Mozambique News Agency

AIM Reports

 


No.328, 12th October 2006


Contents


Peace has come to stay - President Guebuza

President Armando Guebuza on 4 October reaffirmed that peace has come to stay in Mozambique, and that this peace makes it possible to fight against poverty. President Guebuza was speaking to reporters after laying a wreath at the Monument to the Mozambican Heroes on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the 1992 peace agreement signed in Rome between the government and the apartheid backed Renamo rebels. 4 October is now a public holiday, celebrated as "Peace and National Reconciliation Day".

"This is the time for us all once again to restate that peace has come to stay and will last", declared President Guebuza. "We have to understand that, as from the moment we signed the peace agreement the social situation of our people has been improving".

This month also marks the 20th anniversary of the death of the country's first president, Samora Machel, in a plane crash at Mbuzini, just inside South Africa. President Guebuza said the public can be assured that the government, in cooperation with the South African authorities, is doing all that it can to ascertain the full truth about Machel's death.

The apartheid regime arranged its own inquiry into the crash, which blamed the Soviet crew of Machel's plane for the disaster. However, the theory widely believed in Mozambique is that the apartheid military used a powerful radio beacon, broadcasting on the same frequency as the Maputo airport beacon, to lure the plane off its correct flight path.

Renamo boycotted the commemorations at the Heroes' Monument. Neither Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, nor any other senior figure was present.

His contribution to the 14th anniversary of peace was to threaten to form his own army. In an earlier interview with the private television station, STV, Dhlakama claimed that the ruling Frelimo Party was still "Communist and Marxist", that officers who had come from Renamo were being marginalized in the armed forces, and that the government had not implemented various clauses in the peace agreement. He said he would give the government an ultimatum, and if he did not receive a satisfactory response, "I, Dhlakama, will form my own army".

Several of the smaller parties allied to Renamo in the Electoral Union coalition were present at the Monument. So was the man who negotiated the peace agreement for Renamo, Raul Domingos. Domingos was expelled from Renamo in 2000, and now heads the Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD).


President calls of Post Office to mobilise savings

President Armando Guebuza on 9 October challenged the country's Post Office to operate as a savings institution and thus help transform the rural economy into business opportunities.

Speaking at a ceremony to mark World Postal Day, President Guebuza pointed out that the absence of banks means that there are parts of Mozambique where people are obliged to carry large sums of money because they have nowhere safe to put them.

The idea that there is no money in the countryside is simply false. President Guebuza noted that agro-industrial enterprises generate wealth, as do the cash crops grown by peasant farmers (such as cashew nuts, cotton and tobacco).

Unlike the banks, the Post Office does still have branches in a large number of districts. This gave it the opportunity to work as a savings institution. "The presence of this company in many corners of our country is in itself a competitive advantage", said President Guebuza. "In many places this is the only company capable of offering citizens communications and savings services".

The Post Office could stimulate "a culture of saving and investment among citizens", he added. It would thus. "In a visible and dynamic way, participate in empowering the districts as points from which development can radiate".

As for its role in communication, President Guebuza called on the Post Office to carry information and communication technologies to parts of the country where these are currently not available. It would thus contribute "to the appropriation of these technologies by more citizens, as instruments for access to knowledge and communication".

During the ceremony three new stamps were launched, inspired by this year's "Presidential Initiative Against AIDS". This brings the total number of postage stamps issued since Mozambican independence in 1975 to 1,070.


Textile factory sold to Tanzanians

The Tanzanian company METL (Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Ltd) is now the new owner of the giant, but paralysed, textile factory Texmoque, in the northern city of Nampula.

The documents formalising the transfer of ownership were signed in Maputo on 9 October by the director of the Mozambican government's Institute for the Management of State Holdings (IGEPE), Silvestre Sechene, and by the managing director of METL, Mohammed Dewji.

METL has promised to invest $20 million in acquiring new equipment and reactivating the factory. It is hoped that production will resume in 2007, with a workforce of about 400.

The handover of Texmoque was delayed for a couple of months by allegations that Sechene, and the chairman of the IGEPE board, Daniel Tembe, were each bribed $50,000 to ensure that Texmoque was awarded to the Tanzanians, rather than to the powerful Nampula business, the Gulamo Group.

The allegation was made in a lengthy article carried in late July by the weekly paper "Zambeze". The IGEPE leadership has strongly denied the allegation, and Sechene and Tembe are suing the paper, and the journalist who wrote the article, Jose Vasco da Gama, for libel.

