Mozambique News Agency
The founding conference of Mozambique's newest opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), ended on 7 March without any clear decision as to whether its leader, the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, will be a candidate in this year's presidential elections.
The new party faces serious problems of time and financial constraints. It will be a major task to structure the new party throughout the country in time for an election that is likely to be held in October. And in his speech at the end of the conference, Simango recognised that the MDM is short of financial and material resources - but declared, "the greatest wealth of the party lies in hope".
He also attacked those "who do not believe that the post-independence generations can liberate the Mozambican nation". Sceptics looked at the MDM and asked, "where are they going?" - and Simango answered, "We are here because we have hopes of change, and we shall assume our responsibilities".
Simango attacked the government's record and alleged that the successes claimed by the government were "false and modest". Mozambique "deserves more than to be a country that is content to be mediocre, to be better than the worst countries in the world".
It was only the government that regarded the state of the nation as "good", he accused (a reference to President Armando Guebuza's State of the Nation address in December).
Simango claimed the mantle of the early years of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), when his father, Urias Simango, was the movement's deputy president. "Four decades ago, when Frelimo was led by Eduardo Mondlane and Urias Simango, to struggle for Mozambique meant to struggle for the independence and freedom of the country", he said. "But after independence, the country was soon captured by radical and extremist leaders".
Despite the MDM's break with Renamo, Simango still preached that Renamo's war of destabilisation "was the only way to save the country and return freedom to Mozambicans".
"Today, the political situation of the country is dangerous", he said. "The only way to maintain democracy is to reverse the two-party, or even single part trend, towards which the country is moving".
During the conference about 80 former members of Renamo public announced their resignation from Renamo. They did not include those members of the Renamo parliamentary group, including the group's leader, Maria Moreno, who attended the conference.
Moreno told reporters she was considering joining the MDM, but said she would only announce her decision after she had ceased her parliamentary duties.
The MDM Political Commission contains several people who describe themselves as former Renamo guerrillas, of whom the best known is Simango's spokesperson Geraldo Carvalho. Also on the Political Commission is Ivette Fernandes, widow of Evo Fernandes, the Renamo general secretary who was murdered in Lisbon in 1987.
No MDM general secretary has yet been elected. For the time being Simango will be both president and general secretary of the new party.
The MDM Supervisory Commission is headed by the party's top jurist, Eduardo Elias, who is a former Renamo deputy, and currently a member of the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature, the regulatory body for Mozambican judges. It also includes Zaida Mussa, wife of Renamo deputy, Ismael Mussa.
Dhlakama dismisses "cowards and deserters"
Meanwhile, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama has denounced as "cowards" Renamo deputies who attended the MDM founding conference.
Speaking to reporters in Nampula, before the start of a meeting of the Renamo Political Commission, Dhlakama said he was not at all worried by the creation of the MDM, despite the defection of senior Renamo figures to the new party. "The senior cadres are those who form part of this Political Commission, and not the deserters", he claimed.
Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party will win the general and provincial elections scheduled for 2009 by a handsome majority, predicted Manuel Tome, head of the Frelimo parliamentary group on 11 March.
At the opening session of the first sitting this year of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Tome said that Frelimo's target was always to improve on its previous performance. Thus in the 1999 parliamentary elections it won 133 out of the 250 seats, and in the 2004 elections increased this to 160.
In the municipal elections, Frelimo won control of 28 out of 33 municipalities in 2003, but in 2008 Frelimo candidates were elected mayor in 42 of the 43 municipalities, and Frelimo is the largest party in all 43 municipal assemblies. The number of seats Frelimo holds in the assemblies has risen from 70.8 percent in 2003 to 79.8 percent now.
Tome was sure this trend would continue, and attributed it to the "wise leadership" of President Armando Guebuza, to the high degree of organisation of the party, to Frelimo's "vision of the present and future of the country", and to election manifestos "rooted in the aspirations and longings of Mozambicans and in the need to develop the country".
As for the opposition, Tome said Frelimo has long insisted that Mozambique needs "a credible, responsible and patriotic opposition, and not an opposition without a project, which promotes disobedience to the laws and to established authority, and which promotes disinformation about cholera which, in the cases of Mogincual and Angoche have led to deaths".
Tome was referring to alleged involvement by Renamo members in spreading rumours that health workers are responsible for the cholera outbreaks. This led to mob attacks on health staff and buildings, and in February riots in the Nampula districts of Mogincual and Angoche caused the deaths of two Red Cross activists and a police sergeant.
Tome praised the efforts of some Renamo deputies to attempt to democratise their party. But, citing Machiavelli, he warned, "When the prince is not wise, it is difficult to advise him wisely".
