Mozambique News Agency

AIM Reports

 


No.374, 2nd March 2009


 

Contents


We are on the right path - President Guebuza

"We are on the right path", President Armando Guebuza declared on 24 February at the end of a two-day retreat of the entire government, held in the southern town of Namaacha. The meeting, also attended by provincial governors, senior members of the parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party, and members of the Frelimo Political Commission and Central Committee Secretariat, drew up a balance sheet of the government's activities over the past four years.

President Guebuza said that the government's achievements "are not simply an unequivocal sign that we are complying with the promises contained in the government's Five Year programme. They are also a strong indication that we can continue to do more and better in the time remaining until the end of our term of office".

The current government took office in February 2005. Fresh presidential and parliamentary elections must be held no later than October this year.

President Guebuza stressed the importance of the Local Initiatives Investment Budget (OIIL). This is the sum allocated from the state budget to each of the 128 districts for projects to produce food and generate employment. It started out as seven million meticais (about $270,000) per district, but is now considerably more, although it is still generally referred to as "the seven million".

President Guebuza declared that Mozambicans must "continue to make the seven millions a school to consolidate our self-esteem, democracy, management and strengthening the bases for endogenous and participatory development".

It was enthusiasm for improving life in the districts "which led us to transform the drama of the floods in the Zambezi, Buzi and Save valleys (in 2007 and 2008) into opportunities for development".

President Guebuza also urged the "promotion of the culture of austerity and of savings, so that the country has more endogenous financial resources allowing us to build more social and economic infrastructures in the districts".

The government should also persist in the "coordinated development" of the road network, the electricity grid, telecommunications, and water and sanitation services, and continue to promote "relevant professional education.

"Over these four years of governance, we have learnt that the rhythm of economic and social growth we want is not compatible with simply stating problems, while not advancing with any actions to solve them", said President Guebuza. The government's achievements "are the result of a pro-active capacity, always informed by the highest interests of the nation. That is how we should continue to act, so as to leave a legacy of which we can be proud and for which we may always be remembered".

Rise in per capita GDP

Over the past four years per capita GDP has increased by over 50 per cent, according to Deputy Education Minister Luis Covane. Briefing reporters on 23 February at the initial session of the retreat, Covane said that per capita GDP was $301 in 2004, rising to $356 in 2006 and $473 in 2008.

The macro-economic picture remained positive, despite the recession in Europe and America. According to Covane, Mozambique's economic growth rate was 7.9 per cent in 2004, and 8.5 per cent in 2006. In 2008, there was a slowdown - nonetheless economic growth, at 6.5 per cent. For 2009 the forecast is growth between six and eight per cent.

Covane confirmed that the government's top priority is to bring the proportion of people living below the poverty line from 54 per cent in 2003 to 45 per cent by the end of the government's term of office this year.

Covane stressed that the government is looking for permanent solutions to the urban transport problems by boosting the capacity of the publicly owned bus companies. Over the past four years, 165 new buses have been imported for the main cities, 100 of them in 2008 alone.

But Covane admitted that the credit crunch is affecting the availability of funding for major new investment projects in Mozambique. He named two massive projects in particular that are now being "rescheduled" - the Mphanda Nkuwa dam on the Zambezi, and an oil refinery at Nacala, in the northern province of Nampula.

These are key investments, not only for the Mozambican energy sector, but also for the whole southern African region. Covane said that government does not yet have sufficient data to allow it to say when work would begin on either the dam or the refinery.

As for the titanium bearing heavy sands in Chibuto district, in the southern province of Gaza, the government was not aware of any definitive decision taken by the investor, the mining company BHP-Billiton, as to the future of this project.


Nacala: Frelimo win confirmed

Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) on 20 February confirmed that the candidate of the ruling Frelimo Party, Chale Ossufo, won the second round of the election for mayor of the northern port of Nacala which was held on 11 February.

However, the CNE recognised that staff at some polling stations committed fraud. CNE chairperson Joao Leopoldo da Costa, said the CNE was concerned at fraudulent behaviour which took the form of polling station staff deliberately invalidating ballot papers. "Although the number of votes in this situation does not change the final result of this election", said Costa, "the CNE vehemently repudiates this practice".

Costa said this type of fraud was practiced against both candidates - but an analysis showed that most of the fraud was committed against dos Santos.

The CNE is obliged to look at all votes rejected as invalid at the polling station and "requalify" them. In Nacala, this exercise worked heavily in Renamo's favour, and many of the votes stolen from dos Santos were returned to him. From all 99 polling stations there were 2,424 invalid votes. The CNE attributed 464 of these to dos Santos, and 152 to Ossufo.

There were also 108 disputed votes which polling agents for one or other party claimed but which staff rejected as invalid. Of these, the CNE decided the four had been intended for dos Santos, and 17 for Ossufo, but the remaining 87 were invalid.

Questioned by AIM, the CNE spokesperson Juvenal Bucuane said that the CNE was undertaking an investigation into the deliberate invalidation of votes in Nacala, and that the polling station staff concerned should be held responsible for their acts and punished.

