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Mozambique indefinitely in “public calamity” to control covid-19; Renamo women demobilised in Gorongosa

Welcome to Zitamar’s daily Mozambique briefing for 8 September, 2020


  • Today: Verdict handed down in trial of six alleged members of Renamo Military Junta paramilitary group at court in Dondo, Sofala province

From the Zitamar Live Blog:

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Covid-19 deaths hit 28
The health authorities announced 90 new cases of covid-19 today, of which half are in the city of Quelimane

Watch President Filipe Nyusi’s address to the nation
The president announced the establishment of a state of “public calamity”

The best of the rest:

  • Mozambique indefinitely in “public calamity” to control covid-19 (O País)
  • Renamo women demobilised in Gorongosa (VOA)
  • Court acquits more than half of the accused of terrorism in Cabo Delgado (O País, VOA)
  • Government forces fight in Awasse, near Mocímboa da Praia (Mediafax)
  • Members of parliament question mosque construction in Zambézia (O País)
  • Covid-19: Government to give safety certificate to tourist resorts (Lusa)
  • Environmental group seeks legal challenge to loan for Mozambique LNG project (The Guardian)
  • Total wins national fuel import contract (Carta de Moçambique)

Mozambique indefinitely in “public calamity” to control covid-19 (O País)
President Filipe Nyusi declared a “public calamity” throughout the country for an indefinite period of time on Friday, with effect from Sunday, ending the five months of state of emergency. Noting the increasing number of cases, the president said that the limits of capacity to track contacts in the capital Maputo had almost been reached, and urged people to wear masks. He said he was displeased at the number of people attending the beaches last weekend consuming alcoholic drinks which is forbidden. Nyusi stressed that all measures to prevent and combat covid-19, in force since March, remained in place. However, passenger flights to certain countries will be resumed on a reciprocal basis. From 15 September, people will be allowed to use beaches for limited purposes, and teams competing in the national football championship, the Moçambola, will be allowed to train. The number of people allowed at social events has been increased from 30 to 40.
Declaring a “public calamity,” allowed for under a new law passed last month, avoids violating the constitution by continuing to declare states of emergency. While the government reserves the right to tweak the measures on an ongoing basis as it sees fit, it seems safe to say now that we are in a “new normal”, that will continue indefinitely and be only very gradually relaxed over time. Travel in and out of the country will presumably become easier, as other countries also relax their rules. But large gatherings, such as conferences, mega-churches, and music festivals, will probably remain off the agenda for some time to come. The tourism sector is still protesting, as tourists from many countries will still not be allowed to come. Other countries in the region, including Tanzania and Kenya, are already opening up for tourism.

Renamo women demobilised in Gorongosa (VoA)
Some 140 guerrillas — all women — were demobilised on Saturday during a ceremony at a paramilitary base of opposition party Renamo in the Gorongosa nature reserve. The ceremony was attended by President Filipe Nyusi, Renamo leader Ossufo Momade and the special representative of the United Nations’ secretary-general, Mirko Manzoni. Nyusi said that the step was instrumental in the successful advancement of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process. Most female guerrillas had already been demobilized in 1992, under the General Peace Agreement — but they were re-mobilised when Renamo’s dissatisfaction led to a resumption of armed violence in Mozambique, until the ceasefire in 2016 and the signing of the 2019 peace agreement.

Court acquits more than half of those accused of terrorism in Cabo Delgado (O País, VoA)
More than half of the defendants accused of taking part in the insurgency in Cabo Delgado province have been acquitted since trials began three years ago, according to figures from the provincial court. Of the defendants across 11 trials, 122 were convicted and 130 were acquitted due to insufficient evidence. Most of those acquitted were part of the first criminal trial against alleged insurgents, when the court which was inexperienced in dealing with terrorist cases failed to convict as many as it should, according to a court spokesperson — who said the court had since gained experience and had better-informed cases. Analyst and university lecturer Samson Nhancale argued that the arrest of the first suspects was due to pressure to respond to the attacks, and it was expected that a large number of them would be acquitted. Nhancale said it was important that the government set up specific programmes to support people in the province and give them occupations — including those who have been released after long waits to stand trial — to prevent them from being recruited by terrorists.
Zitamar understands that some of those released after the first mass trial have gone on to be arrested again on suspicion of involvement in the insurgency.

