Maputo — The Mozambican government approved a bill on Tuesday to abolish the current Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), replacing it with a Criminal Investigation Service (SICRIM), which will no longer be part of the police force.
Although SICRIM will still form part of the Interior Ministry, it will enjoy administrative autonomy, and will be directed by the Public Prosecutor's Office.
Taking criminal investigation away from the National Police Command is a longstanding request from successive attorney-generals, but one which has met with considerable resistance.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the government spokesperson, Deputy Education Minister Luis Covane, said "'the idea is to create a scientific criminal investigation service, prepared and provided with human and material resources to ensure their its effectiveness".
A corollary of the abolition of PIC is a new organic law on the police, establishing a new structure for the police force minus criminal investigation, but maintaining most of the other existing units, such as the frontier guards, the riot police and the transport police.
The same government meeting also approved a bill on explosives, which lays down norms for the licensing, manufacturing, storage, possession, use, import and transport of explosive substances, updating the existing regulations on the matter. Like the two bills on the police, this will not take effect until it has been passed into law by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
Covane said the government has also approved new prices for raw cotton. It was decided that this year the minimum price for first grade cotton is 5.3 meticais (about 20 US cents) a kilo, compared with 6.35 in last year's season. Second grade cotton will fetch a minimum of 3.95 meticais a kilo, compared with 4.75 in 2008.
This is a reduction of 17 per cent, and comes as a blow to the peasant farmers who grow the cotton and sell it to cotton companies. Covane explained that this drop in prices results from the current international financial crisis.
Covane also announced that the government is introducing a series of measures to rationalize public expenditure in order to deal with the impact of the international crisis. In particular the government was cutting down on air travel by officials, inside and outside the country, as well as on fuel costs and travel allowances.
In particular, only people appointed by the President (such as ministers and deputy ministers) could expect to fly executive class - all other government officials, if they fly at all, will fly economy class.
The government's estimate, he said, is that the crisis will cost the state budget for this year over three billion meticais (about 112 million dollars), and measures were now required to claw this back.