Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza declared on 17 November that he is in no doubt that the ruling Frelimo Party will follow up its crushing victory in the November municipal elections with an equally convincing win in the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections scheduled for later this year.
Addressing the opening session of a Frelimo national cadre conference, which will discuss electoral strategy, President Guebuza said that, given the quality of the party's militants and its level of preparation, "Frelimo and its candidates will once again win the forthcoming elections. Of that I am certain. Guided by the Frelimo government, we shall also overcome the scourge of hunger and poverty".
Victory in the municipal elections was no accident, he stressed, but was due to the hard work of Frelimo members across the country who "on foot, or on bicycles, motorbikes or in buses, in sun or in rain, by day or by night, went out to mobilise the voters and carry our message of a better future for Mozambique".
The debates preceding this conference, he said, "clearly showed that it is with Frelimo that a strong and prosperous Mozambique is being built, that is the property of all Mozambicans".
Throughout Mozambique's recent history Frelimo had proved able "to mobilise all sectors of Mozambican society" in pursuit of the key goal of the moment, first to overcome colonial rule, then to defend the country's sovereignty and to win peace. "Today", President Guebuza declared, "we have the historic duty to defeat poverty".
Victory in this battle, he insisted, "is entirely within our reach, and the benefits from the victories we are achieving are open and accessible to all of us" - with the condition that Mozambicans must "participate in the battle that Frelimo is leading against poverty and for development".
Improving living conditions, President Guebuza stressed, would always depend more on the hard work of Mozambicans than on any donations or offers from outside.
2,152 delegates and guests attended the conference, held in the Frelimo Central School, in the southern city of Matola. The delegates assessed the implementation of the government's five-year programme (2005-2009), drew up a balance sheet of the municipal elections, and prepared for the forthcoming elections.
Election manifesto prepared
The conference on 19 April called for the party's election manifesto to be based on four cornerstones - the consolidation of national unity, peace and democracy; the fight against poverty; good governance; and the strengthening of sovereignty and of international cooperation.
These suggestions will be submitted to the Frelimo Central Committee, which will meet in the southern city of Matola on 21 April.
The party's Secretary for Mobilisation and Propaganda, Edson Macuacua, told reporters that the pledge to consolidate national unity, peace and democracy sought to value Mozambique's cultural diversity, its national heroes, languages, and a culture of peace, dialogue, tolerance and reconciliation.
Macuacua said that Frelimo now defines itself as a party that promotes the creation of wealth, employment, self-employment and the entrepreneurial spirit, and the provision of education and health services, basic infrastructures, and clean drinking water.
He said that the party also wants to improve the way the economy is funded, ensure a favourable environment for investment, and for balanced and sustainable development centred on the rural districts. The outcome of such a strategy would be to accelerate improvements in living standards.
Also stressed by the conference were the need to mechanise agriculture, and to use improved seeds and appropriate and sustainable technologies, particularly for the rational management of water.
When it came to the theme of good governance, said Macuacua, Frelimo is committed to promoting open and participatory governance, the decentralization of power, the rule of law, the reform of the public sector, and the fight against crime.
Finally, Frelimo wanted to promote further international cooperation to guarantee Mozambique's place in the world, and to promote regional and international cultural exchanges.
Assembly of the Republic
The average annual investment in Mozambican tourism was $600 million between 2005 and 2008, with a peak of $977 million in 2007, Tourism Minister Fernando Sumbana announced on 16 April.
Addressing the Assembly of the Republic, Sumbana said that the capacity of the country's hotel industry had been expanding at an average annual rate of 12 per cent. The number of beds had risen from 15,000 in 2005 to over 17,500 in 2008. The sector was now a major employer: Sumbana said that over 40,000 people work in Mozambican tourism, of whom more than half are women.
Known revenue from tourists visiting Mozambique rose from $129 million in 2005 to $185 million in 2008. The number of foreign visitors has more than doubled, rising from 711,000 in 2004 to over 1.5 million in 2008.
