The Food Security Early Warning National System has predicted that 1.6 million tonnes of grain is expected to be available in Mozambique during the 1997/98 marketing year, compared with 1.59 million tonnes in the 1997/98 year and 1.47 million tonnes in 1996/97.
According to the report, at the end of the 1997/98 marketing years Mozambique had to import 173,560 tones of grain to cover its needs. For the 1998/99 period, the country will still have to import grain, mainly rice and wheat, of which it does not produce enough to respond to its needs.
Last year, Mozambique had a surplus of 51,850 tones of maize, 18,250 tones of sorghum and millet, and 100,000 tones of cassava. Mozambique exported 60,700 tones of maize, and imported 35,400 tones of the same product, with food being exported to Malawi and imported in the south of the country.
Experts estimate that of the total amount of grain available in 1998/99, 1.09 million tonnes will be maize, 143,000 tonnes rice, 30,800 tonnes wheat and 316,700 tonnes millet and sorghum.
Mozambican agricultural authorities describe the first season of the present campaign as a success, despite the fact that a significant amount of crops were destroyed either by floods, in parts of the central provinces, or by drought, in some parts of the southern region. The experts' report says that 60,560 of the 3,718,000 hectares planted in the first season of the present campaign were lost because of these two factors.
Of this total, 45,960 hectares were destroyed by floods on the Buzi, Pungue and Zambezi rivers, in the central region, and on the Incomati in Maputo province, whereas 14,600 hectares were lost because of drought in some districts in the southern provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, and also in the western province of Tete.
Power from the Cahora Bassa dam in the western province of Tete should soon be supplied to southern Mozambique, following the solution to technical and contractual problems .
Speaking on 13 June, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Castigo Langa, said that the South African electricity company, ESKOM, has informed the Mozambican authorities that all arrangements have now been made so that the Apollo sub-station in South Africa can start receiving Cahora Bassa power on a regular basis.
Once power flows to the Apollo sub-station, the power that southern Mozambique imports from South Africa will be treated, not as ESKOM power, but as recycled Cahora Bassa power.
The Mozambican electricity company, EDM, is to buy power from HCB at the 1988 price of two South African cents (less than half a US cent) a watt. An agreement has been reached whereby this price will not affect negotiations between HCB and ESKOM over the price ESKOM will pay.
The flow of Cahora Bassa electricity to southern Mozambique will lead to huge savings. Currently EDM is paying ESKOM around $1.2 million a month. When the south is supplied with Cahora Bassa power, total monthly payments, both to HCB for the power and to ESKOM for the rental of its lines within South Africa, will amount to around $300,000.
The independent National Elections Commission (CNE) has denied claims made by a three-party opposition coalition, the Democratic Union (UD), that electoral officials deliberately obstructed UD candidates for the forthcoming municipal elections, scheduled for 30 June.
The CNE rejected the majority of candidates submitted by the UD for failing to meet the requirements of the electoral law. Six out of 11 candidates for mayor were rejected because they did not present the supporting signatures necessary.
Any candidate for the post of mayor requires the support of one per cent of the registered municipal electorate. Yet five UD candidates presented no signatures at all, and a sixth was 811 signatures short.
As for the UD lists for the municipal assemblies, 26 out of 27 were rejected - all because they did not have enough valid candidates. A list must have enough names to fill all available seats, and those people must present all the documentation required by law (including proof that they have lived in the municipal area for at least six months, a notarised copy of their voter's card, and a document stating their criminal record, if any).
But in 16 municipalities the UD lists did not contain enough names, and in a further 10 many of the candidates did not present all the required documents.
In subsequent press conferences and interviews UD leaders claimed that local branches of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) created obstacles for obtaining the necessary documents, and that many of the documents were submitted, but were subsequently lost by STAE officials.
They claimed that the CNE and STAE had shown bad faith and had done all in their power to exclude the UD from the race. UD leaders told reporters that the coalition had done all in its power to present the required documentation on time. They also promised to withdraw those candidates whom the CNE did accept.
In a lengthy statement the CNE denied the UD claims. It pointed out that it had published a full list of all the requirements that candidates must fulfil on 19 February - when it was still believed that the elections would be held on 29 May. (In other words, all candidates, including the UD ones, had an extra month to get their paperwork in order.)
The CNE had no obligation to publish such a list, it said, but did so in the spirit of collaborating with political parties and other bodies interested in the elections.
