Maputo — Several development projects in the Special Economic Zone set up by the Mozambican authorities around the northern port of Nacala have been paralysed because the armed forces (FADM) say they are trespassing on military territory.
Since the second half of December, soldiers have been preventing any work deemed to be too close to the Nacala air base. Armed troops have been stationed at various points to prevent any movement of people and goods within what the FADM claims as its own area.
The situation has shocked the owners of the projects, who could show the independent television station STV documents of authorisation from the Nacala Municipal Council and from the government’s Office for Accelerated Development Areas (GAZEDA).
The FADM in Nacala have thus challenged the legitimacy of decisions taken by the mayor of Nacala, Issufo Chale, and by the General Director of GAZEDA, Danilo Nala.
One of the projects paralysed is for a new hotel, which should have been inaugurated this month – but the military intervention has prevented that from happening. While the work has been paralysed, the unfinished hotel has suffered theft and vandalism. On top of this, heavy rains have destroyed some of the installations.
The owner had obtained a loan from a commercial bank for eight million US dollars, but told STV he was now unable to keep up with the repayment schedule.
Several other projects have also come to a halt, and their workers have been thrown into unemployment.
The leadership of the Defence Ministry and of the FADM have defended the action of the Nacala troops on the grounds that the area concerns belongs to the military. They say they will only give it back, if a legal dispatch to that effect is produced.
Deputy Defence Minister Agostinho Monjane said the Nacala military area was created by a decree, and its status can only be changed if that decree is revoked. In an indirect reference to the Nacala Municipality and to GAZEDA, he said “we cannot de-activate military areas without any procedures, just because of the arbitrary behaviour of whoever it may be”.
The FADM Chief of Staff, Paulino Macaringue, took a slightly different line and told STV that no projects can be built alongside barracks for reasons of military and state security.
This dispute is a blow to the government’s attempts to attract investment to Nacala.
So far GAZEDA has not said anything publicly about the matter.