Maputo — The incompetence of several local officials in the southern Mozambican province of Inhambane was exposed on Saturday, when they proved unable to answer simple questions about their work asked by President Filipe Nyusi.
On the third day of a working visit to Inhambane, Nyusi met with district directors and locality heads in Homoine district, and attempted to confirm figures given to him in a neatly printed report.
The officials' inability to answer Nyusi'S questions was shown to the rest of the country by the television crews that covered the meeting.
The report gave the number of chickens in the district as 35,000. Nyusi asked who the major poultry farmers in Homoine are, and where their farms are located. But the district director of economic services admitted he did not know. He could only say there was one poultry breeder in the Homoine-sede administrative post, but he did not know his name.
So Nyusi turned to the head of the Homoine-sede administrative post. This man said there was an association of poultry farmers, but he did not know how many chickens the association produced.
Switching to education, Nyusi found that the heads of Homoine localities did not know how many pupils were enrolled in the schools in their area of governance. They said they needed school desks, but could not say how many they required. Nyusi found it strange that officials who did not even know how many pupils were in the schools of their localities should ask him for desks.
One locality head said farmers in his area produce more rice than maize - but figures from the agriculture directorate say the opposite.
Another locality head said that in the recent vaccination campaign against measles and rubella, 400 children in his area had been vaccinated - but the district health authorities put the number at more than 2,000. This official claimed that the malaria prevalence in his locality had declined, but could not say by how much.
Nyusi said he was disappointed - particularly because many of the locality heads were, by profession, teachers. The territories they run are small - so it should not be very difficult for them to know what is happening in their areas.
"We want to work to produce. We don't want people who only deceive us", said the President.
Nyusi said the problem was not just Homoine. He had held similar meetings with local officials in other districts "and the result is no different. How are we going to do away with hunger and poverty, if we don't even know whether we're poor or not?"
The major difference with Homoine is that journalists were present at the meeting, and the televised images of officials unable to answer the President's questions were beamed into living rooms all over the country.