to the brink of ruin. Faced with the need for recapitalisation, the private consortium abandoned Austral and thrust their shares back into the hands of the Mozambican state.
The Bank of Mozambique took control of Austral, and appointed the head of its banking supervision department, Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, as chairman of the bank, with the mandate to ascertain its true financial position, and prepare a second privatisation.
Siba-Siba set about collecting debts, and even published a list of names of over 1,200 debtors in the daily paper "Noticias". He also cancelled contracts he regarded as worthless, including one with businessman Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of the then president, Joaquim Chissano.
On 11 August 2001, Siba-Siba was murdered, and his body hurled down the stairwell at Austral headquarters. Nobody has been charged with this crime.
In December that year, the state sold 80 per cent of Austral to the South African banking group, ABSA. But part of the deal was that the state would take responsibility for chasing the 70 non-performing loans regarded as most problematic. ABSA would pursue the hundreds of others.
But, the Administrative Tribunal, the body that oversees state expenditure, is less than happy at the slow pace of loan recovery. "Savana" has obtained the Tribunal's report on the General State Accounts for 2004 (produced in late 2005, and due for debate in parliament later this year) which reveals that just $850,000 has been collected - or a mere 6.2 per cent of the money these 70 debtors owe.
The 70 break into three groups - the smallest group, of just three loans, seems to consist of companies that are genuinely bankrupt, for the matter is in the hands of bailiffs selling off debtors' property.
41 cases are being chased through the courts, and 26 are still "under analysis". The Tribunal notes that, since the government took over these 26 non-performing loans in early 2002, there has been no advance whatever in recovering the money.
The cases in the hands of the courts demonstrate once again the slothfulness and inefficiency of the Mozambican judicial system.
One step the government did take was to sign a contract, in July 2002, valid for 18 months, with the company Ernst and Young, for recovering the debts. But this was not particularly successful: in 2004, the government, under this contract, paid Ernst and Young the equivalent of $156,000, 18 per cent of the money recovered.
Meanwhile, ABSA has been collecting the other debts, and with much greater vigour. It has managed to recover $15.7 million: after deducting costs and commissions due to the bank, $10.2 million has been handed to the state.
The Tribunal noted that the money paid by ABSA covers 19.5 per cent of the $52.6 million provided by the state to cover the bad debts, in the event that they could not be recovered. (This money was obtained through domestic indebtedness - namely, the sale of treasury bonds at high interest rates, which will be a burden on the state budget for years to come).
A forensic audit of Austral was ordered to examine exactly what happened to the bank while it was in the hands of the Malaysian/Mozambican consortium. The audit started later than expected, and has not yet concluded.
The government hired the US-based law company Leboeuf, Lamb, Green and MacRae to undertake the audit, which is paid for by funds made available by the Swedish and Norwegian governments.
According to "Savana" the auditors are looking very closely at the 70 "difficult" loans that were left in the government's hands.
The audit is supposed to ascertain if there was any criminal behaviour in Austral's lending practices - and whether the management should have communicated Austral's critical position to the central bank earlier than in April 2001.
Justice Minister Esperanca Machavela has claimed that the judiciary is losing its fear of the government, while for its part the executive "has understood that the independence of the justice sector is an irreversible fact".
Speaking to AIM, she stated that "2005 was the year when the Ministry of Justice, in coordination with the Attorney-General's Office and the Supreme Court, rethought the way justice is done in Mozambique. The most important thing is that we have grown in the sense that the judiciary no longer fears any possible interference by the executive".
Machavela believed that the judiciary had in reality been independent, but nonetheless the fears had existed. "But I never heard or received any complaints about government interference in the legal system", Machavela stressed.
She said that the key legal institutions were now working with the government "in a much more coordinated way", as well as trying to build "a certain cohesion" within the justice system.
"We think that one of the problems which always hindered the operations of the justice system was how to identify it as a cohesive system", she added. "We are going into this in depth in order to find out just what has been going wrong over many years".
"In terms of legislation, we can advance much further in defining how the judiciary should relate with the government, insofar as the judiciary itself now has enough confidence", said the Minister.
For the independence of the judiciary to function properly, all must play their role, she stressed - not merely judges, but also prosecutors, judicial inspectors and defence lawyers.
The Supreme Court has granted conditional freedom to the former chief attorney in Maputo city, and later in Sofala province, Antonio Diamantino dos Santos.
Diamantino was arrested in May 2005, after being on the run for more than four years. A range of serious accusations have been made against the former attorney. He was originally in charge of the investigations into the 1996 fraud at what was then the country's largest bank, the BCM, in which the bank was looted of 144 billion meticais (about $14 million at the exchange rate of the time).
