Category Archives: african corruption

Where is Ibrahimo?

7 September 2021

Today, the 7 September 2021 has been exactly 17 months since Mozambican journalist Ibrahimo Abu Mbaruco disappeared in Cabo Delgado. His last message was to a colleague saying that the army was coming towards him.

Ibrahimo worked for Palma Community Radio and had been reporting on the violence in the area. Since then, what effort has the government put into finding him and bringing him back to his family? Absolutely nothing.

Since 2017 Cabo Delgado has been ravaged by a fatal conflict between insurgents, the Mozambican military, Russian and South African mercenaries and now the Rwandan and South African armies as well, that has created 800 000 refugees. This violence is deeply linked to the gas industry that has exploded over the last few years. The industry is headed by Total (France), Eni (Italy) and ExxonMobil (US), and is one industry filled with a great amount of treachery in the Mozambican and other states involved, which forms part of the corruption trial currently in the Mozambican courts.

Over the last few months several media outlets have arrived in Cabo Delgado, after at least three years of the area being closed to international journalists.

It is a good thing that Mozambican and international media has finally been allowed there, since free media is a crucial part of any democracy. However, journalists who actually live in Cabo Delgado and were the first to report on the happenings since 2017, have not been allowed to work in the conflict areas, unless they are from state-owned media outlets.

In an article in O Pais 26 August, Cabo Delgado-based journalist Hizidine Acha wrote that journalists from the area are being humiliated by having to report on the topic from a distance, even though they are the ones who know the terrain and the local language. They fear that the lack of reporting in local languages might lead to disinformation among the communities. The article quotes journalist Emanuel Muthemba as saying, “Journalists from here have to be on the front line, because we have basic knowledge about the reality of the province, the people and the languages spoken by the population, which is very important,”; and journalist Assane Issa says “speculation grows that we are not capable of doing this type of coverage – that only those from the country’s capital are. But this is not true, because we are the ones who have been reporting on the daily life of the province.”

In fact, the article continues saying that recently 20 local journalists were invited to cover the conflict, but for reasons they were never told, were never actually able to leave Cabo Delgado’s capital and largest city, Pemba.

But even if they were able to report, the government has made it clear that they will not make it easy. On 11 April, on the ‘Day of the Mozambican Journalist’, even though his general rhetoric has been about free press, President Felipe Nyusi sent a document to O Pais, saying, journalists must report with “rigour, professionalism and patriotism”. He said “the Mozambican journalist should not be a reproducer of wishes contrary to our unity.” And he followed this in May saying that journalists have to be “disciplined”: “To have discipline is to report only the truth, to combat fake news and not to incite violence and hatred.”

This is not freedom. This is a threat. This is saying that journalists have the ‘freedom’ to write or to film or to record for radio, as long as this is in aligned with the state’s narrative. Or else.

The public media and many international journalists are reporting on the violence in the province as only a humanitarian issue created by violence caused by insurgents, and not on how many of these refugees were actually already displaced from their villages, and had lost everything, because of the Afungi Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) Park that Total is building to house the support facilities for the industry. Reporting in this way allows the gas industry off the hook for the part they have played in this humanitarian crisis and conflict, including how Total has left the displaced communities who were relying on them for compensation and aid with nothing as they pulled out of the country when claiming force majeure.

International journalists are protected by having foreign passports. But who is protecting local journalists from non-state outlets, like Ibrahimo, or like Amade Abubacar from the Nacedje Community Radio who was arrested, tortured and held without charge for 3 months in 2019 after interviewing a group of displaced people? Or the journalists of Canal de Moçambique whose office was bombed in 2020 after exposing corruption between the government and gas companies?

In April 2020, Reporters Without Borders and 16 other press freedom organisations wrote an open letter to President Filipe Nyusi, who ignored it, just like the military and relevant government officials did not even bother to respond, and the police treated it like a joke. On 8 June 2020, Ibrahimo’s brother contacted the local police to inform them that he had called Ibrahimo’s phone and it rang. He reported it to the public investigators responsible for finding him, the National Agency for Criminal Investigations. They promised they would look into it, but since then there has been silence.

But we must not stop fighting!

In January, the African Union (AU) launched the Digital Platform for Safety of Journalists in Africa. At the launch, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was AU chairperson at the time said: Media freedom “requires that we rigorously defend the right of journalists to do their work, to write, to publish, and to also broadcast what they like, even if we disagree with some or all of it.. The digital platform for the safety of journalists in Africa is an important tool in promoting the safety of journalists and other media workers across Africa.”

