Tuesday, October 6, 2015


The management of the Maputo municipal bus company, EMTPM, has warned that any further increase in its workers’ wages is dependent on an increase in the revenue raised.On 28 September, many of the workers went on strike for a few hours demanding a wage rise of 10.59 per cent rather than the 7.5 per cent increase the company had implemented in April.After Labour Ministry mediation, the workers called the strike off, and the ensuring discussions with the management led to a decision to keep the current wage structure, on the grounds that the company cannot afford to pay anything extra.The management said that the rise of 10.59 per cent was only for those workers on the minimum wage, as agreed for the sector of non-financial services, during the tripartite negotiations between the government, the unions, and the employers’ associations in April.In EMTPM’s own negotiations with its trade union committee, lower increases were agreed for workers earning above the minimum wage – 7.5 per cent for most of the company’s workers, including bus drivers, fare collectors and mechanics, and five per cent for the administrative staff.At a Monday press conference in Mapuito, the EMTPM director and spokesperson Lourenco Albino said “While there is no increase in the company’s levels of production, namely the company’s revenue, then these agreed wages will remain in force. The question of a wage rise depends on production”.“In terms of revenue, when the company makes an assessment, it finds that what it should receive in a day does not tally with the accounts the workers present”, he said. This is a polite way of saying that a slice of the fares paid do not find their way into the company’s coffers.He estimated these losses at 40 per cent of the total revenue which the company should receive.Under normal conditions, with a fleet of largely new buses, the company would expect daily revenue of around 500,000 meticais (12,500 US dollars). In fact, the revenue is currently running at around 300,000 meticais a day.There are various ways in which the money disappears. One is that dishonest fare collectors did not issue tickets, and negotiate lower prices with the passengers. So incread of paying a seven metical fare to the company, the passenger pays only five meticais, which goes into the pocket of the fare collector. “Any wage increase depends on revenue”, stressed Albino. “If next week we reach 500,000 meticais a day, then the company management will review the wages”.More headway was made on the workers demands for a reformulation of the assessment mechanisms so as to allow workers to progress along the company’s career structure. Albino said that management and workers have agreed to involve the entire workforce in this reformulation. He added that once a fortnight, or once a month, company and worker representatives will meet to discuss performance assessment, professional careers, and the evolution of EMTPM revenue.

The Mozambican Association of Bakers (AMOPAO) on Monday hiked the price of bread by between 25 and 50 per cent, alleging that this dramatic price rise was required to meet rising costs.In absolute terms the rise was the same – 1.5 meticais (about 3.75 US cents) – for all types of bread, regardless of size, which explains the disparity in the percentage rises. Thus a standard 250 gram loaf sold last week for six meticais, should now cost 7.5 meticais (a 25 per cent rise). A much smaller loaf, weighing 150 grams, which used to cost three meticais will now sell for 4.5 meticais (which is a 50 per cent increase).The price rise was sprung on an unsuspecting public on Monday, which was a public holiday. No doubt the timing, and the lack of advance publicity was in order to avoid protests.An AMOPAO document described the price rise as “obligatory”. But AMOPAO has no legal power to fix prices, and no baker is obliged to belong to the association. When this AIM reporter purchased bread on Monday, unaware of AMOPAO’s decision, the price was the same as it had been a few days earlier.AMOPAO Chairperson Victor Miguel justified the price hike on the grounds that there had been no increases in the price of bread since 2008.In fact, the bakers attempted to raise the price by 30 per cent in 2010. This coincided with several other price rises, notably for water and electricity, and triggered two days of serious rioting in Maputo on 1-2 September 2010. When the government intervened, the price rise was cancelled. The government compensated the bakers by introducing a subsidy on wheat flour.Now AMOPAO claims that it must raise the price because of increased costs of fuel (firewood, in the case of most bakeries), yeast, vitamins and labour. Miguel claimed that each bakery worker was paid less than 1,000 meticais a month in 2008, but the minimum wage in bakeries now is 3,790 meticais a month.The main raw material for bread is wheat flour – and the international prices of wheat have collapsed since the high point of 1,195.5 US dollars per bushel (about 77.2 kilos) in February 2008, to 515 dollars a bushel on Tuesday. Wheat prices have fluctuated over the past two years, but show no sign of a return to the levels of 2008.There has been, to date, no public reaction from the government to the price rise. Miguel claimed that the AMOPAO has been discussing the matter with the government since June.

