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Bus shooting in Sofala leaves two wounded; Credit Suisse wants Nyusi in London hidden debts case

Welcome to Zitamar’s daily Mozambique briefing for 31 August, 2020


  • Today: President Filipe Nyusi presides over launch ceremony for Northern Integrated Development Agency, Pemba, at 10am
  • Tomorrow: Council of Ministers’ weekly meeting

From the Zitamar Live Blog:

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Two more deaths from covid-19
Mozambique announced another 124 cases of covid-19 over the weekend — the majority of which were in Maputo

Today’s headlines:

  • Bus shooting in Sofala leaves two wounded (VoA, STV)
  • Credit Suisse wants to bring Nyusi into London hidden debts case (Lusa)
  • Military intercept two boats going to Mocímboa da Praia (Carta de Moçambique)
  • Chinese company mining gold illegally in Niassa, with government approval (Savana)
  • Police arrest man suspected of planning terrorist attack in Pemba (O País)
  • Cabo Delgado gem smuggling network dismantled (O País)
  • Oil and gas licensing round may be ready to open by the end of this year (O País)
  • Terrorists are mixed up with population in Cabo Delgado, admits interior minister (VoA)

Bus shooting in Sofala leaves two wounded (VoA, STV)
A passenger bus was machine-gunned in Sofala province on Sunday evening, leaving both drivers injured. The bus was in the area of the Ripembe river between Muxúnguè and the Save river when it was hit by a hail of bullets on the right-hand side and on the windscreen, and one of the drivers was hit by bullets in both legs, eyewitnesses told VoA. The Sofala police have not yet commented on the incident. This is the first attack in the area after the resumption of ambushes of vehicles on the roads of central Mozambique, which the authorities attribute to the self-proclaimed Renamo Military Junta, a dissident group that contests the leadership of the opposition Renamo party.
It is concerning if the Renamo Military Junta is managing to expand its zone of operation beyond a couple of districts in Manica. The Muxúnguè stretch of the N1 highway was the scene of numerous shootings when Renamo violence flared in 2013, but so far been spared in this latest outbreak. There is optimism that a deal is attainable to put an end to the Junta’s violence — but this show of strength is probably aimed at bolstering Nhongo’s bargaining position.

Credit Suisse wants to bring Nyusi into London hidden debts case (Lusa)
Credit Suisse could demand compensation from President Filipe Nyusi if it loses a case against the Mozambican state in a London court next year, according to a letter sent to the court by the bank’s lawyers, seen by Lusa. The lawyers argue that if the hidden debts transactions which the state is suing over are proved to have been unlawful, “President Nyusi participated in it through (at least) allegedly accepting bribes and violating the duties of Mozambican law.” Credit Suisse’s lawyers have written to the Mozambican authorities to enquire about Nyusi’s immunity from prosecution, but had not received a reply by July.
Interest in the hidden debts case is mounting again — with the potential involvement not only of Guebuza but the current sitting president too. It may be a tactic of Credit Suisse to try and get Mozambique to withdraw its case — but if that does not happen, the prospect of a major investment bank suing a country’s current and former presidents would thrust Mozambique back into the global spotlight.
More details of Nyusi’s direct involvement in the case will be revealed as the case unfolds, but the New York trial of Privinvest businessman Jean Boustani revealed that Privinvest had donated to Nyusi’s Presidential election campaign, and not to him personally.

Military intercept two boats going to Mocímboa da Praia (Carta de Moçambique)
The Defence and Security Forces intercepted two boats with about 60 people on board off the city of Pemba on Friday, on their way to the district of Mocímboa da Praia, in the north of Cabo Delgado province. The people came from Nampula province and told the authorities that they were going to fish in an area close to Mocímboa district, which is now under the control of the terrorists operating in the province. But sources said that the boats had had to be stopped by force of arms. According to Carta de Moçambique, the boat’s destination leads the authorities to believe that the passengers were new recruits for the insurgency, which has been recruiting in Nampula province.
While there is a tradition of fishermen from Nampula heading up the coast of Cabo Delgado to catch fish, local sources contacted by Zitamar consider it highly suspicious that anyone would be going there to fish at this time, given that the coastal zone from Quiterajo to Mocimboa is now controlled by the insurgents.

Chinese company mining gold illegally in Niassa, with government approval (Savana)
A Mozambican and Chinese-owned company is illegally mining and processing gold in Niassa province. According to Savana, the company, called Focus 7 Exploration, has been licensed since 2018 to research and prospect for minerals in the village of Tulo in Lago district, but it has been mining gold without paying taxes. Nor has the company carried out social responsibility work for the surrounding communities or obtained an environmental licence. According to the provincial director of mineral resources and energy, José Lima Candiva, the company was shut down in 2019, but orders from Maputo put pressure on Focus to return to operation even without following rules. A team from the mineral resources ministry found that Focus was mining gold in an area granted to another company and had set up its processing machine in an area where a third company has applied for a licence. Savana reports that the two companies never complained about the invasion by Focus, which it says suggests collusion between them. Obadine Matine said that the fine to be applied could amount to 200,000 meticais ($2,800), but that 1.5kg of gold was estimated to have been mined, worth around 6m meticais.
The mining sector in Mozambique is infested with companies operating on the margins of the law — and there is a distinct lack of transparency when compared with, say, the oil and  gas sector. However, it seems the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy (MIREME) is trying to clean things up somewhat, through the newly created position of Inspector-General.