Now they must put their money where their mouth is, by holding the Mozambican government accountable for its violent media oppression and pressurise it to stop, and they must recognise how part of this oppression is to protect the gas industry. The platform was supported by the United Nations, and both they and the AU have the responsibility to find out what has happened to Ibrahimo, and must use their power to do so.

It is clear that Mozambican journalists cannot rely on their state for their protection – the very people who are obliged to protect them, but sadly are reliant rather on non-governmental organisations and media groups – both international, and local, who themselves are putting their safety on the line just by speaking out. When journalists are told they need to report with “patriotism” and “discipline”, it is clear that, just as history has shown, they cannot know that they are safe. They cannot know their colleagues will not be arrested and tortured or that their offices won’t be attacked. They cannot know that they, too, will not disappear and be another Ibrahimo.

We must not stop pushing to find out, where is Ibrahimo?

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JA! at the AGMs, 2021

Our Say No to Gas! In Mozambique Campaign has many elements, but one of the crucial ones is confronting fossil fuel criminals involved in Mozambique’s gas industry, about the destruction, violence and devastation they have caused in Cabo Delgado province.

One way of challenging them and making demands for them to leave and stop their involvement in Mozambique gas, is attending Annual General Meetings (AGM) of several large international players in the Mozambique gas industry, which this year we did for the fourth year running. Attending these AGMs is a way to force the highest level decision-makers in these companies to hear our voices and the voices of the people whose lives they are devastating, to demand information and call them out on their crimes against the climate and peoples in a large public forum that includes their shareholders and employees. It is a way to prevent them from saying “we didn’t know” about the impacts – even though taking active measures to identify potential risks of human rights violations is part of their responsibilities. There is often media at the AGMs of the large companies, giving us another opportunity to bring to the international public the issue of Mozambique gas and the violence and destruction being perpetrated by those who profit from it tremendously.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging, most of the AGMs were held online.

The AGMs we attended were of Eni (Italy) which is co-leading the Coral Liquid Natural gas project with ExxonMobil; Total (France) which is leading the Mozambique LNG Project; Shell (Netherlands), who was previously involved; Standard Bank (South Africa), one of the major financiers; and HSBC (UK), another massive financier. While there are some questions specific to each company, many of them are standard. This is because, while Eni, Total and ExxonMobil may be the companies leading the actual gas extraction and responsible for constructing the offshore and onshore facilities, every player involved in the Mozambique gas industry is to some degree responsible for the negative human rights, climate, environmental and socio-economic violations and impacts it has created. Companies and governments involved often try to wriggle out of their responsibilities and accountability by claiming that they are not ‘directly’ responsible for the impacts. This is utter nonsense – without financiers, contractors or confirmed purchasers, the Mozambique gas industry would not exist.

We demand to know why they continue to invest or operate in Cabo Delgado considering the horrific violence and conflict that has been taking place for years between insurgents, the military and private security companies, in which thousands of civilians have been killed and over 800 000 people displaced. We want them to recognise that they have directly created suffering and deeper impoverishment for the communities affected by the project, who have lost their homes and livelihoods, and received no decent jobs; and we ask what is their plan to make reparations. We want them to provide transparent information, something lacking in an industry which is so opaque and secretive.

Eni insists they are ‘providing support to the basic needs of local populations’, even when we tell them that the only jobs Mozambicans have received have been menial and unskilled. They say that a mere 370 permanent jobs will be available in total over the life cycle of the Coral LNG project, although they don’t say if these will actually go to Mozambicans.

All companies refuse to see a link between the gas industry and the violence, with Eni even saying they see no risk whatsoever, and denying any human rights violation by the military, even though this had been exposed in mainstream media and international human rights organisations’ reports.

Total, which claimed force majeure in April 2021 due to the violence, putting the Mozambique LNG project on hold indefinitely, made the contradictory remark that the safety and well-being of communities was a priority, but at the same time, “our mission is to protect the interests of Total’s shareholders and our partners”. These are obviously mutually exclusive, as continuing with the project will only continue the violence and dispossession that communities are facing. While they insist that the Mozambique LNG project has not been “abandoned”, they put the responsibility of the impacts on communities solely on the Mozambican government.

Standard Bank also believes that their investments are not at risk because of the violence. Even as people in Cabo Delgado are being killed every week, they carry on with business as usual, as though the militarisation and its accompanying human rights violations creating refugees and forcing displacement, do not matter to them at all. Clearly, even though they use an undisclosed “consortium” of civil society organisations in Cabo Delgado to do “monitoring”, the lives of the rural affected peoples means nothing to them.

HSBC on the other hand, just refused to answer the questions, except to say they cannot talk about private clients and very few jobs will go to Mozambicans because of the project’s “advanced technical requirements”.