Local communities living in conservation areas receive 20 per cent of the tourism revenue generated in these areas. Sumbana said that, over the past three years, this has amounted to more than four million meticais a year, and the figure is growing at the rate of five per cent a year.
Sumbana said that Mozambique hopes to benefit from spin-offs from the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa, which will attract large numbers of tourists to the region.
The Minister also expected that the recent increase in the fleet of the national carrier, Mozambique Airlines and the modernization of Maputo airport and the airports in Vilankulo and Pemba, would allow the country to capitalize on World Cup tourist opportunities.
The government's ambition for the coming years, he concluded, "is to turn Mozambique into a world class tourist destination, with quality establishments".
The Assembly of the Republic, on 8 April passed a short bill that will allow the general (presidential and parliamentary) and provincial elections scheduled for this year to be held on the same date, and in the same polling stations.
The three elections will be held in the same polling stations, with the same electoral registers. There will be three transparent ballot boxes, one for each election, in each of the polling stations.
The bill was passed by the 150 deputies present from the ruling Frelimo Party. The debate was boycotted by the opposition Renamo-Electoral Coalition, who refused to discuss harmonising the elections separately from their own proposals for completely changing the electoral system.
Meanwhile, the Mozambican government has announced that this year's voter registration period will run from 15 June to 29 July throughout the country. This is an update of the existing electoral registers.
The government also announced that Mozambicans living abroad, who have two seats in the Assembly of the Republic, will be registered as voters from 10 to 29 July.
The Assembly of the Republic on 2 April passed the second and final reading of a bill that will establish a national Civic Service as a complement and an alternative to military service. Under this law young people who register for military service and are not conscripted into the army may be required to undertake "activities of an administrative, social assistance, cultural and economic nature".
This "civic service" may take place in public or private institutions, which the government will specify. The government will also decide how many people should be incorporated into the civic service every year. They will be paid an allowance fixed annually by the government.
Like military service, the civic service will be for two years, the first six months of which will be used for training. People recruited into the civil service will have the same rights as conscript soldiers, and the two forms of conscription will have the same rules on postponement and exemption.
Deputies from Renamo tried to reopen debate on the bill, which passed its first reading in mid-March. But Frelimo argued that the bill had been sufficiently debated in plenary session and in the Assembly's commissions. The move to reopen the debate was rejected by 140 votes to 70, the same margin by which the bill was then passed.
Giving the Renamo "declaration of vote", Filipe Primeiro claimed the new law would "oblige people to work for two years without wages... this opens the way for opportunists to use young people to work on the farms and plantations of the Frelimo leaders".
Defence Minister Filipe Nyussi, who introduced the bill, told AIM after the vote that there are plenty of unemployed young people who would like to be given paid work - even if the payment took the form of a small allowance rather than a wage. Furthermore, the six-month training period ensured that when they left the civic service, they would possess skills they could use later in their lives.
Nyussi confirmed that there would be no mass press-ganging of young Mozambicans into the civic service. Initially, it would start with just a few hundred people a year, and would gradually expand.
He dismissed Renamo claims that civic service was equivalent to the introduction of slavery. Implementation would be monitored to prevent abuses. Employers, he added, would not be able to use the civic service as an excuse to cut wages paid to their workers.
The Assembly of the Republic on 9 April ratified the Rotterdam Convention on the prior informed consent procedure for international trade in hazardous pesticides and other chemicals. This Convention states that its objective is "to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts" among those involved in such trade. The basic principle is that the dangerous chemicals covered by the Convention can only be exported with the "prior informed consent" of the importer. It is thus a weapon against the dumping of toxic waste on developing countries.
Submitting the ratification proposal to the Assembly, the government pointed out that, due to its geographical location, Mozambique "is vulnerable to potential danger from the transit of dangerous chemical products and because it has not yet ratified the Rotterdam Convention it can currently do nothing to prevent or control the eventual circulation of dangerous products in its territory".
The Assembly also ratified the 1997 Montreal and 1999 Beijing amendments to the Montreal Protocol on substances that destroy the ozone layer. The Montreal amendment introduces a licensing system for "the import and export of new, used, recycled and reclaimed controlled substances", while the Beijing amendment adds Bromochloromethane to the list of controlled substances.
