Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza on 13 April insisted that if the struggle against poverty is to be crowned with success then everything must be done to comply to the full with the plans drawn up by the central, provincial and district governments. President Guebuza was speaking in the central city of Quelimane, at the start of a tour that will take him to several districts in Zambezia province.
The President spoke at an extraordinary meeting of the provincial government, after the provincial governor, Carvalho Muaria, reported on the province's achievements in 2006.
President Guebuza was clearly unhappy that not everything planned for that year had been implemented, notably in the construction of tarred roads, and of houses in the districts. It made no sense, he said, that year after year the government had to report failure to carry out its own plans. "We have to do all in our power so that we are able to carry out what we ourselves have planned", he stressed. "Otherwise we will have to study to see what it is that has been failing". Failure to carry out plans "may be proof that we are planning badly".
He drew attention to the fact that a common strand in reports presented to him in several parts of the country had been a certain triumphalism, and a tendency to camouflage what the local government had not been able to do. An example of this practice was to compare what had been done one year, with what had been achieved the previous year. But the simple fact that more had been done than in the last year did not mean that targets were being met.
President Guebuza stressed that what had to be assessed was compliance with what had been promised for the year - only then should officials draw comparisons with previous years.
Speaking to reporters, President Guebuza said that in the next two months he plans to visit all the country's provinces, to see whether or not the government's five-year programme is being implemented. "During this trip I shall make a detailed assessment, to see whether our five-year programme is or is not being complied with", explained the President. "I want to see what changes have happened in the districts over the last two years, whether these changes have been positive or negative. I want to see how the new bodies we set up in the districts are functioning, since we have defined the districts as the poles for the country's economic development".
President Guebuza added that he also intended to express his solidarity with those citizens who have been affected by the natural disasters that hit the country earlier this year.
The production of raw cotton in Mozambique reached 122,282 tonnes in the 2005/06 campaign, the highest figure for 35 years. Data from the Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM) compares this figure to that of the previous campaign, 2004/05, which was only 78,683 tonnes.
IAM attributes this growth to the increase in the number of peasant families involved in cotton production and to improved productivity that reached 576 kilos per hectare in the last campaign.
The highest production of all time was recorded in the 1972/73 campaign, when the harvest reached 144,061 tonnes. This was under colonial rule, when Mozambique was treated as a source of cheap cotton for the Portuguese textile industry. For much of the colonial epoch peasants were forced to cultivate cotton.
IAM states that 20,931 tonnes of cotton fibre from the last campaign have already been sold, earning $25.86 million.
For the 2006/07 campaign, the authorities are predicting production of about 121,000 tonnes of raw cotton. This slight decline is explained by late rains in some cotton growing areas, and by problems encountered in marketing the cotton produced in the previous campaign. Left with unsold cotton on their hands, because the concessionary companies who were supposed to purchase it did not do so, some farmers lost their motivation.
In some districts of the northern provinces of Nampula and Cabo Delgado provinces, peasants are threatening to stop producing cotton altogether until the marketing problems are solved.
The Commission, appointed on 23 March, consisted of three judges, Antonio Pale, the President of the Administrative Tribunal, Augusto Paulino, the Presiding Judge of the Maputo City Court, and Benvinda Levi, Director of the Judicial Training Centre. The three judges gave their report to President Guebuza on 8 April.
The Commission suggested that the disaster, in which at least 103 people lost their lives, and 515 were injured, was caused by a combination of factors, including the obsolescence of the material stored in the arsenal, the conditions of storage and conservation, exposure to the elements (sun, rain, heat and cold), and human error.
Thus the Commission politely discarded the Ministry of Defence's immediate explanation that the arsenal blew up because 22 March was a hot day.
The Commission thought it "acceptable to link causes connected with the conditions of storage and conservation, climatic conditions, and the useful life of the artefacts with the lack of technical inspections and the manifest irregularity of visual inspection visits, and, finally, the failure to observe rules appropriate to guarding and maintaining military material".
But the Commission found no evidence to suggest that the explosions were caused by fire, by sabotage, or by attempts to extract mercury from the projectiles stored in the arsenal. The theory that the arsenal blew up because soldiers were tampering with weaponry in order to extract mercury was published last week in the paper "Magazine Independente". But the Commission found no sign that any of the munitions contained mercury.
The Commission says that it visited the arsenal, interviewed the soldiers stationed there on 22 March, senior officials in the armed forces and the Defence Ministry, and was granted access to "pertinent documentation".
It concluded that, as soon as the first explosions took place, soldiers on the observation tower gave the alarm. Those explosions took place in a warehouse that had no roof. The soldiers on duty tried to find out what was going on, but were driven back by the intensity of the explosions. They sought assistance from the fire brigade, who were also unable to approach the blazing warehouse.
