Mozambique News Agency
Heavy rains have caused widespread flooding in central and southern Mozambique, forcing thousands to flee their homes. The government's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), has used the armed forces to ensure that evacuation from dangerous areas is complete. According to INGC deputy director, Joao Ribeiro, "the greatest problem we face concerns people who still do not recognize the danger they are in, and so keep going back to areas of risk".
According to the Minister of State Administration, Lucas Chomera, the government is ready to respond to the flood emergency: 800 million meticais (about $33.6 million) is available for flood relief 80 million from the state budget, and the rest from foreign donors.
In the Zambezi valley over 62,000 people had been evacuated by 13 January. The current flooding in the Zambezi valley is already worse than the floods of February 2007, and the authorities have even been forced to evacuate areas where the victims of those earlier floods were resettled. On 11 January the National Civil Protection Unit (UNAPROC) rescued about 18,000 people in the Jardim and Cachaco resettlement areas in Mutarara district. These areas should have been safe, but they are now threatened by the continued rise in the Zambezi.
In the southern province of Inhambane, a second flood surge that swept down the Save river has inundated the town of Nova Mambone for the second time. The Save burst its banks on 12 January as the level of the river rose rapidly to 7.5 metres, two metres above the flood alert level of 5.5 metres.
In its latest bulletin, the National Water Board (DNA) warns that the situation could worsen in both the Save and Zambezi basins.
At least four people have died so far in the floods on the Pungue and Buzi rivers in the central province of Sofala. A preliminary estimate drawn up by the INGC is that, since the crisis began in late December, 53,730 people have been displaced by these floods in the districts of Dondo, Nhamatanda and Buzi.
The flood on the Buzi river is paralysing economic life in much of Buzi district. The ferry across the river, linking the areas of Bandua and Guara-Guara, cannot operate because the ramps are under water. This has made it impossible for the main employer in the district, the Buzi company, to move its main product, alcohol. Likewise the raw material for alcohol production, molasses from the Mafambisse sugar company, can no longer reach Buzi.
The district capital, Buzi town, can currently be reached overland via Tica, on the Beira-Zimbabwe road. But this route could be cut at any time, since the river is rising again following heavy rains in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The Pungue, measured at the Mafambisse sugar plantation, stood at 7.47 metres on 10 January, well above flood alert level of six metres, and the DNA warned that it could rise higher.
There is also a new threat on one of the main southern rivers, the Limpopo, During 12 and 13 January the Limpopo rose by two metres at Combumune, so that it had surpassed the flood alert level.
However the DNA predicts that the level of the Limpopo will stabilize, which would mean there is little threat to the two major population centres further downstream, Chokwe and Xai-Xai.
As the population in the accommodation centres rises, so the INGC and its partners (such as the World Food Programme, and NGOs such as Oxfam and save the Children), are working to ensure that food, clean water and decent sanitation are available for people displaced by the floods, Latrines are being dug and chlorine distributed to purify water.
The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), the electoral branch of the Mozambican civil service, insists that the computer problems that plagued the first phase of voter registration last year will not recur when registration resumes on 15 January. We are much better prepared, STAE general director Felisberto Naife told a press conference on 12 January.
According to Naife, from September to December last year 7,596,011 citizens registered, leaving an estimated 2.54 million people to be registered in the second phase of voter registration, which will run until 15 March.
The entire electorate is being re-registered from scratch since it is generally accepted that the existing registers are unreliable (largely because of STAEs inability to remove the names of voters who have died). Voter registration was arranged hastily when it was planned that elections for provincial assemblies would be held in December or January.
Initially just 60 days 24 September to 22 November were allotted to the registration. For the first time in Mozambican history, the voter registration was computerised but so cramped was the timetable that it was impossible to import all the computers, digital cameras, scanners and other equipment needed by the 3,242 registration brigades by 24 September.
As a result only a handful of registration brigades in the provincial capitals could start work on the scheduled date. It took weeks before all the others were up and running. Furthermore, the brigade members were unfamiliar with the machines and had received very little training in how to use them. This slowed the registration down, and brigades constantly ground to a halt, sometimes because of breakdowns, but often because of inadequate training.
These were among the problems that led the Mozambican parliament to amend the constitution, allowing the provincial elections to be postponed (probably until 2009). As a result more time was available for voter registration it continued until 15 December, was interrupted for the festive season, and will run for a further two months from 15 January to 15 March.
Technicians have been trained in all 128 districts in how to handle any computer breakdowns. This should avoid the problem of brigades forced to shut down for several days while waiting for a technician from the provincial capital to arrive.
Felisberto Naife revealed that the best results came from Tete, which has registered 84.4 per cent of its potential electorate, Maputo province (83.9 per cent) and Niassa (83.3 per cent).
These are all relatively small provinces.
