Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza declared
on 4 October that the county has no alternative but to maintain the peace secured
15 years ago with the agreement signed between the government of his predecessor,
Joaquim Chissano, and the rebel movement Renamo, which put an end to the war
In a broadcast to the nation marking the anniversary of the agreement signed in Rome on 4 October 1992, President Guebuza said that in 1992 Mozambicans had united "to overcome an obstacle which was trying to block our path towards well-being". Peace should be preserved, he declared, as something "precious and indispensable for the life and progress of the entire Mozambican nation".
It was the climate of peace that had allowed the economy to grow over the past decade at an average rate of seven per cent a year, bringing "more schools, more health posts and more sources of clean drinking water to our people", the President added.
Peace "has favoured economic and social growth, which is turn has led to improved living conditions", he said. "But the Mozambican people deserve more, and thus we shall continue to work hard for the prosperity of Mozambique".
He urged all Mozambicans to celebrate the 15 years of peace "by renewing our commitment to self-esteem, tolerance, dialogue, and respect for differences and for the spirit of inclusion".
The President wanted to see "an ever more inclusive society", and a determination "to multiply and diversify our actions in the struggle against poverty".
In the morning, President Guebuza laid a wreath at Maputo's Monument to the Mozambican Heroes, where the founder of Mozambican nationalism, Eduardo Mondlane, the country's first President, Samora Machel, and others who gave their lives in the struggle for the country's independence and sovereignty are buried.
He then led a symbolic tree planting ceremony at Peace Square, opposite the capital's largest supermarket. All those involved in the negotiations in Rome that led up to the peace accord were invited to plant trees - including Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, and all the members of the Renamo delegation in Rome.
But the only one who was present was Renamo's chief negotiator, Raul Domingos - who was expelled from Renamo in 2000, and now leads the country's third largest party, the PDD (Party for Peace, Development and Democracy). Dhlakama and the rest of the Renamo leadership boycotted the ceremonies.
The Eduardo Mondlane University (UEM), the oldest and largest higher education institution in Mozambique, signed in Maputo on 8 October a cooperation protocol with three private forestry companies to plant trees on more than 700,000 hectares of damaged forests. This project will cost $110 million over the next 10 years.
The three companies are Tecnota Forest of Zambezia, Chikweti Forest of Niassa, and Levastflor, who pledged to start replanting trees in Niassa province in the north of the country, and Zambezia and Sofala in the central region. The areas to be replanted have been degraded, particularly by uncontrolled bush fires.
By planting new species of trees, the communities will directly benefit through employment as well as from 10 per cent of any profits that are obtained.
The signatories will also conduct forestry research for mutual benefit and will offer training in the area of forest conservation and the development and application of new technologies.
Speaking at the ceremony, the, UEM vice-chancellor Filipe Couto stressed the importance of such activities as a means to protect the ecosystem in a responsible manner.
For her part, Asa Tham, the chairperson of the Levasflor General Assembly, said it is very important to create improved living conditions, which is why large numbers of local people will be employed.
She said that a number of Mozambicans are undergoing training in Thailand to be the pioneers in the implementation of the project.
The National Elections Commission (CNE) has announced, provisionally, that the provincial assemblies to be elected in January will contain a total of 804 seats.
The number of seats in each assembly depends on the number of registered voters. The assemblies will consist of a minimum of 50 members for provinces with an electorate of up to 400,000 voters (though it is believed that none of the current provinces is that small).
For each extra 100,000 voters, there will be another ten members in the assembly, up to 700,000 voters. Beyond that figure, in order to reduce costs, there will only be one extra member per 100,000 votes.
In order to propose the correct number of candidates, political parties need to know how many seats there are in each assembly - but a definitive figure will not be available until the end of the current voter registration, on 22 November. By that time, nominations will have closed.
Hence the CNE's decision to issue a provisional list of the number of seats based on the preliminary results from the August population census.
On this calculation, the two largest provinces, Nampula and Zambezia, will each have assemblies of 91 members. The assemblies in Sofala and Cabo Delgado will have 81 members, while there will be 80 members in the Tete, Manica, Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane assemblies. The smallest province, Niassa, will have an Assembly of 60.
