Mozambique News Agency
The Maputo City Court on 20 June sentenced Anibal dos Santos Junior "Anibalzinho", the man who led the death squad that murdered Mozambique's foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, in 2000, to 30 years imprisonment. The court found Anibalzinho guilty on all nine charges that he was facing - the first degree murder of Cardoso, the attempted murder of Cardoso's driver, Carlos Manjate, the illegal possession and use of firearms, membership of a criminal association, use of a false passport, use of false names, false declarations to the legal authorities, and two counts of car theft.
The court also ordered Anibalzinho to pay compensation of 14 billion meticais (about $560,000) to Cardoso's two children, 1.5 billion meticais to Manjate (who has been declared unfit to work because of the bullet wound to his head), $12,000 to the owner of the stolen Citi-Golf used in the murder, and 50 million meticais to Arlindo Massalonga, owner of a Mercedes-Benz that Anibalzinho stole in 1993. Once he has served his sentence, Anibalzinho will be deported to Portugal.
This was Anibalzinho's second trial. From November 2002 to January 2003 all six people accused of the murder stood trial before judge Augusto Paulino - but Anibalzinho's place in the dock was empty, since he had escaped from the Maputo top security prison in September 2002.
On 31 January 2003, he was sentenced in absentia to 28 years and six months imprisonment. But he had been rearrested in South Africa the day before this verdict, and so his lawyer called for a retrial, appealing to the Supreme Court when Paulino rejected this request.
In December 2004, the Supreme Court finally ruled on that appeal and granted Anibalzinho a second trial - but by then the assassin had escaped again, this time to Canada. After spending several months in a Toronto detention centre, he was departed to Mozambique in January 2005.
The retrial clearly backfired, since Anibalzinho has ended up with an even longer prison sentence, and faced an extra charge (that of the 1993 theft of the Mercedes).
Judge Dimas Marroa said the court found it proved that Anibalzinho had taken part in conspiratorial meetings in 2000 with the businessmen Ayob Abdul Satar and Momade Assife Abdul Satar "Nini", and former bank manager Vicente Ramaya, at which plans were laid to assassinate both Cardoso and lawyer Albano Silva.
Bank fraud at centre of conspiracy
The motive for the murders was the huge 1996 fraud at what was then the country's largest bank, the BCM, in which the bank was swindled out of 144 billion meticais (the equivalent of $14 million at the exchange rate of the time). The fraud took place at Ramaya's branch of the BCM, and the main beneficiaries were members of the Abdul Satar family.
Those who defrauded the bank faced what they described as two "inconveniences" - Silva, who was the BCM's lawyer, and Cardoso, whose articles on the fraud kept it in the public eye. A 1999 attempt to murder Silva failed, and in late 2000 the plotters switched their attention to the "second inconvenience", Cardoso.
The court found that, on the day of the murder, 22 November 2000, Anibalzinho had driven the stolen Citi-Golf, picked up the other two members of the death squad, Carlitos Rachid and Manuel Fernandes, and then lay in wait outside the offices of Cardoso's paper "Metical".
When Cardoso left the office, shortly after 18.30, and was driven away by Manjate in the "Metical" Toyota, Anibalzinho overtook, forcing the Toyota to the kerb. As the Toyota ground to a halt, Rachid opened fire - five bullets struck Cardoso, killing him instantly.
Anibalzinho - the habitual delinquent
Like judge Paulino, Marroa described Anibalzinho as "an habitual delinquent", for whom the normal maximum sentence of 24 years imprisonment would be too short. He regarded Anibalzinho as "an enormous danger to society", who had displayed a lack of respect for the court throughout the trial, and had shown no sign whatever of repentance.
Decision not to appeal raises jailbreak fear
Anibalzinho has decided not to appeal against the sentence according to his court-appointed lawyer, Boavida Zandamela. Cited in the independent newsheet "Mediafax", Zandamela said Anibalzinho feared that, if he appealed, he might be given an even longer prison sentence.
Zandamela said he tried to assure his client that it was quite impossible for the appeals court to increase the sentence. Despite this, Anibalzinho did not change his mind, and Zandamela said he would have to respect the wishes of his client.
The refusal to appeal will heighten fears that Anibalzinho is planning yet another escape.
The Cardoso family lawyer, Lucinda Cruz, has warned that, unless there is a serious investigation into who is protecting Anibalzinho, then he will certainly escape for a third time. She predicted he would not stay more than two years behind bars.
President Armando Guebuza on 26 January strongly defended the growing cooperation between China and African countries as "very welcome". Speaking at a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Guebuza stressed that Chinese cooperation with Africa has been positive in that there are gains for both sides.
