Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza has urged Mozambicans not to abandon cultural habits taught by their ancestors, claiming that these are rich in teachings that are essential to defeat underdevelopment. "There are still many people who are not proud of their Mozambican identity because they do not know that by valuing their own culture they will be contributing to the eradication of poverty in the country", he said.
President Guebuza was speaking in the locality of Chaimite, in Chibuto district, in the province of Gaza, on 4 February, during a ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Gaza "canho" season. Canho is the name of a southern Mozambican fruit, from which an alcoholic drink is brewed. It is supposedly an aphrodisiac.
By tradition the drink is not to be sold, but even canho is not immune to the market economy, and the rules of commerce have trumped those of tradition. So enterprising people have been selling canho, and when challenged, say they need the money to face the current cost of living.
To highlight the importance of tradition, the ceremony took place on the spot where Ngungunhana, emperor of Gaza, the most powerful pre-colonial state in southern Mozambique, was arrested by the Portuguese army on 28 December 1895.
Ngungunhana is reckoned as one of the most significant leaders of resistance to the Portuguese colonial occupation. After his arrest he was deported to the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, where he died. His remains were brought back to Mozambique after the country's independence.
In his speech, President Guebuza recalled that it was in order to value their culture, which the Portuguese colonists sought to eliminate, that Mozambicans fought for the country's independence. "We did not start existing today. We came from far and we are still going very far. In the past, it was not us, as such, but our ancestors, who produced our culture and tradition", he explained. But he further stressed that to value "our past in order to get rid of poverty does not mean that we cannot learn from others" - and a sign of this was the presence of foreign diplomats at the ceremony.
He also called for a statue to Ngungunhana to be built in Chaimite, as a tribute to this leader, and to value the history of the Mozambican resistance to colonial occupation.
The South African Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula, on 4 February promised that his government will try to give a definitive answer this year to the question of how Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel, met his end.
Nqakula was speaking at a ceremony in Maputo to mark the 25th anniversary of the apartheid commando raid against the southern Mozambican city of Matola, on 30 January 1981, in which 12 members of the African National Congress (ANC) were murdered.
But Nqakula also took the opportunity to recall that this year will see the 20th anniversary of the death of Machel, who died when his plane, returning from a summit in Zambia, crashed into a hillside at Mbuzini, near where the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland all meet.
It has long been suspected that the apartheid regime was responsible for the crash, through the use of a pirate radio beacon, transmitting on the same frequency as the Maputo airport beacon, which lured Machel's plane away from its correct flight path. However, definitive proof has so far been lacking.
Nqakula recalled that South African President Thabo Mbeki last week pledged to try "to solve this mystery" in 2006.
"We need to find out who committed that dastardly crime", he said. "This is a debt that we owe to the people of Mozambique, and it is a debt that we shall pay".
The South African minister recalled that Mozambicans and South Africans had fought and died side by side in the battle to end apartheid. "The ties that bind us shall forever endure", he pledged.
When the apartheid commandos murdered the 12 ANC refugees at their homes in Matola, "We picked up the spears of all those who fell".
The apartheid "killing machine", he said, tried, but failed, "to stop Mozambique from supporting our struggle".
The storms and flooding that have hit parts of Mozambique since the start of this year have affected over 27,000 people, according to the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC).
Speaking to reporters in Maputo on 10 February, INGC director Paulo Zucula said that, of this total, 2,187 people had been evacuated from their homes and are currently in need of help. These are people who were evacuated from islands in the river Zambezi, which were inundated as the river flooded in late January. They are now living in accommodation centres in Caia district, in the central province of Sofala.
The storms, with their high winds and torrential rains, had caused 16 deaths, said Zucula. They had also destroyed 2,156 houses, 26 schools, and 5,274 hectares of crops in Nampula, Gaza, Sofala, Inhambane and Tete provinces.
Zucula said the level of the waters in the main river basins is falling. Currently none of the major rivers is in flood - but a state of alert remains in the Zambezi, Pungue and Buzi basins, due to continuing rains, where the INGC is continuing to warn people to stay away from flood prone areas.
