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Cabo Delgado insurgents living alongside locals in Quissanga; 19 more coronavirus cases in Afungi

Welcome to Zitamar’s daily Mozambique briefing for 24 April, 2020

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The latest from Zitamar News:

Cabo Delgado insurgents living alongside locals since Quissanga attack in March
Insurgents in Quissanga district are continuing a hearts and minds operation after taking over the town of Quissanga on 25 March — while comrades elsewhere in the province continue their barbaric killing

Insurgents decapitate four in Cabo Delgado village
Apparent insurgents killed four funeral-goers in the village of Imbada, as reports of more killings emerge from Nangololo

Security forces turning Ibo Island into murderous police state, locals say
The historic island of Ibo, which has received thousands of refugees since the Cabo Delgado conflict began, has witnessed repeated killings by police in recent weeks

From the Zitamar Live Blog:

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Mozambique has 19 new cases of covid-19, all at the LNG project in Afungi

The best of the rest:

  • Mozambique should pay hidden debts in full, says former attorney-general (Lusa)
  • Ramaphosa upset at Mozambique’s South African mercenary contract (Africa Intelligence in Carta de Moçambique)
  • 5500 people in culture and tourism sectors lose jobs to pandemic (AIM)
  • Islamic State is behind Mozambique’s insurgency, says government (AIM,O País)
  • Frelimo boss promises reconstruction plan to village ravaged by insurgents(Magazine Independente)
  • Is the 30% hike in domestic sugar price due to export or VAT? (Verdade)

Ramaphosa upset at Mozambique’s South African mercenary contract (Africa Intelligence in Carta de Moçambique)
The South African government of President Ramaphosa has been embarrassed by the involvement of South African mercenaries and helicopters in the Cabo Delgado conflict, according to an Africa Intelligence report translated and reproduced in Carta de Moçambique today. The Dyck Advisory Group (DAG)  has a two-month contract for April and May, AI says; but South Africa’s State Security Agency (SSA) only found out about it when it saw videos of them in action in Mozambique, including getting shot down. AI speculates that the head of the SSA, Loyiso Jafta, may have ordered DAG to destroy the helicopter — saying that Jafta suspects Lionel Dyck, DAG’s owner, of having attacked South Africa’s Wonderboom airport in the past. The downed helicopter is registered to a company called Aviation At Work (AAW) which is based at Wonderboom; but AAW owner Frikkie Boltmann told AI they had sold the helicopter.
AI is probably right that the South African government is upset. South Africa has strict rules banning mercenary operations, which appear to have been violated in this operation, which Mozambique commissioned without informing its neighbour and vital ally. It is the SSA which is probably most embarrassed — it has earned a reputation in recent years for intelligence failures, and likely did not know that helicopters were being prepared and flown to Mozambique from right under their noses in Pretoria. Mozambique has since sent a ‘note verbale’, a formal diplomatic communication, to smooth the matter over, Zitamar understands.

5500 people in culture and tourism sectors lose jobs to pandemic (AIM)
More than 5,000 people linked to the culture and tourism sectors have lost their jobs after the closure of more than 1,000 establishments due to the covid-19 pandemic, an official has said. “The closure of 696 establishments in the tourism sector affects 2,000 people, while in the culture sector there are 3,500 people,” Ndiça Massinga, an adviser at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism said at a press conference in Maputo on Thursday.
This is not a problem unique to Mozambique. The World Travel and Tourism Council has warned that the pandemic could cost up to 50m jobs worldwide in the travel and tourism industry. Even when the outbreak is over, the body estimates it could take up to 10 months for the tourism sector to recover - potentially longer in emerging destinations like Africa - and that in Africa, international travel arrivals could decline to between 1-3%, which could translate into a loss of $30-$50bn from international visitors. However, even before covid-19, tourism in Mozambique was not a strong growth sector, despite it being one of the four pillars for economic development promoted by President Nyusi. While the visa-on-arrival process introduced in 2018 has made it easier to access the country, and the Quirimbas islands in Cabo Delgado province in particular have huge tourism potential as world-class diving spots, cyclones and the insurgency in that province has halted the flow of visitors.

Islamic State is behind Mozambique’s insurgency, says government (AIM,O País)
The insurgent attacks in Cabo Delgado province, northern Mozambique, are the responsibility of the Islamic State, the National Defence and Security Council said for the first time in a press release yesterday. The fact that the attacks were claimed by Islamic State revealed that the country was in the presence of an external aggression perpetrated by terrorists, the council concluded after a session led by President Filipe Nyusi.
Historically, the narrative of successive Mozambican governments has always been that of external aggression, denying internal conflicts and setbacks, João Feijó, a researcher at Mozambican rural affairs think tank OMR told Zitamar News. The colonial government used to call Frelimo terrorists and that the Tanzanians were working on behalf of Chinese and Russian interests. The first Frelimo government called Renamo armed bandits and apartheid lackeys. Now they call the ‘insurgents’ external aggressors, but many are Mozambicans, speak the national languages and are exploiting long-standing tensions and disputes which have never been resolved.

Frelimo boss promises reconstruction plan to village ravaged by insurgents (Magazine Independente)
Ruling party Frelimo’s secretary-general, Roque Silva, visited the town of Mocímboa da Praia yesterday, one of the towns in Cabo Delgado province recently attacked and occupied by insurgents who identify themselves as members of Islamic State. According to a statement, Silva visited in order to comfort the population and to assess the impact of the attacks. He told them that President Nyusi and the government were doing their best to get life back to normal, and that the next challenge would be to design and deliver a reconstruction plan.
The visit by the party leadership is important for the population’s morale, particularly that of its members and sympathisers, given that the attackers have said they don't want to see the Frelimo flag in Cabo Delgado, and that the government is unjust. There is a need, while fighting is ongoing, for messages of hope to be spread.

Is the 30% hike in domestic sugar price due to export or VAT? (Verdade)
The price of sugar produced in Mozambique has risen from 60 meticais a kilo, when the first case of covid-19 was announced in the country, to 90 meticais a kilo one month later, because the pandemic has generated a “much higher than normal demand” for sugar abroad, leading traders to export produce to higher-paying markets, an industry source told Verdade. Reduced availability in Mozambique has led to higher prices here. However, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce told Verdade the price increase was because producers now have to pay value added tax (VAT). Sugar producers had been exempted from paying VAT since 2004, as part of measures to revitalise the industry, but this ended on 31 December 2019. The industry source said that with the start of the new sugar production season in Mozambique last week, the price of brown sugar should fall to 75 meticais a kilo.
One source involved in sugar production told Zitamar that the industry is only viable if there is a price increase. Most companies involved in sugar production in Maputo and Sofala have huge debts and have asked the government for support. However, the new price seems uncompetitive against regional prices, which would encourage smuggling from South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Mozambique should pay hidden debts in full, says former attorney-general (Lusa)
The government should pay the $2bn hidden debts in full, despite the loans being declared illegal by the Constitutional Council, Augusto Paulino, Mozambique’s attorney-general between 2007-2014, has argued. Writing in his latest book, Paulino, one of the best-known judges in Mozambique, pointed to the clause in the constitution which says that the state is responsible for illegal acts carried out by its agents in the exercise of their duties, but with a right of return. After repaying the loans to creditors, Mozambique had the right to demand reimbursement for the damages caused to the debtors, he said: “This falls within the domain of the relationship between civil servants and their State, and there is therefore a place for the right of return”.

Company Announcements

Pathfinder Mineralsannounced that the general meeting to seek approval for its previously announced fundraising would be held on 11 May in London, although shareholders are not allowed to attend in person due to covid-19-related restrictions

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