In Mozambique's case, he said, the fruits of this relationship are visible, which encourages the two countries to expand still further their cooperation. For a country like Mozambique, he added, there was nothing better than to find a relatively advanced country such as China prepared to help it make use of its own resources to solve its many problems, including poverty reduction.
President Guebuza recalled that one of the many problems Africa faces is that many of its traditional partners make promises that are not honoured. But that has not happened with China, which has always translated its promises of aid into concrete actions. "That's why we are very satisfied with the support that China has given, at least as regards Mozambique", said the President, rejecting claims made by some other members of the panel, such as US congressman Jim Kolbe, that Beijing is merely interested in Africa's resources, rather than in a desire to assist African nations.
The former Chinese ambassador to France, Wu Jianmin, who now teaches at China's University of Foreign Relations, also denied that China was merely looking for the resources to feed its growing industries.
Obviously China hoped to gain something from its relations with African nations, he said, but that did not mean that it was a predator, seizing everything it wanted and leaving nothing for the Africans themselves. "The truth is that China and Africa need each other", Wu said, "because our cooperation has indeed been mutually beneficial".
He pointed out that China had been committed to the struggle of African peoples to throw off the colonial yoke. "So we're not there just to benefit from resources today", he said. "We were already there in the most difficult times for Africa".
Cooperation between China and Africa has undergone a qualitative leap in recent years, and is now expressed in billions of dollars worth of trade a year. Last year alone Sino-African trade was worth more than $40 billion. Thirty years ago, said Wu, the figure did not exceed $30 million.
Mozambique's commercial banks continue to show no interest in providing banking services to the majority of the population. Figures presented at the latest meeting of the Consultative Council of the Bank of Mozambique show that, despite the strong growth in the Mozambican economy over the last decade, the number of branches of the commercial banks has actually declined.
In 1995, there were 249 branches: but in 2004 there were only 204. Admittedly, the following year showed a slight recovery: by the end of 2005, there were 219 bank branches.
In 1995, the vast majority of branches belonged to the two state-owned banks - the Commercial Bank of Mozambique (BCM), and the People's Development Bank (BPD). Under heavy pressure from the World Bank and the IMF, the government privatised the BCM in 1996 and the BPD (which changed its name to the Austral Bank) in 1997. However, the new private management of these banks embarked on reckless lending - and at the same time, they were closing down branches in small towns and district capitals all over the country.
Several new banks were set up, mostly dominated by foreign capital, and all concentrating their activities in Maputo and, to a lesser extent, in Matola, Beira and Nampula cities. The result is that today there are 114 bank branches in Maputo city and province (the vast majority of which are in the Maputo-Matola conurbation), and 105 branches in the other nine provinces put together.
The only province other than Maputo where there has been an increase in banking activity is Sofala, where the number of branches rose from 16 in 1995 to 22 in 2005 (and most of these are certainly in Beira).
In all other provinces the number of bank branches has fallen. Nampula, the most populous province, had 23 branches in 1995: now it only has 16. Zambezia had 16 branches in 1995, and now it has 10. It should be noted that between them Nampula and Zambezia contain 40 per cent of the Mozambican population.
The sharpest decline of all was in the central province of Manica, which has lost two thirds of its banks. In 1995, there were 33 branches in Manica. Austral and the BCM closed most of them down, and now there are just 12.
In the southern province of Gaza the number of branches fell from 20 to 14, and even the booming tourism industry in Inhambane did not stop the number of bank branches falling from 15 to 12. The figure for the remaining three provinces are: Tete - a fall from 11 branches to 8; Cabo Delgado, from 14 to 7; and Niassa, from 8 to 4.
It is the same picture with cash machines: the banks have set up between them 214 of these convenient devices in Maputo, and just six in Niassa.
The governor of the Bank of Mozambique, Adriano Maleiane, on 26 January put controlling inflation at the heart of the central bank's tasks for this year.
Speaking at the start of a session of the Bank's Consultative Council, Maleiane expressed concern at the failure to meet the inflation target for 2005. Whereas in 2004, inflation had been brought down to an annual rate of 9.1 per cent, in 2005 the figure was 14 per cent, against a government target of no more than eight per cent.
The conclusion Maleiane drew was that something had gone wrong, and it was therefore necessary to review the management of exchange and trade policies. "We want more transparency in the markets in 2006", he said - in order to ensure that the government target of an inflation rate of no more than seven per cent can be achieved.
Among the measures to be implemented is that the country's commercial banks must all operate according to internationally accepted accounting standards. A study undertaken by the central bank showed that the commercial banks are able to introduce and operate modern accounting systems, which should ensure that reports from the banks are transparent and reliable.
