Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza on 20 November issued a decree revoking the date of 16 January for the first elections to Provincial Assemblies. President Guebuza's decree follows a proposal from the National Elections Commission (CNE) to scrap the January date. Postponing the elections was made possible by a constitutional amendment passed by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic on 16 November, and immediately promulgated by President Guebuza.
As initially drafted, the Constitution ordered the first provincial elections to be held within three years of the Constitution taking effect. That was in mid-January 2005, and so that latest date for the elections compatible with the constitution was mid-January 2008. But not only is 16 January in the middle of the rainy season, but the new CNE, which only took office in June, has proved quite unable to handle all the preparations for elections, notably the complete re-registration of the entire Mozambican electorate, within such a tight time frame.
Faced with demands from Mozambican society for a postponement of the elections, the Assembly changed the relevant article of the Constitution to read that the first elections for provincial assemblies shall be held "by 2009".
The President's decree made it clear that he would now await a proposal from the CNE for a new date.
The cheapest and most convenient option would be to hold the provincial elections on the same day as the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for late 2009, but the constitutional amendment leaves open the possibility of a date sometime in late 2008.
Following the President's decree, on 21 November the government extended the complete re-registration of the country's electorate to 15 March 2008. Initially, registration was to last for just 60 days, from 24 September to 22 November.
The government decree extending the voter registration period states that registration will be interrupted on 16 December for the festive season, and will resume on 14 January. Effectively registration has been extended by a further 82 days.
This may enable the electoral bodies to recover from the disasters of the initial weeks, when most of the computers used by the voter registration brigades arrived late, and the poorly trained brigades ran into continual problems. There was inadequate technical assistance: when computers broke down, brigades sometimes had to wait for three weeks for repairs.
The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service, estimates that the potential electorate numbers 10.5 million. But the latest figures from STAE were that, by 30 October, only 2.4 million voters had registered - less than a quarter of the STAE target.
The constitutional amendment was adopted unanimously by the Assembly of the Republic. Faced with a rising tide of public protest, the ruling Frelimo Party concluded that January elections were impossible, and eventually the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition agreed.
Under normal circumstances the Constitution should not be amended for at least five years - i.e. until 2009. However, the Constitution did allow the Assembly to grant itself "extraordinary powers of amendment", if 75 per cent of deputies voted for this.
Speaking in favour of the amendment, the head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Manuel Tome, declared "the moment demands from each and every one of us a high sense of patriotism, and a capacity to know how to interpret correctly the desires of our people".
His Renamo opposite number, Maria Moreno, stressed that the constitutional amendment would allow the elections to be held in the dry season, and to correct all the mistakes that had marred the voter registration. She added that there would now be time "to make all those involved aware that registration is for all citizens of voting age, and not just those of one particular political colour". Furthermore, everybody involved should understand that political party monitors "have the right and duty to inspect, and so their presence at the registrations posts is always permitted" (Renamo has repeatedly complained that its monitors have not been allowed to inspect closely the work of the registration brigades).
With unanimity guaranteed beforehand, there was no debate, and the constitutional amendment passed with all 226 deputies present voting in favour.
New General Director for Electoral Administration
Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on 12 November swore into office Felisberto Naife, as the new general director of the STAE.
Naife, who was previously the STAE director for training and civic education, replaces the country's most experienced election official, Antonio Carrasco, who ran STAE during the 1999 and 2004 general elections, and the 2003 municipal elections.
Carrasco resigned in August, but the chairperson of the CNE, Joao Leopoldo da Costa, asked him to remain in office for a few more months. Carrasco was known to be strongly opposed to attempts to hold the country's first elections for provincial elections in December or January. His warnings were fully vindicated in the light of the postponement of the elections.
Mozambique's public electricity company, EDM, has taken over the power system for Vilankulo, Inhassoro and Govuro districts in the southern province of Inhambane, abandoned by the previous operator, the private company ENMO.
The government terminated ENMO's contract in August for a series of contractual violations. Lawyers for ENMO and the government were working on the details of an orderly termination of ENMO's operations - but on 7 November ENMO suddenly announced it was closing down immediately, allegedly because the Development Bank of Southern African (DBSA), from who ENMO had borrowed over $2 million, had frozen its bank accounts.
ENMO even tried to shut down the system, disconnecting consumers throughout the three districts. The government acted swiftly to prevent this, by dispatching a police unit to protect the installations.
EDM's first measure has been to announce an overall cut in tariffs, in some cases in excess of 50 per cent. This simply means that from now on, consumers in these districts will pay the same tariffs as consumers on EDM's national grid, which is largely supplied from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi.
One of the problems with ENMO is that it had not delivered the new connections promised. In five years, it should have connected 4,000 new consumers - by the time the contract ended it had only made 400 connections in the three districts.