Texmoque is privately owned, with 70 per cent of the shares held by the Portuguese Multiplier Group - owned by the Magalhaes family. The Mozambican state, represented by IGEPE, was a minority shareholder, with the remaining 30 per cent.

Contacts with METL began in 2005, and Multiplier concluded that the Tanzanians were a suitable purchaser because of METL's long experience in the textile industry, and its success in reviving paralysed textile mills in Tanzania.

Texmoque closed in 1994. At that time it was under state management. Multiplier acquired it in 1996, but proved incapable of relaunching production. METL will pay a million dollars for Texmoque.


Mittal steel takes over ruined companies

Mittal Steel South Africa signed a contract in Maputo on 6 October pledging to purchase the assets of two ruined engineering companies, the steel rolling mill, CSM, and the wire-drawing company Trefil.

The man responsible for the parlous state of these two companies, Portuguese businessman Antonio Simoes, has not set foot in Mozambique for many years. His company, EMM, bought 60 per cent holdings in the companies, when they were privatised a decade and a half ago, but never provided the promised investment. As a result both ground to a halt. CSM has been completely paralysed for the past five years, and Trefil for a year.

Mittal negotiated the deal with the Mozambican government's Institute for the Management of State Holdings, since the state still owned 40 per cent of the two companies. It has agreed to pay $11.4 million for the CSM and Trefil assets.

The deal was signed by the chairman of the IGEPE board, Daniel Tembe, Joao Garrachinho, representing CSM and Trefil, and the general manager of Mittal South Africa, Enrico Reato.

Mittal has only bought the assets - not the companies as such, and they will now be liquidated. An IGEPE spokesman assured AIM that the problem of the CSM and Trefil debts is being dealt with separately.

Tembe declared that the sale of the two factories will be important for reviving steel production in Mozambique. "This is the starting point for Mittal investment in Mozambique", he said.

Reato said that, in an initial phase, Mittal will invest $10 million, just to make the factories operational again. This phase will create about 200 jobs. He thought the two factories could be in production again in about six months.

Mittal plans to increase the current capacity to produce steel rods for the building industry at CSM, and wire, barbed wire and nails at Trefil.

Reato said his company has promised the Mozambican government that it will guarantee the sustainable and gradual development of a steel industry in the country. "Working with the government, we intend to create and develop a strong steel industry", he said.

This was his company's first project outside of South Africa, but he hoped for future expansion elsewhere in southern Africa.

Mittal South Africa is part of the Arcelor-Mittal conglomerate, which is the largest steel company in the world.

The sale of the CSM and Trefil assets brings in less than half the $20.4 million that the two companies owe the Mozambican treasury.


New regional road to cost $74 million

The provincial governments of the three southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane need to mobilise about $74 million if they are to build a new regional road that will run from Mapinhane, in Inhambane, to Pafuri, on the South African border.

That was the figure presented on 9 October at a meeting of the governors of the three provinces held in the town of Namaacha, on the border with Swaziland.

The governor of Inhambane, Lazaro Vicente, said that studies of the economic viability of the road suggested that the likely increase in traffic of passengers and goods meant that the rate of return on the project would be 19.2 per cent a year.

The road, striking straight across the interior of Inhambane and Gaza, would greatly shorten the distance between South Africa and the tourist resorts of the Inhambane coast. The most expensive single item in building the road would be a new bridge over the Limpopo River.

Not only would the new road stimulate tourism from South Africa into Mozambique, but it would also encourage the development of Mozambique's Limpopo National Park.

Parts of the road already exist (from Mapinhane to Mabote. and from Mapai to Pafuri, for example), but they need substantial investment to be upgraded to the level of a regional road.

This forum of southern governors has now been expanded to include the government of Maputo City, which was admitted as the fourth member.


Water Council discusses increasing tariffs

Companies that provide bulk water services can only become economically and financially sustainable if the bulk water rates are increased, Mozambique's National Water Council heard on 9 October.

A document from the Southern Regional Water Board (ARA-Sul) presented to the meeting pointed out that bulk water rates have not been increased for eight years. The ARA-Sul document pointed out that water companies cannot be viable, if they cannot even cover their operational, maintenance and management costs.

The current bulk water rates, it said, "do not meet the need to recover the investments made, much less cover running costs and the routine and regular maintenance of infrastructures".

