Mozambique News Agency
President Guebuza urged all Mozambican to give of their best in 2007 so that more schools and health units may be built, more citizens may have access to clean drinking water, and more jobs may be created.
This would also be a year, he said, when more of the country should benefit from the electricity generated by the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi, an undertaking that will, under the agreement signed with Portugal in October, shortly be under majority Mozambican ownership.
Summarising 2006, President Guebuza said it was a year when "national unity, self-esteem and the patriotic spirit were strengthened; the culture of peace and the spirit of inclusion and tolerance were promoted; and the institutions of culture and of democracy were strengthened".
"Throughout 2006, we also guaranteed macro-economic and financial stability, an important factor in stimulating economic and social activity", said the President.
He stressed that in 2006, the government had launched the second phase of an ambitious public sector reform programme, seeking to make the state apparatus more responsive to the needs of citizens, and the debate had been launched around a "Vision of Justice" with the purpose of building a speedier, more transparent, and more just legal system.
"The fight against hunger was at the centre of our attentions in 2006", said the President, pointing to the construction and rehabilitation of irrigation schemes, greater use of rain water harvesting systems, and the promotion of the plant jatropha, from which bio-diesel can be extracted. President Guebuza stressed the potential of jatropha in reducing imports of kerosene and diesel.
President Guebuza also noted that 2006 had been a year of decentralisation, with the rural district defined as the key planning unit. For the first time, there had been direct allocation of funds from the state budget to districts for local development projects.
In 2006, the funds involved were seven million meticais (about $280,000) per district, and the government has pledged to increase the sums in 2007.
Despite the economic advances made, President Guebuza expressed serious concern at the worsening AIDS epidemic. "HIV/AIDS is killing many Mozambicans", he declared. "Every day the number of people infected and affected by this pandemic grows larger. Each of us must act against this disease".
"We must fight against stigmatisation and discrimination against those infected by the virus", he said, stressing that such discrimination "is foreign to our culture".
"We must encourage voluntary HIV testing", added President Guebuza, "because if the infection is discovered earlier, there are great possibilities of prolonging the patients' lives".
The Mozambican electricity company (EDM) has managed to reach about 80,000 new consumers this year - 10,000 more than the target.
According to the chairperson of the EDM board of directors, Manuel Cuambe, the plan for next year is to invest $18.5 million to improve the quality of service, to electrify more urban and rural areas, and to extend the service to at least 70,000 new consumers.
Cuambe described 2006 as a year of major achievements, with EDM investing about $12 million dollars to expand the grid, and improve its services. The total annual investment amounted to about $50 million when including the contributions from EDM's foreign partners, such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, and the Swedish, Norwegian, and German governments. Some of these partners have already pledged financial assistance for 2007.
Assembly of the Republic
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 20 December passed the second and final reading of amended electoral legislation, despite deputies of the main opposition party, Renamo, staging aggressive protests in the parliamentary chamber.
The three bills that make up the electoral legislation had been drafted and submitted by the Parliamentary Commission on Agriculture, Regional Development, Public Administration and Local Power, with additional work by the leaderships of the parliamentary groups in an attempt to reach further consensus.
However, there were still 41 articles that were disputed, and the Assemblys Standing Commission had proposed that each of these articles be voted on in the plenary sitting. As each vote was taken, the result would be incorporated into the final law.
Renamo rejected this methodology, with Jose Manteigas complaining that "this isn't the usual methodology, we don't have a basic text".
Alfredo Gamito, chairperson of the Agriculture Commission, exclaimed "the basic texts were distributed over a week ago! And there is a list from the two leaderships of what is consensual and what isn't".
Once the Assembly began voting on the amendments, and Frelimo won the first vote by 158 to 70, Renamo disrupted the proceedings. When parliamentary chairperson Eduardo Mulembue moved to the next amendment Renamo refused to defend its own proposal, and so lost the vote by 158 to zero, with the Renamo deputies refusing to cast any vote at all.
As soon as Mulembue attempted to take a vote on the next amendment, Renamo deputies started banging on the tables. They also sabotaged the sound system by turning all their microphones on simultaneously.
Undaunted, Mulembue continued with the vote, and again Renamo refused to participate. Renamo deputies surged out of their seats and stood in front of the podium, dancing and chanting, and thrusting their fingers at the faces of those sitting in the front row.
Not all opposition deputies took part in the protests - notably Maximo Dias of MONAMO, Lutero Simango and Abel Mabunda of PCN, and Khalid Sidat of ALIMO seemed distinctly unhappy with proceedings.
Mulembue continued to take the votes. One by one the Renamo amendments were defeated, and Frelimo ones passed, by the same margin of 158 to zero.
The end result was that, despite over two hours of disruption, the three bills (on the CNE, voter registration, and the procedures for presidential and parliamentary elections) were passed, and will become law once President Armando Guebuza has promulgated them, and they are published in the official gazette, the "Boletim da Republica".
