Mozambique News Agency

AIM Reports

 


No.315, 13th February 2006


Contents


Value national culture - President Guebuza

 


Mozambique News Agency
AIM Reports


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No.315, 28th February 2006


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Contents

Massive earthquake hits Mozambique
Muslims march in protest at cartoons
World Bank considers investment environment critical
EU support for state budget
External factors undermine economy
President calls for change in attitude to check spread of AIDS
ANE calls for better use of technical assistance
New chairpersons for public companies
Contract for oil prospection signed
Mozambique unlikely to return to COMESA
Contract for Zambezi bridge signed
Government bans chicken imports


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Massive earthquake hits Mozambique

A major earthquake shook Mozambique just after midnight on 23 February, which was felt as far away as Johannesburg, Harare and Lusaka. According to the US Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Centre, the earthquake was of a magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale, which made it the largest earthquake in southern Africa since records began. People in Maputo and Beira took to the streets as their houses shook violently during the earthquake. In the following hours there were several aftershocks.

The epicentre was in Machaze District in Manica Province, 220 kilometres south west of Beira and 530 kilometres north of Maputo.

Despite the intensity of the earthquake, the latest reports indicate that only five people were killed, with another 40 injured. A preliminary report states that 400 houses were destroyed along with six schools, a water tank, three water points and two small bridges. However, the director of the Disasters Management National Institute (INGC), Paulo Zucula, cautions that this data is not yet definitive, because assessment teams are still in the field.

The Mozambique government has asked the United Nations for technical support. In response, the UN has mobilised two helicopters to help officials in Gaza and Manica Provinces assess the damage.

The Ministry of Public Works has also dispatched teams, to check on any possible structural damage to bridges and dams.


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Muslims march in protest at cartoons

More than a thousand Muslims marched in Maputo city on 25 February to protest against the publication of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed by the independent weekly "Savana". The cartoons in question, which caused a wave of demonstrations by Muslims around the world, were first published in a Danish paper, in September 2005.

On 17 February "Savana" republished eight of the 12 cartoons on the founder of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed, which first appeared in the Danish paper "Jyllands-Posten". Among the cartoons which "Savana" chose to reprint is the most polemical of all - which shows Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

The march in Maputo started in the suburb of Alto Mae and ended in Independence Square, where the demonstrators prayed for about three hours. Some of the banners carried by the demonstrators demanded the sacking of Savana's director, Kok Nam, and its editor, Fernando Goncalves.

Demonstrators wore T-shirts proclaiming that "Islam equals Peace and Tolerance", and held banners with slogans such as "Danish papers please do not offend us", "Prophet Mohamed, compassion to humankind, we repudiate all those who offend prophet Mohamed, shoulder by shoulder we will win".

The "Savana" management has formally apologised to the Muslim community for publishing the cartoons, and has stated that the publication of the cartoons was only aimed at showing people what was the object of such a hot controversy.

The cartoons were first published in Denmark, and elicited no reaction beyond Denmark's borders. They were then republished in October in an Egyptian paper - and, although the great majority of the Egyptian population are Muslims, there was no reaction.

Only in late January, when a few Danish Imans hawked the cartoons round the Middle East (plus three forged ones that did not appear in "Jyllands-Posten"), was an artificial fury inflamed.

Islamic fundamentalists started issuing death threats, and boycotts of Danish products were initiated. In solidarity with the Danes, newspapers in several other European countries, starting with Norway, republished the cartoons.

Mobs in Syria sacked the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, and the same fate overtook the Danish embassy in Beirut. The row has subsequently spread across the Islamic world.

Muslims account for about 18 per cent of the Mozambican population, according to the 1997 census.


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World Bank considers investment environment critical

The director of the World Bank in Mozambique, Michael Baxter, said in Maputo on 21 February that the investment environment in Mozambique needs to be improved. Addressing a press conference to launch a report, "Doing Business in 2006", Baxter said that the main reason for such a situation is that investments in Mozambique still continue costing "more time and money than the business as such". He said that this aspect constrains economic growth.

The report states that a Mozambican investor has to go through 14 different steps, which takes about 116 days, before he starts his new business. A document distributed by the World Bank during the ceremony says that these problems represent a very serious burden to the small and medium-sized businesses, most of which are already debilitated by other structural constraints, such as the poor access to credit and financing.