EDM has promised 3,000 new connections in 2008, and for this it will need to acquire a new generator, at a cost of $2 million.
Nationally, EDM connected more than 85,000 new consumers in 2006, and a further 43,164 in the first half of 2007. The government estimates that 2,064,604 people have access to electricity - about 10.3 per cent of the total population.
Significant amounts of Malawian exports and imports are once again using the northern Mozambican port of Nacala. The port, and the rail corridor that connects it to Malawi handled 119,351 tonnes of cargo in September, which was the largest volume in a single month since the leasing of the port to private management in January 2005. This was a 63 per cent increase on the August figure, and is due to a sharp increase in traffic to and from Malawi.
The port handled 4,107 containers in September, which was a 55 per cent rise when compared with August. By the end of the third quarter of this year, Nacala port had handled nearly the same volume of cargo as in all 12 months of 2006.
Fernando Couto, one of the executive directors both of the Northern Development Corridor (CDN), that manages the Nacala system, and of Central East African Railways (CEAR) of Malawi, said "there has been patient work to win back the Malawian clients, and valuable aid from the Malawian government, that started believing again in the Nacala Corridor".
It had been about four years since Malawian tobacco had been exported through the Nacala port, but the tobacco containers are back this year. However, the largest volumes of cargo were the import of fertiliser for Malawian agriculture, and of raw material for Malawian cement production.
There is great pressure for the fertiliser to be delivered to Malawi in good time. Since September 60,000 tonnes of fertiliser was unloaded at Nacala, and about half of it has been transported by rail to Malawi.
According to Couto, CDN and CEAR have been in close contact with the Malawian authorities to ensure the removal of any obstacles to the delivery of fertilisers.
The influx of cargo into the port has had a positive impact on the railway line. By the end of September, the railway services had handled 31,356 tonnes of cargo on the line linking Nacala to Entre-Lagos, on the Malawian border, which compares with only 20,678 tonnes for the whole of last year.
Despite the shortage of engines and wagons, the good cooperation between the Mozambican and Malawian railway systems led to positive results, that are encouraging the clients to use Nacala port and the railway.
Couto noted that "since January this year, the two railway systems are being managed with resort to their own funds, with no external financing. We have started relying on our own efforts, and now we are worth what we can manage to do".
Transport Minister Antonio Mungwambe has admitted that a lot remains to be done to exploit to the maximum the potential of the development corridors, linking the country's major ports to the hinterland, despite the substantial growth in cargo handled in 2007.
Mungwambe said that, looking at the volume of cargo handled between 2004 and 2006 and the projections for 2007, the performance of the development corridors can be described as positive.
Comparing the figures for 2007 with those of 2004, one finds a 22 per cent growth in the Maputo and Beira corridors, and a 13 per cent growth in the Nacala corridor. "But we are aware that a lot has yet to be done to exploit to the maximum the potential of these corridors that can generate more revenue for the public treasury and the balance of payments, and create more jobs", said Mungwambe, addressing the Parliamentary Commission on Economic Activities and Services.
The Minister said that, in the Maputo Corridor, for instance, the rehabilitation of the Ressano Garcia railway line, linking Maputo port to South Africa, is to be completed by December.
He was confident that this will attract more cargo to the port, which in turn would stimulate more investment in new port infrastructures, with modern equipment and new terminals.
As for the Beira Corridor, which links the port of Beira to Zimbabwe, Mungwambe said that dredging the port access channel and the manoeuvring bay is crucial to improve the performance of this corridor. He added that the economic crisis in Zimbabwe is a further factor affecting this Corridor.
According to Mungwambe, the Zimbabwean situation greatly affects the performance of the Beira/Zimbabwe pipeline, because Zimbabwe's chronic shortage of foreign currency means that it is unable to import regularly large quantities of fuel, and there is very little that Mozambique can do about this.
During the meeting with the parliamentarians, Mungwambe said that work to rehabilitate the mooring quay for the ferry crossing between Inhambane and Maxixe, in southern Mozambique, started in July 2007 and will take about 18 months.
Speaking of similar work for the ferry that plies between Maputo city and Catembe, Mungwambe said the government was awaiting the approval of the tender report by the funding agency, the World Bank, before awarding the contract.
During the same meeting he said that a programme to extend the fixed telecommunications network to 42 district capitals, in 2008, is also awaiting final approval by the funding agency, this time the Chinese Exim Bank.
He added that the project to link all provincial capitals, through fibre optic cable, will also be completed by next year.
A Chinese technical team will shortly visit Maputo to negotiate the final details for the project to build an Agricultural Technology and Development Centre.
An agreement in principle to set up such a centre was reached during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Mozambique in February. The initial idea was to establish the centre in the northern province of Nampula, but it was subsequently decided to move it to Boane in Maputo province.
