Mozambique News Agency

AIM Reports

 


No.354, 11th February 2008


Contents


Four die as riots hit Maputo

An attempt by the Ministry of Transport and the Federation of Road Transport Associations (FEMATRO) to increase minibus fares in Maputo by 50 per cent led to serious rioting on 5 February. The main reason given for these increases was the latest rise in the price of fuel The fare rises were to take effect on 5 February – but crowds came onto the streets shouting "Five meticais! Five meticais!" and physically prevented minibuses - known as chapas - from operating

Barricades were improvised out of lumps of concrete or burning tyres on several of Maputo's main thoroughfares. Enormous clouds of smoke billowed from the burning tyres that blocked Lurdes Mutola Avenue in the neighbourhood of Malhazine.

The demonstrators even stopped vehicles belonging to the public bus company, TPM, from circulating, even though the TPM flat fare has only risen from 4.5 to five meticais. In the suburb of Magoanine, AIM reporters watched as protestors stopped a TPM bus, and obliged all its passengers to leave the vehicle and join them.

Schoolchildren took an active part in the protests. Pupils from the Laulane Secondary School told AIM "some of our colleagues are studying, but we prefer to be here to show that the increased cost of transport is a problem that affects everybody".

In some areas, demonstrators turned against journalists. Stones shattered the windows of a vehicle belonging to the television station, STV, and one of the STV reporters was injured.

Riot police intervened, firing rubber bullets into the crowds in an attempt to bring the situation under control. Despite the police presence, most chapa owners gave up any attempt to take their vehicles onto the streets. Thousands of workers found themselves unable to reach their workplaces, while pupils who live a long distance from their schools found it impossible to reach classes.

178 people sustained injuries during the riots in Maputo and Matola according to Maputo Central Hospital. Of this number, 29 are still under medical care, of whom four are under intensive care. The police have confirmed that four people died of injuries suffered in the rioting, 30 were injured by rubber bullets, and five "seriously poisoned" by tear gas.

According to Deputy Interior Minister Jose Mandra the rioting began at about 6.30 at the entrance to Maputo city on the main north-south highway, and then spread to other parts of the city.

"The main problem faced by the police", he said, "is that there are lots of foci of disturbances". The rioters, whom he said were mostly adolescents, were operating in groups of 10 or 20, and were moving from place to place, keeping in contact with each other via mobile phones.

They had blocked streets in some places with tree trunks, elsewhere with building rubble or with burning tyres. The riot police had used rubber bullets and tear gas in attempts to disperse the rioters.

During the rioting vehicles and shops were damaged, and local traders suffered as rioters looted their stalls. The Maputo economy largely ground to a halt – many restaurants, banks, shops and markets all closed for fear of looters, or because workers were unable to come in. Even the street vendors of central Maputo were nowhere to be seen.

In response to the violence the government and FEMATRO announced that they were going to suspend the price hike. New talks will now take place that are due be concluded by 15 February.

The Minister of Transport and Communications, Antonio Mungwambe, announced that the government is planning to increase the fleet of the publicly-owned bus company TPM from the current 40 to reach a number of 150 buses to alleviate the current transportation crisis in Maputo.


Flooding in Zambezi valley set to worsen as floodgates open

The Director of the Mozambican government's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), Paulo Zucula, has warned that flooding which has hit the Zambezi valley looks set to worsen as heavy rain further upstream works its way down the river basin. Currently 95,278 people have been made homeless, with 150,108 in need of food aid.

Zucula was addressing a session of the Disaster Management Coordinating Council on 8 February in the town of Caia on the south bank of the Zambezi. The meeting was chaired by President Armando Guebuza, who has been visiting the province to witness first-hand damage caused by the flooding.

Zucula warned that the situation is deteriorating, and further complicated by people returning to their homes as the levels of the rivers fluctuate. Zucula lamented that as a result "some people have had to be evacuated and supported at least twice".

Flooding is likely to worsen before the rainy season ends in March. The Kariba dam, on the Zimbabwe/Zambia border on 11 February opened one of its floodgates. This will send a flood surge down the Zambezi and may force the Cahora Bassa dam to increase its discharges, worsening the flooding in the provinces of Manica, Tete, Sofala and Zambezia.

"The situation could get much worse", said Zucula, "with increased needs for evacuation and support". He warned against concentrating more on food supply than basic sanitation in the resettlement areas, pointing out that a cholera outbreak could have disastrous consequences. "Lack of hygiene kills many more people than hunger does", he pointed out.

He noted that the current floods on the Zambezi are already worse than those of 2001. The floods on the Save and Buzi rivers are the worst since Mozambican independence in 1975, while the flood on the Pungue, west of Beira, is approaching historically high levels.

The Zambezi and its largest tributary, the Shire, have bust their banks in a massive fashion, with water spreading out for kilometres in all directions, forming a vast shallow lake, where it is hard to detect the original river bed. Maps of the flooded valley show that the current disaster is approaching the worst-case scenario drawn up by the World Food Programme (WFP).

