Mozambique News Agency
Covane said the adverse economic climate internationally has also affected the market for other Mozambican exports, including cotton, prawns and timber. He said that Mozambican agriculture had performed well in the first half of this year, with a growth of eight per cent, while agricultural marketing grew by 9.4 per cent. These preliminary figures suggest that the government is on target for its target of 6.7 per cent growth in GDP for 2009.
Covane also announced that the government has given the green light to the entry of a third operator into the mobile phone market. The third operator will be chosen through an international tender, and will join the two existing companies, the Mozambican publicly-owned company M-Cel, which dominates the market, and the South African Vodacom.
Covane said that a further government decree approved on 14 July alters the statutes of the public company Hidraulica de Chokwe (HICEP), which is responsible for managing the irrigation scheme at Chokwe, in the Limpopo Valley, the largest irrigation scheme in the country.
The alteration gives HICEP authority not only over the water used in the irrigation scheme, but over land management in the entire Chokwe irrigated perimeter, which covers over 33,000 hectares.
“HICEP now has power to allocate land through a land use contract”, said Covane. “It will inspect and accompany the implementation of agricultural projects, and decide on terminating contracts where the agreed conditions are being violated, or for other duly justified reasons”.
“HICEP will have more authority and will be able to intervene not only in technical support for producers but in managing the use of land”, he added. Access to land would become conditional on use for agricultural production.
This is aimed at reversing the current situation where there are private farmers occupying land in Chokwe, but producing nothing. Greater power for HICEP may also end the situation of farmers using water that belongs to HICEP, and failing to pay for it.
A billion dollars have been invested in Mozambique’s roads over the past five years, according to the Minister of Public works, Felicio Zacarias.
Over this period, more than 2,500 kilometres of roads were tarred, he said, and the condition of the country’s main north-south highway improved considerably.
Between 2005 and 2008 the road sector had complied with 66 per cent of its targets under the government’s five-year programme, leaving a third of the work to be crammed into the final year.
According to the statistics of the National Roads Administration (ANE), during this period there were 22 major roadworks on 12 national roads, covering 2,019 kilometres, including 608 kilometres of the north-south highway.
Routine maintenance undertaken by ANE covered 52,000 kilometres of roads. The entire road network is 30,000 kilometres long (of which only 10,000 kilometres is tarred).
Zacarias said that “even though some of the work will only be concluded a few months after the end of 2009, in general the work has been completed, or is under way”.
Among the bridges completed since 2004 are those over the Incomati River, in Maputo province, over the Limpopo in Gaza, and over the Lugela in Zambezia. The longest bridge of all is the new bridge over the Zambezi, linking Sofala and Zambezia provinces, and forming a key link in the north-south highway. It is due to be inaugurated on 1 August.
The first road bridge between Mozambique and Tanzania, over the Rovuma River, is nearing completion, while rehabilitation has started on the Samora Machel Bridge over the Zambezi in the western province of Tete.
Riot police were called into the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 20 July when a group of deputies from the opposition party Renamo seized the rostrum and tried to make it impossible for the Assembly to continue its work.
The Assembly was dealing with the election of five members of the Constitutional Council, the body that rules on matters of constitutional law, and validates election results. The Council has seven members – one, its chairperson, is appointed by the President of the Republic, one is appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistrature (CSMJ), the regulatory body for judges, and the other five are elected by the Assembly.
The Assembly elects the Council members in proportion to the number of seats held by each political party in the Assembly – which means that the ruling Frelimo party proposes three candidates and the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition proposes two.
In the past there has never been a problem. The candidates have been consensual, a single list has been drawn up, and the vote has been unanimous. But this time Renamo proposed a candidate to whom Frelimo had strong objections. She is Isabel Rupia, a judge on the Maputo City Court, who has also been an assistant attorney-general, and was once head of the anti-corruption unit in the Attorney-General’s office.
Rupia meets the minimum conditions for membership of the Constitutional Council, as specified by the Constitution itself. These are that candidates must be at least 35 years old, and have at least ten years relevant experience.
