Mozambique News Agency
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on 5 November welcomed Barack Obama's victory in the US presidential election, describing it as a sign that "American society is evolving". Speaking to reporters in Helsinki, during a two-day working visit, President Guebuza said the fact that blacks and whites, and Americans of Hispanic or Asian descent, had all voted for an African-American to be their next President was "a very positive sign, and we should all draw lessons from this".
In less than four decades, a remarkable change had occurred in the United States. President Guebuza recalled that when he had visited the US in the 1970s, he had witnessed "shameful" discrimination against black people. Now the country had chosen a black man as its next leader. "It shows that this is a society in movement", he said.
President Guebuza was confident that Obama will continue to work with Mozambique and other African governments to help maintain peace and guarantee development on the continent.
President Guebuza's host, Finnish President Tarya Halonen, was also enthusiastic about Obama, but pointed out he had come to power at a time of financial turmoil, and when the United States was still bogged down in Iraq.
Finland is one of the 19 donors and funding agencies that give direct support to the Mozambican state budget. Total Finnish aid to Mozambique is currently running at €31 million (about $40 million) a year - an increase of over 50 per cent on the 2004 figure of €20 million.
Of the Finnish aid, €7 million takes the form of direct budget support (up from €4 million in 2004 and 2005), while the rest is allocated to a variety of programmes, notably in agriculture and forestry, and support for Finnish NGOs working in Mozambique.
President visits Demark
Prior to his arrival in Finland, President Guebuza visited Denmark where he met with Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. After the meeting Rasmussen said that the results of development aid channelled to Mozambique are very clear: "I am impressed with Mozambique's development, with the progress that the country has made, and with the significant economic growth rates achieved. Mozambique is one of our main partners in Africa, and Denmark intends to continue this partnership in the coming years".
The Prime Minister said Denmark is
satisfied with the policies followed by the Mozambican government, and believed
that the resources channelled to Mozambique will be properly used.
Rasmussen said that the most effective way of combating poverty, in Mozambique and in Africa in general, is through continued high rates of growth, the development of the private sector and job creation. He added that the Danish government has set up an "Africa Commission" with the task of drawing up concrete proposals for stimulating economic growth and employment in Africa in the coming years.
For his part, President Guebuza stressed that the political relations between the two countries are excellent. "Our cooperation relations are very good, and we are the second largest beneficiary of Danish assistance", he said. "But one thing is missing, which is greater involvement by the Danish private sector in the development of Mozambique. There are some Danish companies working in Mozambique, but we believe they could do more, and that other companies could come to Mozambique".
President Guebuza has also been seeking help from the Danish Agricultural Council in training Mozambican farmers, as well as in exchanging experiences, in the hope of boosting agricultural yields in Mozambique. He met with the chairperson of the Danish Agricultural Council, Peter Gaemelke, and expressed his concern at the low levels of agricultural production and productivity in Mozambique.
After the meeting, President Guebuza said that the Council's experience could make a great contribution to the Green Revolution that the government wishes to implement in Mozambique.
During their meeting, Gaemelke said he believed that the solution to the inefficiency of the Mozambican agricultural sector could be found through setting up effective credit mechanisms that are accessible to peasant farmers. He also stressed the importance of training so that peasants acquire knowledge of new techniques, and are able to adopt more productive methods of farming, and thus become more competitive.
The Danish Agricultural Council brings together all the farmers' associations in Denmark. It discusses policies with the government, undertakes research, and monitors agricultural activities and markets.
The first day of official campaigning for Mozambique's third municipal elections, scheduled for 19 November, passed off peacefully in most of the country - but in the central city of Beira, the police admitted to opening fire on individuals who were damaging electoral propaganda of their opponents.
According to a report on 5 November in the daily "O Pais", a specialized anti-crime unit attacked the activists, and shot two of them. One of those shot ended up in Beira Central Hospital. The spokesperson for the Sofala Provincial Police Command, Jose Mazive, admitted the police had used firearms, but claimed they had only fired warning shots into the air. Seven other people were detained in this incident.
Mazive refused to say which party the detainees came from, or whose posters had been damaged. However, the paper's sources in Beira say that most of those detained are supporters of the main opposition party, Renamo, who destroyed material fly posted by members of the ruling Frelimo Party. One was a supporter of the current mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, who was expelled from Renamo in September, and in now running as an independent. Another of the detainees is reported to be a Frelimo supporter who retaliated by beating up a Renamo member.
Mazive said that the police would not allow disturbances during the election campaign. "This is a time for democratic festivities, and not for showing off one's muscles", he said. "If anyone wants to display their physical rather than their political strength, we shall show them that the police are stronger".
There were other incidents in Beira, early on 4 November, that pitted Renamo members against supporters of Simango, A correspondent of the newssheet "Diario Independente" (DI) witnessed exchanges of blows and insults between the two groups, but there were no serious injuries or arrests.
In Chimoio, capital of Manica province, DI reported that two Renamo members were arrested on 4 November. According to the Frelimo Chimoio city secretary, Joao Rendecao, these individuals had followed brigades of Frelimo fly posters around the streets of the city, tearing down posters only a few minutes after they had been put up.