Despite this, Baxter finds that Mozambique is on the right path. He gave the example of the first Absolute Poverty Relief Plan (PARPA-I), which identified some of the problems and produced recommendations to deal with them.

Meanwhile, according to Baxter, PARPA-II, which is in its final stage of preparation, stresses the importance of adopting reforms to improve the investment environment as a pre-requisite for sustainable economic growth and the relief of absolute poverty.

During the report's launch, Trade and Industry Minister Antonio Fernando reiterated the Mozambican government's commitment to improve the business environment, stating that "we want business to be able to be started in the shortest possible time - why not in a single day? We want licenses to be issued in a record time".

Fernando said that it is still on the government's agenda to render credit more accessible to business people. He continued that the relationship between the government and the private sector, the revision of the Labour legislation, and the launching of the valuing of the national product, are some of other challenges to promote the country.


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EU support for state budget

On 16 February the European Union signed an agreement with the Mozambican government in Maputo which paves the way for granting euro 95 million (about $114 million) for the new Poverty Relief Budget Support (PRBS III) as part of the Absolute Poverty Relief Action Plan (PARPA II), for the period 2006/2007.

Under the agreement the European Commission will support the Mozambican government in improving public services, strengthening its management - particularly over public finances - and promoting economic development.

Signing the agreement on behalf of the Mozambican government was deputy Foreign Minister Henrique Banze, while Francisco Carreras, charge d'affairs of the European Commission, signed on behalf of the European Union.

Banze said that "Mozambique and the EU are partners with a common objective aiming at reducing the levels of absolute poverty among Mozambicans through a strategy that covers areas such as transport infrastructure, rural development, food security, health, good governance, and the development of the private sector".

For his part, Carreras said that this money is to support the country's state budget for 2006 and 2007, corresponding to euro 45 million a year, with the remaining euro 5 million earmarked for institutional empowerment and technical assistance, particularly in the area of public finances management.


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External factors undermine economy

The African Development Bank (ADB) has found that last year's drought and the increase in international oil prices hit the economic performance of Mozambique.

Addressing a press conference in Maputo on 14 February at the end of his visit to Mozambique, ADB President Donald Kaberuka said "the results of drought and the impact of the increase in the prices of fuel are extremely prejudicial to the country's economy".

Kaberuka pointed out that Mozambique still has "a long way to go and the challenges it faces are enormous", but he believed that the country is on the right path, and during his four day visit he had gained a very good impression.

During his stay Kaberuka held a meeting with President, Armando Guebuza to discuss ways to improve cooperation between the government and ADB. He also met with Prime Minister Luisa Diogo, and with representatives of the private sector and of the international community.

"During the meetings with development partners we exchanged ideas on how to harmonise our actions in order for our support to be more effective", he said, describing as positive the performance of some of the projects he visited which are benefiting from ADB support.

Kaberuka also praised the transparency in the use of funds granted by his institution, and he reiterated that ADB is prepared to increase its financial assistance and stimulate the contribution of the private sector to the country's development.

For his part, Deputy Finance Minister Pedro Couto said he expects ADB to continue its support for the government's efforts. He recalled that the Bank has pledged aid of $240 million for the coming two years.

An agreement was signed during Kaberuka's stay to allow part of that money to be used in direct support of the state budget.


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President calls for change in attitude to check spread of AIDS

President Armando Guebuza said in Maputo on 20 February that a change of attitude towards HIV/AIDS is the biggest challenge in checking the spread of the disease among Mozambicans. He stressed that this change implies a new social posture that will allow more cooperation between different sectors of society and between the different organisations that are involved in the fight against AIDS.

President Guebuza was addressing a press conference where he presented the results of the meetings he has held with different sectors of civil society, as part of his "Presidential Initiative on the Fight Against HIV/AIDS".

In the context of this initiative, the President has held meetings with women's associations, religious leaders, youth and students, and representatives of the National Council of Fight Against HIV/AIDS (CNCS).


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ANE calls for better use of technical assistance

The general director of the National Roads Administration (ANE), Ibraimo Remane, has urged that foreign technical assistance should not be used only to build or repair roads, but should also cover staff training "on the ground".