Tome praised the government for its successes, pointing out that the country's gross domestic product has risen from 129 billion meticais in 2004 to 235 billion in 2008, and is predicted to reach 267 billion this year (there are 26.3 meticais to the US dollar).
He noted that because of exogenous factors, notably the international financial crisis, Mozambique has had to scale back its forecast economic growth rate for 2009 to 6.7 percent.
The new head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Viana Magalhaes, had a very different view of the country. He stressed the country's crime rate, arguing that crimes such as murder and armed robbery were taking on "alarming proportions" and, "as if this were not enough, prisoners escape from jail in broad daylight, under the noses of the police".
He was referring to the escape from the cells of the Maputo city police command of three notorious killers on 7 December. One has subsequently been killed, and one re-captured. But Anibal dos Santos Junior "Anibalzinho", the man who led the death squad that murdered Mozambique's top investigative reporter, Carlos Cardoso, in November 2000, remains at large.
Magalhaes claimed that the judicial system "is still being manipulated and acts in the interests of the ruling party". He alleged that "since 1994 there have never been any credible elections in Mozambique", and described Frelimo's victory in the 19 November municipal elections as "an electoral crime".
The Assembly of the Republic on 11 March accepted changes in its leadership arising from the deep split within Renamo. Assembly chairperson Eduardo Mulembue announced that he had received a letter from the parliamentary group of the Renamo-Electoral Union coalition, announcing that Maria Moreno has been replaced as head of the group by Viana Magalhaes.
Since Magalhaes had been second deputy chairperson of the Assembly, that position fell vacant and will be occupied by veteran Renamo parliamentarian, Vicente Ululu.
Luis Trinta is replaced as deputy head of the Renamo-Electoral Union group by Jose Mazuana. Trinta has been appointed to fill Moreno's place on the Assembly's Standing Commission.
Francisco Machambisse takes over from Mazuana as the rapporteur of the coalition group, while Jose Manteigas replaces Eduardo Namburete as the group's spokesperson. Moreno and Namburete remain members of the Assembly.
The decision to sack Moreno and Namburete was taken by the Renamo Political Commission at a meeting in the northern city of Nampula
Renamo national spokesperson Fernando Mazanga has warned that the party will continue "purifying" its ranks. Cited in "O Pais" on 11 March, he declared, "All those who do not agree with the party's strategy will be removed from leading positions within the party's structure".
The next target in his sights is Lutero Simango, brother of the MDM leader, who is currently chairperson of the Assembly's Commission on Economic Activities and Services. Mazanga said Renamo had no confidence in Simango, because he had attended the launch of his brother's party.
When AIM asked Simango to comment, he laughed off Mazanga's threat, and said he knew nothing about it. Simango was elected to the Assembly as a member not of Renamo, but of the PCN (National Coalition Party), one of the minor parties in the Electoral Union.
President Armando Guebuza on 12 March called on all citizens to take a stand against crime. Speaking at the opening session of a national conference on "Crime and Society", President Guebuza declared, "We cannot do deals with crime. It must be vehemently repudiated, and all of us must fight vigorously against it. It should awaken revulsion, indignation and condemnation in each and every one of us".
There should be no attempt to justify or glorify crime, which President Guebuza described as "one of the most abominable forms of disrespect for human life and for other people's property".
"Crime generates and sustains an environment and feeling of insecurity among citizens, and sows pain, mourning and trauma in society", the President said.
Crime was "a serious obstacle to our development", President Guebuza added, and damaged Mozambique's reputation. "It is public safety and tranquillity, and not crime, which, together with the country's multiple competitive advantages, determine that more tourists and investors choose Mozambique as their destination".
But President Guebuza also warned against people taking the law into their own hands to deal with suspected criminals. "No emotions or frustrations, and not even ignorance of the law can justify such practices", he said. "It is the state that has the task of judging and sentencing, through the bodies of the administration of justice. These bodies should continue to improve their performance so as to ensure a fair and speedy justice, which inspires growing confidence among citizens and institutions".
While the state had the main responsibility for maintaining public order and security, it relied on a partnership with the citizens, said President Guebuza. He pointed out that criminals do not live in isolation, but are part of families and communities.
Citizens should therefore play an active role in preventing and fighting against crime. President Guebuza regarded the Community Policing Councils, now installed in all provinces, as examples of bodies through which the police "consolidate their alliance with our people, thus strengthening their capacity to uphold law and order".
Among the themes being discussed at the conference are the restructuring of the justice system, "collective violence" (i.e. lynch mobs), human trafficking, alternatives to prison, and the role of civil society bodies in restoring ethics and morality.
Nuvunga told AIM that in 2007-08 Mozambique produced over 1.677 million tonnes of maize, an improvement of 7.9 percent on the previous year, when the figure was 1.566 tonnes. The projection for 2008-09 is for a further growth of 10.5 percent, bringing the total maize harvest for the year to almost 1,855 tonnes.