The electoral legislation will govern the elections due to be held over the next three years. Of the three laws adopted, the most important is that which establishes the National Elections Commission (CNE).
Ever since the first multi-party elections of 1994, political parties have dominated successive CNEs. Thus the CNE that ran the 2003 municipal and 2004 general elections had 19 members - 10 appointed by Frelimo, eight by the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, plus a chairperson from civil society, Rev Arao Litsuri of the Mozambique Christian Council.
Such a body proved unwieldy, and regularly collapsed into bitter disputes between Renamo and Frelimo. Some members of the CNE were chosen not because they possessed any expertise, but because of loyalty to the party machine.
The new law cuts the CNE down to 13 members (a concession by Frelimo, which had wanted no more than nine), a majority of whom will come from civil society.
There will be five members elected by the Assembly of the Republic in proportion to the number of seats each party holds (Frelimo will appoint three and Renamo two).
As for the other eight members, any legally constituted civil society body may nominate them. The nominations will go to the Assembly which will vote on them. The CNE chooses its own chairperson from the civil society members. The government appoints a 14th CNE member, who can speak at CNE meetings, but does not have the right to vote.
The CNE is supported by provincial and district election commissions, each consisting of 11 members - five appointed by the political parties (three from Frelimo and two from Renamo), and six from civil society organisations. In the event of more than six nominations, the party appointees choose which civil society representatives will sit on the commissions.
Unlike the CNE, the provincial and district commissions are not permanent bodies. The commissions will consist of 1,771 members, 805 of whom will be party appointees.
The new law defines STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat) as "a public, personalised service for election administration, represented at provincial, district and city level", charged with "organising, implementing and guaranteeing the technical and administrative activities of voter registration and elections".
STAE is permanently subordinate to the CNE, and its general director attends CNE meetings, with the right to speak, but not to vote. The director prepares documentation for CNE meetings, and must ensure that CNE decisions are carried out.
The general director is recruited publicly, and then appointed to a five-year term of office. There will no longer be two deputy directors (one from Frelimo and one from Renamo), or the vast and expensive apparatus of political appointees at all levels of STAE.
The law on voter registration abandons all previous promises that registration is something citizens need do only once.
Under earlier legislation once a citizen had registered and received a voter's card, a return to a registration brigade was only necessary if the card was lost, or if the voter has moved home to transfer registration from one constituency to another. But voter registration in Mozambique has had an unfortunate history. The electoral registers used in the 1994 general elections were not conserved properly. The damage done by insects, rats and rain forced a completely new registration of the entire electorate ahead of the 1999 elections.
That was followed by updates in 2003 and 2004, in which voter cards were given to people who had attained the voting age of 18 since 1999, or who, for whatever reason, had failed to register before. New cards were also given to citizens who had lost their original cards, and to those who had changed address.
At considerable expense the registers were computerised, but the exercise was bungled, and no single electoral roll was produced. Registers from 1999, 2003 and 2004 were all in use in the December 2004 elections. Furthermore the registers were swollen to an impossible figure of 9.14 million, largely because no system was devised for removing the names of dead voters from the rolls.
Now, rather then improve the system, voters will be obliged to re-register once every five years.
Procedures for registration are much the same as in previous laws. To obtain a voter's card a citizen must produce one of the documents normally used for identification purposes (such as identity card, passport, or driving licence).
In the absence of any of these, a birth certificate will do, or testimony by two voters already registered at the same post, or by religious or traditional authorities, or by the registration brigade itself, that the applicant is a Mozambican over the age of 18.
To deal with the problem of dead voters, the civil registry offices must send to the local branches of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) lists of deaths every month. STAE should then strike the names of the dead from the registers.
Lists of those struck off the registers (mostly because of death, but a few because of imprisonment or hospitalisation in a psychiatric institution) will be published 55 days before the election to allow protests from anyone who thinks their names have been unduly removed, or that the name of somebody who should have been removed is still there.
The law states that it is the duty of all Mozambicans aged 18 and above to register as voters. But, since there are no penalties for failing to register, it is, in practice, a voluntary act.
General election procedures
Among the major changes to Mozambican electoral procedures introduced in the new legislation is the elimination of the five per cent "barrier clause" which had meant that no party could win any seats unless it won at least five per cent of the votes cast nationally.
Minor parties are delighted that the threshold has gone - but most of them are still a very long way from securing any seats in parliament. In the 2004 election the threshold only made a difference in two of the provincial constituencies - without the threshold, the Party of Peace, Democracy and Development, led by Raul Domingos, would have won a seat in Sofala and one in Nampula.
A further change is that all presidential candidates must make a cash deposit of 100,000 new meticais (about $4,000). This is in addition to the requirement that each presidential candidate must be nominated by at least 10,000 voters. Each of those 10,000 signatures must be recognised by a notary.
A further significant change is that general elections will be held on just one day (rather than two or three, as on previous occasions), and in the dry season.
A Renamo demand that only transparent ballot boxes be used was accepted.