"We should rethink the philosophy and practice of contracting and using foreign technical assistance. I believe that this assistance should not be restricted to doing the building work, but would also be valuable in "on the job" training of Mozambican technical staff", he said, during a national seminar on the Revised Strategy for the Road Sector, which ended in Maputo on 15 February.

This strategy is to underpin phase two of the "Third Roads Programme", to be implemented between 2007 and 2011, and budgeted at just over $1.1 billion.

Remane stressed that this sector, which is vital for the country's development, must prioritise practical technical training in the field, rather than theoretical training as has been the case to date. "It is essential that we have technical staff with solid knowledge aimed at practical solutions to the problems that emerge during the building process", he said.

Remane argued that the road sector should also concentrate its efforts on national staff who are working in the various provinces, to empower them in the technical aspects of the jobs, in analysing and assessing bids, and in the negotiation and management of contracts.

Commenting on investment, planning and contracting for the building of roads and bridges, and the definition of a national and provincial roads policy, Remane said that the dual function of the roads network must be taken into account. This network ensures the necessary social and economic mobility to promote growth, but also encourages regional development by facilitating links between all corners of the country.

He drew attention to the fact that any action aiming at improving the roads must take into account that the quality of the roads contributes to reducing regional imbalances, thus promoting national unity.

Roads in good condition, Remane added, stimulate economic growth, reduce the cost of transport, and allow access to rural areas and to the markets, thus facilitating agricultural marketing.


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New chairpersons for public companies

Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on 14 February swore into office new chairpersons for the boards of four publicly owned companies, but gave no explanation as to why their predecessors had not been given further terms of office.

Thus Maria Dimas replaces Benjamim Pequenino as chairperson of the Mozambican post office; Domingos Fernando takes over from Luciano Sitoe at the head of the Maputo bus company, TPM; Tayob Adamo replaces Rassul Khan as chairman of the dredging company, EMODRAGA; and Anibal Samuel is the new chair of the Civil Aviation Institute, replacing Antonio Pinto.

Of the outgoing chairpersons, Pequenino had attracted considerable attention, partly because of an offensive he spearheaded against corruption in the post office, and partly because he was the only head of a public company who was also a member of the main opposition party, Renamo.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony, Prime Minister Diogo said these four companies "play a fundamental role in transport and communication. Because of its economic and social responsibilities, the activity of this sector has an impact on the fight against absolute poverty".

The policy approved by the government for transport and communication, she said, stresses such areas as making the movement of people and goods easier, improving access to new communications technologies, improving the access to the country's ports, and ensuring the safety of civil aviation.

TPM, she said, "plays a role of great importance in transporting the city's residents, and providing the public with transport at accessible fares".

As for the post office, Prime Minister Diogo urged the new management to continue restructuring the company, and branching out into providing financial services, particularly in rural areas.

Prime Minister Diogo acknowledged the problems that EMODRAGA faces in keeping the entrance channels to Mozambican ports at the requisite depth so that large ships can enter. This is a particular problem for the central port of Beira. The Prime Minister promised that the government is mobilising resources to acquire new equipment for EMODRAGA.

As for the Civil Aviation Institute, this is the regulatory body for Mozambican aviation. The Prime Minister hoped that, under a new chairperson, it would "undergo a new dynamic, at a moment when air safety is a major priority, not only for our country, but regionally and internationally".


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Contract for oil prospection signed

The Mozambican government on 16 February signed a contract in the northern city of Pemba with the Norwegian company Norsk Hydros under which the latter will prospect for oil in the basin of the Rovuma river, which forms the boundary between Mozambique and Tanzania.

The contract was signed by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Esperanca Bias, and the deputy chairperson of the Norwegian company, Harvor Breivik. It covers two onshore blocks where some work was done in the 1980s. Indeed, one well was drilled in Mocimboa da Praia which, according to Bias, showed the presence of natural gas.

The contract sets up a concessionary company for the two blocks, in which Norsk Hydros is the main shareholder. A ten per cent holding goes to Mozambique's publicly owned National Hydrocarbons Company (ENH).

Bias said the government was pleased that an internationally renowned company had won the tender and was bringing some of the world's most advanced oil technology to the Rovuma Basin. She also praised Norwegian cooperation with Mozambique, stating that "in the oil sector, the creation and growth of Mozambican institutions, namely the National Oil Institute and the National Hydrocarbons Company, would not have been possible without the financial assistance provided by Norway".