According to the economic counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in Maputo, Cheng Changhe, the Centre will cover an area of 30 hectares, but it has not yet been decided how much money will be invested in the project.
"After the centre has been installed, the Chinese agricultural technicians will come to Mozambique to start developing hybrid varieties of rice, soya, cassava and other products", said Cheng.
As for the Chinese pledge to build Mozambique a new national sports stadium, preparations are moving ahead, and construction work is expected to begin in the first half of 2008.
Further projects that might be supported by China include the expansion of Maputo airport, and the creation of a high technology park. The Chinese Exim Bank is studying these projects before taking any decision on offering preferential loans.
Trade between Mozambique and China is steadily growing. In 2006, it reached $208 million - 26 per cent more than in 2005.
In the health and education areas, China has offered to set up a malaria treatment centre in Mavalane Hospital in Maputo, and to supply anti-malarial drugs to the value of $250 million.
Businessman Nyimpine Chissano, the oldest son of former President Joaquim Chissano, died on 19 November at his Maputo home. 37-year-old Chissano had been in poor health for a considerable period, and had received a kidney transplant.
Both Joaquim Chissano, and his wife Marcelina are in Europe. The former President had been participating in a conference in Madrid, and then travelled on to meet his wife in the Portuguese city of Oporto, where she had been undergoing medical treatment. The couple plan to return to Maputo as soon as possible.
Nyimpine was born in Tanzania in 1970, at the height of Mozambique's war for independence from Portuguese colonial rule - which was why Joaquim and Marcelina gave their son the name Nyimpine, meaning "during the war" in the Shangaan language.
Chissano Jr went into business in the mid-1990s, concentrating on tourism and car hire activities. His best-known venture was the company Expresso Tours.
Not a cent will come from the Mozambican state budget to pay off the $700 million loan the government has contracted to purchase a majority stake in the Cahora Bassa dam, Energy Minister Salvador Namburete pledged on 20 November.
The money is provided by a consortium formed by the French bank CA Lyon, and the Portuguese Investment Bank (BPI). The money purchases 67 per cent of the dam operating company, Hidroelectrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB), from the Portuguese state.
The deal has been fully agreed and the documents will all be signed in Maputo on 26 November, Namburete told a press conference. When that happens, the $700 million will be transferred to the Portuguese government, and the Mozambican state's holding in HCB will rise from 18 to 85 per cent. The Portuguese state retains ownership of the other 15 per cent.
Namburete added that a general meeting of the HCB shareholders will also be held to elect a new board of directors with a Mozambican majority and a Mozambican chairperson.
As for repaying the loan, Namburete said the fears expressed by parliamentary deputies of the opposition party Renamo that HCB might become a drain on the state budget and lead to higher taxes were completely groundless.
Instead the banks will be repaid out of the sales of Cahora Bassa power to HCB's main clients, the South African, Zimbabwean and Mozambican power utilities (Eskom, ZESA and EDM).
Far from HCB imposing a drain on the state budget, he added, for the first time ever the company will pay taxes and a concession fee and thus contribute to the budget. "This deal improves the budgetary situation, it doesn't make it worse", the Minister exclaimed.
Currently, HCB's sales revenue is about $150 million a year. Namburete was confident that this is enough to pay off the banks, pay HCB's taxes, and provide a yearly dividend to the shareholders (which is a further boost to the Mozambican state budget).
Namburete said that HCB's production this year has already outstripped, by about two gigawatt/hours, the total production of the dam in 2006. Its five turbines are all capable of producing their maximum output of 415 megawatts each (giving the dam a total theoretical capacity of 2,075 megawatts), and there was sufficient water in the dam lake for maximum production
Asked about ZESA's debt to HCB, Namburete said the Zimbabwean company had paid off most of it over the past three or four months. The debt was now down to "one or two million US dollars", he said. ZESA had also paid off $10 million out of an $11 million debt to EDM. "They are making an effort, and we appreciate that", said Namburete.
As for plans to build a second power station at Cahora Bassa, on the north bank of the river, Namburete said the priority was to build a new dam at Mphanda Nkuwa, some 70 kilometres downstream from Cahora Bassa. All the environmental impact studies undertaken indicated that Mphanda Nkuwa should be built first for better management of the river.
Asked about a campaign by some environmentalists against Mphanda Nkuwa, Namburete pointed out that $20 million had been spent on viability studies in 2001-02, which showed that a dam at Mphanda Nkuwa would pose no significant threat to the environment.
The government, he said, "is interested in guaranteeing the protection of our environment, and insists that proper environmental impact studies are done". All hydroelectric projects had such studies, he stressed.
The Minister stressed that Mphanda
Nkuwa "is vital for our economic independence. Furthermore, nowadays energy
is determinant for attacking industrial investment, and we want that investment".
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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