The BCM's lawyer, Albano Silva, has consistently accused Diamantino of working against him, and in league with those charged with committing the fraud, former BCM branch manager Vicente Ramaya, and members of the Abdul Satar business family.
The case ground to a halt until, in 2000, the Supreme Court put a new investigating magistrate, Achirafo Abubakar, in charge of the case. He found he had to completely reorganise the case papers, which had been thrown into deliberate confusion. Evidence supplied by the bank had gone missing. But by then Diamantino had been moved to Sofala, where he was accused of stealing large amounts of fuel from a ship that had been apprehended in Beira port.
A handful of senior officials (Interior Minister Almerino Manhenje, Attorney General Joaquim Madeira, President of the Supreme Court Mario Mangaze and two other Supreme Court judges) agreed in January 2001 that Diamantino dos Santos should be arrested.
Somehow Diamantino was tipped off, for when the brigade carrying the arrest warrant arrived in Beira, he was no longer there. He is believed to have spent much of the ensuing four years in hiding in South Africa.
Although the arrest warrant is over four years old, time enough to draw up a detailed charge sheet, it seems that so far no charges have been laid - and this was the determining factor in the Supreme Court's decision to release Diamantino, who has spent the last six months in a cell in the Maputo City Police Command.
According to a report in "Mediafax" on 10 January, the conditions for Diamantino's release are that he stay in Maputo city, and report to the Supreme Court once a week. Diamantino is represented by prominent lawyer Abdul Gani (who is also the lawyer for Vicente Ramaya).
The Mozambican police have arrested the man who drove the car used by a gang of armed robbers, five of whom were shot dead in Maputo on 9 January.
According to "Noticias", Elias Macamo was picked a few hours after the raid when he went to a police station in the city of Matola to report his car as stolen. He claimed it had been taken from him at gunpoint.
The police, however, believe that, far from the gang stealing Macamo's car, a Toyota Conquest, he acted willingly as their chauffeur, driving them from Matola to the warehouse in downtown Maputo where the robbery took place.
The police found it suspicious that Macamo wanted to know what had happened to the thieves, and knew the name of at least one of them. The spokesperson for the Maputo police command, Abilio Quive, added that the man seen fleeing from the shoot-out was similar in appearance to Macamo - hence the police concluded they were one and the same person.
The thieves were surprised by a police unit as they were robbing the warehouse. They tried to make a getaway, but were pursued through the Maputo streets. In the neighbourhood of Xipamanine an exchange of fire took place. The thieves successfully shot out one of the tyres of the police vehicle - but the responding hail of bullets from the policemen took the lives of five of the six occupants of the Toyota.
Quive denied that the police were now deliberately executing criminals. "What happens is that, in a shoot-out, the police must defend themselves", he said. "In cases where criminals have been shot dead, the police acted after they had come under fire." That the criminals died and the police did not, Quive attributed to the better marksmanship and experience of the police.
Many more Mozambican mineworkers in South Africa die of disease than of industrial accidents, according to statistics released by the mine recruitment company, TEBA.
According to the TEBA manager in Mozambique, Jose Carimo, from January to November 2005, 22 Mozambican miners died in work accidents - and an alarming 478 died of disease. Many of these deaths are clearly due to AIDS, and Carimo said a further 110 miners were repatriated to Mozambique in the final stages of the disease.
Carimo said that the South African health system does not allow the administration of the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs to foreigners, unless there is an agreement with their governments to that effect. This is in order to guarantee that anti-retroviral treatment will continue after the foreign worker has returned home.
The US embassy in Maputo on 13 January delivered a forensic laboratory to the Academy of Police Sciences (ACIPOL) at Michafutene, on the outskirts of the capital. According to a press release from the embassy, the US contribution to forensic training at ACIPOL to date is valued at $400,000.
This has included transforming three classrooms into space for forensic laboratories. The three rooms are now a dark room for photographic work, a laboratory for fingerprint analysis, and a laboratory for testing drugs and documents.
The Americans have also provided field kits for drug testing and for processing crime scenes, as well as specialised systems for dealing with volatile chemicals in the laboratory.
US assistance includes installing new bathrooms, air conditioners, new furniture, renovating the electrical systems, and painting the buildings.
American technical staff are working with ACIPOL's own forensic specialists to develop a forensic curriculum, and shape the laboratory to local requirements.
This is all part of a long term programme of assistance for ACIPOL that began in 2002, and has a total value of $842,000.
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