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Nyusi ducks questions on ‘hidden debt’ involvement in Portugal interview; US report highlights Mozambique’s ‘heavy-handed’ response in Cabo Delgado

Welcome to Zitamar’s daily Mozambique briefing for 5 July 2019


  • Until today: President Filipe Nyusi on a state visit to Portugal (followed by a weekend off duty in Portugal)
  • 8-10 July: President Nyusi visiting Italy
  • 10 July: ‘Combating fake news’ conference, hosted at the Universidade Politécnica by Portuguese news agency Lusa and Mozambican newspaper Savana
  • 10 July: UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutierrez to visit Mozambique, following a counter-terrorism conference in Kenya

The latest from Zitamar News:

Chinese finance plays growing role in Triton’s graphite mine plans
A state-owned Chinese company is to take a 34% stake in graphite producer Triton Minerals for A$19.5 million (US$13.6m), which Triton says will allow it to complete the financing of its graphite mine project in Cabo Delgado

The best of the rest:

  • Nyusi ducks questions on ‘hidden debt’ involvement in Portugal interview (RDP, RTP)
  • US spying on Maputo mosques — in return for silence on Chang? (Carta de Moçambique)
  • US report highlights Mozambique’s ‘heavy-handed’ response in Cabo Delgado (US State Department)
  • Nyusi to appoint Frelimo-leaning Lúcia Ribeiro as top court president (Carta de Moçambique)
  • Election observation blocked by government (Mozambique Political Process Bulletin)
  • Less than 500,000 new permanent jobs created since Nyusi took office (A Verdade)
  • Chinese mining company suspended due to irregularities in Niassa (Notícias)
  • Renamo denies using foreign advisors (Notícias)

Nyusi ducks questions on ‘hidden debt’ involvement in Portugal interview (RDP, RTP)
President Nyusi struggled with tough questions over his personal involvement in setting up ProIndicus, EMATUM, and MAM, in an interview with Portuguese broadcasters RTP and RDP yesterday. When asked if, as defence minister, he had a role in setting up the companies which were part-owned by the Ministry of Defence, he replied that he didn’t sign any cheques. He told the interviewers not to bring politics into a criminal issue, and said that his government was more interested than the journalists in discovering the truth about the matter. Asked about the attacks in Cabo Delgado, Nyusi admitted that people are dying but claimed that life is continuing as normal in the province.
Nyusi seems unable to clearly deny personal involvement in establishing the three companies — which is not surprising, given his key role as minister of defence at the time. His best defence is to claim that he truly believed that they were being set up, by the secret services, in the interests of protecting the country — and to point out that he has not been accused of taking bribes or any other criminal behaviour. Many observers are pointing out today that he was unprepared for this obvious line of questioning; the interview made him look shifty and tetchy.
Click here to listen to part of the interview on the Corrupcao em Moçambique Telegram channel.

US spying on Maputo mosques — in return for silence on Chang? (Carta de Moçambique)
Mozambique has authorised US intelligence services to spy on Maputo’s mosques, in search of intel on how the northern insurgency is being financed, according to Carta de Moçambique — who say that the quid pro quo is that the US has agreed not to contest Manuel Chang’s extradition to Mozambique, citing an anonymous US intelligence source.
If the US has indeed missed a deadline to appeal Chang’s extradition to Mozambique, then there will of course be lots of rumours as to why. But the story doesn’t ring true — why would the US agree to a deal where Mozambique essentially wins both ways? And why would SISE need US help to monitor these mosques?

US report highlights Mozambique’s ‘heavy-handed’ response in Cabo Delgado (US State Department)
A US government report into religious freedom in Mozambique has highlighted media and NGO claims of the Mozambique government’s heavy-handed response to the Cabo Delgado insurgency, which has contributed to a ꞌꞌgrowing cycle of grievance and revengeꞌꞌ between militant Islamists and security forces. The US International Religious Freedom Report - Mozambique 2018 says the government is reported to have ꞌꞌarbitrarily detained men, women, and children based on appearing to be Muslimꞌꞌ charging them with crimes including first degree murder, use of banned weapons, membership in a criminal association, and instigating collective disobedience against public order. The government, the report adds, continued to state publicly that ꞌꞌsecurity forces had the situation under controlꞌꞌ, despite the persistence of the attacks and killings. In light of the violence, the US Ambassador has engaged President Nyusi and the minister of justice on the continued importance of religious tolerance to promote peace and security, the report said.

