Mozambique News Agency
On 2 March a helicopter began the task of airlifting food aid to Grudje for victims of flooding on the Buzi river in the central province of Sofala. The helicopter, with a 2.5 tonne capacity, was hired from Kenya by the World Food Programme (WFP), to fly food from the city of Beira because flood waters have rendered all road and river transport to Grudje impossible.
The National Emergency Operations Centre (CENOE), based in Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi river, reported that about 12,000 people have been directly affected by the floods in Buzi, 1,966 of whom are currently taking shelter in accommodation centres.
For the rescue operations, the relevant authorities have already sent a motorboat and fuel to the area. The country's relief agency, National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), says that the flood situation in Buzi is under control, and the waters are subsiding.
According to INGC deputy director Joao Ribeiro, food distribution, digging latrines and identifying resettlement areas in Grudje will start sitaneously.
The flooding on the Buzi followed heavy rains brought by cyclone Favio. As the government downgraded the alert in the flooded Zambezi Valley from red to orange, new flooding was reported on the Buzi river.
The rise in the Buzi caused flooding in the districts of Chibabava, Sussundenga, and in Buzi town.
A multi-sector team, headed by Joao Ribeiro, and including representatives of the WFP, the Civil Protection Unit, and the Sofala Public Works directorate, visited the affected areas. By then rescue teams had already brought to safety hundreds of people whose houses had been submerged. Schools were closed, and roads leading to Buzi town were cut by the floodwaters.
More than 1,700 people, including 900 children, were rescued in an operation involved marines of the Mozambican armed forces, using eight boats, some of which the INGC had moved from the Zambezi valley, where they had earlier been involved in similar work.
Joao Ribeiro praised local authorities for their prompt response, which allowed a quick evacuation of the affected people to safer areas. Ribeiro said that the main work now is to organize the accommodation centres and other complementary actions, which calls for more boats and more staff, food, and helicopters if the need arises.
EU donates €2 million for cyclone victims
The European Union is donating €2 million ($2.7 million) to assist victims of cyclone Favio. This money is to be used in providing basic assistance to the victims, particularly shelter, drinking water, sanitation and hygiene products to prevent the outbreak of diseases, emergency medical care, and basic domestic utensils.
EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, pointed out that "Mozambique suffered two hard blows in quick succession. Just two weeks after 120,000 people were displaced by floods caused by torrential rains, the country has now suffered the effects of a tropical cyclone".
He praised the Mozambican government's prompt action to deal with the situation, saying that "good emergency planning by the Mozambican authorities has been immensely helpful, but after a storm of such magnitude, there are obviously people who need assistance. With this speedy decision we intend to provide aid to those people as quickly as possible".
The European Commission is also sending to the affected area a plane carrying emergency food aid provided by the United Nations and the Red Cross. A team of EU experts is visiting Vilankulo, the town that suffered the worst effects of the cyclone, to assess needs, and coordinate with humanitarian organizations.
This money comes on top of a similar sum for emergency aid, that the European Commission disbursed earlier to assist the victims of floods in the Zambezi Valley.
The European Commission money is being managed by United Nations agencies, the Red Cross, NGOs, and other partners.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry has allocated seven million crowns (about $1.1 million US dollars) in emergency assistance for the flood and cyclone victims. These funds will be channelled through the Norwegian Red Cross, and will mostly be used to set up a mobile health unit.
Figures recently released suggest that the number of people in Maputo with the HIV virus that causes AIDS is much higher than expected, with almost a third of the people who attended the Counselling and Voluntary Testing Centres (GATVs) in Maputo city last year being found to be HIV-positive.
According to the coordinator for the Maputo nucleus of the National Council for the Struggle against AIDS, Samuel Quive, 38,303 people attended the Maputo GATVs in 2006. Of these, 12,709 tested positive for HIV.
The alarmingly high figures have occurred despite efforts to prevent the spread of the HIV virus. Quive said that last year a total of 407,383 condoms (male and female) were distributed in Maputo. 97,326 information, education and communication items were distributed among the city's communities, and 505 "peer educators" were trained in HIV/AIDS and life skills.
As for mitigating the effects of the disease, 131 HIV positive people were counselled on how to lead "a positive life", and 783 others benefited from home care. The Maputo nucleus provided training for 151 orphaned and vulnerable children, and supplied school uniform for 220 others.
Quive pledged that in the coming year "we shall continue with income generating programmes, providing support for women who are heads of household, and direct support for orphans and vulnerable children".
The latest reliable figures on HIV prevalence rates come from the 2004 epidemiological surveillance round. This showed that 20.7 per cent of people in Maputo city aged between 15 and 49 were HIV-positive, considerably higher than the national average of 16.2 per cent.
Mozambican cashew producers have sold 75,997 tonnes of nuts so far this season - which beats the target set by the government's National Cashew institute (INCAJU) by one per cent.
Speaking to reporters in Maputo on 1 March, INCAJU Director Filomena Maiopue said that the vast majority of the nuts (68,829 tonnes) were sold in the northern provinces, particularly in Nampula and Cabo Delgado.