The Montreal Protocol, which came into force in 1989, aims to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals, of which the best known and most widespread were chlorofluorocarbons. Full international adherence to the protocol is expected to restore the damage done to the ozone layer by 2050.
Both ratifications passed unanimously, although deputies from Renamo argued that the Mozambican customs service did not have sufficient training to detect dangerous chemicals or ozone-depleting substances.
The Assembly of the Republic on 9 April unanimously passed the first reading of a bill establishing a modern legal framework for cooperatives.
The law, drafted by the Assembly's Agriculture Commission, replaces obsolete legislation from the days of the one-party state and the command economy. "Times have changes, technology has evolved, and the socio-economic reality of today is different from that of 25 years ago", the Commission wrote in its document justifying the bill.
The bill envisages cooperatives as enterprises - but ones that are not devoted solely to making a profit. Instead they are organisations that are democratically run, encourage mutual aid, and are aimed at the sustainable development of their communities.
The key difference between a cooperative and a company was that "a cooperative is a union of persons and not a union of capital", said the Commission. "Although, like any other enterprise, a cooperative needs capital, it is not strategically structured simply on the basis of capital accumulation. While in enterprises of a purely capitalist nature capital is synonymous with power, in cooperatives power is personal and unitary".
The Commission envisaged cooperatives as playing a key role as "an instrument capable of avoiding the economic and social stagnation of the rural areas". Their participatory structures would have an impact on rural communities, and they would generate rural wealth.
"In an environment of a scarcity of capital, or imperfect markets, the cooperative is the best way for rural people to gain access to technology, to credit and to specialist assistance, so that they can deal with the great conglomerates involved in agro-business", stated the Commission.
The bill draws a distinction between surplus generated by a cooperative and company profits.
The Italian government has pledged to grant €5 million (about $6.7 million) to finance the third phase of the Mozambican government's Electronic Network programme, that began in 2004. This extension phase will start this year, and should be completed by 2012.
Italy contributed €1.4 million to the e-government programme between 2006 and 2009 and because of the good progress has decided to continue its support.
After a pilot phase in 2004-05, the second phase extended the electronic network to 130 government institutions, including ministries and provincial directorates.
The Constitutional Council, Mozambique's highest body on constitutional matters, has struck down as unconstitutional the bill passed in December by the Assembly of the Republic establishing a national human rights commission.
President Armando Guebuza declined to promulgate the bill into law, and sought the opinion of the Constitutional Council. This followed raucous scenes in the Assembly on 18 December, when deputies from Renamo claimed that the proposed commission would not be independent of the executive.
President Guebuza was not empowered to choose any of the commission members. But the bill did say he would appoint the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the commission after they had been elected by the other members. Renamo claimed this meant they would not be independent, and some deputies said this was unconstitutional.
The Council did indeed find the bill unconstitutional, but not on the grounds argued by Renamo. The key problem was that the bill had been clumsily drafted. It stated that the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the commission "are elected by their peers and appointed by the President of the Republic".
But in law "election" and "appointment" are two different ways of choosing people for positions, and cannot be run together in this way. Doubtless what the drafters of the bill meant was merely that the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson would be sworn into office by the President - but that is not what they wrote.
"It is not possible to appoint an office holder who, by law, was elected, and it is not possible to elect an office holder who, by law, was appointed", the Council ruling pointed out. "What is possible is for an office holder elected by one body to be sworn into office by another".
Furthermore, this was an "extra-constitutional power" that was being granted to the President. For while the Assembly can set up whatever new bodies it likes, the President's powers are more tightly limited by the Constitution. The Constitution lists which offices the President can appoint - such as ministers, deputy ministers, provincial governors, the governor of the Bank of Mozambique, and vice-chancellors of public universities. This list cannot be added to by means of an ordinary law, but only by a constitutional amendment, the Council argued. Thus the power to "appoint" the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the Human Rights Commission was unconstitutional.
