Welcome back to our first Week in Review of the new year.
On 5 January, insurgents attacks closed in on Mocímboa da Praia in Cabo Delgado province.
Four civilians, including a 27 year-old local community worker for the charity Médecins Sans Frontières, were killed in Chimbanga village just outside the town.
Local sources told Zitamar News that Rwanda security forces tried to stop civilians fleeing the town.
In other news, Mozambique’s pigeon pea seems set to continue in 2024. This week, agricultural commodity trader ETG appealed to President Filipe Nyusi to intervene in an increasingly bitter dispute between it and the conglomerate Royal Group, over the export of seeds and grains from Mozambique.
The two companies are at war over ETG’s attempts to export pigeon peas to India, where the grain is in high demand as a staple food.
You can read the full story here:
Have a great weekend.
Week in Review
Tax Authority reverses Rio Tinto VAT refund in tax dispute (O País)
The Tax Authority (AT) has decided to suspend the refund of MZN1.6bn ($25m) in value added tax to the multinational mining company Rio Tinto and to award the amount to the state, in order to put pressure on the firm to pay capital gains tax resulting from the purchase and sale of a coal mining business in Tete province. The AT intends to recover more than $239m in unpaid taxes from the transactions, according to Notícias, the state-controlled newspaper quoted by O País.
Legal experts have said that the authority is unlikely to succeed, partly because the law at the time did now allow tax to be charged on transactions of that nature between foreign-registered companies, and partly because the then government was negligent in intervening in the deals. The beneficiary from the transactions was Riversdale, which sold the business to Rio Tinto for $3.7bn, far more than it turned out to be worth, but the authority does not seem to be going after Riversdale currently. O País does not seem to understand how capital gains refunds work, since it refers to the sale of the coal business by Riot Tinto to ICVL, but Rio Tinto sold the business at a great loss.
Insurgents attack two more villages in Cabo Delgado (Mediafax)
Insurgents attacked the villages of Nova Vida, in Cabo Delgado province’s Macomia district, and Mungwe, in Muidumbe district, on Sunday night, forcing the population to spend the night in the woods and hiding places. The insurgents looted supplies and burnt many of the villagers’ huts. There are no reports of deaths. The attack on these two villages took place after the groups had again passed through V Congresso village, Macomia district, on Sunday afternoon. They attacked a position of the UIR riot police stationed there, destroyed huts and stole a variety of military equipment.
As French energy firm TotalEnergies prepares to take a decision on resuming work on its gas project in Cabo Delgado, Islamic State-backed jihadists are increasing their violent attacks on both civilian and military targets not too far from the project’s construction and logistics sites. Tensions are rising amongst people in the town of Mocimboa da Praia who, as we reported yesterday, are being prevented from leaving with their belongings by both the Mozambican authorities and the Rwandan military force.
Renamo party spokesman José Manteigas is continuing to provoke both party supporters and people outside the party who would like to see its leader, Ossufo Momade, replaced with a more effective presidential candidate.
Many eyes are on Venâncio Mondlane, the party’s mayoral candidate for the city of Maputo in the local elections, and Manuel de Araújo, the mayor of the city of Quelimane. Both of them have been more vocal and aggressive in challenging the fraud in the local elections than Momade, and offer a different leadership style. Neither has said in public that they want to challenge him. One challenger has emerged in public, in the form of Elias Dhlakama, brother of the previous Renamo leader, the late Afonso Dhlakama, who previously challenged Momade for the leadership in 2019. But besides being the former leader’s brother, he has little to recommend him, and his ethnic background from central Mozambique means that he is likely to be opposed by the influential party activists from the north.
Whoever Renamo chooses as presidential candidate, the party needs to demonstrate in its internal politics the same kind of democracy that it claims to stand for in the country. Too many decisions are taken informally by the party leadership without involving its formal decision-making bodies like the party congress, which meets too rarely to make much difference. There needs to be a genuine free vote on the candidate, in which all candidates get a fair chance.
Mozambique and India discuss resuming work on TotalEnergies’ gas project (Notícias, Rádio Moçambique)
Mozambique and India have established the timetable and actions needed to rapidly resume the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project led by TotalEnergies in the Rovuma basin off Cabo Delgado province, according to the Mozambican energy minister. Carlos Zacarias was speaking about four meetings that President Filipe Nyusi held yesterday in India’s Gujarat state with the secretary of India's oil and gas ministry and representatives of the three Indian companies invested in the project, known as Mozambique LNG. The meetings also discussed some issues of concern to the parties involved, he added.
The assertion in state-controlled newspaper Notícias that the Mozambican and Indian officials have agreed a timetable to restart work needs clarifying. It is for TotalEnergies, as the project operator, to draft the timetable in the first place, but the Indian shareholders agree with the plan to restart work soon, which Zitamar reported on last month. Since an announcement by TotalEnergies on restarting work could be imminent, it is important to have all partners in Mozambique LNG aligned on the same goal. The Mozambican government is trying its best to convince the parties involved that all conditions have been met to restart work, in particular on the project’s physical security.
An activist from the opposition MDM party has called for Albano Carige, the mayor of the city of Beira, to be the party’s presidential candidate in the October presidential election. Agnaldo Navalha, who claims to have been a founding member of the party and a former provincial party official in Gaza province, said that it would be the end of the party if it did not run with Carige as candidate, and that a coalition with opposition party Renamo would destroy MDM.
This spells imminent trouble for current MDM leader Lutero Simango. Carige, formerly close to the previous Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, has proved to be a charismatic and popular leader during the local election in Beira where he defeated the powerful Frelimo candidate Stella Zeca.