The two most populous provinces, Nampula and Zambezia, where 40 per cent of
the total population lives, are lagging behind. The brigades registered 69.1
per cent of the estimated electorate in Nampula and 67.2 per cent in Zambezia.
Surprisingly, Maputo City did not do particularly well either. Although nobody in the capital lives more than a few minutes walk from a registration post, the brigades only registered 77.3 per cent of Maputos potential electorate.
An interesting contrast is with 1999, the last time that the entire electorate was registered. Then 7.1 million people received voter cards this was 85 per cent of the estimated electorate of the time. To reach 85 per cent now, STAE would have to register 8.6 million people.
Justice Minister Esperanca Machavela has promised that by 2009, as part of the efforts to bring justice closer to all citizens, there will be a functioning law court in all 128 of the countrys districts. So far only 40 districts have courts.
Speaking on 10 January at the opening of a meeting of the Consultative Council of her Ministry, held in the southern town of Namaacha, Machavela said that last year 65 magistrates were trained, and in future years she expected this number to increase.
Machavela recognized the common complaint at the lethargic procedures in the justice system, but argued that significant improvements were now being made. Perhaps the most dramatic change was in scrapping most of the red tape once required in order to register a company. Business people used to complain that it took 120 days to register their commercial activity, she said, but it can now be done in just 24 hours.
The southern city of Matola has a new mayor, Maria Vicente, who was sworn into office on 9 January. Her predecessor, Carlos Tembe, died of a sudden illness in December.
Vicente was chairperson of the Matola municipal assembly, and under the countrys municipal legislation, she automatically became the new major.
When a mayor dies during his term of office, a by-election is not held if the next scheduled municipal election is a year or less away. The next ordinary municipal elections should be held in November this year.
The formal announcement of the new mayor was announced at an Extraordinary Session of the Matola Assembly.
Immediately after taking office, Vicente told reporters that she would continue to work to ensure that all the projects planned by the municipal authorities for 2008 would be carried out.
She asked the Municipal Assembly to give its full support to Antonio Mungoi, the previous deputy chairperson, who now becomes chairperson of the Assembly.
The Mozambican government has increased the sums sent directly to the countrys 128 districts from the state budget, and has abandoned the initial policy of sending the same lump sum to each district, irrespective of size.
Interviewed in the weekly paper O Pais, the Minister of Planning and Development, Aiuba Cuereneia, said that the money was now being distributed taking three factors into account the number of people living in a district, its size, and its poverty index.
When these funds were first distributed in 2006, they consisted simply of a lump sum of seven million meticais (about $280,000) per district. But now districts were receiving up to twice this sum, depending on how large, how populous and how poor they are, said Cuereneia.
This money, the Minister stressed, is intended to produce food and generate income, and we have been improving the selection and choice of the projects that can meet these requirements.
A survey of 29 districts showed that the 2006 money had mostly not been used for these purposes: 31 per cent of the money had been spent on social infrastructure; 28 per cent on improving the offices of the district administrations themselves; 24 on economic projects; and 11 per cent on economic infrastructures.
Cuereneia admitted that the district governments were under a great deal of pressure to build classrooms or health posts, even though this is the task of the central and provincial government.
Recognising this pressure that the district administrators and the consultative councils are under, for 2008 a lump sum of 2.3 million meticais will be given to each district for work on infrastructures, said Cuereneia. So they will have the money for job creation and income generation, plus 2.3 million meticais for road building and rehabilitation etc.
The problems detected in the use of the seven million meticais per district in 2006 were not diversions of the money for personal use, said the Minister. It was spending it on things other than what it had been intended for.
Cuereneia wanted the funds to stimulate private sector activities. We know that in our districts the private sector doesnt exist. Its not decapitalised because it never existed and never had capital. When we talk of associations of peasants or of artisans, this money is there to support these people develop their activities, he declared.
Key to the management of these local investment funds are the district consultative councils. He insisted that these people are elected by the communities themselves without any interference from the government or the district administrator. The governments role was to train the Consultative Councils, some of whose members are illiterate.
The export of ilmenite (iron titanium oxide) from the dredge mine in Moma district, in the northern province of Nampula began in December. The mine is operated by the Irish company Kenmare. Mining for titanium minerals began in September, and the mine was formally inaugurated by Mozambican President Armando Guebuza in October.
The minerals had been piling up in warehouses awaiting export and in December 23,000 tonnes of ilmenite were boarded a ship bound for Europe.
Charles Carvill, Kenmares Chairman, said: This is the big step which we have all been waiting for.
It is estimated that the Moma mine will provide six per cent of the world production of ilmenite, rutile (titanium dioxide) and zircon (zirconium silicate). Kenmare intends to produce annually 800,000 tonnes of ilmenite, 56,000 tonnes of zircon and 21,000 tonnes of rutile. If market conditions allow, this will be increased, by 2010, to 1.2 million tones of ilmentite, 80,000 tonnes of zircon and 30,000 tonnes of rutile.
