Notice to readers
This week, one of Zitamar News’ founding editors, Tom Bowker, was forced to leave Mozambique (see below for more). We would like to reassure all our readers that this development will not affect Zitamar’s ability to operate, through its team of researchers, journalists, and editors, in Europe, the US, and in Mozambique.
- Wednesday, 24 February: Zitamar editor Tom Bowker participates in webinar ‘Mozambique: Turning an opportunity into a crisis’ — register here
The latest from Zitamar News:
Cabo Ligado Weekly, 8-14 February 2021
The Mozambican government continued its offensives last week, though there is no indication yet of whether the growing pace of strikes is shifting territorial control on the ground
The best of the rest:
- Editor of Zitamar News expelled from Mozambique (AFP, VOA, Mediafax, Savana)
- Health system close to collapse in Beira, warns health chief (Notícias)
- Tropical storm to hit Mozambique (Reuters)
- Palma hungry again as armed escorts stop running from Nangade (Mediafax)
- Peace fund runs out of money, but Renamo’s focus is on disarmament process (DW)
- Bar association attacks “scandalous” police arrests (Lusa, Lusa)
- Covid-19 halves revenues of airports operator (Carta de Moçambique)
- Communities prefer working with wood smugglers as they pay immediately, says study (DW)
- Minister says cashew industry will not collapse with Olam’s exit (O País)
Editor of Zitamar News expelled from Mozambique (AFP, VOA, Mediafax, Savana)
The Mozambican government has expelled Tom Bowker, the editor of Zitamar News,from Mozambique. Bowker, a British citizen, had his foreign correspondent card withdrawn on 29 January. The government said that he had been unable to prove the “legal existence” of Zitamar News, a news service run between London and Maputo. Borges Nhamire, a researcher in Maputo with Mozambique's independent Center for Public Integrity, said the country’s laws restrict foreign ownership of domestic media — but that that should not have led to Bowker's expulsion. "If there are some problems with Zitamar’s registration, they should tell Tom what to do to register Zitamar, to legalize what is illegal, but not to expel a journalist," he told VOA. "I don't think that's a good approach for a civilized country.” A spokesman for Mozambican immigration confirmed the expulsion, saying it was ordered by the interior ministry. The UK’s foreign office said in a statement that it was “concerned” at the expulsion, adding: “We have raised the case with the Mozambican government and encourage the authorities to allow for a swift and transparent appeal of the decision”. Zenaida Machado of NGO Human Rights Watch tweeted that it was “another embarrassing move by the Mozambique government and a sign that the country is becoming a hostile environment to foreign journalists.”
Bowker’s expulsion was a response by the Ministry of the Interior to claims by media regulator Gabinete de Informacao (Gabinfo) that Zitamar News does “not exist”, and that Bowker could therefore not be its correspondent — a situation which Gabinfo had been happy to accept for the last five years. The fact that Gabinfo’s change of heart led directly to expulsion and a 10-year ban, rather than a conversation over whether and how Zitamar was breaking any rules, suggests Gabinfo was used to find a pretext for an expulsion that had already been decided on. This week’s edition of Savana, out tomorrow, suggests the whole process was organized by the secret services, SISE, with Gabinfo and the interior ministry playing the formal roles.
Health system close to collapse in Beira, warns health chief (Notícias)
It could soon become very difficult or impossible to control the spread of covid-19 in the city of Beira in Sofala province, the director-general of Mozambique’s National Institute of Health warned yesterday. Ileshi Jani said that the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths in the city had increased significantly, adding: “We have not yet seen the collapse of the national health system anywhere in the country, but in some areas we are close to that level. The city of Beira, which is the epicenter of the disease in Sofala province, is in imminent danger”. Jani said that preventive measures had been put in place for the next two weeks to avoid the capacity of the health system being exceeded. Jani warned that people had become too relaxed about applying the preventive measures, and that teams would be going around reinforcing the message of prevention. For now, he added, hospitals were starting to use rapid tests to give results in 15 minutes.
Sofala is now the second most affected province, but Greater Maputo is still home to 78% of the country’s covid-19 infections.
Tropical storm to hit Mozambique (Reuters)
A tropical storm likely to intensify into a cyclone is approaching Mozambique, South Africa’s weather service said on Wednesday. Tropical storm Guambe is currently in the Mozambique Channel, and is expected to bring torrential rain, winds and flooding to the central and southern coastal regions of the country, from the city of Beira through the town of Vilanculos down to Inhambane province, the weather service said. It will be the third tropical storm to hit Mozambique in as many months, after Cyclone Eloise in January and tropical storm Chalane in December.
Vast zones in southern and central Mozambique have been flooded by recent heavy rains and the rivers where dams, both internally and in neighbouring countries, are forced to open their gates, having reached their safety limits.