Zucula said the number of people directly affected by the flooding was now 95,278 – this figure refers to those who have lost their homes, and does not include those who have only lost crops. The evacuation operations have kept the death toll low: Zucula said there were now nine confirmed deaths.

A further 5,608 people had been affected by localized flooding caused by torrential rains outside of the main river basin. Most of these are in Mogovolas district, in the northern province of Nampula.

In terms of other damage, 119 wells and boreholes, and 689 latrines had been submerged. 475 classrooms are under water, affecting over 72,000 pupils. The current estimate for damage to agriculture is that 117,308 hectares of crops have been lost.

The number of people requiring food aid – 150,108 – is many more than those living in the resettlement areas. So far, 118,021 of these have benefited from food distribution.

The government has approved expenditure of 80.2 million meticais (about $3.4 million) on implementing actions in the INGC contingency plan. But so far only 20 million meticais has been disbursed.

President Guebuza visits resettlement areas

On 8 February President Guebuza over flew the flooded Zambezi Valley, and visited two resettlement areas for flood victims.

In Mutarara district President Guebuza visited the Charre resettlement area. Here he was impressed by brick houses under construction by many of the victims, using locally produced bricks and cement brought in from the factory in Dondo, Sofala province.

The second, and much more recent centre, at Matilde, in Chinde district, near the mouth of the Zambezi, was very different. Here there were no bricks or cement, and the 2,000 residents are living in tiny grass huts. To the visiting journalists they complained of a shortage of almost everything, particularly of food. The rations of rice they had been given, they said, would run out in a few days. The nearest source of clean drinking water was three kilometres away. Mosquito nets have been distributed, but there are not enough yet to protect each household from malaria.

In both Charre and Matilde, President Guebuza told the flood victims that they should build decent houses, preferably of brick, in the resettlement areas and only use the flood plain for farming.

He stressed that the Zambezi is a source of immense wealth for Mozambique, largely because of its hydroelectric potential. However, in the rainy season "it causes problems, invading our houses and fields without our permission".

The long-term solution, President Guebuza said, was to tame the river by building more dams. It would be the job of those who are now children to complete that task.

In Matilde, and other Chinde resettlement areas, people have returned to the flood plain when they believe the river has subsided. But the rainy season does not end until March, so the danger is far from over. President Guebuza compared those who return to the flood plain to chickens that run straight into the path of an oncoming car.

On 7 February President Guebuza visited four resettlement areas for victims of in the Save and Buzi valleys. The centres at Jenga in Nova Mambone, and at Beiapeia in Machanga district, in the Save valley, were set up in the wake of a flood surge down the river on 1 January. At Guara-Guara, overlooking the Buzi River, new accommodation for this year's flood victims is being added onto an existing village.

Easily the most difficult conditions that the President witnessed are at Medenginhane in Manica province. This resettlement centre has only existed for the past three weeks, and people are still living under sheets of tarpaulin. Tents have not yet arrived.

Flooding was not expected, but a mid-January surge down the Buzi was so great that the water backed up and flowed in the opposite direction, massively swelling the Buzi's main tributary, the Lucite.

This flood drove hundreds of people to seek safety in the higher areas of Dombe. The rivers have subsided, but it will clearly take a considerable time for the water to drain away from the inundated areas. Vast pools of water on what was once cultivated land can be seen from the air.

In all four centres, President Guebuza told the flood victims that he had come to bring them the solidarity of the government and of the whole Mozambican people. "It is the tradition of this government to be close to the people and to serve the people", he declared in Jenga. "We are here to say we're with you", he added.

The government would provide whatever was in its power - but he stressed that the affected households would have to build their own homes.

The flood victims have continued to receive international support. On 31 January the Italian government announced that it would give a million euros (about $1.48 million) to assist victims of the current flooding in the central provinces. The money will be spent over the next 12 months and will be directed to health services for flood victims, food security, water supply, housing and the re-establishment of income generating activities.

France donated €270,000 to support flood victims, and includes 200 family tents, 500 cooking kits and 11,000 mosquito nets, as well logistic support for the emergency operations. The French government will also appoint a logistic representative from the French Red Cross.


Rural electrification plans presented

The first phase of Mozambique's Low Cost Rural Electrification Plan will cost $117 million according to Energy Minister Salvador Namburete.

Presenting the plan in Maputo to potential donors and funding agencies, Namburete said that $117 million is the sum the publicly-owned electricity company EDM needs to spend to extend the electricity grid to a further 117 administrative posts and villages, 193 schools, 66 health posts and about 82,000 households (around half a million people).

The first part of the plan is broken into nine provincial packages. The only province left out is Sofala, which has higher rural electrification coverage than anywhere else in the country. The complete plan is much more ambitious and is costed at $800 million.

Currently only ten per cent of the Mozambican population has access to electricity and most of this segment of the population lives in the cities and towns. Namburete said that in the countryside, the figure drops to about two per cent.

