Loughty Dube recently in Maputo
AS one enters Mozambique from the Lomahaashe border with Swaziland, one is met with abandoned and derelict buildings that tell the sad st
ory of a brutal civil war that left thousands of people dead and several thousand others injured and maimed for life.
The civil war brought serious destruction to infrastructure and widespread violence to the country.
The windowless and bullet riddled buildings tell an unseen story to visitors and tourists flocking to Mozambique’s beaches and holiday resorts in large numbers.
Along the roadside in Nemaacha, Mozambique’s border town with Swaziland, 75 kilometres from Maputo, beggars on crutches hobble from one car to the other begging for cash from tourists.
The fourteen year civil war in Mozambique pitted the rebel Renamo Movement, led by the once notorious Alfonso Dhlakama, against the ruling Frelimo party.
The civil war also saw neighbouring Zimbabwe enter the fray on the side of Renamo to protect the oil supply pipeline from Beira into Mutare in Zimbabwe.
Hostilities ceased in 1992 following negotiations in the Italian capital, Rome, between Renamo and Frelimo that were brokered by the Catholic Church at the Saint Egidio Hotel.
Ultimately, a peace settlement was reached and elections were held and Frelimo, under the leadership of Joaquim Chissano and his party emerged victorious in the elections paving the way for the reconstruction of the war-torn country.
Last weekend, I travelled to Maputo along with 20 other journalists from Southern Africa to cover that country’s 31st Independence commemorations and the whole entourage marvelled at the country’s collective efforts to revive the Mozambican economy.
In Matola, 13 kilometres from Maputo, new buildings are springing up along the highway leading to the city, which is lined up with vendors selling various wares.
The wares range from bananas, which are in abundance in the country, cashew nuts, mangoes and oranges, which are sold cheaply along roadsides and at the local markets.
New buildings, including residential properties and factories, are taking shape under Mozambique’s aggressive rebuilding exercise.
South African retail outlets and restaurants have established a presence all over the country.
Don Camillio, a producer/presenter with Radio Mozambique, says the end of the war has brought with it vast development to the devastated country.
“After the war the Mozambican government has made so much efforts to rebuild the country but the efforts suffered a setback after the 2000 and 2001 floods that destroyed most of the infrastructure that was set up by government and international donors but the rebuilding that is currently ongoing is promising,” Camillio said.
He said there were a lot of investors coming into the country, but development was mainly confined to the urban areas and rural areas remained neglected.
“Rural areas here are wallowing in poverty. Government needs to rebuild hospitals and clinics that were destroyed by the floods and the roads are impassable. They need to be repaired,” Camillio said.
Mozambique’s economy has been growing in leaps and bounds since the civil war ended in 1992, while Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downward slide.
Once the breadbasket of the region, Zimbabwe now resembles a banana republic dramatised by political and economic mayhem amid stinging shortages of most basic food commodities as well as fuel and cash shortages.
Since the mid 90s, the pace of reforms in Mozambique has accelerated and the country has focused on macro-economic stabilisation and fiscal reforms supported by international financial institutions.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has lost international financial support because of its government’s human rights record and economic mismanagement.
Over 1 200 state-owned enterprises have been privatised in Mozambique, while in Zimbabwe President Mugabe’s government maintains control of loss-making parastatals.
According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Mozambique’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has been among the highest in the world since 1996. The economy has grown at over 10% over the last five years.
The World Bank predicts strong real GDP growth of 7,2% in 2006 for Mozambique, and another 7,5% in 2007.
The World Bank says growth in Mozambique will be driven by the traditional sectors which include tourism, mining and agriculture.
Mozambique’s trade has more than doubled in the last five years with lucrative trade deals being signed with the United States and other countries.
Mozambique’s major trading partners are Spain, the US, Japan, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Portugal and the country exports aluminium, prawns, cashew nuts, sugar, timber and citrus.
Across the border, Zimbabwe’s traditional trade partners have deserted the country while Mugabe has pursued a Look East policy that has not yielded any benefits to the economy.
Flavio, a Mozambican national who sells curios along the beach, says he makes more than R600 a day selling his wares to tourists at the beach.
“Ever since the war ended things have improved. We have tourists coming from South Africa, Portugal and Spain and more hotels are being built in the country and we have lots of investors coming in and a lot of our people are now getting jobs from the new investors,” says Flavio, clutching beads and bangles for sale.
In June 2005 Mozambique signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the US government to enhance trade and investment relations between the two countries.
The signing of the trade agreement is expected to further enhance trade with the world super-power after trade between the two amounted to US$ 87,2 million in 2005, an increase of 24% on the prior year.
US total exports to Mozambique totalled US$76 million in the same period.