The main use of ilmenite is for the production of pigment. It has replaced lead in the production of paint, and is responsible for the white colour of most. Rutile is also used for pigment, and the titanium extracted from rutile is used in the aerospace, nuclear and chemical industries. Zircon is resistance to high temperatures, and so is used in ceramics.
Mozambican and Zimbabwean Presidents Armando Guebuza and Robert Mugabe on 21 December inaugurated a new fuel terminal in the port of Beira.
According to the Chief Executive Office of the Mozambican fuel company Petromoc, Casimiro Francisco, the terminal has nine fuel tanks with the capacity to store 95,000 cubic metres of assorted fuels. Construction cost $25 million and took 18 months.
The increased capacity to store fuel for central Mozambique and landlocked Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi will lead to more tankers calling at Beira.
The presidents also signed an agreement to launch the Beira Development Corridor, consisting of the port and the road and rail system from Beira to Zimbabwe.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, President Guebuza said from Beira, the supply of fuel to the region is guaranteed, both through the Corridor and through the pipeline (this pipeline, owned by the Mozambique-Zimbabwe Pipeline Company, carries fuel from Beira to the eastern Zimbabwean city of Mutare).
The new fuel storage capacity in Beira, President Guebuza added, reduces the SADC deficit in fuel infrastructures, at a time when demand for fuel is growing in the region.
The expansion of the Mozambican school network in 2007 led to an increase in the number of pupils of 10.4 per cent, compared with the 2006 figures, declared President Armando Guebuza on 13 December.
Giving his annual State of the Nation address to the countrys parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, President Guebuza noted that there had been an explosion in secondary education with a 33.6 per cent increase in the number of pupils.
This growth has challenged our capacity to provide classrooms and trained teachers, he admitted. So the accelerated and decentralised construction of school, with strong involvement of the communities, is the adequate response to the demand for universal education,
Flexible and rapid teacher training models had been adopted, said President Guebuza, allowing the government to redouble training capacity.
The reform of technical and professional education was now under way, notably through the Community Skills Development Centres which have been training young people and women in skills allowing them to developing income generating activities and promoting self-employment, said the President.
The government was relying on professional and technical education, he added, to produce graduates with abilities and skills that give them greater relevance in the sustainable development of their communities and of the country in general.
As for the health services, Guebuza noted that the latest statistics show that 16 per cent of Mozambicans aged between 15 and 49 are infected with the HIV virus. This was a slight reduction on the 2004 prevalence figure of 16.2 per cent.
He pointed out that the great majority of HIV infections occur sexually, and called for a deep reflection on the irresponsible practice of multiple sexual partners, which is one of the reasons for the spread of the disease.
Turning to agriculture, President Guebuza once again stressed the need for a Green Revolution that would increase the levels of agricultural production and productivity through the use of improved seeds, fertilizers, adequate production technologies, including animal traction, agricultural mechanization, and the construction of reservoirs for irrigation.
On 10 December President Guebuza sacked his Agriculture Minister, Erasmo Muhate. A presidential decree announced that his replacement is Soares Nhaca, who was formerly Deputy Labour Minister.
Muhate's tenure at the Agriculture Ministry was very short - he only took office on 27 February this year, and so had been in the job for just 10 months.
His period in office was marked by a catastrophic fire in May, that raged through the central block of the Ministry (a five storey building that has three blocks). The fire was blamed on a short circuit, though Maputo conspiracy theorists hinted darkly at arson.
Soares Nhaca has also served as governor of the central province of Manica, and before entering government employment he was general secretary of Mozambique's main trade union federation, the OTM.
Shortly before he lost his job Muhate had sacked no less than eight of his ministrys directors and deputy directors - a purge regarded in some quarters as the reason why President Armando Guebuza relieved Muhate of his duties.
The Swiss government has granted 24 million Swiss francs ($21 million) in direct support for the Mozambican state budget for the period 2007-2009. A document to that effect was signed in Maputo on 11 December between Finance Minister Manuel Chang and the Swiss Ambassador, Thomas Litscher.
The Mozambican budget is heavily dependent on donor funding. Public expenditure in 2008 is scheduled to reach 89 billion meticais (about $3.6 billion). But the state's revenue from taxation and other domestic sources is forecast to cover only 44 per cent of that. That leaves a deficit of 50.2 billion meticais (just over $2 billion), which must be covered almost entirely by foreign aid.
48.8 per cent of total foreign aid in 2008 will take the form of direct budget support, while 51.2 per cent will be earmarked for specific programmes and projects. To avoid running up unsustainable debts, the government has ensured that over two thirds (68.1 per cent) of this foreign aid consists of grants, while only 31.9 per cent is in loan form.
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