But her career has also been stained by three disciplinary offences. In 1994, the CSMJ found her guilty of negligence and disinterest in a case she was hearing, and fined her. In 2008, she was accused of abandoning her post as a judge. After she was relieved of her duties as assistant attorney-general, she should have returned to the Maputo City Court. But she did not report for duty for another six months.
The CSMJ also found her guilty of breaching the sub judice rules in an interview she gave to the weekly newspaper “Zambeze”. For these two offences she was punished with 90 days of forced inactivity (a form of judicial suspension).
Renamo argued that this was all in the past, and her name should be accepted, but Frelimo believed her disciplinary record raised serious questions about Rupia’s suitability for membership of the Constitutional Council. Renamo insisted that Rupia met the formal qualifications required – she met the age requirement, had a law degree, and had 19 years experience.
For Renamo the vote should have been a formality – put the three names proposed by Frelimo, and the two Renamo nominees on a list and vote for it.
Assembly chairperson Eduardo Mulembue first suggested a secret ballot election – and indeed a ballot box and voting booths were prepared, ready for use. The suggestion outraged Renamo, who shouted it down.
Mulembue said the only alternative was an open vote on each of the names. The Renamo proposal for business as usual, with a single list that everybody could vote for, was quite impractical, he pointed out, when one of the names was controversial.
At this point, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Viana Magalhaes, asked for a ten-minute recess for Renamo deputies to discuss among themselves.
When the session resumed, and Mulembue attempted to begin the voting, Renamo deputies rushed the rostrum and occupied it, chanting “Down with the dictatorship!”
Mulembue called on the police to restore order, with half a dozen riot police entering the chamber. This made no difference – Renamo continued chanting.
Then Mulembue proceeded to call for a vote on each of the five names proposed. The Renamo deputies continued chanting, but the Frelimo deputies voted. The result was that four of the five names were approved by 145 votes to zero, and the fifth – Rupia – was rejected with nobody voting for her.
The Renamo parliamentary group contains a total of 90 members – over half of whom were absent. Some dropped out of parliament months ago, a few had gone to the northern city of Nampula, where Renamo was holding its long awaited Congress, while others, who were present in the morning, left early because they wanted nothing to do with a riot. They included all those Renamo deputies believed to support the breakaway Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
The four Constitutional Council members elected include three prominent jurists who have already served one term on the Council – Lucia Ribeiro and Joao Nguenha nominated by Frelimo, and Manuel Franque, nominated by Renamo. The newcomer, Domingos Cintura, practices law in Nampula, and has been legal advisor to the mayor of Nampula city, and to the northern branch of the Human Rights League (LDH).
As for the fifth member, the man Renamo wanted to replace, Orlando da Graca, will remain on the council until Renamo nominates someone acceptable to the entire Assembly.
The cement factory in the southern city of Matola on 17 July inaugurated a filter to reduce the emission of pollutants. The factory is owned by Cimentos de Mocambique, in which the main shareholder is the Portuguese cement giant CIMPOR, and it has an extremely poor environmental record. Frequently a plume of what looks like white smoke could be seen rising from the factory – which was essentially cement dust, which often carpeted the area near the factory.
The investment to clean up the cement factory’s emissions cost about $5 million, and is part of the company’s environmental plan. The filter will not only prevent dust from escaping in the atmosphere, but will allow the factory to recover and use it, thus reducing waste.
Other measures already taken to reduce emissions included replacing coal with natural gas in the rotating furnace to produce clinker, the introduction of a dust removal closed circuit, and the placing of a gas analyser in the electro-filter chimney.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, the Minister of Industry and Trade, Antonio Fernando, congratulated the company on the measures it has taken to reduce emissions. “Levels of pollution are falling, and we encourage the company to continue along this line”, he said. “What we want is that there should be no pollution, and a lot of production, while always protecting the environment. We want this example to be followed by other factories, since we know that if we do not take care of the environment, the water, the trees, and other natural resources will disappear, wrecking the future of generations yet to come”.