After the signing ceremony, Norsk Hydros offered the government of Cabo Delgado province $50,000 for the opening of standpipes to improve water supply in localities and villages to be chosen by the provincial government.


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Mozambique unlikely to return to COMESA

There is no good reason for Mozambique to rejoin the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), according to Luis Sitoe, director of international relations in the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Interviewed in "Noticias" on 13 February, Sitoe said that a technical team looking into the matter was recommending to the government that Mozambique should not apply to rejoin.

Mozambique suspended its participation in COMESA in 1995, and said it would take no further part in the organisation until there was a clarification of COMESA's relationship to SADC (Southern African Development Community). Such a clarification has never been forthcoming.

In the mid-1990s it seemed clear that countries could not belong indefinitely to both SADC and COMESA - and Mozambique opted decisively for SADC.

COMESA, however, has persistently begged Mozambique to come back, arguing that there are significant benefits to membership. But Sitoe, and the technical commission, are sceptical, pointing out that Mozambique can have relations with the non-SADC members of COMESA without returning to the organisation.

SADC is gradually building a southern African free trade area, and this will lead to a customs union - and then countries must choose. They cannot be members of two customs unions.

Of course, there was a downside, Sitoe admitted, in that the COMESA rules of origin are simpler than those of SADC. Companies exporting to other COMESA members were penalised when Mozambique pulled out of the organisation - they had paid customs duties of just 2.5 per cent when Mozambique was a member, but these rose to 30 per cent, or in some case to as high as 80 per cent when Mozambique left.

But trade with the non-SADC members of COMESA was negligible in comparison with SADC members who are obliged to open their markets to Mozambican produce as the SADC trade protocol takes effect, and regional integration advances.


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Contract for Zambezi bridge signed

The Mozambican government on 13 February signed a contract with the Portuguese consortium Mota Engil/Soares da Costa for the construction of a bridge over the Zambezi river, linking Sofala and Zambezia provinces.

The contract was signed by the general director of the National Road Administration (ANE), Abdul Remane, and by a representative of the Portuguese consortium, Carlos Cachoeiro, in the presence of the Minister of Public Works, Felicio Zacarias.

Speaking immediately after the signing, Zacarias said Mozambique was now finally resuming a task that was interrupted, a quarter of a century ago by the war of destabilisation.

It had always been clear that the main north-south highway was not complete without a bridge over the Zambezi. Work on the approaches to the bridge began in the late 1970s, but work had to be abandoned because of attacks by apartheid-backed Renamo rebels.

But only in the last couple of years has Mozambique succeeded in raising money for the bridge (from Sweden, Italy and the European Unity). A tender was launched last year to choose the contractor, and the Portuguese consortium won.

"Mozambique has done its part of the job, and the rest is up to the contractor", said Zacarias, urging the Portuguese consortium "to comply with their obligations and meet the deadlines".

Cachoeiro said that work on the bridge will employ 600 people directly and provide 2,000 other jobs indirectly. He pledged that all would be done to ensure that the work is completed within the 36 months agreed.

The bridge will be 2.3 kilometres long, and 16 metres wide. It is budgeted at euro 67 million (about $80 million). The European Union has promised euro 25 million, Sweden euro 21 million, and Italy euro 20 million.

In addition, the Japanese government provided $9 million for complementary work, including resettlement of those people who must be moved because of the building work, and improvements to the health and drinking water infrastructures on both sides of the river (at Caia, in Sofala province, and Chiumaura, in Zambezia).


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Government bans chicken imports

The Mozambican government has banned the import of all chicken products from countries where bird flu has been reported, which includes Nigeria, Egypt, and Niger. Farming national director Ventura Macamo said that this measure is part of the government's efforts to prevent the entry of the H5N1 virus into the country.

Macamo said that this plan includes inspection at all ports and airports in all provinces. He added that health and farming technicians are placed in all areas that are thought to be at risk, particularly where migratory birds come from other continents, such as Europe and Asia.

He warned farmers that if the disease reaches the country many of their birds will have to be slaughtered. Mozambican authorities estimate that an outbreak of this disease, which is spreading in some European, Asian, and Africa countries, would cost Mozambique about $50 million.