The CNE recalled that it had stressed repeatedly that it could not waive any of the requirements contained in the electoral law. However, it tried to make bureaucratic procedures easier for candidates, by intervening with the state bodies responsible for issuing such documents as criminal records.
Despite this, many candidates only submitted their papers as the deadline (16 April) was approaching. The UD only submitted its lists on the last possible day - and the lists were "incomplete, and with many documents missing".
The CNE then notified the UD of the missing documents, of the need to replace invalid candidates, and of other requirements to regularise the UD lists. Under the electoral law, they had five days to make these corrections.
"At the end of the period to suppress formal irregularities and replace invalid candidates, the UD lists were largely unchanged", said the communique.
The CNE then had no option but to reject those UD candidates that did not meet the legal requirements.
The CNE declared that UD claims that electoral staff raised difficulties or lost documents were "very far from the truth", and regretted "baseless accusations made by political leaders who ought to give an example of responsibility and seriousness".
The communique also noted that the CNE, before, during and after the period for presenting candidates, had met several times with UD leaders. The last such meeting had been on 4 June, at which the UD did not raise any of the complaints that it later made to the press, and did not threaten to withdraw its few remaining candidates.
Furthermore, concluded the CNE, the UD had the right to appeal against CNE decisions to the Supreme Court. It chose not to do so, and instead "makes baseless public protests", which the CNE regarded as an attempt "to confuse the electorate and public opinion".
The Minister of State Administration, Alfredo Gamito, has warned that the government will take "appropriate measures" against anyone who tries to intimidate voters not to participate in the municipal elections scheduled for 30 June.
Gamito was speaking in the central district of Maringue, regarded as a bastion of Renamo, which is boycotting the elections.
Gamito said that the current campaign waged by Renamo and its allies to persuade the electorate to abstain was perfectly legal. "They are not breaking the law yet", he said. "All the contacts they are making have been orderly. We will have to see how far they will keep up this behaviour".
He warned that if the Renamo campaign took "other forms" such as seizing citizens' voting cards, or otherwise intimidating them so that they did not vote, "then matters will be on a different scale, and eventually the competent institution will take account of this".
The independent candidate for mayor of the central city of Beira, Francisco Masquil, is resisting pressure from Renamo to pull out of the municipal elections.
Masquil's supporters, who call themselves "Group for Reflection and Changes", have issued a communique, cited in the independent newsheet Mediafax on 12 June, stating that despite the boycott by "an important political faction", they will definitively remain on the ballot paper.
Masquil and his group regard the electoral panorama as adverse because "the government is ignoring the demands of the opposition". Nonetheless, they have decided to fight on because "we believe that changes are made through intervention and never through exclusion".
The communique also says that the group could not "betray the longings and expectations of the electorate", who regard Masquil and his supporters as "a credible alternative for good governance of the city".
The group also states that it is entirely independent of all political forces and is "committed exclusively to the development of the city and the well-being of its inhabitants".
The mayor of Maputo, Artur Canana, who is fighting to retain his job in the forthcoming municipal elections, argued on 10 June that the main problem the city faces is "one of order".
In a candidates' debate held at the headquarters of the Mozambican Journalists' Union (SNJ), Canana noted that urban space is being used in a disorderly fashion. During the war of destabilisation, the organisation that previously reigned in the city began to crumble, and people started building houses "any way they like". "I want to halt this, and impose order on the way in which urban land is used", declared Canana.
He also pledged a modernisation of the City Council's financial system - particularly its collection of market fees. He admitted that this is an area of massive corruption, and estimated that only one per cent of market fees owing actually find their way into the City Council treasury.
He wanted a modern system of payment "that allows us to exert systematic control, otherwise we won't get the revenue".
The man regarded as Canana's main challenger, independent candidate Philippe Gagnaux, rejected the argument that all opposition candidates should withdraw because the electoral legislation is no good. He regarded defects in the laws "as a good reason for participating, to see how far these laws work".
He said he wanted "to link town planning to the economy. We want to involve all economic agents, public or private, and all organised forces in society, in running the city".
He called for a return to the voluntary work ethos. "There's plenty of work to be done, even if there isn't money. The municipality cannot function without the participation of its citizens".
Also present at the debate were two of the minor candidates. Jeremias Chicava, of the two-party coalition RUMO (Resistance for the Unity of Mozambique), declined to explain any of his policies on the grounds that "it will all be in our manifesto".