The management of the Port of Maputo predicts that cargo using the port will rise from the current figure of 7.8 million to 40 million tonnes a year within the next 50 years, according to Antonio Almeida Matos, co-chairperson of the Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI).
To cope with the expected rise in traffic, the port already has $300 million worth of upgrading projects on the table, said Matos, at a press conference on 15 July marking the fifth anniversary of MCLI.
MCLI was set up to promote the movement of cargo along the Maputo Corridor, and to turn Maputo into the port of first choice for companies operating in the South African provinces of Gauteng and Mpumulanga.
MCLI, according to Matos, “has made significant strides towards achieving its strategic objective of promoting and marketing the Maputo Corridor as a corridor of choice, and has succeeded in placing the Maputo Corridor back onto the agenda of local, national and international freight and transport problems”.
In recent years, he added, there has been five billion dollars worth of investment in improving the key infrastructures – the port itself, the motorway from Maputo to the South Africa town of Witbank, and the Maputo-South Africa railway.
More ships were now calling at Maputo, said Matos, and some were going directly to Maputo from Europe and Asia, instead of calling at Durban first.
He thought the main challenge now was to turn Maputo into a major port for South Africa’s imports as well as its exports. Currently most of the wagons that take South African exports to Maputo go back to South Africa empty. “Our struggle now is to turn Maputo into a genuine transit port, catering for both exports and imports”, he said.
Maputo is closer than Durban to the industrial centres of Gauteng. Matos was confident that the Maputo port and rail system can compete with Durban. However, there are problems with Mozambican customs regulations: goods in transit have to pay a deposit, which is returned when they leave the country. This measure is designed to prevent companies who are importing goods for sale in Mozambique from declaring them as goods in transit and thus evading duty.
Despite the reimbursement, companies regard this as an extra cost, and the MCLI has raised the matter with the Mozambican government. The government was “receptive”, and scrapping this regulation “is just a matter of establishing different methods of control”.
The road and rail border between Mozambique and South Africa remained a problem. “There’s not much point in having a fast road to the border, if crossing the frontier takes you two hours”, said Matos. The delays at the border have been lengthened by the abolition of entry visas by the two countries, which has led to an 80 per cent increase in the number of people using the border posts.
The MCLI has thus been pressing for a “one stop” border post, where Mozambican and South African staff work side by side, processing travellers at the same time. The governments have agreed to this in principle, but the construction of the new border post is many months behind schedule, and it will not be ready by 2010, and the major influx of tourists expected when South Africa hosts the football World Cup that year.
The Mozambican government and the World Bank on 17 July signed two agreements in Maputo under which the World Bank is to provide loans of $75.6 million for projects in health and communications.
The agreements were signed by the Minister of Planning and Development, Aiuba Cuereneia, and by the interim representative of the World Bank in Maputo, Luiz Tavares.
$44.6 million will be spent on the health service to finance the construction of 25 health centres in the northern provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado, as well as nutritional education and basic hygiene campaigns. It will also support the programmes to control malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.
The six-year project will cost $72.4 million with the rest of the money consists of grants from Canada ($15.6 million), Russia ($7.9 million) and Switzerland ($4.3 million).
The second agreement, for $31 million, is described as a “Regional Project for Electronic Governance and Communication Infrastructures”. According to Cuereneia, this project “will allow a reduction in the prices of international communications and expand the geographical reach of broadband networks to all regions of the country, thus allowing massive access to the Internet”.
Mozambican rice production in the 2009 harvest has risen to 260,000 tonnes, a 37 per cent increase on the 2008 figure of 190,000 tonnes.
A preliminary report on this year’s harvest, divulged on 15 July in Mocuba, in the central province of Zambezia, by Agriculture Minister Soares Nhaca, says that this improvement was due to government investments to increase production to reduce imports.
The investments went on the purchase of improved seeds, machinery and other incentives in areas regarded as key rice producers (such as Zambezia, Sofala and Gaza provinces, and the coastal areas of Nampula).
Mozambique stepped up rice production this year to cover the deficit of this grain that has, so far, been covered with imports.