To tackle the threat, the Mozambican government has made available $14 million, of which $4 million is to be used in preparations against the disease, with the rest put aside for compensation for farmers affected by any future outbreak.


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President Armando Guebuza has urged Mozambicans not to abandon cultural habits taught by their ancestors, claiming that these are rich in teachings that are essential to defeat underdevelopment. "There are still many people who are not proud of their Mozambican identity because they do not know that by valuing their own culture they will be contributing to the eradication of poverty in the country", he said.

President Guebuza was speaking in the locality of Chaimite, in Chibuto district, in the province of Gaza, on 4 February, during a ceremony to mark the inauguration of the Gaza "canho" season. Canho is the name of a southern Mozambican fruit, from which an alcoholic drink is brewed. It is supposedly an aphrodisiac.

By tradition the drink is not to be sold, but even canho is not immune to the market economy, and the rules of commerce have trumped those of tradition. So enterprising people have been selling canho, and when challenged, say they need the money to face the current cost of living.

To highlight the importance of tradition, the ceremony took place on the spot where Ngungunhana, emperor of Gaza, the most powerful pre-colonial state in southern Mozambique, was arrested by the Portuguese army on 28 December 1895.

Ngungunhana is reckoned as one of the most significant leaders of resistance to the Portuguese colonial occupation. After his arrest he was deported to the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores, where he died. His remains were brought back to Mozambique after the country's independence.

In his speech, President Guebuza recalled that it was in order to value their culture, which the Portuguese colonists sought to eliminate, that Mozambicans fought for the country's independence. "We did not start existing today. We came from far and we are still going very far. In the past, it was not us, as such, but our ancestors, who produced our culture and tradition", he explained. But he further stressed that to value "our past in order to get rid of poverty does not mean that we cannot learn from others" - and a sign of this was the presence of foreign diplomats at the ceremony.

He also called for a statue to Ngungunhana to be built in Chaimite, as a tribute to this leader, and to value the history of the Mozambican resistance to colonial occupation.


South African pledge to complete Machel investigation

The South African Minister of Safety and Security, Charles Nqakula, on 4 February promised that his government will try to give a definitive answer this year to the question of how Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel, met his end.

Nqakula was speaking at a ceremony in Maputo to mark the 25th anniversary of the apartheid commando raid against the southern Mozambican city of Matola, on 30 January 1981, in which 12 members of the African National Congress (ANC) were murdered.

But Nqakula also took the opportunity to recall that this year will see the 20th anniversary of the death of Machel, who died when his plane, returning from a summit in Zambia, crashed into a hillside at Mbuzini, near where the borders of Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland all meet.

It has long been suspected that the apartheid regime was responsible for the crash, through the use of a pirate radio beacon, transmitting on the same frequency as the Maputo airport beacon, which lured Machel's plane away from its correct flight path. However, definitive proof has so far been lacking.

Nqakula recalled that South African President Thabo Mbeki last week pledged to try "to solve this mystery" in 2006.

"We need to find out who committed that dastardly crime", he said. "This is a debt that we owe to the people of Mozambique, and it is a debt that we shall pay".

The South African minister recalled that Mozambicans and South Africans had fought and died side by side in the battle to end apartheid. "The ties that bind us shall forever endure", he pledged.

When the apartheid commandos murdered the 12 ANC refugees at their homes in Matola, "We picked up the spears of all those who fell".

The apartheid "killing machine", he said, tried, but failed, "to stop Mozambique from supporting our struggle".


Storms affect over 27,000 people

The storms and flooding that have hit parts of Mozambique since the start of this year have affected over 27,000 people, according to the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC).

Speaking to reporters in Maputo on 10 February, INGC director Paulo Zucula said that, of this total, 2,187 people had been evacuated from their homes and are currently in need of help. These are people who were evacuated from islands in the river Zambezi, which were inundated as the river flooded in late January. They are now living in accommodation centres in Caia district, in the central province of Sofala.

The storms, with their high winds and torrential rains, had caused 16 deaths, said Zucula. They had also destroyed 2,156 houses, 26 schools, and 5,274 hectares of crops in Nampula, Gaza, Sofala, Inhambane and Tete provinces.