Neves Serrano, leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PPLM), but running as an independent for mayor, promised "to transform Maputo into a garden".
The material for use in the municipal elections in Mozambique is being produced in France and should arrive in the country between 20 and 24 June, said the chairman of the National Elections Commission, Leonardo Simbine.
Simbine said that 243 observers to the elections have already been accredited. 231 of the observers come from 10 organisations, and 12 applied for observer status as individuals.
The CNE will train a total of 25,000 staff for the polling stations. This number includes "reserves" who will be called upon to replace any members of the polling station staff who, for whatever reason, are unable to perform their duties.
Norway supplies Mozambique with annual aid valued at $50 million, which puts it at the top of the eight African countries Norway regards as priorities for its assistance, according to the deputy director-general of the Norwegian aid agency NORAD, Kjell Storlokken.
Norwegian aid is channelled to five main areas: health, energy (oil and electricity), rural development, macro-economics (debt relief, budget support and balance of payments support), decentralisation and human rights.
Norway is also discussing with the authorities a programme of support for the media, particularly in terms of training and the supply of equipment.
Experts and users of fertilisers expressed their concern on 9 June, in Maputo, at the decline in the use of fertilisers in Mozambican agriculture.
During an African Regional Conference in Maputo of the International Association of Fertiliser Industries (IFA), the experts found that the level of consumption of fertilisers decreased from 40,000 tones in the 1981/82 and 1982/83 agricultural campaigns to merely 1,800 tones in 1997/98.
The deputy national director of the Rural Extension programme in the Mozambican Ministry of Agriculture, Helder Gemo, said the decline was caused by the privatisation of the former state farms, which were the largest consumers of fertiliser.
He said that currently, the agricultural promotion companies (such as the concessionary companies that provide the inputs for peasant farmers growing cotton), are practically the only ones using fertilisers, and there are not very many such companies.
Meanwhile, the area cultivated by the family sector in the 1997/98 agricultural campaign is reported to have increased by 2.5 per cent in comparison with the previous year, when 3,718,000 hectares were cultivated.
A report by the National Early Warning System for Food Security says that this area was planted with seven of the most important food crops and a harvest of between 65 and 100 per cent of the potential is expected, varying from one region to another.
The management of gas fired power stations in the districts of Vilankulo and Inhassoro, in the southern province of Inhambane, will be privatised in the near future, said Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 6 June.
Speaking at the inauguration of the two stations, powered with natural gas from Pande, Mocumbi said that a tender will be launched soon. He said that until then the management of the two stations will be handled by the National Directorate of Energy.
The two stations, generating 400 kw in Vilankulo, and 260 kw in Inhassoro, are currently supplying 305 consumers, 230 in Vilankulo, and 75 in Inhassoro.
A passenger rail route between South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique was inaugurated on 5 June. The journey takes 20 hours and links the three countries twice a week. The aim of the service is to increase what is described as "middle class tourism" and to provide a service for the large number of Mozambican traders who regularly visit Swaziland and South Africa to make purchases.
The Mozambican government is discussing the future of the country's marketing board, the ICM (Mozambique Cereals Institute), only four years after this body was set up, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Oldemiro Baloi, announced on 5 June.
The previous marketing body, AGRICOM, whose marketing posts and fleet of vehicles were ravaged during the war of destabilisation, was eventually abolished under foreign pressure. The ICM was supposed to be involved, not only in marketing, but also in stimulating production.
In practice, however, the ICM has played the traditional role of buyer of last resort - but never with access to enough funds to do so effectively.
Baloi pointed out that the ICM core functions are expensive. It would cost $18 million a year to manage a food reserve of 43,000 tonnes, and a further $8 million to act as buyer of last resort for 60,000 tonnes of grain.
He believed that these functions ought to remain in state hands, but that the normal buying and selling of grain "should be done by the private sector".
Five people, one of them a Mozambican, appeared on 4 June before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to give evidence about the 1986 plane crash on South African soil which killed Mozambique's first president, Samora Machel, and 34 others.
The South Africans questioned came from sectors whose activities might have had something to do with the crash, he said.
The evidence available from the black box flight recorders of the plane, a Soviet-built Tupolev-134, suggested that the plane had been diverted from its correct flight path by a rogue radio beacon transmitting on the same frequency as the Maputo airport beacon.
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