No members of the Ministry's technical military team were available - ironically on that day they were involved in tasks concerned with the destruction of obsolete material.
The Commission discovered that the military did not know the useful life of the munitions stored in the arsenal because they did not have manuals for them.
Inspections consisted of simply looking at the boxes containing munitions (or at the munitions that were not in boxes). The soldiers carrying out this task had no technical support, and no attempt was made to verify the contents of the boxes and check the state of conservation of whatever they contained.
The Commission recommended "rigorous compliance with the rules and procedures for the storage and conservation of military artefacts", and regular inspections. It also called for "a survey of the real situation, in each arsenal, of the artefacts under guard", and the destruction of all obsolete weaponry.
The statement from President Guebuza's office containing these findings added that the President agrees with them and that the recommendations from the three judges "will be taken into account in the organisational measures now under way".
President Guebuza has instructed the government "to speed up the destruction of obsolete munitions and the transfer of the arsenals, throughout the country, to more appropriate places, and to guarantee their security".
The President also told the government to continue providing support for the people affected by the explosions, to ensure "the rapid normalisation of their lives".
The Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, has resumed the destruction of obsolete weapons taken from the Malhazine arsenal. This destruction began on 2 April, at an isolated area in Moamba district, some 60 kilometres north west of Maputo.
The spokesperson for the Ministry, Joaquim Mataruca, said this phase in the destruction of obsolete material should be complete by mid-May.
The Mozambican police have announced that in 2006 they recovered 259 stolen vehicles in Maputo City in a number of operations against gangs of vehicle thieves. These cars were among 474 vehicles reported stolen in 2006, a decline from the 720 reported stolen in 2005.
Maputo city police spokesperson Abilio Quive said that the police last year also seized from criminals 831 rounds of ammunition, 28 motorbikes, 349 mobile phones, 72 television sets, more than 7,000 kilos of cocaine, 850 kilos of cannabis, four kilos of the drug mandrax, 10 kilos of heroin, 7,000 US dollars, 1.3 million Zimbabwean dollars, over 11,000 rands, and 1.5 million meticais (about $60,000).
He said that the police recorded 11,211 crimes in Maputo last year, compared with 10,476 in 2005. The police have identified the criminals in 655 cases of theft, 283 of which were committed with the use of firearms.
Commenting on discipline within the police, Quive said that disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against 128 police officers accused of offences such as abandoning their positions, drunkenness on duty, and association with gangs of criminals.
Mozambique's main mobile phone company, the publicly-owned M-Cel, has pledged to support the Millennium Villages Programme by creating conditions for residents of the villages to gain access to new information and communication technologies.
M-Cel has promised to invest 1.5 million meticais (about $60,000) a year in installing computer rooms and Internet access in the Technological Transfer and Human Development Centres to be set up in each millennium village.
A memorandum of understanding establishing this was signed in Maputo on 2 April between M-Cel and the Ministry of Science and Technology. The arrangement is valid for three years.
M-Cel will also ensure that the communities living in the villages have access to mobile phone services. A joint team from the company and the Ministry will be set up, and should be implementing the agreement within three months.
The chairperson of the M-Cel board, Rui Fernandes, told the ceremony that M-Cel's role as one of the foremost promoters of information technology in the country was a determinant factor in creating this partnership. "We have been concerned to bring these technologies to the most remote communities, through the gradual extension of the mobile network", he said.
He thought it necessary to establish appropriate conditions to overcome the obstacles hindering the public's access to new technologies. This, he believed, would help the country attain the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The Millennium Village Project is the brainchild of Columbia University's Earth Institute, headed by renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, who was special adviser to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the MDGs. The project describes its goal as "ending extreme poverty, one village at a time".
The project document states "the core idea of Millennium Villages is that villages of approximately 5,000 people will escape from extreme poverty, if they are empowered with proven and practical technologies to improve their farm productivity, health, education and access to markets".
It focuses on "empowering individual African villages to achieve the MDGs by implementing a comprehensive set of community-based, low cost and integrated rural development strategies.
Among the interventions proposed
are improved agricultural techniques to increase crop yields dramatically; investments
to receive the burden on women, such as improved access to water and wood fuel,
accessible clinics and mills for grain; free daily school lunches using locally
produced food to support children's nutrition, and provide an incentive for
parents to keep them at school; distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets
to combat malaria; and off-grid energy, water and information technologies.
Results from the first two villages - at Sauri in Kenya, and Kararo in Ethiopia - were highly encouraging, and when Sachs visited Mozambique in June last year, the Mozambican government proposed to set up one pilot Millennium Village in each province.