The final result read out by Costa was:

Chale Ossufo (Frelimo) 24,131 54.67 per cent
Manuel dos Santos (Renamo) 20,012 45.33 per cent

46,837 people cast votes out of a total Nacala electorate of 86,596, a turnout of 54.1 per cent.

The CNE's recognition that dos Santos had been illicitly deprived of several hundred votes did not change Renamo's opinion of the election. Renamo national spokesperson Fernando Mazanga told reporters Renamo still refused to recognise the results. "It's as if nothing had happened", he said.

He fully backed up the threat by dos Santos not to hand over the keys to the municipal council to Ossufo.

But the Frelimo national election agent, Veronica Macamo, told AIM she regarded this as an empty threat. She did not believe that the electorate was interested in such adventures. But, if dos Santos really did stage a sit-in in the municipal offices, "the state has the means with which to protect itself", she added.

The Nacala election result must now be validated by the Constitutional Council, which must also decide on any appeal Renamo may make against the CNE ruling. Only then can Ossufo be sworn in as mayor.


Justice Support Fund launched

Many thousands of Mozambicans, mostly living in rural and peri-urban areas, will for the first time gain access to justice and to legal information under the newly created Justice Support Fund (FAJ), financed by the World Bank in partnership with the Mozambican government.

This is a fund of $1.3 million intended to finance civil society initiatives to promote access to justice. The fund will make up to $75,000 available for each project successfully proposed by civil society organisations.

Currently it is estimated that over half the Mozambican population has no access to courts or to lawyers, and has no information about the country's laws. This is a situation that makes people extremely vulnerable to abuse of their rights.

In a Maputo seminar held on 16 February to launch the FAJ, Justice Minister Benvinda Levi said that the fund will complement the work undertaken by the Legal Aid Institute (IPAJ), which has the task of providing access to justice for people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer.

"At least half of the population have no access to information about the legal system", she said. "The more people covered by this fund, the better. But we know it will not be possible to solve the problem all at once. This fund gives the opportunity to various organisations to undertake projects so that poor people have access not only to knowledge, but also to legal defence if necessary".

Levi stressed that the Fund is part of the government's overall strategy to develop the justice sector, expressed in its Integrated Strategic Justice Plan. This plan points to publicising laws and educating people about the legal system as key challenges in overcoming the constraints identified in citizens' access to justice.

The bodies eligible to apply for money from the FAJ include NGOs, academic and training institutions and other legally constituted associations. Specifically excluded are public bodies such as ministries, government departments, or municipal authorities.

Civil Society representatives welcomed the launch of the FAJ. "People need this kind of support", declared Saquina Mucavele, Coordinator of the Women, Gender and Development Association (MOGEDE). "Many people have problems but for lack of resources they are unable to approach the justice system".

The chairperson of the Association of Widows and Single Mothers (AVIMAS), Elsa Tuzine, said that the FAJ will help solve the problems that afflict Mozambican women. "Because they don't know about the laws that defend them, women are being suffocated", said Tuzine. "We are working with a vulnerable group who need to know the laws if they are to defend themselves".


Cholera riot

An angry mob, believing that health workers are spreading rather than fighting cholera, beat a Mozambique Red Cross activist to death on 25 February in a riot in Mogincual district, in the northern province of Nampula.

This is the latest in a wave of attacks against cholera treatment centres and health staff in Nampula and the neighbouring province of Cabo Delgado, provoked by rumours that the treatment centres are actually the cause of the disease. This disinformation is helped by the fact that "cloro", the Portuguese word for chlorine (used to disinfect water sources), can sound similar to "colera", the Portuguese term for the disease.

The Red Cross volunteer, Cassiano Muquinone, was assisting in publicizing the measures needed to fight against cholera, including treating water with chlorine, or boiling it before drinking.

While he was on one of these information missions in the locality of Quinga, a mob attacked Muquinone and other Red Cross activists. He was beaten to death and his body thrown into a hut that was then set on fire. Two of his colleagues were severely injured in the attack.

Mogincual is in the grip of a food crisis. Felisberto dos Santos, director of the district health services, told reporters that 50,000 of the 98,000 inhabitants of Mogincual were facing food shortages, partly due to the damage done by cyclone Jokwe in 2008.


Cotton companies miss targets

Practically all of Mozambique's cotton companies missed their targets for the 2007/2008 agricultural year, according to the latest report from the Mozambique Cotton Institute (IAM). The final data from the marketing of raw cotton from the 2008 harvest was that 69,500 tonnes was produced, over seven per cent lower than the target set at the start of the campaign, which was 74,000 tonnes.

Total revenue for the peasant cotton producer in 2008 was 386.9 million meticais ($14.7 million), at the price of 5.3 meticais per kilo of first grade cotton. Some producers, organised in associations, were able to negotiate with the companies for premiums ranging from seven to 13 per cent above the minimum price.