Meanwhile, the latest statistics from the central bank confirm that it was price hikes in December that ruined the attempt to keep annual inflation at eight per cent. Inflation for the month of December alone was 5.5 per cent.
The latest bulletin from the central bank also shows that, after strengthening in the last few months of 2005, the national currency, the metical, has begun to slide again. In the first fortnight of 2006 the metical lost 2.4 per cent of its value against the dollar: by 13 January, the average exchange rate had slipped to 24,766 meticais to the US dollar.
During this fortnight, the central bank sold $20 million on the inter-bank exchange market - but demand from the commercial banks was for $40 million.
The country's net international reserves as of 13 January were $941.3 million, an increase of $5.5 million when compared with the figure at the end of December.
The Nordea Bank of Denmark on 27 January signed an agreement for a loan of €12.7 million (about $15.2 million) to be used in extending the fibre-optic National Transmission Network of Mozambique's telecommunications company, TDM. The areas to benefit are Quelimane and Mocuba in the central province of Zambezia, and the northern cities of Nampula and Cuamba.
The agreement formalising the loan was signed by Deputy Finance Minister Pedro Couto, and the first deputy chairperson of the Nordea Bank Denmark, Egil Rindorf.
Speaking after the signing ceremony, Couto said the loan, which carries no interest charges, was contracted under an agreement of principle, signed last year between the Mozambican and Danish governments, covering aid of €50 million. That aid is to finance the development of transport and communications infrastructures, undertaken by TDM, by the port and rail company CFM, and by the Mozambican airports company, ADM.
Couto said the loan will contribute to the expansion of the national telecommunications network, by improving quality through the use of fibre-optic technology. It will also reduce costs, by reducing TDM's dependence on hiring space on communication satellites.
The project forms part of the government's five year programme. The modernisation and expansion of the telecommunications network seeks to maximise economic growth, and thus contribute to poverty reduction.
Minister of Industry and Trade, Antonio Fernando, on 16 January launched a "buy Mozambican" campaign, intended to help revive the country's industries. "The consumption of our national produce is very low, because we import much more than we export", said Fernando. "Our challenge is to try and reverse this scenario, in a coordinated way, by producing more".
The factors hindering Mozambican industry include difficulty in obtaining credit, the country's poor road network, and sometimes an unreliable electricity supply (though this problem is being gradually overcome with the extension of the national grid, based on the Cahora Bassa dam, throughout the country).
Fernando stressed that the government is trying to make the business environment in Mozambique more flexible and attractive. "Matters such as financing are being gradually solved", he claimed.
At the launch of the campaign, several business people present objected to the use of the English phrase "Made in Mozambique" - since Portuguese is the country's official language, they wanted the Portuguese equivalent "Produzido em Mocambique" used instead.
Fernando did not regard this as particularly important. "If we think "Made in Mozambique" doesn't sound right, then we can change it and use "Produzido em Mocambique" instead", he said. "But right now we have to continue with "made in Mozambique""
There are also some difficulties in establishing precisely what counts as a "national product", Fernando admitted. "There are imported products, which are packaged in Mozambique", he said. Should they be regarded as Mozambican?
There is some urgency about boosting Mozambique's own industrial production, and building up a domestic market for it, since tariff barriers throughout southern Africa are gradually coming down, as the SADC (Southern African Development Community) Trade Protocol is implemented. The government fears that if Mozambique does not prepare properly for the southern African free trade area, then the country will be condemned to live off imports, mostly from South Africa.
Currently South African goods dominate the Maputo market. Thus, although an abundance of fruit grows in Mozambique, almost all the fruit juice consumed in Mozambique is imported from South Africa. Despite the revival of the national cattle herd in recent years, this is not reflected in dairy produce - virtually all the butter and cheese in Maputo stores is South African.
A further problem Mozambican industry has faced is contraband: thus smuggled sugar from Zimbabwe has been one of the threats facing Mozambican sugar producers.
Since the start of this year 678 cases of cholera have been diagnosed in the central province of Sofala, according to the provincial chief doctor, Luisa Cumba, cited in "Diario de Mocambique" on 27 January.
Cumba said that specialised cholera wards have been set up in Beira, Dondo, Buzi and Caia. In the previous 24 hours, 53 new cases were admitted, 25 of them in Beira, 17 in Caia, nine in Dondo and two in Buzi.
The Beira cholera ward is now seriously overcrowded. The ward has 70 beds - but is currently caring for 110 patients. Some patients are sharing beds, while others are sleeping on the floor or the veranda.
Since 1 January, 300 cases of the disease were diagnosed in Caia, 285 in Beira, 69 in Dondo, 14 in Nhamatanda and 10 in Buzi. Two cholera patients have died, one in Beira, and the other in Caia district.