Cabo Delgado gem smuggling network dismantled (O País)
A sophisticated network of gem dealers working in Cabo Delgado province, thought to be led by Thais, has been dismantled by the provincial branch of the Criminal Investigation Services, Ntego Crisanto Ntego, the service’s provincial director told O País. The group was caught in possession of about 15kg of precious stones, more than half of which were rubies, according to Crisanto Ntego. Police seized around 300,000 meticais ($4,150) and $4,000 in cash, computers, mobile phones, scales and other equipment used for smuggling, he added, saying that police had evidence of employees at Pemba airport being involved.

Police arrest man suspected of planning terrorist attack in Pemba (O País)
The provincial branch of the Criminal Investigation Services (Sernic) in Cabo Delgado province recently detained a Mozambican in possession of weapons and military equipment, on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in the city of Pemba. A search of the suspect’s bags found five AK-47 rifles, 10 magazines of which seven were full and the rest empty, six pairs of military uniforms, four military shirts and a pair of military boots,” according to Ntego Crisanto Ntego, Sernic’s provincial director. He said that the suspect had already been brought before a judge. The man denied involvement with the insurgents, or knowledge of what was in the bags, and said he was delivering them for a cousin.

Oil and gas licensing round may be ready to open by the end of this year (O País)
Carlos Zacarias, the head of Mozambique’s oil and gas regulator INP, told O País that the institution should have identified blocks to put up for auction in the country’s next licensing round by the end of the year. Zacarias said that pre-launch work – such as delineating the blocks to put up for tender – the increase in oil prices [assume he means decrease here] and, in part, covid-19, led the schedule of the tender process to change, although he stressed than the pandemic was not the primary reason for the delay. He added that the exploration areas would be distributed across the north, centre and south of the country. “There will not be many areas, but we hope that they are areas that arouse the interest of potential investors,” he told the paper.
Max Tonela, the minister for mineral resources and energy, said in a speech two weeks ago that the government was in “no rush” to launch the next licencing round – which could happen any time before the end of the five-year plan (that is by 2024). With oil prices still low and international oil companies’ budgets stretched, it makes sense to delay. On other hand, it takes a long time to find, prove up and develop oil and gas reserves, and as the world turns away from hydrocarbons, Mozambique could find even less demand for exploitation of its oil and gas reserves towards the end of the decade. With such huge gas resources in the north, Mozambique could instead focus technical capacity and knowledge on ensuring that these fields deliver the greatest benefit for the local population, as well as fulfilling its huge potential to harness renewable energy.

Terrorists are mixed up with population in Cabo Delgado, admits interior minister (VoA)
The actions of the Defence and Security Forces against the insurgents in Cabo Delgado province must be carefully measured to cause the least possible damage to locals, because the terrorists are mixed with the population, the Mozambican interior minister has said. Amade Miquidade stressed that the population of Cabo Delgado “is suffering greatly from the actions of terrorists, and we do not want to aggravate this suffering”. Miquidade argued that despite the attacks, there was stability in Cabo Delgado and journalists could go and witness this on the ground, although he did not refer to the town of Mocímboa da Praia, which has been captured by insurgents.
The statement by the minister is an admission that the jihadist rebels are being sheltered by some members of the community - although whether this is by choice or coercion is unclear. From the huge numbers of IDPs — more than 250,000 by UN estimates — the majority of the population where fighting has occurred would rather flee than cooperate with the insurgents.

Company Announcements

  • MRG Metals published results of laboratory analysis of composite samples from its Corridor South tenement in Gaza province. The company said that the best value mineral assemblage had been found on the eastern side and at the southern end of the tenement, which would inform the selection of further samples for analysis and the prioritisation of aircore drilling due to begin late in August (see here)
  • ICVL extended the deadline for expressions of interest for prospective bidders for its contract to develop and operate its Zambeze coal mine project a third time, to 30 October 2020. The deadline for requesting clarifications has also been extended to 20 October, and prospective bidders have until 9 October to request a site visit (see here)
  • The Mozambique Stock Exchange requested expressions of interest from consulting firms for a contract to provide terms of reference for a securities trading and registration system. Expressions of interest are due by 11 September (see here)
  • The National Institute of Statistics published statistics for road traffic accidents in 2019 (see here) and a statistical annex of data on sustainable development goals indicators, as part of the government’s voluntary national review of progress towards the goals (see here)
  • The Ministry of the Economy and Finance published a citizens’ guide to the 2020 budget (see here)

Tweet of the Day

Images from the launch of the northern development agency, ADIN, in Pemba this morning