ARA-Sul said that two years ago it drew up a business plan analysing in detail its real running costs, and the human, material and financial resources required if ARA-Sul "is to make a qualitative leap that results in improving services to the users and to society at large, as well as making the company self-sustaining".

Opening the meeting, the Minister of Public Works, Felicio Zacarias, stressed that it is up to the National Water Council, as a consultative body, to issue opinions on matters to be approved by the government in the domain of water policy - including tariffs.

Thus this meeting should debate the proposal from ARA-Sul for increased bulk water tariffs, as well as regulations for water licences and concessions, and a national strategy for water resource management.


Former President's house burgled

It seems that no one is immune from the current crime wave in Maputo: one of the latest victims is former President Joaquim Chissano, whose house was burgled at about 02.00 on 3 October.

According to a report in the weekly paper "Savana", the only person in the house at the time of the robbery was Chissano's daughter, Marta. She alerted the rest of the family. At the time Chissano himself was in New York, and his wife Marcelina was attending a funeral in Gaza province.

The police have given no details of the robbery - but Chissano himself is less reticent. He told a reporter from the daily newsheet "Diario de Noticias" that a variety of electrical goods had been stolen - but many had been recovered from a nearby hideout used by the criminals. The thieves themselves, however, have not been apprehended.

What makes this burglary particularly serious is that Chissano's house is in the most heavily policed part of the city, just 100 metres from the office of President Guebuza.

Within a couple of minutes walk of Chissano's house are the headquarters of the state intelligence service, SISE, the homes of Prime Minister Luisa Diogo, of the chairperson of the Mozambican parliament, Eduardo Mulembue, and the Maputo residence of former South African President Nelson Mandela and his wife Graca Machel.

As a former head of state, Chissano enjoys protection from an elite police unit, the Presidential Guard. Despite this, thieves were able to break into his house and help themselves to his property.


Precious stones seized from Malawian traffickers

At least 350 kilos of precious stones, valued at around $700,000, have been seized by the police at Chimuara, in the central province of Zambezia. The stones were seized on 27 September and it is thought that they were extracted from the western province of Tete.

According to the spokesperson of the Ministry, Afonso Mabica, the stones were seized from a group of Malawians, believed to be involved in smuggling of minerals.

A technical team from the Ministry is working on the case, trying to establish how the Malawians obtained the stones.

This is the first sizeable seizure of precious stones. Mabica admitted the government does not know the scale of the trafficking. "We're not aware of the real sums involved, but we are sure that this contraband is costing the country a lot of money", he told reporters.

The country's mineral deposits attract foreigners, and Zimbabweans, Tanzanians, Zambians, and people from as far away as Senegal, have been caught illegally panning or digging for gold in the provinces of Manica and Niassa. In Nampula province, Mabica added, traffickers are particularly interested in turmalines and aquamarines.

Mabica said that, to reverse the situation, the Ministry is stepping up its inspections, and has placed technical staff in all districts, particularly those of strategic importance for precious minerals.


First Lady calls for action against arsonists

Mozambique's First Lady, Maria da Luz Guebuza, has urged community leaders to identify those who started the bush fires that have blazed across the central province of Sofala, devastating forests and wild life.

Maria Guebuza, on a working visit to Sofala, was making her remarks in Muanza, one of the districts worst hit by fires. As in the neighbouring districts of Gorongosa and Cheringoma, the fires are set either to clear land for agriculture or to smoke out bush rats.

Guebuza said the district authorities should work with local communities to halt this indiscriminate use of fire. The bush fires were now "an enemy of our struggle against poverty".

She suggested that teachers should take a lead in changing attitudes, by explaining to pupils the damaging consequences of bush fires, so that Sofala children will grow up knowing that the use of fire for agricultural and hunting purposes will impoverish them. "If we don't teach our children right away, imagine what things will be like in ten years time", she said. "We won't have any animals, any medicinal plants, any forests left".

Guebuza suggested that Sofala residents could follow the example of Mogovolas district, in the northern province of Nampula, where firebreaks have been used to halt the spread of bush fires.

Uncontrolled bush fires in several districts of Nampula province have killed at least two people, and may have damaged prospects for the next cashew harvest. Two children at the village of Tui, in the Mutuali administrative post died in the fires, and at least 1,500 cashew trees in Moma district were destroyed. The fires have burnt down the homes of at least 250 Moma families.