The heavy rains, combined with poor sanitation, create the ideal conditions for the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera. Zucula said that so far this year there have been 1,646 confirmed cases of cholera, and eight deaths - three in Sofala, three in Gaza and two in Nampula.
The Mozambican government on 9 February launched a Technical Assistance Project to help improve efficiency and transparency in the financial sector. The project is budgeted at $28 million, of which the government is to contribute two million, with the remainder is a loan from the African Development Bank (ADB).
Deputy Finance Minister Pedro Couto, who chaired the ceremony, said that with this initiative the government intends to improve the efficiency of the financial sector by improving social security and pensions, and strengthening the insurance laws, among other aspects.
"We hope, above all, that the project will contribute to a more efficient and more transparent service, a more stable financial system, exempt from eventual ruptures and bankruptcies, among other problems", he said.
The project will centre its activities in human and institutional empowerment.
For his part, ADB representative, Taiwo Adenidji, explained that another important aim of the project is to help improve the legal environment for financial transactions, and assist in implementing the legislation against money laundering.
Other components of the initiative include improving financial accountability, and the management of public debt.
Speaking of the Social Security system, Adenidji pointed to the need to strengthen the capacity of the scandal-ridden National Social Security Institute (INSS), widening its coverage, and reforming its organisation and management system.
Couto told reporters that the project will be implemented over the next five years. "We expect to achieve an efficient financial system on a broader base", he said. "It will cover the regions that are currently not covered, and the poorer strata of society, who are generally excluded from the commercial banking system".
Agriculture Minister Tomas Mandlate on 8 February launched a ten year line of credit to finance activities of small and medium-sized companies in the forestry sector. In the initial stage, this initiative will benefit operators in Cabo Delgado, Zambezia and Sofala provinces, areas where the major timber operators are to be found.
The programme is supported by the Nordic Development Fund, which is providing €3.3 million (about $3.9 million), and implementation will be assisted by the Small Scale Investment Promotion Company (GAPI).
Eligible for this credit are operators who have been granted forest concessions, but also those with simple logging licences who prove their intent to work under the more demanding concession regime. Credit can also be granted to businesses to start or develop forestry produce processing units and also those who intend to work in reforesting.
The loans are to be used for such purposes as the acquisition of equipment and of vehicles. A maximum of €100,000 may be granted to individuals, to associations of small operators, or to communities. Interest on these loans will be charged at between 2.5 and six per cent.
The repayment periods vary between three months and ten years, depending on what the money is used for. Reforestation projects are allowed the longest repayment period, of up to ten years.
Speaking on 8 February, during a Consultative Forum on Forestry and Wildlife, held in the central city of Beira, Mandlate said that this government initiative is to help solve a number of problems confronting the sector. "The government, aware of the difficulties that the operators in question have faced, has been seeking alternatives to reverse the situation, and one of the concrete actions was to mobilise funds from its partners, to support small and medium companies", he said.
He stressed that this initiative aims at improving production and the quality of the processed products. "We expect this initiative to improve management and sustainable use of forest resources, and to reduce the export of logs by improving the processing of timber, to give it more added value", explained Mandlate.
He noted that the forest sector is one of those that, with small investments, can greatly contribute to relieving poverty in the rural areas. Thus he expected the operators in this sector to seize the opportunity and improve the functioning of their companies and their profitability.
But he warned the beneficiaries to honour their commitments, to ensure that the contributing partners would mobilise more funds to benefit more operators.
The participants at the meeting, who included officials from the central and provincial governments, and representatives of NGOs and of the private sector, stressed that the country's forestry sector has been facing serious difficulties including obsolete equipment, poor capacity to exploit and process forest resources, lack of markets and poor access to credit.
The leader of Mozambique's main opposition party Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, on 11 February stated that the government is unable to meet the requirements of Mozambique youth "who want modernity, dignity and prosperity". Speaking in Maputo, at the opening of a meeting of the Renamo youth wing, Dhlakama argued that the government, and the ruling Frelimo Party, are "obsolete, decrepit and with no perspective".
