Mozambique News Agency
Thousands of Mozambican workers joined
the traditional May Day march through the streets of Maputo demanding that the
country's revised labour law should "maintain labour and union rights".
Addressing the marchers, who took two hours to pass the reviewing stand, Amos
Matsinhe, the president of the main trade union federation, the OTM, insisted
that the new labour law currently awaiting approval in the Mozambican parliament
- the Assembly of the Republic - must respect workers' existing rights.
Workers, he said, want "a society of social justice, respect for human rights, participatory democracy, and a better quality of life for all those who, with their labour and knowledge, are contributing to the reconstruction and development of Mozambique".
"We are in favour of decent and secure jobs", declared Matsinhe, "and we want wages that help give workers decent living conditions. We want a stable environment in labour relations". That, he insisted, meant there had to be dialogue in the workplaces between the employer and the workers, and respect for workers' trade union rights. The unions, he added, were also demanding an end to mass lay-offs, and to insecure terms of employment.
Matsinhe called for investment in the productive sector that would "create more jobs and generate real development, making the companies more productive and competitive on the domestic, regional and international market".
He warned that economic development and productivity could not be achieved by laying staff off, but only through "modernisation, quality, a strategic vision of areas of investment, and professional training for the work force".
Matsinhe protested that civil servants still do not enjoy trade union rights. The National Civil Service Union was set up five years ago, but is still unable to negotiate on behalf of its members, since the government has not recognised it. "Once again we demand greater commitment and dynamism from the government in defining norms for the exercise of union rights by civil servants in line with the Constitution", urged Matsinhe.
The union leader also pointed out that the long-awaited Labour Tribunals have still not been established, and as a result there is a backlog of over 12,000 labour disputes pending in the ordinary law courts.
It used to be the case that the President or the Prime Minister would address the May Day march. But last year the current government broke with that tradition. This year the central government was represented at the march by deputy labour minister Soares Nhaca, who did not speak.
Earlier in the day Labour Minister Helena Taipo urged workers to increase their production, arguing that only higher production would guarantee higher wages. She was speaking after laying a wreath at the Monument to the Mozambican Heroes, where the founder of Frelimo, Eduardo Mondlane, the country's first president, Samora Machel, and others who gave their lives for Mozambique's liberation from colonial rule are buried. "We should all contribute to greater production", Taipo told reporters. "Wages will only improve when people produce more".
This year, the May Day celebrations were held before any agreement could be reached about the annual increase in the statutory minimum wage. The matter is under discussion in the Labour Consultative Council (CCT), the tripartite negotiating forum between the government, the unions and the employers' associations. There are two proposals on the table - the unions are demanding a 17 per cent increase in the minimum wage, but the employers refuse to go above 13 per cent.
The current industrial minimum wage is just 1,443 meticais ($55.7) a month, which the unions say covers only 50 per cent of the most basic needs of a worker and his or her family.
President Armando Guebuza declared on 25 April that he was "very pleased" at the level of implementation of the government's five-year programme in the provinces (Zambezia, Tete and Niassa) he visited in April.
Speaking to reporters in the Niassa provincial capital, Lichinga, President Guebuza said that during his visits through the rural districts of the three provinces, he was able to see "that there are very visible changes in a positive direction".
Most of all he was impressed by what local people themselves had told him during the many rallies he had addressed. "People spoke with full freedom and frankness and said they were very pleased at the implementation of the programme", he said.
Furthermore the enthusiasm with which he had been received in the districts showed that this was not mere words, and that people really did believe their lives were improving.
But a persistent problem was the lack of trained staff to implement the decentralisation desired by the government. President Guebuza admitted that skilled personnel were reluctant to work in the districts without adequate incentives. He pledged that the government is adopting measures to attract such trained cadres to the districts so that they can indeed become epicentres in the battle against hunger and poverty.
The President believed that the country already possesses a substantial pool of trained manpower, but without decent housing and other material conditions, such people are not prepared to work in the districts. He wanted to see this problem overcome urgently, for without skilled staff the whole strategy for district development could be compromised.
President Guebuza added that he dreams of the day when a technical and professional school can be built in each of the 128 districts, eventually making the country self-sufficient in skilled labour.
Asked about the campaign to ensure that every Mozambican child plants at least one tree every year, President Guebuza said he had been pleasantly surprised to find that, although this is only the fourth month of the year, so far 50 per cent more trees than planned have been planted. "There's a lot of enthusiasm among the children, and we're sure that we will have many more trees planted, to give fruit and provide shade, by the end of the year", he said.
On the final day of his working visit to Niassa, President Guebuza inaugurated a new piped water supply system in the town of Unango, and a bridge over the Luchimwa river.
The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 27 April unanimously passed the first reading of a Bill to reorganise the country's law courts.
The most important change is an increase in the powers of district courts. Under the current system district courts can only try criminal cases where the maximum prison sentence is two years. Anything more serious must go to one of the 11 provincial courts. The Bill will allow second-class district courts to judge cases where the maximum penalty is eight years. First-class district courts will be empowered to hand down sentences of up to twelve years.