Zucula said the level of the waters in the main river basins is falling. Currently none of the major rivers is in flood - but a state of alert remains in the Zambezi, Pungue and Buzi basins, due to continuing rains, where the INGC is continuing to warn people to stay away from flood prone areas.

The heavy rains, combined with poor sanitation, create the ideal conditions for the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera. Zucula said that so far this year there have been 1,646 confirmed cases of cholera, and eight deaths - three in Sofala, three in Gaza and two in Nampula.


Project launched to strengthen financial sector

The Mozambican government on 9 February launched a Technical Assistance Project to help improve efficiency and transparency in the financial sector. The project is budgeted at $28 million, of which the government is to contribute two million, with the remainder is a loan from the African Development Bank (ADB).

Deputy Finance Minister Pedro Couto, who chaired the ceremony, said that with this initiative the government intends to improve the efficiency of the financial sector by improving social security and pensions, and strengthening the insurance laws, among other aspects.

"We hope, above all, that the project will contribute to a more efficient and more transparent service, a more stable financial system, exempt from eventual ruptures and bankruptcies, among other problems", he said.

The project will centre its activities in human and institutional empowerment.

For his part, ADB representative, Taiwo Adenidji, explained that another important aim of the project is to help improve the legal environment for financial transactions, and assist in implementing the legislation against money laundering.

Other components of the initiative include improving financial accountability, and the management of public debt.

Speaking of the Social Security system, Adenidji pointed to the need to strengthen the capacity of the scandal-ridden National Social Security Institute (INSS), widening its coverage, and reforming its organisation and management system.

Couto told reporters that the project will be implemented over the next five years. "We expect to achieve an efficient financial system on a broader base", he said. "It will cover the regions that are currently not covered, and the poorer strata of society, who are generally excluded from the commercial banking system".


Line of credit for forestry operations

Agriculture Minister Tomas Mandlate on 8 February launched a ten year line of credit to finance activities of small and medium-sized companies in the forestry sector. In the initial stage, this initiative will benefit operators in Cabo Delgado, Zambezia and Sofala provinces, areas where the major timber operators are to be found.

The programme is supported by the Nordic Development Fund, which is providing €3.3 million (about $3.9 million), and implementation will be assisted by the Small Scale Investment Promotion Company (GAPI).

Eligible for this credit are operators who have been granted forest concessions, but also those with simple logging licences who prove their intent to work under the more demanding concession regime. Credit can also be granted to businesses to start or develop forestry produce processing units and also those who intend to work in reforesting.

The loans are to be used for such purposes as the acquisition of equipment and of vehicles. A maximum of €100,000 may be granted to individuals, to associations of small operators, or to communities. Interest on these loans will be charged at between 2.5 and six per cent.

The repayment periods vary between three months and ten years, depending on what the money is used for. Reforestation projects are allowed the longest repayment period, of up to ten years.

Speaking on 8 February, during a Consultative Forum on Forestry and Wildlife, held in the central city of Beira, Mandlate said that this government initiative is to help solve a number of problems confronting the sector. "The government, aware of the difficulties that the operators in question have faced, has been seeking alternatives to reverse the situation, and one of the concrete actions was to mobilise funds from its partners, to support small and medium companies", he said.

He stressed that this initiative aims at improving production and the quality of the processed products. "We expect this initiative to improve management and sustainable use of forest resources, and to reduce the export of logs by improving the processing of timber, to give it more added value", explained Mandlate.

He noted that the forest sector is one of those that, with small investments, can greatly contribute to relieving poverty in the rural areas. Thus he expected the operators in this sector to seize the opportunity and improve the functioning of their companies and their profitability.

But he warned the beneficiaries to honour their commitments, to ensure that the contributing partners would mobilise more funds to benefit more operators.

The participants at the meeting, who included officials from the central and provincial governments, and representatives of NGOs and of the private sector, stressed that the country's forestry sector has been facing serious difficulties including obsolete equipment, poor capacity to exploit and process forest resources, lack of markets and poor access to credit.


Dhlakama addresses Renamo youth

The leader of Mozambique's main opposition party Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, on 11 February stated that the government is unable to meet the requirements of Mozambique youth "who want modernity, dignity and prosperity". Speaking in Maputo, at the opening of a meeting of the Renamo youth wing, Dhlakama argued that the government, and the ruling Frelimo Party, are "obsolete, decrepit and with no perspective".