Essentially, the CNE is making an optimistic guess as to how many people will register. Its figures look too high - for example it expects Zambezia to register 1,895,401 voters (a peculiarly precise figure). But the last time the entire electorate was registered, in 1999, there were 1,384,626 voters in Zambezia. So the CNE is expecting an increase of 37 per cent in the Zambezia registered electorate in just eight years, which seems unlikely. The CNE expects the Sofala electorate to rise from 593,877 in 1999 to 853,791 in 2007, which is a 44 per cent increase.
Only half a million register in first fortnight
Another reason that the figures seem over optimistic is that the registration process has got off to a bad start. In 1999 Mozambique did well to register 85 per cent of the potential electorate, and observers doubt that the current registration process will be equally successful.
In the first 15 days of the current voter registration, only 525,000 people registered, according to Antonio Carrasco, director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the civil service.
Carrasco gave this figure to reporters on 11 October immediately after he and his family had registered.
Voter registration is scheduled to last for 60 days - from 24 September to 22 November. At this pace, the brigades will only register 2.1 million people - which compares with an electorate of 7.1 million in 1999, the last time that the entire electorate was registered. However, Carrasco was confident that the pace will pick up.
The whole registration process began badly when the great majority of registration brigades could not begin their work because of delays in receiving the necessary computer equipment.
The registration process was severely delayed in some parts of the country. Carrasco mentioned the district of Chinde at the mouth of the Zambezi river, and parts of the northernmost province of Niassa: brigades there had not yet received the computers because of "difficulties of access".
Many of the 3,205 brigades are not fully operational due to computer breakdowns. The brigades had little time to learn how to operate the computers, and as a result in many places it is taking an unacceptably long time to register each voter.
Despite these problems, Carrasco urged citizens of to make their way to the registration posts. "If you run into problems, we ask you to keep calm", he said, "because STAE is working to overcome all the difficulties that still exist".
STAE is working with a figure of 10.5 million as the potential electorate.
The publicly owned Mozambican railway company (CFM) has gone from near bankruptcy to being a profitable company with financial credibility, says the World Bank, one of the main bodies that financed CFM's restructuring programme.
The representative of the World Bank in Mozambique, Michael Baxter, speaking to AIM, was enthusiastic about the leasing of ports and rail lines to private operators. However, he admitted that the northern port of Nacala, leased to the Nacala Corridor Development Company, a consortium led by the American companies Edlows and the Railroad Development Corporation, is not yet as profitable as expected, though there are some positive trends. At the same time, despite a significant increase in traffic in Maputo port, it is still much below expectations, "which has been causing some temporary financial problems to the leaseholder".
The leaseholder in question is the Maputo Port Development Company (MPDC), a consortium headed by the British Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, and the "financial problems" include its failure to pay CFM the contractually agreed rent for its lease. Under the terms of the lease, MPDC is obliged to pay an annual rate indexed to the US Consumer Price Index, plus a percentage of pre-tax gross income (starting at 10 per cent in the first year, and eventually rising to 15 per cent). The chairman of the CFM board, Rui Fonseca, has repeatedly complained of MPDC's failure to meet its financial obligations.
Baxter regarded the restructuring of CFM as a great success largely because the company has managed to reduce its workforce from 20,000 to only 1,500. (This reduction is not quite as drastic as it looks because some of the workers were transferred from CFM to the leaseholders).
Baxter also noted that the retrenched workers "received their due compensation, training in various areas, and were given opportunities for self-employment".
The World Bank has been helping CFM rehabilitate the Ressano Garcia line, that links Mozambique to South Africa, and traffic here is expected to increase substantially in the near future. This is one of the lines that has not been leased out - a consortium headed by the South African rail company Spoornet was to have taken over the line, but reneged on its promises, and so CFM retains full control of this railway.
With an investment of $20 million in the Ressano Garcia line, cargo transport along the railway is set to reach a volume of nine million tonnes a year by 2009. CFM says that this growth is based on the desire of both the Mozambican and the South African governments to increase trade between the two countries.
To guarantee more security for cargo and for rail equipment, this programme also includes construction of an electrified fence along the six kilometres from Maputo port to Infulene station. This is to isolate the line from the surrounding residential areas, from where people used to slip out onto the line to steal goods from wagons and vandalize equipment in transit to the port.
The first "Millennium Village" in Mozambique, set up last year in Chibuto district, in the southern province of Gaza, is already improving the lives of the people living there, according to Vitoria de Jesus, national coordinator of the Millennium Village programme in the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT).
