Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza, winding
up a three-day working visit to Cuba, declared his admiration of the determination
and self-esteem shown by the Cuban people in building an economy that can supply
their basic needs despite the economic embargo imposed by successive United
States administrations. Cuba has been able to provide free education and health
care to its citizens, and has sent doctors, teachers and specialists to countries
across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
"With determination and self-esteem, it is possible to overcome adversities, and Cuba is an example of this", President Guebuza told Mozambican journalists who accompanied him on this visit.
President Guebuza, who held official talks with the new Cuban president Raul Castro during his visit, confirmed that Cuba is willing to continue supporting Mozambique in its development agenda centred on the fight against poverty.
He reaffirmed the political will of the Mozambican government to continue its cooperation with Cuba, and its appreciation for the valuable support Mozambique has received from Cuba over the years, notably in education, health, and science and technology. President Guebuza regarded Cuba as a key partner, whose specialist technical assistance is fundamental for the battle against absolute poverty.
Among the specific results of this visit, President Guebuza said, are the establishment with Cuban support of a higher Institute of Arts and Culture, due to open in the southern city of Matola later this year, a Biotechnology Centre, aimed at using genetic technology to improve livestock species, and an increase in the number of Mozambicans studying at Cuban universities.
President Guebuza ended his visit to Cuba on 5 March, with visits to the Livestock Genetics Company, in Matanzas province, and to Varadero province, where he was briefed on the development of tourism.
On 27 February President Guebuza reiterated his hope that cooperation between Mozambique and the Netherlands can be raised to a higher level, to the benefit of the people of both countries. "The excellent level of our bilateral cooperation leads us to believe that today, more than ever, conditions have been created to lift our friendship and relationship to new levels", said President Guebuza during a banquet hosted by Queen Beatrix.
For her part, Queen Beatrix praised the Mozambican government for the measures taken to minimise the impact of the floods since December. She acknowledged that, despite natural disasters and the 16-year war of destabilization, Mozambique has been recording clear advances, supported by its foreign partners, including the Netherlands, in areas such as health, education and water supply.
The Dutch monarch also hailed the Mozambican government for improvements in good governance and strengthening of democratic structures.
One of high points of President Guebuza's visit was the decision between the Mozambican and Dutch authorities to set up a Water Research and Management Centre in Mozambique, with the support of the Dutch government.
AIM learnt from an official source that the government is currently worried by potential water shortages, and is striving to create conditions to retain this resource to be used in periods of crises.
President Guebuza held a two-hour private meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende on 28 February. Speaking after the meeting, Balkenende said that the Netherlands is willing to explore new areas for cooperation and investment with Mozambique. He mentioned tourism, energy and banking in particular as potential areas for new Dutch interventions, involving both the public and private sectors.
For his part, President Guebuza stressed the "excellent" political and economic relations between the two countries. He pointed out that Mozambique requires more foreign investment, needed to generate income and jobs and thus contribute to development and poverty reduction.
The known death toll from cyclone Jokwe, which struck the northern province of Nampula on 8 March, now stands at six, according to the government's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC). According to the INGC deputy general director, Joao Ribeiro, four people had died in Mogincual district, one in Angoche, and one in Moma.
The cyclone had also destroyed or damaged about 1,000 homes, six health posts, dozens of classrooms, and several mosques (Islam is the dominant religion along the Nampula coast). Electricity pylons were knocked down, cutting off the power supply to Angoche and to the former colonial capital, Mozambique Island. The state electricity company, EDM, has managed to restore the normal electricity supply to Mozambique Island, but Angoche town is now dependent on a generator. The cyclone put 75 per cent of the transmission lines in Angoche district out of action.
In Mogincual the cyclonic winds also damaged two cashew processing factories, and a bridge over the Mogincual river was swept away In Mossuril district, the roof was blown off the local prison, and the 11 solar panels that provide electricity to the Mossuril health centre were destroyed.
The INGC has sent a helicopter to overfly the cyclone-affected districts of Nampula, to obtain a better assessment of the damage. Ribeiro said the INGC has also been mobilizing food stored in warehouses in the port of Nacala to assist those made homeless by Jokwe. Tents and kitchen utensils are also being provided.
The government has activated the National Civil Protection Unit (UNAPROC) to remove fallen trees and electricity pylons that are currently blocking roads, and to help people start rebuilding their homes.
Maria Moreno, head of the parliamentary group of the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, on 10 March claimed that the Mozambican government's flood resettlement programme is a return to "the communist dream of communal villages".
Speaking at the opening of the first sitting this year of the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Moreno claimed that villagisation is "an attack on individual freedom", and threatened that the resettlement would fail, just as the communal villages of 30 years ago had failed.
Moreno claimed that in the resettlement areas "priority is being given to hoisting flags, rather than to distributing food and medicines". She claimed that flags of the ruling Frelimo Party are flying over standpipes providing drinking water, and that the flags of other political parties are banned. "We ask: what is more important, to have a flag at the place where you fetch water, or to receive food in sufficient quantity and clothes to cover your nakedness?"