Speaking at the opening of a meeting of his Ministry’s Coordinating Council, Nhaca noted that the increase represents an important step for the country to reach the 400,000 tonnes that the country needs every year to cover the deficit.
Preliminary data for the first year of implementation of the government’s Food Production Action Plan shows an overall growth of 14 per cent in total production of foodstuffs – much higher than the seven per cent rise recorded in 2008.
The document says that production of cassava, a staple food in much of the country, rose from 6.6 million tonnes in the 2004/2005 agricultural campaign to 8.4 million tonnes in 2007/2008, and it is expected to reach 9.2 million tonnes in the present campaign.
Nhaca said that many factors have contributed to this increase, including the rise in the number of rural extensionists from 590 in 2007 to 671 this year, assisting 354,000 farmers now compared with 177,000 in 2005.
Other factors include the introduction of new agricultural technologies, support for marketing and the building of public and private silos for the conservation of produce.
The seven member countries of SADC (Southern African Development Community) who share the Zambezi basin, have expressed support for the construction of a new dam on the Zambezi at Mepanda Nkua, in the western province of Tete.
This position was taken during a meeting of SADC ministers of water affairs in Maputo on 9 July. The Mozambican government took the opportunity of this meeting to notify formally the other Zambezi basin countries, under the SADC protocol on shared watercourses, of its intention to build Mepanda Nkua.
Mepanda Nkua is about 60 kilometres downstream from the existing dam at Cahora Bassa. The new dam will generate 1,500 megawatts, and will be run by a consortium headed by the Brazilian company Camargo Correia.
Mozambique’s National Director of Waters, Juliao Alferes, told reporters that there were no discordant voices. The other SADC members were all in favour of building the dam. The Angolan National Director of Water Resources, Lucrecio Costa, said Mepanda Mkua would increase the supply of power for the region, and could attract new investments, and hence more jobs.
At the opening of the meeting, Mozambican Prime Minister Luisa Diogo stressed the importance of cooperation between SADC members in managing water resources, in order to minimize the impact of climate change.
She warned that southern Africa is vulnerable to climate change, and that Mozambique in particular has already been suffering from its effects. It was thus urgent for SADC members to work together on their shared water resources to counter the negative impact of climate change. “We must continue learning to use our water resources sustainably, so that we can draw greater benefits from them today without compromising future generations”, urged Diogo.
The Ministers analysed the project to establish an Interim Secretariat of the Zambezi Basin Management Commission (ZAMCOM), the body that should ensure joint management of the largest river in the region. ZAMCOM is not yet operational because two of the seven countries in the basin, Zambia and Zimbabwe, have not ratified the protocol setting it up.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on 10 July in Maputo launched a new agro-business programme, AgriFUTURO, intended to improve the competitiveness of Mozambican private sector agriculture.
The programme costing $20 million over four years will be focused on districts that lie on the Nacala and Beira rail corridors in the north and centre of the country. The programme will be run by a consortium of four partners led by the US research and consulting firm, ABT Associates.
An AgriFUTURO document states that the programme will increase competitiveness “by strengthening targeted agricultural value chains” and “will build on market demand assessments conducted for each value chain”.
The purpose of these assessments is to identify the constraints preventing farmers from meeting demand. AgriFUTURO promises that, based on the analysis of these constraints, it will “work with participants along the entire value chain to improve the sector’s ability to increase income and market efficiency”.
The nine value chains identified are for maize, groundnuts, soybeans, pineapples, bananas, mangoes, cashew nuts, sesame and forestry.
At the launch ceremony, the US charge d’affaires, Todd Chapman, said, “we are expanding our commitment to the agricultural sector, because we see a potentially brilliant future for agriculture in Mozambique”.
“Mozambique has the potential to produce a virtual supermarket of high value crops and in filling much sought-after market niches in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and southern Africa”, he added.
AgriFUTURO, he pledged, would “help agricultural production, at all levels in the supply chain, to work more efficiently to promote a robust trading economy”.
Chapman said the AgriFUTURO programme team consists entirely of Mozambican nationals “thus maximizing the use of local expertise”.
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