This initiative, implemented under the aegis of the MCT, is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is the brainchild of Columbia University's Earth Institute, headed by the renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, who was special adviser to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The original document on the villages stated "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".
The Millennium Village programme 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".
Vitoria de Jesus claimed that, since the Chibuto village was launched, in June 2006, there had been a change of attitude among its residents towards such issues as agriculture, water supply, education, health and the environment.
She was speaking on 6 October at a press conference in Chibuto, on the occasion of the visit of UN Undersecretary-General, and Administrator of the UNDP, Kemal Dervis, who is on a three-day visit to Mozambique.
De Jesus told him that all four schools in the village now had bathrooms, and health measures taken included the provision of the life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs for HIV-positive citizens.
In agriculture, the initial harvests allowed farmers to produce a surplus, and to sell vegetables such as cabbage and tomatoes. The farmers had been able to rely on support from technical staff of the Gaza Higher Polytechnical Institute.
"We have more companies involved in this initiative, who are interested in bringing science to the communities", said de Jesus.
The Chibuto village is in fact the Samora Machel neighbourhood of Chibuto municipality - an outlying, essentially rural suburb of Chibuto town, which was once an agricultural and livestock company, abandoned by its owners over a quarter of a century ago.
Speaking to the reporters, Dervis declared that, in recent years. "Mozambique has been doing its best to improve the living conditions of its people".
He declared that the new electricity transformer station which he inaugurated in the Chibuto village that morning will allow the local communities to enter into contact with the entire world. The transformer station will supply power to ten computers, which previously depended on solar panels. Those computers are now linked to the Internet
The UN presence in the Chibuto village falls within the framework of the UN's own institutional reform, through which it intends to unify its presence in beneficiary countries, ensuring that all the various UN agencies are working together and for the same goals, avoiding duplication and waste of resources.
The Mozambican government on 2 October approved a project to build and operate an oil refinery in the district of Nacala-a-Velha, on the coast of Nampula province.
The refinery, known as the Ayr Petro-Nacala project, will cost about $5 billion, with an initial capital of $50 million.
The largest investor, with about 70 per cent, is Ayr Logistics, a company registered in the US state of Texas, which describes itself as providing "a broad spectrum of logistics support throughout the world". The other investors are a South African citizen, Colin Crorie, and the Mozambicans Luis Ferreira Mendes and Hercilio Varela de Almeida, who set up a Mozambique-registered branch of Ayr (Ayr Logistica Limitada) in November 2006.
The refinery, covering an area of 838 hectares, will be able to produce over 300,000 barrels of fuel a day, and will employ 450 Mozambican workers.
According to the government spokesperson, Deputy Education Minister Luis Covane, two-thirds of the fuel from the refinery will be exported, since the Mozambican economy cannot consume anywhere near the amount that will be produced.
Construction of the refinery will begin in the first half of 2008, accompanied by a training programme that will involve 150 foreign technical staff.
The crude oil for the refinery can be unloaded at Nacala port. Although Nacala is widely regarded as the best deep-water harbour on the east African coast, it has, up until now, been under-used. The port needs no dredging, and is capable of accommodating very large vessels.
Climatic factors in the main cotton producing areas of the northern provinces of Nampula and Cabo Delgado are likely to reduce cotton production substantially, warns the government's Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM). The IAM is revising down its estimates for 2007 production. Rather than the 121,000 tonnes originally forecast it seems that shortage of rain at a crucial period in the cotton cycle will cut production to between 90,000 and 100,000 tonnes.
Cotton is grown mainly by peasant farmers on small fields less than a hectare in size. According to IAM figures average peasant cotton yields are 550 kilos per hectare.
Some 300,000 peasant families grow cotton, and sell their crop to ten concessionary companies.
Mozambique should have benefited from higher cotton prices. Currently cotton is being sold on the world market for 70 US cents a kilo, rather than the 64 cents that was the price in May and June. However, IAM director Norberto Mahalambe said that the expected drop in production could wipe out any gains that Mozambique might have gathered from the higher prices.
Next month the IAM plans to meet with representatives of the government, of the farmers, and of the concessionary companies, for a fresh round of discussions on cotton producer prices. In recent years, consensus between the farmers and the companies has proved impossible, obliging the government to step in and fix the price.