She dismissed the promises to provide decent housing for the flood victims, which she stated was also part of "the communist dream".
Her opposite number in Frelimo, Manuel Tome, also stressed the floods crisis in his speech - but from a very different perspective, pointing out that this time the government had been prepared to deal with the crisis. The fact that fewer people were affected this year than in the floods earlier in the decade (in 2000, 2001 and 2007) "is evidence of the government's greater capacity to forecast, contain and mitigate the effects of natural disasters".
In 2007, Tome pointed out, the number of people affected by floods and cyclones was about 510,000. This year the number affected (including by cyclone Jokwe) was less than 300,000 - even though the floods on the Zambezi and Pungoe rivers were worse than in 2007 or 2001.
Tome rejected the Renamo claim that providing building materials for flood victims was somehow in conflict with providing food aid and clean water. He pointed out that so far the government and its partners have distributed over 4,000 tonnes of food to the resettlement areas, 2,700 tents and tarpaulins, and 100 large tents for temporary schools. 12,000 plots of land have been distributed to households to build new homes.
"What Frelimo wants is for the government to provide food, water, schools, health posts and shelter", said Tome. "We want to keep families together which can't be achieved without shelter".
Both Moreno and Tome spoke at some length about the riots in Maputo and the neighbouring city of Matola on 5 February, but again from sharply different perspectives. For Tome, the violence used in these riots over minibus fares, and in subsequent clashes over demands for wage rises at the Xinavane sugar plantation, and over the supposed ineffectiveness of the justice system in the central city of Chimoio, was unacceptable.
"Any of the motives presented as pretexts for the demonstrations might eventually be correct, but under no circumstances should violence be legitimised", he stressed. The trend for people to take the law into their own hands had to be resisted, since "you don't punish one crime by committing another".
Tome also expressed his concern at the shocking images of lynching shown on Mozambican television stations, which "have the effect of trivializing death, and thus devaluing life".
For Moreno, however, the riots were a case of Mozambicans standing up to the government and declaring, "enough is enough".
"The people went onto the streets to confront a government that claims to be a people's government, but when the people say they're fed up, this same government treats them as criminals, but forgets that nobody can live honestly on the minimum wage", she declared.
The Agriculture Ministry signed in Maputo on 3 March an agreement with the European Commission, under which this institution is to finance the second phase of "accompanying measures" to cope with the reform of the European Union's sugar regime.
The document, signed by Agriculture Minister Soares Nhaca, and the chief of the EC delegation in Mozambique, Glauco Calzuola, grants six million euros (about $9 million) for a three-year period, starting in 2008.
Nhaca said that this money will be used to continue and expand activities identified by the Agriculture Promotion Centre (CEPAGRI), during the first phase of the "accompanying measures", in 2006, to bring the sugar sector into line with the new realities of the world market.
The purpose of the plan is to improve the results in the Mozambican sugar industry, with an increased involvement of small-scale cane producers in supplying raw material to the four operational sugar mills. Other objectives include increasing the productivity of the labour force of the sugar companies, and ensuring that Mozambican staff hold skilled positions in the factories, many of which are still held by foreigners.
"To maximise the impact of the use of these funds, partners in this programme, including farmers, workers, the sugar companies, and the government, are planning to use this money as seed capital to attract additional funds to expand the areas cultivated by small farmers, not only for the production of sugar cane, but also food crops", said Nhaca.
"With this convention signed, we expect the European Union to disburse the money in time to ensure that we can fully carry out the planned activities", he added.
The "accompanying measures" are the sweet icing on a bitter cake. Despite promises that the EU sugar protocol would last "indefinitely", sugar producers in the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) group of countries find that their European partners are unilaterally abolishing the protocol.
Under the EU reforms, the price of sugar is likely to collapse. Calzuola put a positive gloss on this, claiming that the reform seeks "to strengthen the competitiveness and market orientation of this sector, guaranteeing it a viable future in the long term".
Over a four-year period the EU's guaranteed price for refined sugar would fall by 36 per cent, said Calzuola. Despite this, he was confident that the European market would remain more attractive than the international free market, particularly for ACP sugar producers such as Mozambique "who will continue to enjoy preferential access to the European Union market".
He stressed that the Commission has pledged that, as from 2009, countries such as Mozambique, which participate in the EBA (Everything but Arms) agreement, will be able to export their sugar to Europe without any quota restrictions, and free of all duties. In other words the price will have fallen sharply, but the Mozambican companies can export to Europe as much sugar as they can find buyers for.
The "accompanying measures", Calzuola added, were designed by the European Commission to help sugar producers adapt "to the new market realities, with the main objective of increasing their competitiveness internationally, while at the same time increasing their contribution to the economic and social development of the communities that live in sugar producing areas".