According to Dhlakama, this was because they are composed of the same people as 30 years ago. Dhlakama said that young Mozambicans "only want the same kind of opportunities that other youths have across the globe".

Those opportunities "begin with things as simple as the right to be young and all which that brings with it, in terms of training, human dignity, and the need to expand the range of experience and knowledge that allow them to be better citizens in the future, and to contribute more effectively to the construction of a greater Mozambique".

"The needs that young Mozambicans feel are linked to simple matters such as obtaining a profession, the right to decent housing, to set up a family with basic conditions of sustainability, to enjoy a credible education at all levels", Dhlakama added.

A "national project" in which young people play a key role should be concentrated on the four basic areas of education, employment, health and housing, which remained unknown in terms of government application", he stated.

Mozambique is "a postponed country, in constant crisis, governed by outdated elites who will do nothing in the remaining years that they wish to impose themselves as leaders", stated the Renamo leader.


Frelimo accused of using food aid as bribes

Manuel Pereira, a prominent parliamentary deputy for Renamo, has accused the government of using food aid to bribe people into joining the ruling Frelimo Party, an accusation officials involved in the distribution have promptly denied.

Cited in "Diario de Mocambique" on 10 February, Pereira claimed "the government uses the food from the international community in order to recruit members to Frelimo".

Pereira was speaking in particular about the distribution of food in the district of Caia to victims of last month's flooding in the Zambezi Valley.

"Because they were hungry, people ended up joining Frelimo", he claimed. "The government of (President Armando) Guebuza is using the food from the international community. All parties should be involved on an equal footing in the distribution of food".

A few days earlier, Pereira had annoyed other members of Renamo by praising the government for its efficiency in providing relief for those displaced from their homes by storms and flooding in Sofala province. But now he had completely reversed his position, and claimed the government is excluding opposition supporters from food distribution.

He extended his attack to the Food-for-Work programmes, where food provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) is used as payment for people involved in labour intensive public works.

"Officials of the Frelimo government only put down the names of Frelimo members for this work, and then say there are no more places", Pereira claimed.

Antonio Chicumbe, the Sofala provincial delegate of the country's relief agency, the National Disasters Management Institute (INGC), rejected Pereira's claims as completely impossible.

For the government does not choose who will receive food aid. That is done by selection committees set up in the communities, whose members are chosen on a basis of a variety of factors, including age and sex. Furthermore, the government does not directly distribute the food aid, but has farmed this task out to non-governmental organisations.


Official arrested for knocking down flagpole

The police have arrested a local official in the district of Nhamatanda, in the central province of Sofala, for tearing down a flag of the opposition Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD).

Opposition parties have frequently complained of illegal harassment by local officials who are supporters of the ruling Frelimo Party, and that the police take no measures. But on this occasion, according to "Diario de Mocambique" on 7 February, the police did detain 70 year old Ernesto Rudicha, a block chief in Nhamatanda town, after he had used a machete to knock down the PDD flagpole.

The attack took place during a PDD meeting. The party members present grabbed Rudicha, and turned him over to the police who arrested him.

The interim Sofala provincial chairperson of the PDD, Jose Juga, noted that Rudicha had been wearing a Frelimo T-shirt. He speculated that he had knocked down the flagpole because Frelimo was irritated by the PDD's alleged rise in popularity among Sofala communities.

Juga praised the calm way Nhamatanda PDD militants had handled the matter, turning the culprit over to the police rather than taking the law into their own hands.

The PDD is the party that came third in the 2004 general elections, winning two per cent of the vote. It was founded by Raul Domingos, once the number two in Renamo from where he was expelled in 2000.

Juga is the most senior person to have defected from Frelimo to the PDD. He was once Frelimo first secretary in Beira, but switched his allegiance to the PDD in late 2004.

Juga told "Diario de Mocambique" that the meeting in Nhamatanda was part of the PDD's work to form brigades to warn communities to move away from flood-prone areas in this rainy season, and to take precautions against cholera.

In both these areas, the PDD is effectively working alongside the government. "We're doing this because we're a party that's always on the side of the people", said Juga. "We're working for the people and we don't want there to be any deaths".