"The campaign in this part of the country is almost over, and there remain just small amounts to be exported through the port of Nacala", she said. "In the south, the campaign is still under way, and so far 7,100 tonnes have been sold".
Some provinces exceeded their targets - thus in Zambezia, 12,133 tonnes were marketed, as against a target of 10,000 tonnes.
However, according to figures up to the first half of February, in the largest cashew-producing province, Nampula, only 42,000 tonnes were sold when the target was 45,000 tonnes. This may be connected to storms in Nampula in 2006, in which high winds destroyed many cashew flowers. Nampula was also badly hit by uncontrolled bush fires that destroyed many cashew trees.
These factors at one point led INCAJU to take the pessimistic view that marketing in Nampula was unlikely to exceed 35,000 tonnes.
Maiopue said that so far 16,000 tonnes of unprocessed nuts have been exported (to India) from Nacala, and the figure is expected to rise to 20,000 tonnes.
The marketing campaign in the south continues until the end of March, and Maiopue expected Inhambane and Gaza provinces to exceed their targets.
This year 2,400 tonnes of nuts have so far been exported from Maputo port, and Maiopue expected further exports.
Export prices were low at the start of the marketing season, due to reports (apparently false) that the Indian processing plants already had huge stocks of raw nuts, and that there was a large surplus in west Africa as well. Rumours were also spread that there would be exceptional cashew harvests in Tanzania and Indonesia - all of which helped push down the price of the nuts.
But at this stage, the Indian factories have used up all their stocks of nuts, which is leading to higher export prices.
In the 2005-06 marketing campaign, Mozambique exported 26,349 tonnes of unprocessed nuts (out of the total of 62,821 tonnes produced). This earned the country $14.6 million.
In that season, 21,943 tonnes were sold to Mozambique's own processing plants. This year it was expected that the Mozambican plants would purchase up to 30,000 tonnes of the nuts.
However, of the 13 plants that were operating last year, two of them (in Nampula) may cease working this year, mainly for lack of money to purchase the raw materials.
Prices paid to producers for the nuts varied between six and eight meticais a kilo (at current exchange rates, there are about 25.8 meticais to the US dollar). This is a slight decline on last year, when prices were between seven and eight meticais a kilo.
The President of the Mozambican Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze, gave an optimistic view of the state of the country's legal system when he officially opened the 2007 judicial year on 1 March, pointing to a significant growth in court activities over the previous year.
Last year the law courts handed down 101,383 sentences, an increase of 47.5 per cent over 2005. The backlog was also reduced by shelving 27,810 cases, regarded as closed for various reasons. This resulted, Mangaze said, from checking pending cases and eliminating those, which, for whatever motive, can no longer come to trial.
The end result was that the provincial law courts start the 2007 judicial year with a backlog of 68,433 cases - a considerable improvement on the situation a year ago, when the number of pending cases was 102,452.
The Supreme Court itself concluded 526 cases (mostly appeals) in 2006 - which was a 65.9 per cent increase on the 317 cases heard in 2005, and the backlog in the Supreme Court is beginning to decline slightly.
The courts labour under a severe shortage of trained staff. Mangaze said there are just 221 judges in the entire country, of whom only 138 have law degrees. Only 189 judges are actually working in the courts (22 are full time students, and 10 have been allowed to work elsewhere). The number of judges in the courts covers just 36 per cent of the needs, said Mangaze.
As for disciplinary matters, Mangaze said that the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature (CSMJ) had dealt with 17 cases, one of which led to the expulsion of a judge. In three other cases lower ranking court officials were expelled. He gave no details of these cases or the names of those involved.
Mangaze also claimed a dramatic change in the composition of the prison population. In previous years the majority of inmates of Mozambican jails have been detainees - that is those awaiting trial. In 2006, this changed, and only 36 per cent of the inmates were pre-trial detainees, while 64 per cent were serving sentences.
In the coming year, Mangaze said, the priorities were to conclude the redrafting of an "integrated Strategic Plan" for the justice system, to set up a joint monitoring system for the entire legal sector, to strengthen "mechanisms of sector coordination", and to draw up a "vision of justice".
In the courts themselves, Mangaze expected monitoring of judges' performance, inspection to ensure that legal deadlines in handling cases are met, and the approval of a "a national plan on integrity in the judiciary".
Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has pledged that, despite its disagreement with the amended election laws passed in December by the Assembly of the Repubic, it will take part in all future elections.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, in the weekly paper "Zambeze", attacked President Armando Guebuza for promulgating the three laws - but added "we shall continue to work normally to face the successive electoral challenges that are approaching".
Dhlakama stated that the ruling Frelimo Party had passed the electoral laws by "the dictatorship of the majority".
Despite his misgivings, Dhlakama said, "we have to draw up our plans and encourage the entire people to register as voters we have to teach them how to vote, and convince everyone to vote, so as to avoid abstentions".