CEPAGRI had drawn up "a strategic adaptation plan" for Mozambican sugar. For the preliminary phase of this plan the European Commission had disbursed €562,000. Now came a further €6 million which was on top of an annual sum of €15 million allocated by the Commission to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Calzuola promised further funding for the third phase of the adaptation plan, in 2010-2013, but the sum involved had not yet been determined, "and will depend on the performance of the plan in the first two phases".
Complementary measures already under way or at an advanced stage of planning, he added, include "a regional research programme to produce genetic material and cane field management techniques better adapted to Mozambique's agro-climatic conditions".
Calzuola claimed that the European Commission's programme is "one of the most concrete and tangible forms of supporting the efforts undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture to promote food security and economic growth, through a modern marked-oriented and competitive agriculture".
Mozambique's hope is that its four sugar companies will be able to offset the decline (and eventual abolition) of the guaranteed price by a massive expansion in exports to the European market. Currently the companies produce 240,000 tonnes of sugar a year. About 150,000 tonnes supplies the domestic market, and the rest is exported, mostly to Europe.
Within the next four years the projection is that sugar production could reach 500,000 tonnes, most of which would have to be exported. But there is no guarantee that Europeans will buy hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Mozambican sugar, since every other ACP sugar producer will also try to take advantage of the quota and duty free conditions, not to mention the competition from Europe's own beet sugar producers.
One area of expansion is the use of sugar cane as a biofuel. Calzuola noted that the EU envisages a substantial increase in the use of biofuel, and would thus be "an important market for countries such as Mozambique who can produce ethanol from sugar cane".
The Mozambican government has extended the mandate of the Support and Reconstruction Office (GAR) until 31 December 2008. This office was created by the government to support the families affected by the explosions in the military arsenal in the Maputo suburb of Malhazine on 22 March 2007. In those explosions, artillery shells, rockets, mortars and other obsolete military equipment were hurled out of the blazing arsenal, landing up to 10 kilometres away. 107 people died in the disaster, 515 required medical attention, and thousands of buildings were damaged.
The GAR's main task was to rebuild or repair houses that were destroyed or damaged in the explosions. Optimistically, the government gave it a year to complete this task. But the government has now accepted that this timetable is impossible, and so a Cabinet meeting on 26 February decided to extend the life of the GAR until the end of the year.
The Mozambican people "have no alternative but to take the law into their own hands because of the failure of the authorities to act", claimed Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the largest opposition party, Renamo, in an interview published in the pro-Renamo weekly "Zambeze" on 6 March.
Dhlakama did not actually come out in support of lynch mobs, but he did claim that the recent lynching of alleged criminals in several Mozambican cities should be blamed on the failures of the police and justice system.
"There are groups who kill and steal such as that group that went around attacking people with machetes in Chimoio, and breaking into their houses", he said. "Several times the people caught them and took them to the police. But some days later they were freed and, as if this were not enough, they would threaten the people".
In Chimoio, seven people were reported lynched in late February. A crowd attacked a police station in an unsuccessful attempt to seize and murder 12 other alleged thieves held in the police cells. This led to full scale rioting in the city.
"The people don't trust the authorities. This is the result of the lack of a functioning justice system", claimed Dhlakama. "The people are not ignorant. They never seize the innocent. The people catch thieves and murderers red handed. They know who they are".
Mozambican law courts are slowly reducing their huge backlog of cases, according to the President of the Supreme Court, Mario Mangaze.
Speaking on 3 March at the opening of the 2008 judicial year, Mangaze said that in 2007 the courts closed 131,877 cases a 24 per cent increase on the 2006 figure. Furthermore, the number of cases finished was considerably larger than the 109,582 new cases that entered the courts during the year.
Nonetheless, the amount of casework is huge for a system that only possesses 242 judges of whom only 160 have law degrees.
Mangaze warned that, paradoxically enough, if the legal system performs better, then greater demands would be made on it by society. It was thus crucial to lessen the administrative burden that falls on judges.
Key to this strategy is the figure of Judicial Administrator. The first group of such administrators, all with degrees in economics or management, have been trained and will move into the courts in the near future, supporting the magistrates by looking after the paperwork.
Mangaze also called for using mechanisms of mediation and conciliation wherever possible, instead of dragging the courts into any and every conflict. Work on redrafting the country's cobwebbed legal codes, inherited from Portuguese colonial rule, should continue, he urged. Of particular importance was simplification of the Civil Procedural Code, the complexities of which Mangaze regarded as one of the main causes for the slowness of the courts in dealing with civil cases.
Mangaze could also report an encouraging improvement in the prisons. It used to be the case that most people held in Mozambican jails had been found guilty of nothing, but were simply awaiting trial. That picture has been reversed. In 2007, Mangaze said 66 per cent of the prison population consisted of people serving sentences, while only 34 per cent were on remand.
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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