This year the minimum price fixed for first grade cotton was 5.3 meticais a kilo and for second grade cotton 3.7 meticais a kilo (at current exchange rates there are about 27.5 meticais to the US dollars). These prices are exactly the same as in 2006.
Mozambique paid $310.5 million to its foreign creditors in the first half of this year, which was a decline of 19 per cent when compared with the same period in 2006.
Most of this ($157.3 million) was public debt. But according to the Bank of Mozambique, in reality only $18.4 million came out of the state budget. The rest is not a real payment at all. This sum was owed to Romania, but was cancelled when Romania accepted the terms of the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief package.
According to the spokesman for the central bank, of the real payments, $11 million went to multilateral creditors, and $7.1 million to bilateral creditors (notably France, which received $4.8 million).
The other $153.2 million paid was private debt, mostly paid by large companies with direct investments in Mozambique.
The Bank of Mozambique puts the country's total foreign debt, both public and private, at $5.2 billion at the end of June 2007. This is a reduction of $1.5 billion when compared with June 2006 (largely because of the multilateral debt cancellation that took effect in this period).
The Mozambican government on 10 October signed a contract with the London-based Central African Mining and Exploration Company (CAMEC) for a biofuel project involving a factory that will produce 120 million litres of ethanol a year.
Signing the contract were Agriculture Minister Erasmo Muhate, and the CAMEC country manager for Mozambique, Izak Holtzhausen.
The investment envisaged is $510 million. The raw material for the ethanol will be sugar cane from Massingir district, in the southern province of Gaza.
In addition to producing ethanol for the domestic and regional market, the project will also produce electricity for local use, create 7,000 jobs and produce an annual income of over $40 million as from 2010. Muhate has granted Procana provisional title to 30,000 hectares in Massingir, valid for the next two years.
CAMEC is best known as a mining company, exploiting copper and cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Mozambique, CAMEC holds coal-mining licenses, and has set up an agricultural trading company, DECA, in the central city of Chimoio.
From the beginning of 2006 up to the first half of 2007, $203 million was invested in the Mozambican mining sector, according to the National Director of Mines, Fatima Momade.
This investment came from 50 companies who requested areas for prospecting and exploiting minerals. In addition, 20 concessions were granted to individuals.
But 60 per cent of this investment comes from just one company, the Irish firm Kenmare, which is mining the titanium bearing heavy sands in Moma, in the northern province of Nampula.
Momade was speaking to reporters during a meeting that the Minister of Mineral Resources, Esperanca Bias, held with mining operators. The meeting was motivated by the growth in the mining sector.
For her part, Bias stressed the priority of the sustainable use of mineral resources, in order to promote economic growth, improve the balance of payments, and guarantee increased participation in the sector by Mozambican businesses.
The Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM), the umbrella body for the mainstream Protestant churches, says that it has collected about 700,000 firearms since launching its project to "Transform Guns into Hoes", a modern version of the biblical injunction to turn swords into ploughshares.
The CCM initiative was launched shortly after the end of the war of destabilisation in 1992.
Speaking to AIM on 4 October, during the celebrations of the anniversary of the 1992 peace agreement, the CCM chairperson, Anglican bishop Dinis Sengulane stressed the importance of this project in consolidating peace and fighting crime in Mozambique.
Under TAE, guns and other military artefacts are collected, with no questions asked. Those who turn over illicitly held guns are offered useful goods instead - such as hoes, bicycles and sewing machines.
As for the fight against crime, last year the CCM launched a programme entitled "Choose Life" which sought to make society more aware of the physical violence that accompanies crime. This seems to have had some effect - for Sengulane claimed that, after this programme was launched, many more firearms were handed over to the CCM.
Sengulane also argued that the fight against crime must also involve guaranteeing employment and education for all. He added that the consolidation of peace involves the equitable distribution of resources so that nobody feels excluded.
"God is so generous that he gave Mozambique sufficient resources for all of us to live well and not merely to survive", said the Bishop. "But unfortunately there is a great imbalance in the quality of life people enjoy".
"We must reaffirm peace by fighting against poverty", he stressed. "It's not a secret for anybody that here in Maputo we have sophisticated palaces, while on the other side of the same city there is enormous poverty".
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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