Maputo — Maputo-Sul, the Mozambican public company in charge of building the suspension bridge over the Bay of Maputo, on Friday reached an agreement with the stallholders of the Nwankakana informal market, which should allow work to resume on the northern access road to the bridge.
Completion of the bridge, which will link central Maputo to the outlying urban district of Katembe, has been compromised for months by the refusal of the Nwankakana stallholders to move unless they are paid enormous sums in compensation.
Both Maputo-Sul and Maputo City Council pointed out repeatedly that the stallholders, who are occupying municipal land, had no right to compensation. Furthermore, the stallholders were given newly built stalls in a properly organised municipal market - but they preferred to remain in the squalor of the informal market, claiming that the new stalls were “too small”.
But on Friday the two sides signed an agreement which promises compensation - although the exact amount was not made public. It still requires approval by the Ministries of Public Works and of Finance.
The chairperson of Maputo-Sul, Silva Magaia, made it clear that this was not the agreement the company had wanted. Interviewed by the independent television station STV, he said “This is the agreement that was possible. It is a long way from what we wanted. We thought the ideal was what we did (the new stalls offered to the Nwankakana stallholders), but they had their own expectations, and we had to bring the expectations of the two sides together”.
Magaia warned that the Nwankakana dispute will increase the costs of the bridge. The contractor, the Chinese Roads and Bridges Corporation (CRBC) is entitled to demand reimbursement for the extra payments it must make to its workers, the extra time its machinery must work, and all the extra fuel, electricity and other inputs it must use to finish the job.
“We haven't yet quantified the losses”, said Magaia. But he admitted that the delays are not due solely to the problems with the stallholders. “We had other delays, and the contractor will penalise us for this”, he said.
The Mayor of Maputo, David Simango, who witnessed the signing, said the negotiations were “long and painful. They took more than a year, with advances and setbacks, and with insults and serious accusations from both sides”.
He hoped that the Friday signing “is the end of the noise. I urge that there should be no going back. We can't go back. I think we are signing with all due responsibility”.
Isabel Muthisse, who chairs the commission representing the stallholders, said they were “very pleased” and promised to leave the area as soon as they had received their compensation.
The stallholders had demanded compensation of between 195,000 and 300,000 meticais (between 3,200 and 4,900 US dollars) per stall depending on size. Simango told reporters the sum agreed was nowhere near these figure. But neither side would reveal the final figure, although both said they had made concessions.