Provisions for the count
The amended electoral legislation maintains much the same system for counting the votes as in previous laws - but the possibility of a recount is now much clearer.
The primary count takes place at the polling stations, in full view of political party monitors, and any observers and journalists who may be present. A copy of the polling station result sheet ("edital") is then placed on the polling station wall.
Within 24 hours, a further copy of the edital, plus the ballot boxes and polling station minutes must be sent to the district elections commission. But this is only for purposes of confirmation - for immediately after the polling station count, the staff must communicate the results to the district elections commission.
The district commission then sends the results to the provincial commission, which in turn sends them to the CNE in Maputo, for purposes of a "provisional count".
If this works, and all polling stations can phone their results in, then the result of a national election can be known within 24 hours. Verbal communications from the polling stations must, however, be confirmed against the results sheets.
This new provision goes some way towards eliminating the problem of results sheets that disappear. In the final results from the 2004 elections, 699 polling stations were excluded from the presidential count, and 731 from the parliamentary count, because ink had been spilled over them in transport, because they contained insurmountable mathematical errors, or because they had simply been stolen (along with the polling station minutes which could have been used to reconstitute the results).
As in the past all votes considered invalid at the polling stations will be reconsidered - but first by the district commissions. However, later articles state that all the invalid votes will be sent, as in the past, to the CNE, which will reconsider them again.
The valid votes will be placed in sealed packets and sent to the district elections commission. They can thus be used for a recount, in the event of a protest concerning the result at that polling station.
The district commissions draw up a chart of the results, polling station by polling station, and produce an overall district result, with a district edital. The chairperson of the district commission announces the results in public, and copies of the district edital are given to party monitors, observers and journalists.
Within 24 hours, all the election documents are sent upstairs to the Provincial Elections Commission, where the tabulation process is repeated, and a provincial edital is drawn up, with copies again made available to party monitors, observers and the press.
Finally, all the editais and polling station minutes end up at the CNE, where the final results are announced. Should any editais have gone missing, the CNE chairperson must take "the necessary measures" to recover them within 24 hours.
The law makes it clear that the CNE may resort to the copies of the editais that were given to political party monitors. But this provision also existed for the 2004 election, and was, for reasons that are still unexplained, never invoked.
The CNE must announce the results within 15 days of the election. Any protests then go to the Constitutional Council, which finally validates and proclaims the results.
As in the past, if political party monitors detect any irregularity in the count, they must protest at once. The polling station staff "may not refuse to receive claims and protests, and should initial them and append them to the polling station minutes".
Appeals against the final results must be made to the CNE within two days of it completing the count, and it should decide on the appeals within a further two days.
Appeals against the CNE decision can be made to the Constitutional Council within three days of the CNE decision, and the Council has five days to decide on such appeals.
The penalties for fraudulent behaviour by polling station staff are up to a year of imprisonment for ballot box stuffing, and up to two years for falsifying the count.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama on 28 December urged all demobilised Renamo fighters to work hard to bring the party to power. Dhlakama was speaking in the central city of Quelimane, at the start of the first national conference of former Renamo fighters.
He urged his audience to "fight for the preservation of democracy", and not to be deceived by "manoeuvres" of the ruling Frelimo Party. Dhlakama claimed that Frelimo is bribing Renamo members to leave their party in exchange for money or offers of employment.
Dhlakama said that the Renamo demobilised had to draw up strategies and projects for their survival, because their integration into Mozambican society was being made difficult by Frelimo.
"This time either we survive or we die in the dungeons of Frelimo", he declared. "Frelimo is doing everything it can to destabilise us. To divide us, so that it can rule Mozambique on its own. But the time has come for us to affirm ourselves politically".
The meeting was expected to discuss the alleged forced demobilisation from the armed forces (FADM) of soldiers who had been recruited from Renamo, as well as Renamo claims that its members are being harassed, detained and even tortured.
The United States government has offered the Mozambican navy three vessels for maritime patrols, to protect the country's maritime and lake resources against illegal fishing.
The commander of the navy, Rear-Admiral Patricio Jotamo, told AIM that the vessels arrived in Mozambique on 21 December, and will be sent to naval bases at Tete, on the Zambezi, at Metangula, on Lake Niassa, and in the northern port of Nacala.
Jotamo said the American support would be important in helping minimise the looting of natural resources in Mozambican territorial waters. For example, in the waters of the Bazaruto archipelago, off the coast of the southern province of Inhambane, fleets of pirate fishing vessels help themselves to Mozambique's marine resources. They act quite openly, in the belief that nothing will happen to them.
Asian pirate vessels are hunting sharks, so that they can cut off their fins, which are a prized delicacy in Asian restaurants. But the nets they use catch everything else as well. Recently 42 dead turtles were counted in less than a month in the Bazaruto area: the turtles had been caught in the nets used by the pirates.
Helena Motta, of the Worldwide Fund For Nature, told AIM that illegal fishing for sharks is now concentrated along the coasts of countries such as Mozambique, which lack adequate naval protection.
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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