The world of Mozambican culture went into mourning on Monday, on receiving the news of the death of Swedish author Henning Mankell from cancer in Goteburg at the age of 67.The Swedish crime novel writer had a long association with theatre in Mozambique. He became involved in the Teatro Avenida in Maputo, and its director, his friend Manuela Soeiro, in 1986 and spent much of his time living in Maputo.Writing on his website, Mankell stated that “one of the greatest adventures and challenges of my life has been my work with the Teatro Avenida. Working with people from different cultures makes you realize that there are more things uniting us than separating us”.Mankell was one of the leading writers in the “Nordic noir” genre and his books on Detective Kurt Wallander were translated into over 40 languages.He was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. His fight against the disease did not stop him from writing, and from living what remained of his life to the full.Last month, in a column in the British daily “The Guardian”, he wrote “it is possible to live with cancer. It is possible to fight against it. Nothing is ever too late”.“In its own way, everything is still possible”, Mankell wrote. “My stance this damp September evening is to do ultimately with what cancer has not taken away from me. It has not robbed me of my joy at being alive, or my curiosity about what tomorrow has in store”.In his obituary of Mankell, British author and journalist Andrew Brown wror “He established almost single-handedly the global picture of Sweden as a crime writer’s ideal dystopia. He took the existing Swedish tradition of crime writing as a form of leftwing social criticism and gave it international recognition, capturing in his melancholy, drunken, bullish detective Kurt Wallander a sense of struggle in bewildered defeat that echoed round the world”.

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, has promised that he will shortly leave his hiding place, somewhere in the bush of Gondola district, in the central province of Manica, and come to Maputo for talks with the government.Interviewed by phone on Sunday by the independent television channel STV, Dhlakama declared “I am not in the bush to wage war, you can get that idea out of your heads”.Dhlakama went into hiding immediately after the clash between the Renamo militia and the police on 25 September in which, according to the police, 20 of the Renamo gunmen were killed. The STV interview is the first time Dhlakama’s voice has been heard by the public since then.“Soon I will be there (in Maputo)”, Dhlakama told the interviewer, “Let people hear my voice and know it is Dhlakama”. He said he was not interested in taking revenge for the attacks on his motorcade. “If I wanted, Mozambique would already be burning”, he claimed. “But there’s no interest in this. I am not going to take revenge through war”.Instead, he intended to wage “peaceful struggle, with speeches, rallies, dialogue and all”. He boasted “I shall remain a leader because Mozambique needs a man like Dhlakama”.He claimed that contacts had already been made with the government through a working group which included the director of his office Augusto Mateus. That group was also talking to the Mozambican mediators, mostly religious figures, who had attended the long running dialogue between the government and Renamo, which Dhlakama had abruptly terminated in August.Dhlakama said that alleged movements of government forces in Gondola and the Manica provincial capital, Chimoio, were delaying his departure. “Obviously, I have to be prudent”, he said. “I’m a human being. I have a family. I have children”.When he left his hiding place, he wanted to be accompanied by mediators and by journalists. Once in Maputo, he would be ready to resume dialogue “but dialogue about concrete things, not the kind of dialogue at the Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre”. He was referring to the venue in Maputo for most of the 114 sessions of the Government-Renamo dialogue that had begun in April 2013. If that dialogue did not discuss “concrete things”, the fault was exclusively Renamo’s since it was Renamo that requested the dialogue, and Renamo that proposed the agenda.Dhlakama told STV “I want to leave a simple message – there is no war in Mozambique”. But there was no peace either since, in Dhlakama’s view, “peace does not only mean that the guns fall silent”. He claimed that phenomena such as unemployment, social exclusion and injustice meant there was no peace.“The message us tranquility”, he insisted. “Better days will come. Dhlakama will continue to work peacefully”.Completely missing from this interview were Dhlakama’s usual threats. He made no mention of his demand to take over six of the country’s provinces, and no longer threatened to expel provincial governors and district administrators, or to set up new military installations.

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