So far only one exists - in the Samora Machel neighbourhood on the outskirts of Chibuto municipality in the southern province of Gaza.
There are immediate prospects for creating two more, in the north of the country - in Monapo and Nangade districts (in Nampula and Cabo Delgado provinces respectively).
President Armando Guebuza on 5 April laid the first stone in the project to modernize Maputo international airport. The undertaking, budgeted at $75 million, will be carried out by the Chinese company "An Hui Foreign Economic Construction Corporation" (AFECC).
"Within approximately 20 months there will be a powerful building standing here, an outstanding architectural reference point in our country", declared President Guebuza, addressing dozens of guests and government officials, who took part in the event, which was preceded by a traditional ceremony to appease the spirits of the land to allow smooth work on the site.
President Guebuza stated "modernizing and expanding the airport is not, in itself, synonymous with the development of Mozambique". Nonetheless, the airport had a great deal of potential to participate in development, as part of "a range of complementary, coordinated and synchronised activities".
President Guebuza noted that with the modernization of the airport, Mozambique would be in a better position to take advantage from the large number of tourists who will visit the region in 2010 because of the football World Cup to be held in South Africa.
He hoped that visitors to Mozambique in 2010 would spread the news of the country as a tourism and investment destination.
The airport, which was built about 45 years ago, is to be expanded to cater for 900,000 passengers a year, compared with the current 300,000, said the chairperson of the board of the state airport company, ADM, Diodino Cambaza.
The new terminal will have five telescopic gates allowing direct access to aircraft: currently access is simply by walking across the tarmac.
The existing domestic passenger terminal will be converted into a shopping area, a new VIP pavilion will be built, and the airport car park will be expanded.
One of Maputo's least loved landmarks, the unfinished and derelict "Four Seasons" hotel, disappeared forever on 31 March, brought down in a controlled implosion. The successful operation lasted for just 13 seconds. A sound like a thunderclap could be heard, and the building collapsed upon itself.
Lopes Pereira, chairperson of the Four Seasons Property Company, which holds the lease on the site, told reporters that the demolition cost $600,000. He said the next stage will be to remove the rubble - which will be more expensive ($1.2 million) and could take up to five months.
Once the site is clear, new premises for the United States embassy, and a tourism and office complex will be built there. Pereira said this construction could begin in early 2008. However, the deal is not entirely done: Pereira said negotiations are still under way between the company and the US embassy.
When designed in the colonial era, the "Four Seasons" was intended to be the grandest hotel in what was then Lourenco Marques. But it turned into a gigantic eyesore towering above the nearby beach.
The original owner was the South African Four Seasons hotel chain. Its plan for a 340-room luxury hotel, with a view over Maputo Bay, was drawn up in 1969. By 1974, the structure of the hotel was complete, including the plumbing, electricity and sewers. But that year Portuguese colonialism collapsed, and in September the new Portuguese government signed the Mozambican independence agreement with the liberation movement, Frelimo.
The Four Seasons group and their Portuguese partners rapidly lost interest in its Maputo investment, and construction halted.
Since then a series of companies have expressed an interest in the hotel, some even signing agreements with the government, but they have all given up.
Then, in 2004, the new Four Seasons Company was formed and has entered into detailed negotiations with the US administration, who want a secure site away from the bustle of central Maputo.
The governor of the northern province of Nampula, Felismino Tocoli, has warned that there must be a clearer approach on how to use the seven million meticais ($280,000) allocated by the central government last year to every district, if this money is to serve the objective of local development.
Cited in "Noticias", Tocoli was reacting to reports of abuse of these funds in some Nampula districts. In Erati district, for example, the local administration is failing to recover 15,000 meticais loaned to a local businessman who presented a development project, but later failed to honour his promise.
During a visit to Erati and Nacaroa districts, Tocoli said the district authorities should not apply the money as if they were banks.
He stressed that it is also important to understand that granting this money does not mean that the district and provincial governments are now freed from their obligations to finance public works or rehabilitate public infrastructures.
"What we want is that money to be well and correctly used within the district. For instance, the building or rehabilitation of public infrastructures must be awarded to local contractors, so to allow local development", he said.
Commenting on the situation he found in the two districts, Tocoli said "I believe there has been a transparent management of the funds in the Nampula districts, because in general, the decisions for using the money are being taken in a participatory manner, through the Consultative Councils. But we still feel that clear information is needed in order that the districts know what is the objective of allocating these funds".
Tocoli added that this money is for generating wealth and capacity in the districts so that they may become relatively self-sufficient, both in implementing their own projects and funding actions to speed up their development.
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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