The PDD brigades, he added, would also publicise the party, build up the image of Raul Domingos, and attempt to win new members. This was part of the preparations for the provincial elections that will be held in 2007.


Norwegian minister on governance and budget support

The Norwegian Minister of International Development, Erik Solheim, on 10 February stressed that dealing with corruption "is very important for development and for budget support". Norway is one of the 17 donors who give at least part of their aid to Mozambique through direct support for the state budget.

Speaking to AIM immediately before leaving Maputo, after a two day visit, Solheim was positive about budget support, since this is a mechanism that allows the government to set its own priorities, albeit in consultation with the donors. "We want to develop this form of aid, and we shall evaluate it after some time", he said.

Solheim stressed, however, that it depended on good governance. "If Mozambique does not perform well in governance and democracy, it will be very difficult to continue with budget support", he said.

"We don't expect Mozambique to become a paradise from one day to the next, but the direction should be towards reduced corruption", Solheim added.

During his visit Solheim signed a memorandum of understanding with Foreign Minister Alcinda Abreu, pledging Norwegian annual aid of 330 million crowns (about $50 million) for the next four years - the first time Norway has entered into such a multi-year undertaking.

Solheim added that he had spoken with Energy Minister Salvador Namburete and the Minister of Mineral Resources Esperanca Bias, about possible future Norwegian support for the petroleum sector and for the development of hydro-power.

Norway also granted Mozambique $13.5 million in debt relief. This money is to be used to buy back debt owing to private creditors at about half its original value.

Solheim said he had "a good feeling" about Mozambique. "There's so much negative news from Africa these days that it's good to be in a place where there's a sense of optimism", he declared.


French investment in sugar production

The second largest European sugar company, the Tereos Group of France, is investing $30 million in the Mozambican sugar industry. According to a release from Mozambique's main sugar producer, the Sena company, Berneuil Participations SAS, a member of the Tereos Group, has taken 50 per cent of the shares in Sena Holdings Limited. This is the holding company, previously entirely owned by a Mauritian Consortium, that controls the Sena Company.

The agreement involves doubling the Sena Holdings share capital from $20 million to $40 million, through a capital contribution by Berneuil. This means that the Tereos Group and the Mauritian consortium now jointly control Sena Holdings. In addition, the Tereos Group is directly funding the Sena Company through a shareholder loan for a further $10 million.

This agreement was reached in late December, and the transaction is expected to be complete by the middle of this month.

The Board of Directors of the Sena company has declared its confidence that the deal between the Mauritian consortium and Tereos "will prove very beneficial", since it brings to the company "the expertise of an international sugar group".

The injection of capital, the Board says, "will greatly improve the treasury of the Sena Company by giving it the means to realise its business plan".

The Sena Company owns Mozambique's largest and most modern sugar refinery at Marromeu on the south bank of the Zambezi.

The agreement with a major European company can be expected to be of considerably advantage to the Sena Company in the years ahead, as the sugar market is liberalised and the guaranteed price that the European Union has been paying for sugar from Mozambique and other ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) producers is sharply cut.


TRAC justifies increase in tolls

Trans-African Concessions (TRAC), the South African-based consortium that runs the toll road between Maputo and the South African city of Witbank, has justified the toll increase that takes effect as from 1 March, by citing inflation in Mozambique last year, and the depreciation of the Mozambican currency, the metical, against the South African rand.

"The capital to build the road was borrowed in rands, and consequently the debt must be repaid in rands", says a TRAC press release, which indicates an "approximate 20 per cent adjustment in toll tariffs".

In fact figures published last week by the Mozambican National Roads Administration (ANE) show that the tolls will rise by between 20.7 and 23.4 per cent, depending on the type of vehicle, and which of the two tollgates (at Maputo and Moamba) they are using.

TRAC insists that the increase in the tolls is checked and approved by the ANE, and only inflation and the exchange rate are taken into account. According to the Bank of Mozambique, the 2005 inflation rate was 14 per cent.

The release says that improvements to the road "demonstrate that the toll fees are being used for their intended purpose".

Since the road was completed (in 2000), traffic along it has been rising at a rate of about six per cent a year, TRAC states, which it regards as "a clear indication that the region is growing and that business and tourism are feeling the benefits".


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


email: Mozambique News Agency


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