The electoral law stipulates that anyone found guilty of destroying electoral propaganda during the campaign can be sentenced to up to a year's imprisonment.
DI also reported that the police detained two Frelimo supporters in Gondola, also in Manica province, but gave no further details.
According to the Maputo daily "Noticias", there were scuffles in the town of Dondo, 30 kilometres west of Beira. Three members of Frelimo were assaulted by a group of Renamo supporters, allegedly led by the Renamo election agent in the town, Horacio Calavete.
In Mozambique Island, in the northern province of Nampula, tragedy marked the start of the campaign when one man in a Frelimo motorcade died in a traffic accident. A second person, a student named Anita Samito, was injured and is now in intensive care.
Meanwhile, Fernando Mbararano, Renamo provincial delegate in Sofala told "O Pais" that Renamo has appealed to the Constitutional Council to reinstate the three mayoral candidates whom the National Elections Commission (CNE) disqualified for lack of a valid residence certificate.
This is the third different position on this matter from three top Renamo officials. Renamo Secretary General Ossufo Momad told the weekly paper "Magazine Independente" that Renamo would appeal to the Administrative Tribunal (the body that deals with public expenditure and the legality of administrative decisions), while Renamo President Afonso Dhlakama threatened to disrupt the elections in the three municipalities concerned unless the CNE changed its mind.
The electoral legislation states that the only appeal against CNE decisions is to the Constitutional Council, whose decision on electoral disputes is final.
No funding for election candidates
The chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Joao Leopoldo da Costa, on 3 November reaffirmed that the CNE will not provide any funding for political parties or candidates in the municipal elections scheduled for 19 November.
State funding has been available for candidates in presidential and parliamentary elections, but the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, rejected attempts by the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition to write state funding for candidates into the local election law.
Costa announced that the CNE has $15 million available for the local elections. But this money is entirely accounted for by such matters as the payment of electoral staff, printing the ballot papers, and the complex logistics of organizing elections in 43 towns and cities scattered across the country.
As for the CNE's disqualification of the Renamo candidates for mayor in the towns of Dondo, Gorongosa and Manica, Costa said that Renamo had been officially notified of the decision on 31 October, and so far the CNE had received no reaction. The three were disqualified for not meeting the legal requirement that all candidates in local elections must have lived in the municipality they are contesting for at least six months.
Hunger is one of the cruellest expressions of poverty, and one of the greatest obstacles to freeing energy and initiative for the country's social and economic development, President Armando Guebuza declared on 24 October.
Speaking at the official launch of the 2008/2009 agricultural campaign in Nicoadala, in the central province of Zambezia, President Guebuza stressed the continuing reality of hunger in Mozambique, with many families, in both rural and urban areas, unsure where their next meal will come from.
But hunger coexisted with surpluses. "In certain parts of the country pockets of hunger may be reported, while surplus crops are rotting in other areas", said the President. "These contrasts can happen in the same province, or the same district, or in neighbouring districts".
These sad realities, the President added, contrast with Mozambique's potential to produce food both to supply the domestic market and for export. The country has natural resources, a favourable climate, and a people with lengthy farming traditions.
"Placing seven million meticais (about $290,000) in each of the 128 districts since 2006 has been one of the responses from the government to empower agrarian producers and to combat hunger, through increased food production", said President Guebuza. This Local Initiative Investment Fund had encouraged the emergence of a variety of projects to produce, process, preserve and sell more food.
The 2008/09 agricultural campaign is the first since the government's adoption of a National Green Revolution Strategy. This strategy is intended to guide planners and decision-makers in the search for sustainable solutions that will guarantee increased agricultural production and productivity through a range of innovations. These include the mass use of improved seeds and animal traction, and a substantial expansion of irrigation.
Based on this, the government, in June, approved a National Food Production Plan of Action for the 2008-2011 period, with the aim of reducing the main food deficits, particularly in rice and wheat, and promoting a massive expansion in the production of maize and cassava (surpluses of both these crops are produced).
Mozambique produces 223,000 tonnes of rice a year, but consumes 529,000 tonnes. The deficit is filled by imports. There is a deficit of 469,000 tonnes of wheat, and 169,000 tonnes of potatoes. The plan also seeks to reduce dependence on imported oilseeds, chicken and fish.
President Guebuza said he felt encouraged by last year's agricultural campaign, since the 2008 grain harvest was seven per cent higher than in 2007. Production of pulses had risen by six per cent, and of cassava by four per cent.
Speaking at the ceremony, the representative in Mozambique of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Maria Zimmerman, congratulated Mozambique on its efforts to deal with the a food crisis that affects over 862 million people across the globe.
The government's policy, she said, was "a wise choice, reflecting the importance the government gives to agriculture for the country's development".
Grain target missed
Meanwhile, Maputo province has failed to meet its grain production target for 2008. The province only harvested 125,000 tonnes of grain, out of a target of 190,000 tonnes, blamed mainly on the drought.
However, though the province failed in grain, it surpassed its overall food production target, due mainly to the good production of vegetables and root crops, particularly potatoes, mostly on irrigated land.