"Our efforts should be concentrated on speeding up rural electrification, using all available sources of energy, so that an increasing number of Mozambicans may have access to electricity", declared the minister.


Reshuffle in Renamo

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's main opposition party Renamo, has reshuffled his party's top officials, a move intended to improve Renamo's performance ahead of the 2008 municipal and 2009 general elections.

The Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, confirmed to AIM on 1 February that he is no longer head of the Renamo Information Department, a post now occupied by a former member of parliament, Rahil Khan.

Mazanga remains an advisor to Dhlakama on matters of communication, and is still the party's official spokesperson. He will also be in charge of Renamo's "image and marketing".

Dhlakama has also set up a new organisation department that will be headed by Joao Alexandre, a former general secretary of Renamo, and currently a member of the Standing Commission of the Assembly of the Republic.

The post of head of the Renamo department of social affairs and demobilized soldiers had fallen vacant with the death of Mario Frank. Dhlakama appointed Jose Manuel to this position – both Frank and Manuel were senior officers, a general and a colonel respectively, in the Renamo army during the war of destabilisation.

Dhlakama removed Artur Vilanculos from his post head of the Renamo foreign affairs department, replacing him with Ivone Soares.

Armindo Milaco retains his position as head of the Renamo mobilization department.


World Bank President visits Mozambique

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said on 4 February that the Bank is willing to assist the Mozambican government "to avoid the problems we have seen elsewhere of the dual economy".

The term "dual economy" refers to resource-rich countries (notably oil producers) where the natural resource sector develops to the detriment of the rest of the economy, leading to enclaves of wealth in the midst of poverty, often accompanied by rampant corruption.

Speaking to reporters immediately prior to leaving Mozambique at the end of a three day visit, Zoellick stressed the importance of the "Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative" (EITI), which demands that companies developing national resources, and the governments, publish details of all the money involved and where it goes.

Mozambique has not yet joined EITI, but Zoellick claimed the Mozambican government "is moving towards it", and that the Mozambican government is fully aware of the dangers of a dual economy.

Mozambique's known mineral resources include natural gas, coal and titanium-bearing heavy sands, while there also strong hopes that oil may be discovered in the Rovuma Basin, and possibly in the Zambezi basin.

Zoellick said the polarization of a "dual economy" could be avoided by investing the income from resources into social development, and also by encouraging small and medium enterprises. He said the World Bank's private sector funding arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was already doing this through the "Linkages" programme whereby small companies are encouraged to provide goods and services for the country's largest factory, the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo.

"Dual economies are particularly vulnerable to corruption", warned Zoellick. "States are often offering concessions, and these can come with bribes. So it helps to adopt transparency so that people know what money is being paid".

"This is a challenge for all countries that are developing natural resources and have major infrastructure projects", stressed Zoellick. He said he was pleased both President Armando Guebuza and Prime Minister Luisa Diogo "want to avoid these problems".

The Minister of Planning and Development, Aiuba Cuereneia, who was accompanying Zoellick, said the government "is making exploitation of resources as transparent as possible". New legislation on oil, gas and minerals guaranteed that contracts in these areas "cannot be ad-hoc or discretionary".

He also pledged full disclosure of revenue from natural resources in the state budget.

Zoellick claimed that the World Bank's long-term approach to Africa "is to work with Africans". "There have been too many occasions when other people told Africans what to do", he admitted.

He pointed out that despite "terrible traumas" in such countries as Chad, Kenya or Zimbabwe, elsewhere on the continent, including in Mozambique, "you have a government with excellent people. They certainly know their country better than we do, and we can work with them, and can bring finance and experience from elsewhere".

"This is not to say that Africans will not make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes", he added. "But when you have national ownership and responsibility, it will work. Together we learn from the mistakes and move forward".

Asked about increased Chinese investment in Africa, Zoellick said he was sure that the Chinese could bring important experience, particularly in agriculture, to sub-Saharan Africa. On a visit to China in December, he had found that "the Chinese are interested in working with us to ensure transparency and avoid corruption. Of course, there are differing Chinese companies – but the Chinese don't want projects that are faulty and can't be paid back".

During his visit, Zoellick had flown over the Zambezi Valley to observe the flooding in central Mozambique. He said he had been shocked by the devastation he had witnessed, and believed that a long term solution would involved building further dams that could ensure flood control.

Summarising the World Bank's relationship with Mozambique over the past 20 years, Zoellick said the Bank's soft loans affiliate, the International Development Association (IDA), had lent Mozambique $3.5 billion. The World Bank had handled a further $700 million through trust funds for other donors. The IFC had invested around $200 million, and another part of the World Bank Group, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) had provided guarantees of $267 million. This was MIGA's largest exposure in sub-Saharan Africa and its fourth highest in the world.

Currently the World Bank is funding 17 projects in Mozambique (over 50 per cent of them on infrastructure), and is also among the 19 donors and funding agencies that provide direct support for the Mozambican state budget. Budget support from the World Bank for this year is $60 million.


 

This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact aim@aim.org.mz

 


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