November 2, 2004

Seeking to eliminate imbalances, says Frelimo's presidential candidate Guebuza

The Mozambican government and the ruling Frelimo Party have always sought to eliminate regional imbalances in the country, declared Frelimo general secretary Armando Guebuza, the party's candidate for the forthcoming presidential elections. Speaking to Radio Mozambique he said that, ever since the country's independence in 1975, the Frelimo government had been fighting to reverse the regional inequalities inherited from colonialism. He was thus responding to the habitual opposition claim that Frelimo fomented regional inequality and channels investment preferentially to the south of the country. Guebuza stressed that Frelimo's objective was to facilitate a climate whereby investment is distributed equitably throughout the country. "There is no Frelimo policy that generates imbalances", he said. "The imbalances existed throughout the country's history, and from the moment that it took power, in 1975, Frelimo immediately sought to solve this problem". Clear evidence for this was the fact that the government was building transmission lines from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi to towns and districts throughout northern and central Mozambique.
Furthermore, Frelimo had embarked upon major projects in the centre of the country - such as a huge textile factory in Mocuba, the second largest town in Zambezia. But the factory was never completed - and any journalist who visited Zambezia in the 1980s knows why. It became impossible to move the equipment, imported from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) from the port of Quelimane to Mocuba, because of ambushes by the apartheid backed Renamo on the road, and sabotage of the Quelimane-Mocuba railway. Guebuza stressed that imbalances were not simply a question of the south being more developed than the north. Imbalances could be found within the southern provinces too, he said. "15 kilometres outside Maputo, we find situations in which there are no clinics, no access to clean drinking water, and we need solutions to this", he said. "We intend to continue working so that the entire Mozambican population, rural and urban, can benefit from what the country can offer, what it can produce".
In the context of the dispute over electoral observation between the European Union and Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) there has still not been any consent. "So far the Mission and the CNE have not reached agreement", said the head of the EU Observer Mission, Javier Pomes, "but the Mission still hopes that we will find, together, practical formulae that will allow effective observation". The difficulty remains how to observe the tabulation of votes at provincial and national level. At the polling stations themselves there is no problem - political party monitors, accredited observers and journalists will be allowed to observe everything that happens at the polling stations. The problem lies in the later stages of the count - the compilation of the polling station results sheets, first into provincial results, and finally into a national result. Here the CNE has not budged from its original position - namely, that the observers will not be allowed into the rooms where the polling station results are fed into computers, much less into meetings of provincial elections commissions, or of the CNE itself. The CNE, through its spokesperson Filipe Mandlate, has reported that, since the CNE is a state body, the normal rule that "what is not explicitly forbidden by law may be allowed" does not hold. Instead, the CNE has adopted an extremely restrictive interpretation of legal principles, whereby unless something is specifically stated in the law, it cannot be permitted. Pomes turned to the first article of the electoral observation regulations - which refers to observing "the various stages of the electoral process". It gives no exceptions, and so a common sense interpretation is that observers ought to be present at vote tabulation. "We want to be present at the count", insisted Pomes. "The theory of observation says it's more important to see who's counting than who's voting". The whole experience of the EU and of other international observers was that there should be no "dark rooms" in an election, he declared. Pomes was also at pains to stress that the mission was not being manipulated by any European political party or government. "This is an independent missions that does not accept interference by parties, states or governments", he said. "The EU has given full freedom to members of this mission. We will not accept any interference or pressure". (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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