Zitamar Daily Briefing, 6 May

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Welcome to Zitamar’s daily Mozambique briefing for 6 May, 2020

Zitamar Daily Briefing May 6

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Covid-19 cases rise to 81
The new case arrived on a flight from Portugal, and 215 of the passengers have been tested


The best of the rest:

  • Use of masks now mandatory in public places (AIM)
  • US says Mozambique wants to hide corruption by opposing Chang extradition (Lusa)
  • Zimbabwean soldiers ‘preparing to be deployed to Mozambique’ (Zimbabwe Times)
  • Four injured in Manica bus attack (AIM)
  • Businessman kidnapped in Chimoio (Lusa)
  • Trade fair converted to coronavirus treatment center (Dossiers & Factos)
  • Cement industry feels impact of covid-19 (Notícias, O País)

Use of masks now mandatory in public places (AIM)
Everyone in Mozambique is required by law to wear a mask in public or busy places to prevent the spread of covid-19, the Council of Ministers decided on Tuesday. These, and the reinforcement of existing measures, were introduced following the extension of the state of emergency for another 30 days until the end of May. “Now we are going to bring something new; in addition to public transport, in any other places where people are concentrated, the use of masks will be mandatory,” spokesman Filimão Suaze said. He also reiterated the need for people to stay at home, and when they did go out, to stay at least 1.5 metres apart.
As the government has noted, the fact that many tailors and small businesses have started producing affordable masks makes it easier for people to comply with a measure like this – and particularly important in circumstances when it is difficult to keep 1.5 metres apart. Nevertheless, as TV stations show on a daily basis, in most Mozambican towns outside of Maputo it seems nobody is aware of the dangers of covid-19, are not using any sort of protection and continue to assemble  in crowded places.

US says Mozambique wants to hide corruption by opposing Chang extradition (Lusa)
Prosecutors in the United States suspect Mozambique is opposing the extradition of its former finance minister Manuel Chang to the US to protect senior members of ruling party Frelimo and the Mozambican government, who between them received $150m in bribes in the ‘hidden debts’ deals, according to a submission made at the end of February to South Africa’s justice minister, Ronald Lamola. Lamola has yet to make a decision on extraditing Chang to the US or to Mozambique. The US claims to have hundreds of documents proving Chang and others received bribes. “Chang was not fleeing Mozambique” when he was arrested in South Africa at the end of 2018, the US petition says, noting that he was living at liberty there. The US says it could deport Chang to face justice in Mozambique once criminal proceedings in the US are completed — but that Mozambican law would not allow for Chang to be extradited from Mozambique to the US.
The decision on Chang’s extradition is now back with Ronald Lamola, who was given the right by a court to set aside the decision taken by his predecessor to extradite Chang to Mozambique. The most recent development in the saga was Mozambique deciding to drop its efforts to prevent Lamola being able to set that decision aside. Lamola’s long delay now in making a decision is a mystery — leading to suspicions that he is being leant on by his boss, President Cyril Ramaphosa. Their party, the ANC, is traditionally a strong ally of Frelimo, so it will be a wrench for them to move against Frelimo; on the other hand, Ramaphosa doesn’t want to jeopardise relations with the US — or to be seen by his electorate as protecting the corrupt.

Zimbabwean soldiers ‘preparing to be deployed to Mozambique’ (Zimbabwe Times)
Zimbabwe’s special forces are preparing for possible deployment to Cabo Delgado province as there are fears the Islamist insurgency could spread beyond northern Mozambique and destabilise the region, a military source told the Zimbabwe Times.  “The air force has already put soldiers on high alert. On Monday our soldiers left Manyame air base for a location in Manicaland province as they prepare to cross over to Mozambique. The technicians and pilots who raised concerns with treatment in past operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo were promised better salaries,” the military source said. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week met Mozambique’s president, Filipe Nyusi, in Chimoio in Mozambique to discuss the conflict. Although the Zimbabwean government has dismissed claims by opposition parties that soldiers have been deployed already, it has not dismissed the possibility of future deployments.
Moving Zimbabwean troops from an air base to the border with Manica province does not make much sense if the ultimate aim is to get them to Cabo Delgado, some 1,500km away — suggesting the anonymous source for this story may not know what they’re talking about. There already is some Zimbabwean involvement in the Cabo Delgado conflict, though; Zimbabwean Colonel Lionel Dyck’s company DAG is providing air support to the Mozambican military’s operations against the insurgents.