Dhlakama saw no reason to boycott the forthcoming elections - because in his view that was precisely what Frelimo wanted. So he had decided to act "as if nothing had happened, and I shall work normally".
Dhlakama said he would talk to representatives of civil society who, under the new laws, will form the majority on the CNE. He said he did not want to be tricked by "members of parties, who even hold positions in parties, but afterwards appear disguised as civil society. I don't want any more of this".
The publicly owned Mozambique Airports Company (ADM) needs about $170 million to carry out its three-year development plan to improve infrastructures in all airports across the country.
Of this amount, ADM has only promises of $21 million by the Danish Agency for International development (DANIDA) for airports in the central region.
ADM is currently investing $2 million from its own funds to improve the runway of the Vilankulo airport, in the southern Inhambane province, but the work needs a further $10 million.
According to the chairperson of the ADM board of directors, Diodino Cambeza, the company is negotiating with commercial banks for a $70 million loan to modernise and expand the Maputo international airport.
Although these and other funds are not yet available, Cambeza believes that the works will start within this first half of 2007. 'These are three year projects that must be completed by 2009', he said.
He said that the airport of Pemba, the capital of the northern Cabo Delgado province, needs funding estimated at $60 million. The Nacala military aerodrome will also need work to adapt it to also serve civil aviation.
ADM manages 19 airports across the country.
President Armando Guebuza on 27 February swore into office the new Minister of Agriculture Erasmo Muhate.
President Guebuza declared that the agriculture ministry has the vital task of leading a Mozambican "Green Revolution" to fight against hunger and to create more jobs. Among the factors involved in a Green Revolution, he added, are the production of improved seeds, the supply of fertilisers, the improvement of irrigation systems, and the transformation of subsistence farmers into commercial farmers.
Muhate's chief qualification is that for years he has dealt with the business side of agriculture, and the delicate negotiations between cotton companies and the peasant farmers who grow most of the country's cotton.
Muhate told reporters that his commitment is to lead agricultural companies and farmers to produce more, which implies attracting more operators into the agricultural sector, and making available more support to the existing ones.
Muhate wanted to see a leap in agricultural technique, replacing hoes with ox-drawn ploughs, and eventually with full-scale mechanisation.
President Guebuza also swore into office Filipe Couto and Luis Antonio Ferrao as the vice-chancellors of the Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM) and the newly created Lurio University.
President Guebuza stressed the role and place of higher education in the fight against poverty, reiterating that universities must think critically and bring about solutions and strategies for eradicating poverty.
"Universities must deepen the link between theory and practice", he said, "promoting informed research, and diversifying opportunities for students to expose themselves to reality".
The President was confident that the new appointees would continue the work started by their predecessors, stressing the role of former UEM vice-chancellor Brazao Mazula in improving the performance of higher education. President Guebuza noted that Mazula had worked to increase the number of courses offered, to design and implement scholarship programmes, to increase the number of graduates in quantity and quality, to improve the academic level of teachers and to design and implement the UEM Strategic Plan.
Mazula's term of office had expired and his departure from the Vice-Chancellor's office comes as no surprise. However, the decision to appoint Filipe Couto, a radical catholic priest, has shocked some.
The University Council had met to discuss the succession to Mazula, and put forward three names for President Guebuza's consideration. They were the current Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Orlando Quilambo, the head of the UEM history department, Benigna Zimba, and the prominent linguist Armindo Ngunga. But President Guebuza rejected all three names and looked outside of the UEM.
Filipe Couto was the first Vice-Chancellor of the Catholic University of Mozambique, which is based in Beira, and currently he is an advisor to Education Minister Aires Aly. Couto is on the nationalist wing of the Mozambican Catholic Church, and has never disguised his anti-colonial and anti-fascist positions. He supported the liberation movement, Frelimo, at a time when Portuguese Catholic bishops were giving their blessing to the colonial army in its attempt to shore up Lisbon's rule over its African colonies.
President Guebuza also appointed biologist Jorge Ferrao, former coordinator of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, as Vice-Chancellor of Lurio University, a new public university that will be set up in the northern province of Nampula.
A new Code of Conduct is to take effect this year in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in an attempt to prevent the riotous behaviour that has marred previous parliamentary sittings.
The idea for such a code has been mooted for some time, but on 27 February the spokesperson for the Assembly's governing board, its Standing Commission, Mateus Katupha, told reporters it would definitely come into force this year.
"There are reprehensible situations that the Assembly's standing orders do not envisage", said Katupha. "Thus, we came to the conclusion that there is a need to adopt more severe measures to educate those deputies who jeopardise the Assembly's activities".
The most recent such "reprehensible situation" occurred in December, when opposition deputies disrupted the parliamentary sitting in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the passage of amended electoral laws.
Members of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition shouted, chanted, danced in the aisles, banged on the tables, and blew whistles.
The very fact of being an elected
deputy "is, in itself, an additional responsibility" involving respect
for the state and for the electorate, which is simply ignored by some deputies,
according to Katupha.
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email: Mozambique News Agency
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