Mozambique may miss demining target

Reduced donor support for demining may compromise Mozambique's efforts to meet the 2009 deadline for ending the removal of anti-personnel land mines.

Under the Ottawa treaty banning landmines, signatories have an obligation to conclude mine clearance within ten years of the treaty taking effect. In Mozambique's case, that means 2009.

The 2006 issue of the "Landmine Monitor Report", issued by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), and released in Maputo on 3 October, notes that at the meeting of parties to the treaty in Zagreb last November, "Mozambique said that the withdrawal of donors and demining operators caused concern regarding accomplishment of the 2009 deadline, as it is not in a position to conduct the demining programme by itself".

Nonetheless, a great deal of progress has been made. According to the report, the British non-governmental organisation, the Halo Trust, has stated that the four provinces where it operates (Niassa, Nampula, Zambezia and Cabo Delgado), "will be considered mine impact-free" by the end of this year.

However "mine impact-free" is not quite the same thing as the treaty demand that the territory of its signatories should become "mine free". It leaves open the possibility that there will still be "residual" mines in some remote areas.

Data from the government's National Demining Institute (IND) suggests that an average of 5.5 million square metres a year has been cleared since 2000. The report notes, however, that the real area contaminated by mines may be much smaller than was once believed.

The figure of "two million" mines buried in the Mozambican soil, which was so often bandied about in the mid-1990s, with no credible source, has been abandoned, and estimates of the area affected have been sharply reduced.

A Landmine Impact Survey of 2001 identified 1,374 "suspected mined areas" (SMAs), affecting almost 1.5 million people. But subsequent research found this to be far too high.

The figures have been continually refined, and the IND data for late 2005 suggest there were only 353 SMAs remaining, affecting about 578,000 people in 174 communities. These SMAs cover a total area of 149 square kilometres.

That is still a lot of ground to cover with the meticulous, and time-consuming procedures involved in demining. However, even this figure may be a considerable over-estimate.

A UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) technical advisor cited in the report noted "given that since 2001, of the 423 square kilometres visited by operators, only 17.5 square kilometres needed clearance, it can be assumed, with caution, that the remaining 149 square kilometres that need clearance may turn out to be only six square kilometres".

If this is the case, then ending mine clearance by 2009 looks like a realistic target. The Mozambican government has reiterated that it is fully committed to that goal - but still needs foreign assistance to meet it.

The IND figures for 2005 are that 11.3 square kilometres of land were cleared that year, destroying 36,613 mines and 299 other items of unexploded ordnance. But there is a serious discrepancy between the IND's figures and those of the demining operators themselves: if the individual operators' figures are added up the total only comes to 3.9 square kilometres - which is less than the 4.9 square kilometres cleared in 2004.

But the discrepancy is less serious in terms of what was found and destroyed: the operators' figures come to 36,767 anti- personnel mines, three anti-tank mines, and 1,063 items of unexploded ordnance.

Interestingly enough, the vast majority (36,494) of these mines were not laid by either the Mozambican government or by the Renamo rebels during the war that ended in 1992. They were mines laid by the Portuguese army in the northern province of Cabo Delgado during the war for the country's independence.

The IND statistics cited in the report indicate that there were 23 explosions of mines in 2005, resulting in the deaths of 21 civilians and two sappers. 31 civilians and three sappers were injured.

This is a significant increase on the three deaths and 27 injuries in 13 incidents reported in 2004. But this may simply be due to better reporting.

The ICBL believes that, in most mine-affected countries, many explosions are not reported, and so the figures for the real number of victims could be significantly higher than the IND's statistics.


Local treasurer sentenced to 12 years

A court in the western province of Tete has sentenced a local government official to 12 years imprisonment for the theft of about 260 million old meticais (about $10,400).

The money was mostly provided by the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC) to purchase maize to support 35,000 people affected by hunger in the southern parts of Tete during the 2004-05 drought.

The funds went missing, and the judge, Luis Mabote Junior, of the Tete provincial law court, said it had been proven that the main architect of the theft was Jose Manjolo, who at the time was treasurer of the Zambue administrative post, in Zumbo district.

In addition to the 12 years imprisonment, Manjolo must repay the money he stole. The greater part of this was from the INGC, but 25 million meticais was for wages of civil servants in Zambue.

Mabote acquitted four other people charged with the theft, including the head of the Zambue post, Jose Chocolo, for lack of evidence.

 


This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact aim@aim.org.mz


email: Mozambique News Agency


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