Four injured in Manica bus attack (AIM)
Four people were injured, one of them seriously, when shots were fired on a bus in the Muda-Serração region of Manica province, central Mozambique on Tuesday morning. The bus was on its way from Maputo to Tete province when the shots were fired from dense bush. According to a passenger, one person was hit in the leg, and the leg will have to be amputated. The injured were taken to the Mutindiri health centre and then to hospital in the provincial capital, Chimoio, while the bus eventually completed its journey. AIM says that the attackers are believed to be from the Renamo Military Junta, the dissident faction of main opposition party Renamo, whose leader Mariano Nhongo claims to be the party’s true leader and which has been responsible for a series of attacks in Manica and Sofala provinces over the past six months.

Businessman kidnapped in Chimoio (Lusa)
A businessman was abducted on 5 May from the city of Chimoio, in the central province of Manica, witnesses told Lusa. Yassin Answar, leader of the Moçambique Comercial network of businesses, was kidnapped at around 7pm while he was driving to his home in the center of Chimoio. According to a nearby witness, the kidnappers fired at least 10 shots to frighten the businessman, forcing him to abandon his vehicle. Another witness, who lives nearby, told Lusa that “at first it looked like a fight” between the kidnappers and the victim. The abduction of Answar is the sixth on record since the beginning of 2020. Last Thursday, another businessman of Indian origin was abducted in Matola, on the outskirts of Maputo.
Kidnap for ransom is a cyclical business in Mozambique some say shows a negative correlation with the performance of the economy as a whole; when times get tough, the kidnappers get to work.

Trade fair converted to coronavirus treatment center (Dossiers & Fatos)
Exhibition tents at Facim, Mozambique’s biggest trade fair, are being prepared to house potential serious covid-19 patients who may need hospitalisation. The space, which could come into operation at any time, will have 300 beds to serve patients from the eight districts of Maputo province. The government had already decided to postpone Facim this year, which takes place annually at the end of August.
It is good to see that preparations for the worst are continuing, despite apparent success in containing the spread of covid-19 in Mozambique. A major outbreak is still eminently possible — in which case this new hospital, like the rest of the health system would still be overwhelmed. But it will be important to have separate facilities where covid-19 patients can be cared for away from other patients.

Cement industry feels impact of covid-19 (Notícias, O País)
The cement industry is reporting a number of difficulties arising from the covid-19 pandemic, namely lack of access to stores, scarcity of available cash for orders, and above all the stopping of some large projects. Because of the fall in demand under the current state of emergency, the Cimentos de Moçambique factory has reduced the number of production workers it employs and production has fallen by 20%. Under normal conditions, in the city of Matola alone, the firm would be shipping 4,000 tons of cement per day, but due to the situation it is around 3,000 tons, the company’s managing director, Edney Vieira, said.
While producers complain about a lack of demand, some customers complained to STV about a lack of cement availability. There are suspicions that producers are using the coronavirus crisis to cut production to prop up prices. Similar tactics were used to drive up the price of vegetables and other perishable products immediately following the South African lockdown, but couldn’t last as products were going rotten without customers.


Company Announcements

  • MRG Metals announced that the metallurgical test work process had begun on a bulk sample of material from its Koka Missava heavy mineral sands project in Gaza province, and that as well as providing results for ilmenite, rutile, zircon, leucoxene and monazite recovery and quality, the titanomagnetite mineral fraction would be investigated to see if it held potential as a vanadium source. In addition, the company said that, as a result of publication of its maiden resource estimate for Koka Missava last month, its class A and class D performance rights had been converted into ordinary shares
  • Ncondezi Energy said it had finalised a binding agreement with GridX Africa Development giving it the right of first refusal to finance a pipeline of solar and battery storage projects in Mozambique developed by GridX. Ncondezi would finance 100% of each project it chooses to support. The initial pipeline comprises seven projects with a combined solar power capacity of 2.8MWp and battery storage of 4.5MWh, a capital cost between $250,000 and $2.1m, and a revenue stream potential of $750,000 a year. The agreement will expire on the earlier of Ncondezi providing $5.5m of financing or 36 months
  • Mitsui published annual results for the year ending 31 March, including negative earnings of ¥20.6bn ($193m) for its coal and its rail and port infrastructure businesses in Mozambique, down ¥24.7bn year-on-year. The company noted that it had recorded an impairment of ¥5.1bn for its investment in the Nacala Corridor rail and port business. Positive earnings of ¥11.2bn were recorded for its subsidiary in the Area 1 liquefied natural gas project, up ¥14.4bn year-on-year
  • W-Industries said it had been awarded a subsea support contract by Total E&P Mozambique Area 1, Total’s subsidiary responsible for the Area 1 liquefied natural gas project. The company is to provide two onshore subsea support equipment modules

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