According to Maputo Provincial Director of Agriculture, Cetina Titosse, Maputo harvested a total of 15,000 tonnes of potatoes, on an area of 641 hectares. This figure is far above the 9,000 tonnes of potatoes harvested on 600 hectares in 2007, and is tribute to the success of the campaign to relaunch potatoes as an important cash crop for Maputo farmers.
For 2009, the target is to produce 25,000 tonnes of potatoes on an area of 1,050 hectares.
The authorities have introduced a new variety of potatoes, of French origin, this year, which is expected to contribute to increase production. A South African variety is also being used. While the South African variety yields 25 tonnes per hectare, the French variety may produce 45 tonnes a hectare.
The Agriculture Ministry on 4 November received 15 new tractors to be distributed to farmers in Tete, Sofala, and Manica provinces. These are among a total of 50 tractors to be distributed nationwide during the 2008/2009 agricultural campaign. Ten tractors have already been distributed in Sofala, Zambezia, and Inhambane provinces.
The ministry's Permanent Secretary, Daniel Clemente, said that the distribution of the tractors is part of the implementation of the National Food Production Plan for 2008 - 2011 that calls for increased mechanisation of agriculture. The Agricultural Development Fund, under the Agriculture Ministry, is in charge of managing the equipments.
Each tractor, equipped with all accessories, costs about 1.5 million meticais ($62,000). The beneficiaries must make a down payment of at least five per cent of the value of the tractor, plus the insurance, and have five years to pay off their debt to the state.
The Agriculture Ministry is to purchase a further 110 tractors which should arrive in Mozambique in the first quarter of 2009 (and thus will only be fully used in the 2009/2010 agricultural campaign).
The Mozal Community Development Association set up by the Mozal aluminium smelter, on 3 November handed over an expanded irrigation system to the farmers of Manguiza, in Boane district.
This scheme can now irrigate 18 hectares, compared with the previous capacity of only nine hectares. The work was funded by Mozal at a cost of two million meticais (about $80,000).
According to the chairperson of the Manguiza Farmers Association, Daniel Silva, the system will now benefit 64 members.
Mozambique's publicly owned electricity company, EDM, on 31 October linked the sugar town of Marromeu, on the south bank of the Zambezi, to the national grid. EDM has also erected 300 public illumination posts in the same town.
The project, budgeted at $6 million, was jointly funded by the German Government through its Development Bank KFW, and EDM itself.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found that Mozambique has been hit by rising international food and fuel prices, which have slowed growth.
Visiting the country in the last two weeks of October, an IMF mission found that the economy remains strong, and that core inflation, which excludes energy and food, is running at below four per cent a year. However, once food and energy are included, inflation jumps to over ten per cent. Projections for economic growth in 2008 stand at 6.5 per cent, down from last year's seven per cent.
The IMF team warned that the country is not immune to the financial turmoil currently buffeting the international economy, stating that Mozambique faces "considerable risks arising from the impact of the current global financial crisis. Large variations in international prices and the recent substantial price declines for commodities have a substantial impact on Mozambique's external trade and a deeper slowdown in global demand would also affect export volumes".
The IMF reported that increased revenue from taxes will enable the government to hire 12,000 new teachers and 1,500 new health workers in 2009.
President Armando Guebuza on 27 October swore into office new commanders of the army and the air force.
Maj-Gen Tomas Chongo is the new commander of the army, and Maj-Gen Raul Dique becomes head of the air force. At the same ceremony President Guebuza promoted Dique from Brigadier to Major-General.
The President also promoted three colonels, namely Celestino Ângelo, Aníbal Fernando e Armindo Carlos Nhabinde, to the rank of Brigadiers.
Celestine Angelo is the new Chief of Staff of the Army, while Anibal Fernando is the new head of the personnel department in the general staff of the armed forces, and Carlos Nhabinde has been appointed head of the logistics and finance department.
President Armando Guebuza on 23 October inaugurated a new bridge over the Lugela River in Zambezia province, replacing one that was swept away by floods in 1998.
The government's first response to the destruction of the old bridge was to build an alternative bridge over one of the Lugela's tributaries, but this was destroyed by flooding in 2001. Since then the road link between Mocuba and Lugela districts has been difficult, and vehicles were forced to take a detour of 100 kilometres.
The new bridge cost 191 million meticais (about $7.6 million), paid from the state budget. The work started in mid-2006 and was carried out by a consortium formed by the Portuguese companies Tamega and Conduril.
The bridge should have been completed in October 2007. It is a year late because of delays blamed exclusively on the Portuguese consortium.
Both companies have come under strong criticism for delays elsewhere in the country. Conduril should have completed a major road contract in Maputo by 17 August. It requested a two-month extension, which the municipality granted, but still the work is not finished. The Maputo City Council would be within its rights to demand financial penalties from Conduril.
As for Tamega, it is months behind
schedule in rehabilitating stretches of the country's main north-south highway
between Namacurra and Alto Molocue, also in Zambezia. In September, the Deputy
Public Works Minister, Gabriel Muthisse, said the government wanted to reach
a friendly agreement to rescind the contract with Tamega.
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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