Government forces fight in Awasse, near Mocímboa da Praia (Mediafax)
Commemorating ‘victory day’ in Quelimane yesterday, President Nyusi said young men from the Defence and Security Forces had been “in big combat” at Awasse, near the insurgent-held town of Mocímboa, “by day and by night”, on Saturday 5 September.
Retaking Awasse will be a key step in retaking Mocímboa da Praia, as Awasse is on the junction of the roads going north to Mocímboa from Pemba, and east to Mueda and then Mocímboa. There are so far no reports of a major offensive, but there do seem to have been a number of skirmishes around Mocímboa da Praia over the last few days. If the forces had taken Awasse conclusively, one would imagine Nyusi would have said so.

Members of parliament question mosque construction in Zambézia (O País)
Members of parliament’s sixth commission have expressed concern at the number of mosques being built in the district of Pebane, in Zambézia province. According to a report from local authorities, there are more than 500 mosques for just over 200,000 inhabitants. Deputy Isaura Júlio said that “it is a worrying situation, because we know very well that Cabo Delgado [province] is facing terrorism, and the process started precisely with the construction of mosques.” Provincial secretary of state Judite Mussacula said that there was concern that Pebane should be spared terrorist attacks and that “this is worrying us a lot”.
This sort of public worrying by Mozambique’s leadership risks feeding into greater distrust between religions and faiths, which will have a negative effect on national harmony. It is always worth keeping an eye on unusual trends, but insinuations such as this one should be avoided.

Covid-19: Government to give safety certificate to tourist resorts (Lusa)
The government will award a safety certificate to hotels and tourist resorts that ask for it, if they pass a sanitation audit, deputy culture minister Fredson Bacar has announced. Venues will be given a plaque with the words “Clean and Safe” to display on the premises. The lack of a certificate would not result in any type of sanction beyond the normal legal and administrative implications of not complying with the measures imposed by the authorities against covid-19, Bacar said. The plaque can be ordered by hotels, restaurants, lodges and other leisure and hospitality resorts.

Environmental group seeks legal challenge to loan for Mozambique LNG project (The Guardian)
The environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth is to go to court in London this week, trying to mount a legal challenge to the British government’s decision to approve around $1bn of financial support for the Mozambique LNG gas project [incorrectly called a “grant” in The Guardian’s headline - actually a loan of $300m and loan guarantee of $850m]. The group is seeking a judicial review of the support granted by export credit agency UK Export Finance. Friends of the Earth’s head of legal, Will Rundle, said: “It concerns us greatly that our taxpayer money is being used to worsen the climate emergency in this way, and the Department for International Trade appears to have pushed this decision through without adequate transparency or environmental due diligence, in line with their policies and legal requirements.” A lawyer at law firm Leigh Day, which is acting for Friends of the Earth, said that the government had a clear obligation to disclose the project’s environmental impact. A spokeswoman for the agency said that it had conducted a review of the project’s environmental and social impact, but would not make it public.
Zitamar understands that the UK government looked into options for offsetting potential carbon emissions from the project, but abandoned the idea as it was too complicated to work out the full Scope 3 emissions, and would have made backing the project too expensive.
Leigh Day is the human rights-focused law firm which won a payout for the community around the Montepuez ruby mine after claims of abuse from private and state security forces.

Total wins national fuel import contract (Carta de Moçambique)
Total Trading & Shipping (Totsa), a subsidiary of the French energy company Total, will be the new importer of fuel for Mozambique, under a six-month contract starting in November, after winning a tender process held by state-owned fuel importer Imopetro. According to Carta de Moçambique, the award to Totsa was foreseeable, as it presented the lowest average price for importing different fuels into the country ($39.33 a metric tonne), compared to figures of between $40.87 and $53.44 offered by seven other bidders. Totsa is expected to import 1,015,000 tonnes of different fuels from November onwards, to be distributed among the Imopetro member companies.
Total is on track to become Mozambique’s biggest LNG producer, and its main LNG importer if the Matola LNG project goes ahead — and is now the country’s liquid fuel importer too. Now that Totsa has won the fuel import contract — held for a long time by Trafigura, and then briefly and unsuccessfully by Finergy — it will be in a good position to hang on to it for a while.

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