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Zitamar weekly review, 20-26 May 2023

Our pick of what has been a big week in Mozambique: news, analysis, leader articles, and our regular round-up of the biggest news from the last 24 hours

Today’s front pages in Maputo. Photo © Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon, and happy Friday. It’s time to look back at the week! And what a week it was.

As we said yesterday, three major, long-awaited events took place: the South African courts made a final decision to extradite Manuel Chang to the US; the Jean-Christophe Rufin report into human rights in Cabo Delgado was published; and the preferred bidder was this morning announced for the Mphanda Nkuwa dam.

And it’s a big day today too: aside from the Mphanda Nkuwa announcement, the Ukrainian foreign minister is in Maputo, and in Paris, TotalEnergies is holding its AGM, expected to discuss among other things a return to work in Cabo Delgado. Today’s decision to award Mphanda Nkuwa to Total’s consortium confounds those who believed publication of the Rufin report would displease the Mozambican government. And indeed, a government source tells us they are now hopeful of a decision to restart the LNG project in the second half of this year.

Below is our pick of the week, across news, analysis, and our leader articles, after our regular round-up of the biggest news from the last 24 hours.

The latest from Zitamar News:

Franco-Japanese consortium preferred bidder for Mphanda Nkuwa mega-project
EDF, TotalEnergies, Sumitomo and Kansai Electric Power in line to take a 70% stake in the 1.5GW, $4.5bn hydropower project
The private consortium will hold 70% of the shares in the project, with the rest held by the Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa and state energy company EDM. GMNK is aiming for financial close on the project by 2024, and for it to be commissioned by 2030

From the Zitamar Live Blog:

Zitamar Mozambique Live Blog
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kubela met President Filipe Nyusi today. Kubela tweeted that the two agreed to “work on boosting bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect and interests,” starting with the establishment of a Ukrainian embassy in Maputo. Kubela also met with his opposite n…

Also in the news:

  • Mozambique reduces senior government officials’ pay (AIM, Lusa, A Verdade)
  • South Africa awaits instructions from Interpol to extradite Chang to the US (Lusa)

Mozambique reduces senior government officials’ pay (AIM, Lusa, A Verdade)

The Council of Ministers yesterday approved a reduction in salaries and allowances for the president, ministers, deputy ministers, secretaries of state and deputies, among other holders and members of public bodies, as part of a further review of the new salary scale, also known as TSU. The amounts of the cuts were not disclosed and the approved proposal will be submitted to parliament in the coming days.

The government is still clearing up the mess from the ill-executed public sector salary shake-up; starting at the top is a good way of trying to defuse widespread anger at it.

South Africa awaits instructions from Interpol to extradite Chang to the US (Lusa)

The South African government is awaiting instructions from the international police organisation Interpol to extradite former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang to the United States, Chrispin Piri, spokesman for South Africa's justice minister, said yesterday.

It sounds like it’s a done deal.

The Week in Review


Worst electoral registration ever
Mozambique’s nonsensical election rules were insisted on by Renamo - and are difficult to do away with now that they clearly work in favour of the ruling party

The CIP bulletin monitoring the electoral process has raised the alarm again over the province of Gaza, where more than 300,000 ‘ghost voters’ were apparently registered four years ago. This year, it appears the electoral authorities are using the same inflated numbers as last time.

The discrepancy again highlights the pointlessness and opportunities for abuse presented by the practice of running an electoral census every five years. And perhaps that message is getting through. Today Ivone Soares, still an influential voice in Renamo, wrote on Facebook that the census makes no sense; that Mozambicans have ID cards, and that should be enough.

The problem is that it’s her own party which insisted on so many of Mozambique’s nonsensical election rules, including the five-yearly census — which will be difficult to do away with now that it clearly works in favour of the ruling party.


Total publishes landmark report on Cabo Delgado
Jean-Christophe Rufin’s report provides a road map to rebooting the Mozambique LNG project, but the project’s financiers will have to agree, too

The report by Jean-Christophe Rufin does not pull its punches on the role of decades of Frelimo government in creating the conditions for the current violent conflict in Cabo Delgado. It calls for an end to TotalEnergies paying Mozambican soldiers, as it has been doing for the so-called Joint Task Force protecting Afungi. And it highlights numerous failings with the resettlement undertaken thus far, pinning much of the blame on the project’s former operator, Anadarko.

And another important piece of news regarding Mozambique LNG dropped over the last 24 hours: Bloomberg has got confirmation from the US Exim Bank that, if and when force majeure on the project is lifted, Exim’s lending to it will “require consideration and careful review” — apparently giving it, and perhaps other financiers, a chance to back out of lending to the project.


Mozambique: A donor darling again?
In the twilight of Filipe Nyusi’s presidency, Mozambique is coming in from the cold internationally — having been cast out in 2016 in the wake of the revelations around the ‘hidden debts’

Norwegian international development minister Anne Beathe Tvinnereim is in Mozambique this week — the third major foreign official to visit Mozambique this month, suggesting the country is getting more visibility and attention abroad. Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio made Mozambique one of four stops on his African tour before the G-7 meeting in Hiroshima, while last week UK international development minister Andrew Mitchell was welcomed to the president’s office in Maputo.

President Nyusi has also been busy abroad: attending the coronation of King Charles III in London, where he again met with Paul Kagame of Rwanda; to Switzerland meeting the heads of several UN agencies based there; and now back in New York at the UN headquarters as a guest of Swiss president Alain Berset.

It all suggests Mozambique is back in the international arena, after years of a quasi pariah status due to the huge scandal of the hidden debts uncovered in April 2016, which has plagued Filipe Nyusi’s two terms as president.


Manuel Chang extradition: South Africa finally rules against Mozambique
Also: Reactions to the Rufin report on Cabo Delgado, and a diplomatic mission to try and initiate mediation in the province

Manuel Chang was the Mozambican finance minister who signed the government guarantees for more than $2 billion, borrowed by companies set up by the secret services to buy offshore defence equipment from Lebanese shipbuilding group Privinvest.

He is wanted in the US for conspiring to defraud American investors who bought part of the debt in the form of corporate bonds. He is wanted in Mozambique for defrauding the country — though many doubt Mozambique’s sincerity in wanting to put him on trial if he ever does make it back home.

Mozambique could not be accused of not having done everything in its power to prevent the extradition to the US. Whether or not he will really be put on trial in Maputo, the government — and Frelimo, to the extent the two can be separated — felt an obligation to protect one of its own from prosecution abroad.

But the government also wants to avoid more of its dirty washing being aired abroad. The trial of Privinvest’s Jean Boustani in New York — which ended in his acquittal — revealed more to the Mozambican public about the details of these scandalous deals, than the trial of 18 people, including the son of then-president Armando Guebuza, did in Maputo. A trial of Manuel Chang in New York could bring even more juicy details to light.

Photo of the Day

Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kubela meeting President Filipe Nyusi in Maputo today