According to Dhlakama, this was because they are composed of the same people as 30 years ago. Dhlakama said that young Mozambicans "only want the same kind of opportunities that other youths have across the globe".
Those opportunities "begin with things as simple as the right to be young and all which that brings with it, in terms of training, human dignity, and the need to expand the range of experience and knowledge that allow them to be better citizens in the future, and to contribute more effectively to the construction of a greater Mozambique".
"The needs that young Mozambicans feel are linked to simple matters such as obtaining a profession, the right to decent housing, to set up a family with basic conditions of sustainability, to enjoy a credible education at all levels", Dhlakama added.
A "national project" in which young people play a key role should be concentrated on the four basic areas of education, employment, health and housing, which remained unknown in terms of government application", he stated.
Mozambique is "a postponed country, in constant crisis, governed by outdated elites who will do nothing in the remaining years that they wish to impose themselves as leaders", stated the Renamo leader.
Manuel Pereira, a prominent parliamentary deputy for Renamo, has accused the government of using food aid to bribe people into joining the ruling Frelimo Party, an accusation officials involved in the distribution have promptly denied.
Cited in "Diario de Mocambique" on 10 February, Pereira claimed "the government uses the food from the international community in order to recruit members to Frelimo".
Pereira was speaking in particular about the distribution of food in the district of Caia to victims of last month's flooding in the Zambezi Valley.
"Because they were hungry, people ended up joining Frelimo", he claimed. "The government of (President Armando) Guebuza is using the food from the international community. All parties should be involved on an equal footing in the distribution of food".
A few days earlier, Pereira had annoyed other members of Renamo by praising the government for its efficiency in providing relief for those displaced from their homes by storms and flooding in Sofala province. But now he had completely reversed his position, and claimed the government is excluding opposition supporters from food distribution.
He extended his attack to the Food-for-Work programmes, where food provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) is used as payment for people involved in labour intensive public works.
"Officials of the Frelimo government only put down the names of Frelimo members for this work, and then say there are no more places", Pereira claimed.
Antonio Chicumbe, the Sofala provincial delegate of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), rejected Pereira's claims as completely impossible.
For the government does not choose who will receive food aid. That is done by selection committees set up in the communities, whose members are chosen on a basis of a variety of factors, including age and sex. Furthermore, the government does not directly distribute the food aid, but has farmed this task out to non-governmental organisations.
The police have arrested a local official in the district of Nhamatanda, in the central province of Sofala, for tearing down a flag of the opposition Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD).
Opposition parties have frequently complained of illegal harassment by local officials who are supporters of the ruling Frelimo Party, and that the police take no measures. But on this occasion, according to "Diario de Mocambique" on 7 February, the police did detain 70 year old Ernesto Rudicha, a block chief in Nhamatanda town, after he had used a machete to knock down the PDD flagpole.
The attack took place during a PDD meeting. The party members present grabbed Rudicha, and turned him over to the police who arrested him.
The interim Sofala provincial chairperson of the PDD, Jose Juga, noted that Rudicha had been wearing a Frelimo T-shirt. He speculated that he had knocked down the flagpole because Frelimo was irritated by the PDD's alleged rise in popularity among Sofala communities.
Juga praised the calm way Nhamatanda PDD militants had handled the matter, turning the culprit over to the police rather than taking the law into their own hands.
The PDD is the party that came third in the 2004 general elections, winning two per cent of the vote. It was founded by Raul Domingos, once the number two in Renamo from where he was expelled in 2000.
Juga is the most senior person to have defected from Frelimo to the PDD. He was once Frelimo first secretary in Beira, but switched his allegiance to the PDD in late 2004.
Juga told "Diario de Mocambique" that the meeting in Nhamatanda was part of the PDD's work to form brigades to warn communities to move away from flood-prone areas in this rainy season, and to take precautions against cholera.
In both these areas, the PDD is effectively working alongside the government. "We're doing this because we're a party that's always on the side of the people", said Juga. "We're working for the people and we don't want there to be any deaths".
The PDD brigades, he added, would also publicise the party, build up the image of Raul Domingos, and attempt to win new members. This was part of the preparations for the provincial elections that will be held in 2007.