Palma hungry again as armed escorts stop running from Nangade (Mediafax)
The defence and security forces have stopped escorting goods vehicles to Palma from Nangade, where more than 50 trucks are now stuck, unable to make the trip due to the danger posed by insurgents. As a result, Palma is again going hungry, and seeing dramatic price inflation for basic goods. No official announcement has been made about stopping the armed escorts, but some locals believe it’s because the helicopters, who also protect the convoys, are involved in action elsewhere. Drivers of the trucks are also suffering in Nangade, where the one guest house is full and there is nowhere for them to sleep.
Peace fund runs out of money, but Renamo’s focus is on disarmament process (DW)
The National Reconciliation and Peace Fund, created to finance income generation projects for demobilised guerillas from opposition party Renamo, is out of money. The Nampula government says that the fund, set up in 2014 with $10m, has financed 90 projects already, but Renamo denies this. “There is no demobilised Renamo [soldier] that is benefiting; this fund is, on the contrary, benefiting fighters from the FPLM [Popular Forces for the Liberation of Mozambique, former armed forces], so it is a great injustice,” André Magibiri, Renamo secretary-general, told DW. However, Magibiri said the party’s concern was with the so-called Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process.
The National Reconciliation and Peace Fund was an initiative of former President Armando Guebuza and the late Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to help find an alternative means for Renamo soldiers to generate income, and has nothing to do with the current DDR process, where the government and Renamo are focusing their efforts on the reintegration of Renamo soldiers into civilian life.
Bar association attacks “scandalous” police arrests (Lusa, Lusa)
The Mozambican Bar Association has criticised how police have arrested people while enforcing the curfew in Maputo. According to Ferosa Zacarias from the association, the police are arresting patients on the way to hospital, workers waiting at bus stops due to the lack of public transport and victims of domestic violence, which he called “scandalous”. Zacarias accused the police of targeting poorer people and of putting innocent citizens at risk of contamination by covid-19 due to crowding of detainees at police stations. Meanwhile, the Mozambican Workers’ Organisation (OTM) has asked the police to act with consideration and respect for the fundamental rights of workers and citizens. Joaquim Chacate from the OTM said that the lack of transport in the greater Maputo region made it impossible for all workers to stick to a curfew and be home before 9pm. The police would have to evaluate each case and show some tolerance, he said.
Covid-19 halves revenues of airports operator (Carta de Moçambique)
State-owned airports company ADM’s turnover fell to MZN1.4m ($18,500) in 2020, down 54.2% compared to 2019, due to the impact of covid-19. Of the forecast 2.2m passengers, ADM recorded 1m last year, compared to 2.1m passengers in 2019. Domestic passenger traffic fell from 1.4m to 825,900. There were 33,800 aircraft movements in the country in 2020, down from 66,600 in 2019. In 2020, the company expected to carry 17.2m tonnes of cargo, but only recorded 8.8m tonnes, just over half the 16.9m tonnes recorded in 2019.
Communities prefer working with wood smugglers as they pay immediately, says study (DW)
A study commissioned by the Civil Society Learning and Training Centre (CESC) says that communities in northern and central Mozambique prefer collaborating with smugglers, especially Chinese, because the government takes much longer to pay for timber. The study says that villages from the provinces of Niassa, Nampula and Zambezia have not received 20% of the resource exploitation fee since 2019. Lázaro Mabunda, a CESC consultant, said that they preferred to deal with the Chinese and other illegal operators because there was no bureaucracy and they got paid immediately. According to Dionísio Nombora, co-author of the study, licensed operators did pay the fees due in 2019 and 2020 to the government, but communities did not see the money. Mabunda recommended involving local communities in the drawing up of all forest and wildlife concessions, to generate trust and avoid tensions between communities and operators.
Minister says cashew industry will not collapse with Olam’s exit (O País, Savana)
Agriculture minister Celso Correia says he believes that the cashew nut industry will not collapse, following the withdrawal of agribusiness Olam from cashew nut processing in Mozambique. Correia compared the situation to the cotton industry, where Olam also pulled out but which did not collapse. So far, 130,000 tonnes of cashew nut kernels had been traded during this agricultural campaign, which could end up breaking the previous record of 150,000, he added. However those numbers are contested by the cashew sector. Correia spoke during his visit to the Condor Anacardium cashew factory at Macia, where he announced a $1.5m bank guarantee for the Condor factory provided by the government. A guarantee fund has been created to help companies in the cashew nut sector find financing at a reasonable price. The government is also conducting spraying campaigns that should cover 2m cashew trees, in addition to the multiplication and planting of seedlings.
Despite minister Correia’s announcements, the cashew sector remains sceptical that the government will implement the reforms needed to support the industry and peasant farmers.
- Kenmare Resources said that it would report its full-year financial results on 24 March