Nyusi to appoint Frelimo-leaning Lúcia Ribeiro as top court president (Carta de Moçambique)
President Nyusi is planning to appoint Frelimo-leaning Lúcia da Luz Ribeiro, a judge who was instrumental in the approval of last year's contested Marromeu mayoral election, as the next head of the Constitutional Council (CC), replacing the outgoing Hermenegildo Gamito. According to Carta de Moçambique, the post was turned down by Supreme Court president Adelino Muchanga, who instead took another term at the Supreme Court, and Ozias Pondja, a former Supreme Court president and current member of the CC. Carta says Ribeiro’s credentials are contested within the CC, but she is likely to succeed Gamito in part because she will safeguard Frelimo’s interests in the country’s top court.
The CC has come to prominence over the last year, first after ordering a re-run in Marromeu — and sharply criticising the municipal elections in a number of places — and then ruling the EMATUM loan and sovereign guarantee illegal. Frelimo will need a friendly CC head if it is planning to steal elections in October — which seems likely, given how registration has gone so far. The CC is currently looking at whether the MAM and ProIndicus loans and guarantees were as illegal as EMATUM — and considering a request by Renamo to rule out the voter registration in Gaza.

Election observation blocked by government (Mozambique Political Process Bulletin)
A group of civil society organisations have complained at the election authorities’ failure to provide them with credentials to observe registration, after the election authorities accused the CSOs of having been unprepared to observe the process. Civil society groups had a record 650 observers, and the law says the observer credentials must be issued within five days of application, but STAE proved unable to approve that many — causing particular problems in Nampula, Sofala, Tete and Zambezia, according to the Political Process Bulletin published by CIP.
In what the Bulletin calls “an unprecedented action”, the Foreign Ministry has refused to accredit International IDEA, the agency which the EU is using to channel funds and support domestic observation. International IDEA is not an NGO, but an intergovernmental organisation - with the same status as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), for example. No one can recall Mozambique rejecting any other intergovernmental organisation. Following diplomatic protests, iIDEA has been allowed to hire and maintain a team of Mozambicans in Mozambique, and is transferring funds from its headquarters in Stockholm to partner organisations in Mozambique, and making payments for activities in Mozambique from its bank account in Stockholm.

Less than 500,000 new permanent jobs created since Nyusi took office (A Verdade)
The government claims 1,667,268 new jobs have been created since 2015, but less than 30% of those jobs are permanent, according to labour minister Vitoria Diogo — who said only 479,435 new jobs have been registered with social security system INSS, meaning more than a million of the new jobs are self-employment, fixed-term contracts, temporary and casual, or seasonal work. During the same period, minimum wages have risen by between MZN 2,000 - 4,000 per month, while the cost of a basket of essential goods, defined by the labour unions, has risen by more than MZN 10,000, from MZN 8,500 to MZN 19,637.
There is a dire need for more permanent jobs in Mozambique. Though the high rate of self-employment often draws praise for Mozambicans’ ‘entrepreneurial spirit’, many such entrepreneurs would far rather have a steady wage if only jobs were available. Mozambique needs to implement reforms — including those recently suggested by the World Bank — to remove the difficulty of doing business in Mozambique, for more jobs to be created.

Chinese mining company suspended due to irregularities in Niassa (Notícias)
The Mozambican government has suspended the Chinese company DH Mining Development, which is developing a 5 million-tonne-per-year graphite mine in Nipepe district, Niassa province, due to its failure to present an environmental impact study or conduct any public and community surveys for the resettlement plan. The authorities were alerted to the irregularities by the local population, as the company was buying land from local landowners to build a residential complex for 100 workers.
The case is another example that Chinese companies are no longer — if they ever were — immune from complying with Mozambican law.

Renamo denies using foreign advisors (Notícias)
Renamo has denied that its political strategy for this year’s elections is being drawn up with the help of foreign advisors. The party's secretary-general André Magibire also told Notícias that the party is financed by its members as well as “the money that results from the number of MPs we have in parliament."
Notícias noted that “Renamo has always been regarded as a party financed by foreign allies with the aim to destabilise the country” — which is an outdated view of the party, although it may still have foreign support. So may Frelimo; the rules on party financing in Mozambique are so opaque that it is impossible to know. And there is no bar on foreign financing — foreign individuals, companies, and NGOs can pump as much money as they like into Mozambican political parties.

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