Disciplinary cases against public servants rise

The number of disciplinary proceedings against people working in the Mozambican public administration is on the increase. In 2008, according to data from the Ministry of the Public Service, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against 1,560 people. This compares with 1,359 in 2007, and 1,076 in 2006.

These proceedings refer to offences such as people turning up to work drunk, poor attendance to members of the public, falsification of documents and signatures, absence from work without authorization and breaches of professional secrecy.


Water pumps for schools

The Public Works Ministry and the South African company Roundabout Water Solutions on 26 February signed a memorandum of understanding in Maputo for the installation of 400 pumps in the same number of Mozambican schools.

The agreement was signed by Public Works Minister Felicio Zacarias, and Paul Restic of the management of the South African company.

The pumps are known as playpumps, and take the form of a playground roundabout. When the children play on the roundabout, its motion pumps the water - up to 1,400 litres of water an hour.

Zacarias explained that the memorandum follows a successful pilot phase in which 60 playpumps were installed in schools in Maputo and Gaza provinces, benefiting about 40,000 pupils and the surrounding communities. Each pump costs around $15,000.

RWS will be in charge of the pumps for 10 years, and during this period local companies will be hired and trained in how to maintain the pumps.

The pumps will now be assembled in first level primary schools across the country. They will benefit around a quarter of a million pupils, as well as the communities surrounding the schools, improving access to safe drinking water and sanitation.


Removal of subsidies hits students

A total of 405 students have dropped out of the Matundo Industrial School, in the western province of Tete, because the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has withdrawn the food subsidy that was previously offered to boarding students, reports the Beira daily paper "Diario de Mocambique".

The withdrawal of the food subsidy forced the Matundo student residence to raise its fees from 208 to 800 meticais (from $8 to $30) a month. The students concerned come from districts in the interior of Tete province, and their families found it impossible to pay the increased fees.

The Matundo Industrial School had 600 boarding students, but the removal of the WFP's food subsidy has forced over two thirds of them to drop out.

The Tete education authorities fear that the same thing will happen in all 19 residences where students at technical and secondary schools are living. Last year, these residences housed 4,754 students.


Academy of Sciences inaugurated

President Armando Guebuza on 20 February launched the Academy of Sciences, declaring that the new body "is part of the continual mobilization of our people to seek innovative and creative ways to use the resources inherited from our ancestors, and which we protect for future generations".

President Guebuza said the government's Science, Technology and Innovation strategy needed an institution that would "bring together academics, scientists and innovators, committed to producing and publicizing science and technology".

Mozambicans guided by the Academy, he said, would be able "to make use of the advantages offered by science and technology, particularly the capacity for technological innovation, to play their role in improving our quality of life".

The government's five-year programme, President Guebuza said, "expresses our collective desire to use our right not to be poor, like any other nation. So we want our indices of economic and social development to improve continually and have a direct impact on the well-being of Mozambicans".

Science and technology were thus called upon to generate results in a wide range of areas regarded as priorities for the country's development, and "to ensure the transformation of the available resources into raw materials or finished products for the national, regional and international markets".

President Guebuza wanted the new Academy to be worthy of the memory of the first Mozambican to obtain a doctorate, Eduardo Mondlane, the founder and first president of the country's liberation movement, Frelimo.

Mondlane could have had a comfortable life, he could have accepted the academic jobs the colonial regime offered him, which would have "insulated him from the daily life of his people". But he refused all such offers, and returned to Mozambique "to light the flame of freedom, which brave and patriotic men and women from all quarters of Mozambique carried to final victory".

Today, President Guebuza declared, "our scientists should feel challenged to liberate our people from hunger and disease, some of the sharpest expressions of poverty in Mozambique".


New member of Council of State

President Armando Guebuza on 19 February swore into office Arlindo Maquival, a former general in the Renamo army during the war of destabilisation, as a member of the Council of State to replace David Aloni, who died of a heart attack in October 2008.

Since Aloni was one of those appointed by the Renamo group in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, it fell to Renamo to choose his successor. But whereas Aloni was a respected, if controversial, intellectual, Maquival is not known to have any qualifications outside of his military record.

The Council of State is a consultative body that advises the President of the Republic. The President is obliged to consult with the Council over the date for general elections, any dissolution of parliament, any declaration of war, or of a state of siege or of emergency, or the holding of any referendum. He may also call Council meetings to seek advice at any other time he deems fit.

The members of the Council are the President and any former Presidents, the chairperson of the Assembly of the Republic, and any previous chairpersons, the runner-up in the latest Presidential election (Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama), the Prime Minister, the President of the Constitutional Council, four personalities appointed by the President, and seven by the Assembly (four by Frelimo and three by Renamo).

Speaking at the ceremony, President Guebuza said that the heterogeneous composition of the body establishes an opportunity for the expression of diverse opinions, knowledge and experience. He believed that such diversity contributes to strengthening the rule of law and democratic culture, and helps build democratic institutions.

 


 

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

 


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