The Norwegian Minister of International Development, Erik Solheim, on 10 February stressed that dealing with corruption "is very important for development and for budget support". Norway is one of the 17 donors who give at least part of their aid to Mozambique through direct support for the state budget.
Speaking to AIM immediately before leaving Maputo, after a two day visit, Solheim was positive about budget support, since this is a mechanism that allows the government to set its own priorities, albeit in consultation with the donors. "We want to develop this form of aid, and we shall evaluate it after some time", he said.
Solheim stressed, however, that it depended on good governance. "If Mozambique does not perform well in governance and democracy, it will be very difficult to continue with budget support", he said.
"We don't expect Mozambique to become a paradise from one day to the next, but the direction should be towards reduced corruption", Solheim added.
During his visit Solheim signed a memorandum of understanding with Foreign Minister Alcinda Abreu, pledging Norwegian annual aid of 330 million crowns (about $50 million) for the next four years - the first time Norway has entered into such a multi-year undertaking.
Solheim added that he had spoken with Energy Minister Salvador Namburete and the Minister of Mineral Resources Esperanca Bias, about possible future Norwegian support for the petroleum sector and for the development of hydro-power.
Norway also granted Mozambique $13.5 million in debt relief. This money is to be used to buy back debt owing to private creditors at about half its original value.
Solheim said he had "a good feeling" about Mozambique. "There's so much negative news from Africa these days that it's good to be in a place where there's a sense of optimism", he declared.
The second largest European sugar company, the Tereos Group of France, is investing $30 million in the Mozambican sugar industry. According to a release from Mozambique's main sugar producer, the Sena company, Berneuil Participations SAS, a member of the Tereos Group, has taken 50 per cent of the shares in Sena Holdings Limited. This is the holding company, previously entirely owned by a Mauritian Consortium, that controls the Sena Company.
The agreement involves doubling the Sena Holdings share capital from $20 million to $40 million, through a capital contribution by Berneuil. This means that the Tereos Group and the Mauritian consortium now jointly control Sena Holdings. In addition, the Tereos Group is directly funding the Sena Company through a shareholder loan for a further $10 million.
This agreement was reached in late December, and the transaction is expected to be complete by the middle of this month.
The Board of Directors of the Sena company has declared its confidence that the deal between the Mauritian consortium and Tereos "will prove very beneficial", since it brings to the company "the expertise of an international sugar group".
The injection of capital, the Board says, "will greatly improve the treasury of the Sena Company by giving it the means to realise its business plan".
The Sena Company owns Mozambique's largest and most modern sugar refinery at Marromeu on the south bank of the Zambezi.
The agreement with a major European company can be expected to be of considerably advantage to the Sena Company in the years ahead, as the sugar market is liberalised and the guaranteed price that the European Union has been paying for sugar from Mozambique and other ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) producers is sharply cut.
Trans-African Concessions (TRAC), the South African-based consortium that runs the toll road between Maputo and the South African city of Witbank, has justified the toll increase that takes effect as from 1 March, by citing inflation in Mozambique last year, and the depreciation of the Mozambican currency, the metical, against the South African rand.
"The capital to build the road was borrowed in rands, and consequently the debt must be repaid in rands", says a TRAC press release, which indicates an "approximate 20 per cent adjustment in toll tariffs".
In fact figures published last week by the Mozambican National Roads Administration (ANE) show that the tolls will rise by between 20.7 and 23.4 per cent, depending on the type of vehicle, and which of the two tollgates (at Maputo and Moamba) they are using.
TRAC insists that the increase in the tolls is checked and approved by the ANE, and only inflation and the exchange rate are taken into account. According to the Bank of Mozambique, the 2005 inflation rate was 14 per cent.
The release says that improvements to the road "demonstrate that the toll fees are being used for their intended purpose".
Since the road was completed (in 2000), traffic along it has been rising at a rate of about six per cent a year, TRAC states, which it regards as "a clear indication that the region is growing and that business and tourism are feeling the benefits".
This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
email: Mozambique News Agency
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