Districts are considered first- or second-class depending on their economic importance. Since the first-class, richer districts are where more crime is likely to occur, this is where the more experienced judges will be sent.
Justice Minister Esperanca Machavela told AIM she believed this increase in the powers of district courts would relieve the current enormous pressure on the provincial courts. When the President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze, opened the 2007 judicial year on 1 March, he announced that the provincial courts were starting the year with an enormous backlog of 68,433 cases - although this figure is daunting enough, it is rather better than the situation a year earlier, when the number of pending cases was 102,452.
The main problem in implementing this Bill, as with any other judicial reform, is the shortage of judges. There are just 221 judges in the entire country, of which only 189 are working in the courts. According to Mangaze, this covers 36 per cent of the country's needs.
The shortage of judges is the main reason why more than a quarter of Mozambique's 128 districts still possess no court. According to the Supreme Court there are still 35 districts that lack a court.
The Bill also introduces three "Higher Appeal Courts" in southern, central and northern Mozambique. Appeals in matters of fact against decisions of the provincial courts will go to the new appeal courts and not to the Supreme Court.
The new appeals courts will allow the Supreme Court to concentrate on matters of law, though it will still rule on matters of fact in those very rare cases where the accused is a Member of Parliament, a member of the government, one of the figures appointed by the President of the Republic under his constitutional powers, or senior judges and prosecutors.
In addition to professional judges, each court will have "elected judges", who must be "citizens of recognised integrity proposed by civic associations and by social, cultural and professional organisations".
The elected judges on the Supreme Court and the Higher Appeal Courts will be chosen by the Assembly of the Republic. For the provincial and district courts, the elected judges will be chosen by Provincial Assemblies, due to be elected later this year, while in major cities it will mean the municipal assemblies.
Donors have praised the Mozambican government's success in 2006 in continuing to expand health and education services across the country.
An Aide-Memoire, emerging from the annual review of performance by the government and its foreign partners who provide direct support to the state budget, noted that "access to primary education has continued to improve, and the net school attendance rate has reached 87 per cent" - somewhat higher than the target of 85 per cent. The net attendance rate for girls was 84 per cent, again surpassing the target (82 per cent).
The main challenge for education "is to improve quality", the Aide-Memoire declared, "and to achieve that an increase in teaching hours is essential". That meant ending the current system with many schools teaching three shifts a day, and ensuring that children enter school at the right age (six), rather than years later.
The document urged the construction of more schools "to reduce the distances between school and the children's homes, particularly in the countryside". The school building programme suffered a setback in 2006. Of the 1,467 new classrooms planned for the year, only 26 were completed. The rest are still under construction, in large part due to the late disbursement of funds.
As for health, the Aide-Memoire, which is the joint responsibility of the government and donors, pointed to a significant increase in the provision of the life-prolonging anti-retroviral therapy to HIV-positive Mozambicans. Over the year the number of people receiving anti-retrovirals rose from 27,000 to 44,100, and this treatment was available in 70 per cent of the country's 128 districts.
But despite the political commitment to the fight against AIDS, "government funding in the HIV/AIDS area remains low", the document noted. The allocation of state resources to the National AIDS Council (CNCS) declined for the third year running, and 90 per cent of the CNCS funds now come from foreign sources. Furthermore, the CNCS has proved unable to spend its money. Of the $28.2 million allocated to the CNCS in 2006, only $16.6 million (59 per cent) were spent.
Although the number of health units able to offer the anti-retroviral treatment that prevents transmission of the virus from mother to child rose from 82 in 2005 to 222 in 2006, the number of pregnant women benefiting from this remained small. Only 12,150 women received this prophylaxis (eight per cent of the estimated need), and as a result of this low coverage about 30,000 children were born with HIV in 2006, half of which are likely to die before they are two years old.
The Aide-Memoire also notes two alarming trends - an increase in maternal mortality, and a reduction in the percentage of births that take place in health units.
This was despite an overall improvement in access to health service. The target for 18.7 million consultations in 2006 was surpassed, and the vaccination rate for children under one year old improved.
The Aide-Memoire claims "significant progress" was made in the financial sector in 2006, but admitted that banks scarcely exist in the Mozambican countryside. The number of branches of commercial banks rose from 219 to 231 - but overwhelmingly these are in the cities, and particularly in the Maputo-Matola conurbation. Banks only exist in 28 of the 128 districts.
When it comes to private business, the Aide-Memoire notes "some advances in improving the business environment" - notably a sharp reduction in the time taken to start a business, which has fallen below the target figure of 90 days.
Mozambican sugar production could reach half a million tonnes by 2009, Prime Minister Luisa Diogo said on 19 April. She was speaking at the formal launch of the project to expand production at the Xinavane and Mafambisse sugar companies, in both of which the main shareholder is the South African Tongaat-Hulett Group.
Over the last nine years, she said, $300 million has been invested in the four operational sugar plantations and mills - at Xinavane and Maragra, in Maputo province, and at Mafambisse and Marromeu in the central province of Sofala.
