27 January 2012

Mozambique: Flooding Cuts North-South Highway

Photo: Johannes Myburgh/IPS
A flooded street in Maputo.

Flood waters of the Incomati River swept across Mozambique’s main north-south highway on 21 January, cutting Maputo off from the north and centre of the country for three days. The Incomati was swollen by the torrential rains dumped on southern Mozambique, Swaziland and parts of South Africa by tropical depression “Dando” on 16 and 17 January.

The cut in the road occurred at the 3rd February village in Manhica district, 90 kilometres north of Maputo. About 60 metres of the road has been destroyed. This low lying area is vulnerable to flooding, and is where the Incomati has swept over the main road on previous occasions.

Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on both sides of the road. While private cars could simply turn back, matters were more complicated for passengers in buses and minibuses. Small boats were made available by the country’s relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), to ferry these passengers across the gap. 450 people were moved this way on 21 January and 900 on 22 January.

However, on 24 January the General Director of the National Roads Administration (ANE), Cecilio Grachane, announced that the road had been reopened to traffic.

Meanwhile a category four cyclone, “Funso” has brought torrential rains and high winds to the coasts of the central provinces of Zambezia and Sofala.

The worst damage occurred in the Zambezia district of Nicoadala where 66 houses collapsed, killing two people and seriously injuring three others. Four houses were destroyed in the provincial capital, Quelimane, and one in the town of Chinde, at the mouth of the Zambezi River.

The storm has swamped Quelimane, causing flooding in almost all the city’s neighbourhoods. Many roads are impassable, and in some cases the swirling waters have made it impossible to move from one Quelimane neighbourhood to the next. The city’s drainage system is very poor – partly because people have been allowed to build houses on top of drainage channels.

Low lying neighbourhoods in the Sofala provincial capital, Beira, have also been flooded. In neighbourhoods such as Vaz, Macurungo, Goto, Manga and Muchatazina, some people tried to sleep on top of tables, while others sought refuge with relatives living in safer areas.

In Chibabava district, the areas of Mangunde and Chinhica have been completely isolated by the rains. Parts of Marromeu and Nhamatanda districts are also isolated, but the poor state of the roads has made it difficult to obtain a full picture of the situation across Sofala.
MDM selects candidate for Inhambane by-election

The Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) has selected a 44 year old teacher, Fernando Nhaca, as its candidate for the mayoral by-election in the southern city of Inhambane, scheduled for 18 April.

Nhaca has been a member of the MDM since its foundation, as a breakaway from Renamo, in 2009. He has held senior party position in Inhambane.

Interviewed by the independent daily “O Pais”, Nhaca said he had accepted the challenge of being the MDM candidate because he believed the time had come “to rescue the dignity of Inhambane”.

He claimed he had a good chance of winning the by-election, because “people are tired of the bad governance of Frelimo”.

He alleged that Frelimo was nervous about the election and so had instigated the police to commit “acts of terror” against MDM members. This was a reference to the brief detention of ten MDM members for the fictitious offence of waging an election campaign too early. Intervention by the Provincial Attorney’s office ensured that they were all released.

The Frelimo Central Committee Secretary for Mobilisation and Propaganda, Edson Macuacua, denied that Frelimo had anything to do with the arrests, and criticized the police attitude.

So far, Nhaca is the only declared candidate in the by-election. Frelimo says it will choose its candidate at a meeting of the party’s Inhambane City Committee in the near future. Renamo is boycotting this election, just as it boycotted the three by-elections held on 7 December in the cities of Quelimane, Pemba and Cuamba.

Despite Nhaca’s optimism, beating Frelimo in Inhambane will be a monumental task. Inhambane is a Frelimo stronghold, and the last mayor, Lourenco Macul (whose death precipitated the by-election), won the position in November 2008 with 90.94 per cent of the votes.

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