But the question of the Commission's independence was not a constitutional matter at all, the Council argued. Since the Commission is not a body the existence of which is mandated by the Constitution, "the independence of the commission is that which is determined or attributed by the law. Greater or lesser, this is the independence that the legislators wanted. This means that the parameter is the law itself, and not the constitution".
From this, the Council concluded "we are not facing a problem of constitutionality, but mere of legislative policy, within the powers of the Assembly of the Republic".
So the Renamo argument falls - but the bill is still unconstitutional because of the clumsy use of the term "appoint".
The Assembly can deal with this by a slight re-write of the bill, making it clear that President's powers in this area are restricted to swearing the members of the Commission into office. But it is unlikely that there will be time to introduce this amended bill in this sitting of parliament, which is due to end in May, and will be the last sitting before this year's general elections.
Despite the decline in the value of aluminium exports, the ingots produced at the MOZAL aluminium smelter on the outskirts of Maputo still account for well over half of Mozambique's export earnings.
According to the latest figures from the government Export Promotion Institute (IPEX) Mozambique's total exports rose from $2.41 billion in 2007 to $2.65 billion last year. The value of MOZAL's exports in this period fell from $1.48 to $1.45 billion. As a percentage of all commodity exports, aluminium fell from 61.4 to 54.7 per cent.
The second most important export, but way behind aluminium, is the electricity from the Cahora Bassa dam, exported mostly to South Africa and Zimbabwe. This earned the country $239.7 million in 2007, and $221.2 million in 2008 (9.9 and 8.3 per cent respectively).
The value of natural gas exports to South Africa rose from $120.7 million in 2007 to $152 million in 2008.
Of Mozambique's main cash crops, tobacco has become the most significant export earner. The value of tobacco exports rose from $51.8 million in 2007 to $132.1 million last year.
Sugar exports rose from $61.8 million to $71.4 million, and cotton exports also improved, rising from $42 million to $48 million.
There has been a recovery in cashew exports. Exports of raw, unprocessed cashew nuts earned the country $10.8 million in 2007, and $12.5 million in 2008. Over the same period, exports of processed cashew kernels rose from $8.9 to $10.9 million. But exports of one traditional product, prawns, fell steeply, from $62.1 to $45 million.
The category of "other" exports rose from $252.7 to $422.4 million. This increase is mostly accounted for by the export of titanium ores from the dredge mine run by the Irish company Kenmare at Moma, in the northern province of Nampula. 2008 was the first year of full production at Moma.
Although exports rose, so did imports - and at a faster pace, so that the balance of trade deteriorated sharply. Imports rose from $3.05 billion in 2007 to $3.8 billion in 2008 - an increase of almost 25 per cent. The deficit on the trade balance thus widened from $637.6 million to $1.15 billion.
The World Bank has announced a loan of $44.6 million to support the implementation of the Mozambican government's Health Service Delivery Project (HSDP) for the period 2009-2014.
The loan was approved by the Bank's Board of Executive Directors in Washington on 16 April, and comes from the World Bank's soft loans affiliate, the International Development Association (IDA).
The total cost for the five-year project is $72.4 million. Other donors that have pledged to support it are Canada, Switzerland and Russia.
The largest component of the project is the improvement of health delivery in the three northern provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado, costed at $42.6 million. The other components are boosting the malaria control programme ($13.5 million), preparing a national health sector investment plan ($500,000), and capacity building and operational costs ($15.8 million).
The funds will cover the construction of between 20 and 25 health centres in the northern provinces, plus houses for the staff who will work there. Some of the money will be used to drill boreholes to provide water for the health centres, and to install solar panels for electricity.
The French Development Agency (AFD) is to grant €1 million (about $1.3 million) to finance the development of the Gile National Reserve, in the central province of Zambezia. This money will be used to develop the reserve itself and the surrounding areas.
The project, to be implemented within the next four years, includes preserving and restocking threatened species, such as the black rhino, and ensuring sustainable use of natural resources by the residents of the surrounding areas.
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