The rehabilitation of these four companies, she said, "has had significant results in production, which rose from 39,000 tonnes in 1998 to 242,000 tonnes in 2006. We have the prospect of doubling this to 500,000 tonnes by 2009".
"This was the dream we had when we started to rehabilitate the sugar companies, and it's a dream that is becoming reality", Diogo declared. "It means that, when it comes to sugar, Mozambique will speak with a loud voice in the concert of nations".
The expansion of the Xinavane and Mafambisse companies will cost $177 million - $143.9 million to be invested in Xinavane and $33.1 million in Mafambisse. Most of this will come from Tongaat-Hulett, but, as a minority shareholder, the Mozambican state is investing $15 million.
With this new investment, sugar production at Xinavane is expected to rise from 61,000 tonnes in 2005 to 180,000 tonnes in 2009. With an extra 6,500 hectares planted with cane, the cane production should rise from 509,000 tonnes in 2005 to about 1,5 million tonnes in 2009.
As for Mafambisse, an extra 2,100 hectares of irrigated land will be planted with cane, and the mill here should produce 82,000 tonnes of sugar a year by 2009
Some of the sugar will be sold on the domestic market, but Tongaat-Hulett expects to sell most of the increased production in Europe. As a least developed country, Mozambique should be able to sell its sugar, free of duty or quotas, to members of the European Union, under the EBA (Everything But Arms) trade arrangements.
The expansion projects should create 6,638 new jobs in Xinavane and 2,145 in Mafambisse.
The work consists of building a new water treatment station on the Umbeluzi river, with the capacity to distribute 96,000 cubic metres of water a day, and installing a new mains pipe from the treatment station to the distribution centre in Matola.
The project will also rehabilitate 350 kilometres of piping in the distribution network, build three new distribution centres, and install 60 small-scale systems in the neighbourhoods not covered by the main system.
With two treatment stations functioning, the capacity to treat and transport water will rise from the current 144,000 to 240,000 cubic metres a day.
The project will increase the number of people in Maputo, Matola and Boane with access to clean drinking water from 630,000 to 1.5 million. By 2010 water supply coverage will increase in the urban population from the current 40 per cent to 73 per cent.
"For the government, water supply is a human development issue", the Prime Minister stated, pointing out that people (mostly women) who currently spend much of their time fetching water, would in future be able to devote those hours to work that contributed to the development of the country.
The crime rate in Mozambique fell by 21 per cent in 2006, according to Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira. Giving his annual report to the Assembly of the Republic on 18 April, Madeira said that 36,457 crimes were recorded in 2006 down from 45,950 in 2005.
Madeira said that 75 per cent of the crimes reported last year were crimes against property, 21 per cent were crimes against persons, and four per cent were public order offences. As for the most serious offences, Madeira said there were 1,185 murders in 2006, and 2,646 cases of grievous bodily harm.
The administration of justice improved considerably in 2006, according to Madeira's statistics. Courts (from district level up to the Supreme Court) gave 101,383 verdicts, an increase of 47.5 per cent on the 2005 figure.
As for the country's prisons, on 31 December 2006 they contained 12,396 inmates (10,407 men and 1,989 women). In the past, the majority of people in jails were pre-trial detainees. But the situation has now been reversed - of the December 2006 prison population, 7,215 were serving sentences, 1,636 were awaiting trial, and 3,545 (a disturbingly high number) were detainees whose cases had not yet entered the court system.
Mozambique's Administrative Tribunal, the body that decides on the legality of state administrative acts, has revoked a dispatch of 2005 that sacked a parliamentary deputy of the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition from his university position.
In February 2005, Brazao Mazula, the then Vice-Chancellor of the country's largest highest education institution, the Eduardo Mondlane University, dismissed from their positions Ismael Mussa, the director of the university's social services, and Eduardo Namburete, director of the School of Communication and Arts.
The Vice-Chancellor has the right to appoint and dismiss directors of faculties and services, but the fact that the two men dismissed were both Renamo deputies, elected to parliament in the December 2004 general elections, led to suspicions of political harassment.
Mussa and Namburete were not thrown out of the university, but both reverted to being ordinary lecturers and lost the additional salary that goes with a management position.
They appealed immediately to the Administrative Tribunal, and, though it has taken over two years, the Tribunal has now ruled in favour of Mussa, cancelling Mazula's dispatch as manifestly illegal.
Namburete's appeal, which is before different judges, has not yet been heard.
Mazula is now no longer Vice-Chancellor, so it will be up to his successor, Filipe Couto, to decide whether to appeal against this decision. If there is no appeal, the university will have no choice but to reinstate Mussa, and to pay him the salary of the director of Social Services, backdated to March 2005.
In what Mussa regarded as harassment, the university also cut his lecturer's salary, and refused to allow him to compete for a specialist position. He appealed against these decisions to the Attorney-General's office, and won.
At the time, the sacking of Mussa and Namburete seemed clearly illegal since the law states specifically that nobody can be sacked or demoted just because they have been elected to parliament.
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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