This month's heavy rains have made the situation worse. Low lying parts of Beira have been inundated, as have parts of the Pungue valley in Dondo and Nhamatanda districts. This, plus the precarious state of the sanitation systems, provides the ideal environment for the spread of a water-borne disease such as cholera.
The risk of major flooding in central Mozambique has receded, with the level of all the main rivers in the region falling.
The flow of the Zambezi has declined along its entire length, from the Zimbabwean border to the Indian Ocean. At Caia and Marromeu, the river is still above flood alert level, but fell substantially over the weekend, according to the National Water Board (DNA) on 30 January.
At Caia, where flood alert level is five metres, the Zambezi was measured at 5.73 metres on 27 January, but had fallen to 5.08 metres by 30 January. Likewise at Marromeu (flood alert level: 4.75 metres), where the river fell from 5.54 to 5.07 metres in the same period.
The Cahora Bassa dam management has been keeping the discharges from the dam at the minimum figure of about 1,500 cubic metres of water a second - just enough to turn the turbines and generate electricity.
The Pungue and Buzi rivers in Sofala province are also falling, as is the Licungo in Zambezia.
Nonetheless, the DNA advises people living in the river valleys to remain on alert and stay away from flood prone areas. The immediate threat of a major flood on the Zambezi may have eased, but there are still another two months before the end of the rainy season.
In total, about 18,000 people have been affected by flooding in Sofala province, according to the director of the DNA, Americo Muianga.
Although the levels of the main rivers are dropping, people are still being evacuated from flood prone areas, Muianga said. "The levels of the rivers are still very high", he said "and we cannot keep people in a situation where we feel they are at risk. So we have decided to evacuate them to safe areas, and this is being coordinated at local level".
The government is reprogramming food aid distribution to cater for people hit by the latest flooding. Minimum subsistence rations are being made available in the areas where the evacuated families are temporarily sheltered.
The total amount of crops lost due to the January storms and floods is now estimated at 7,400 hectares, which is about 0.2 per cent of the total area planted during the current agricultural campaign.
The MOZAL Community Development Association, set up by the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo, on 25 January delivered a cheque for $200,000 to the Mozambican Red Cross (CVM) to mitigate the effects of last year's drought in Maputo and Gaza provinces.
CVM general secretary Fernanda Teixeira, who received the cheque, said she hoped to use some of the money for long term activities such as the introduction of drought resistant crops, and the development of small scale irrigation schemes that could help farmers make sustainable use of their limited water resources.
Teixeira added that while this month's rains had led to flooding in parts of central Mozambique, it was still the impact of the 2005 drought that was more worrying.
Flooding could be monitored and a response made depending on the needs of the moment, said Teixeira, but it was more difficult to cope with drought, where the impact was less dramatic, and felt over a longer period.
The current priority for the victims of drought is food. A total of 1.2 million people were affected by the 2005 drought, of whom over 800,000 are in danger of serious food shortages until the next harvest in March.
The managing director of MOZAL, Carlos Mesquita, said that his company's gesture is one of solidarity with people suffering from hunger in Mozambique.
The US-based Carr Foundation has announced an investment of $36 million over the next few years in reviving the Gorongosa National Park, in the central Mozambican province of Sofala.
A memorandum of understanding to this effect was signed on 26 January between the Mozambican authorities, the Carr Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
According to the USAID director for Mozambique, Jay Knott, this memorandum is the first step towards what is expected to be a long partnership between the Carr Foundation and USAID.
The Gorongosa Park, covering 5,370 square kilometres, was once the jewel in Mozambique's wildlife crown, and considered one of the best national parks in Africa. But that was before it was occupied by the apartheid-backed Renamo rebels during the war of destabilisation.
Renamo raided the main tourist camp in the park in 1981, thus closing the park down. Elephants were shot for their ivory, and other animals for their meat.
By the time the war ended, in 1992, the park was in a severely degraded condition. But now negotiations are under way between the Carr Foundation and the Mozambican Tourism Ministry for a long term agreement (covering 30 years) to revive the Gorongosa park.
Knott said that once the 30 year agreement was signed, USAID would reach a grant agreement with the Carr Foundation, under which USAID would fund conservation services, creating a wildlife sanctuary, and setting up the mechanisms to reintroduce Gorongosa as a tourist destination.
According to Vasco Galante, the Gororongosa park's director of tourism development, there are two main immediate objectives of the current project for the park - to secure its biodiversity, and to work with the communities who are living within the park boundaries.
He added that the construction of new tourist camps is planned, which would allow Gorongosa to receive tourists as from 2007.
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact email@example.com
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