Nuvunga attributed the increase in maize production to such factors as the expansion in the network of extensionists, improved seeds and other inputs, and better linkages between producers and the market.
The number of state employed rural extensionists has risen from 590 in 2007 to 644 now, and the number of peasant households they assist has risen from 285,000 to 383,000
Nuvunga said that with the further recruitment now under way the number of extensionists will reach 828, "which will increase the number of producers assisted to over half a million in the 2009/2010 campaign".
But the areas with a maize surplus are often a long way from the areas where there is a food deficit. Nuvunga recognised that there are "pockets of hunger", and blamed this on problems of transporting and distributing surplus crops.
The country has long faced a problem of moving food from fertile areas in the north of the country, to deficit areas in the south, often along very poor roads. Nuvunga hoped that the new bridge over the Zambezi at Caia, due to be completed later this year will help improve the movement of maize from northern to southern Mozambique.
The African Development Bank (ADB) disbursed on 10 March the first instalment of the $44.2 million it pledged for this project. Along with the ADB, there are other partners contributing to the project, including the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), that has pledged $28 million, the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and the Mozambican government itself
The project is budgeted at $106 million, and besides rehabilitating and tarring the road, includes building seven bridges and developing a road safety programme. The project should be completed by 2014.
This 500-kilometre road is the continuation of the road from the Cabo Delgado capital, Pemba, to Montepuez, which was also funded by the ADB.
The Mozambican sugar industry expects to produce over 419,000 tonnes of sugar this year, an increase of 68 percent on the 2008 figure of 250,191 tonnes.
According to the government's Agricultural Promotion Centre, this increase results from a forecast 37 percent increase in the area under sugar cane cultivation, and a predicted increase of 21 percent in average yield. All four sugar plantations, except for Marromeu, on the south bank of the Zambezi, plan to increase their cultivated area this year.
The largest production is expected from the Xinavane plantation and mill, in Maputo province. The forecast here is for production of 171,376 tonnes of sugar from cane grown on 13,649 hectares.
Mafambisse, in the central province of Sofala, expects to produce 89,655 tonnes from a harvested area of 8,342 hectares. Maragra, in Maputo province, expects to produce 84,500 tonnes from 7,436 hectares, while the Marromeu forecast is for 73,667 tonnes from a planted area of 11,336 hectares.
But while in Mozambique the trend is for a rise in sugar production, internationally there is expected to be a decline. Consumption is still rising, with a forecast of a rise in sugar consumption this year of 2.53 percent. The initial estimate of the world sugar balance for the period October 2008 to September 2009 envisages a deficit of 3.6 million tonnes, which could result in an increase in sugar prices.
Two countries, Brazil and India, dominate the international sugar trade. But India is forecasting a drop in production and export of five million tonnes this year.
Mozambique's Ministry of Science and Technology signed a contract on 13 March with the Indian company Jaguar Overseas Limited for the construction and development of a science and technology park in the southern district of Manhica.
Budgeted at $25 million, provided as a loan from the Indian government, the work will begin within three months, and Jaguar Overseas is due to deliver the completed park within two years.
Bio-fuels, particularly ethanol and bio-diesel, may contribute 15 percent of national fuel consumption within the next five years, according to Energy Minister Salvador Namburete.
Namburete said the government was considering putting a mixture of biofuels and fossil fuels onto the market. But before these mixtures are given the green light, the government must work out regulations and indicate the percentage of ethanol or bio-diesel to be mixed with petrol and diesel.
Mozambique is committed to developing bio-fuels to reduce dependence on imports of fossil fuels.
The company ECOMOZ (Renewable Alternative Energies Ltd), which is a joint initiative between Mozambique's state-owned fuel company, Petromoc, and several other partners, has produced about one million litres of bio-diesel, using coconut oil as the raw material, since 2007.
Other initiatives for the production of bio-fuels, such as Procana, in the southern province of Gaza, are in the early stages of producing sugar cane for conversion into ethanol.
Mozambique is planning to install a computer assembling company before the end of this month, in a government initiative in partnership with the South African company 'Sahara'.
The factory will assemble portable and desktop computers to be sold on the domestic market at a price equivalent to about a third of the international price. A portable computer currently costs about $1,000, but the national product will cost between 9,000 and 10,000 meticais ($360 to $400)
Speaking in Maputo on 11 March, during a ceremony to present the plan, the Mozambican Science and Technology Minister, Venancio Massingue, said that the brand would be named "Dzowo", which was the nickname of the founder of Mozambican nationalism, Eduardo Mondlane.
The factory will produce about 48 units a day during the first year, expanding to 80 units a day in the following year.
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