Company AGMs can be very frustrating events. Directors often dodge questions or answer them insufficiently on purpose, or just pretend they didn’t hear them at all. But this year, as with most, these experiences and actions are more than confronting fossil fuel companies and financiers, they also strengthen civil society’s collective struggle against fossil fuels and the impunity of transnational corporations.

We use these as opportunities to work with other regional and international organisations and movements who are fighting against the same company or projects for crimes they are committing in the different countries. As partners, we support each other in asking questions, gaining access, publicising on social media and holding protests, and use the opportunity to exchange with each other about the different ways we are campaigning against the same culprits. When we attend as a group, our presence is powerful. As a team, we have more numbers and confidence in our actions inside and outside AGMs, more access to media and more impact if we choose to cause any disruption. If these companies do not want to take the time to talk to us and our comrades, this is a way for us to force them to listen. The strongest outcome of attending AGMs is that we are saying clearly, with a collective voice ‘we are watching you and we are not going away’, while we demand that they leave and stop their profit-mongering activities that are killing peoples and the planet.

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The Despair of the people of Cabo Delgado

A week after the insurgents attacked the district headquarters of Palma, the people of that district continue to arrive in Pemba city, with faces full of fear, sadness and, above all, uncertainty. Although about 9000 displaced people have been accounted for so far, there is information coming from those same displaced people, and also confirmed by the Ministry of National Defense, that there are still people hiding in the fields.

The displaced persons tell how it was on 24 March, a date that will never be erased from their memories. Reports say that rumours had been circulating since the morning of that Wednesday that the Al-Shabaab were going to attack the district. But it was not taken into account because of previous rumours circulating in that district two weeks before the attack, which said that the insurgents were in the fields near the village preparing for an attack. The frequent shootings that already characterised the daily life in the village of Palma, also contributed to these rumours falling into disregard on the part of some people. On the other hand, people placed trust in the Defense and Security Forces (FDS) of Mozambique that seemed to have a heavy presence in Palma.

However, according to reports from the displaced people who actually experienced the attack, at around 4pm the attack began in the village of Maʼguna, 800 meters from the village of Palma, when most of the population of that village fleeing the armed confrontation in Ma’guna, came into Palma. Two shoot-outs started simultaneously in the Quibuidi neighborhood, via Nhica do Rovuma and at the Aerodrome of Palma. At that time, everyone abandoned their homes and possessions and ran for their lives in an uncontrolled way. The insurgents appeared from different parts, and since they use a uniform identical to that worn by our Defense and Security Forces, the only thing that differentiates them are the scarves tied to their heads and their bare feet. It was clearly noted that their initial intention was to destroy the government infrastructure. The only safe area to escape was to the sides of Palma beach but at some point, certain points on the beach also became unsafe.

We heard moving and frightening stories from those who lived that Wednesday under fire and the days that followed. There were several kilometres walked on foot and under fire, with fear, hunger and thirst. Mothers ran carrying their young children on their backs. One of these children was hit by a stray bullet, but luckily it entered the buttock and lodged in the leg. That is the little one, Cadir Fazil, 1 year and 2 months old, born on February 21, 2020.

On Monday, 29 March, due to the fact that the baby was wounded, his mother and aunt were given priority on one of UNHCR’s humanitarian flights and were treated urgently at the provincial hospital in Pemba. There have been situations of despair of men refusing to board humanitarian flights and ships because they were unable to locate their wives and children or any other member of their family; children begging for their parents’ lives and yet, being forced to witness their cruel murders. In spite of all this climate of terror, the class difference did not cease to prevail among the victims of Palma. At the Amarula hotel, where government officials and some foreigners took refuge, a helicopter landed twice, the first time to evacuate the district administrator and the second time to evacuate the owner of the Hotel, leaving behind the various people who only had the option of joining the caravan, which was unfortunately ambushed along the way.

The Quiwia and Quirinde forests are still home to people who struggle for their lives because of hunger and thirst. Every day we received unclear information about events in Palma, as the total break in communications remains in that district still, and it may remain so until the crossfire between insurgents and the military ceases.

After several complaints about the silence of the President of the Republic, he took the opportunity to comment on the matter, at the launch of one of the headquarters of the National Social Security Institute (INSS) in the southern district of Matutuíne, Maputo province, where he made a brief mention of what happened in Palma in a simplistic way, and minimised what happened. From the speech made by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, two questions arose. Firstly, for having stated that there have been worse attacks to Palma and that it was not even very intense, the following two questions remain:

– What was the worst attack that has occurred from 2017 until today?

– Why after the worst attack took place, were there not measures taken to prevent a new attack from occurring?

Another statement by the President that drew attention was when he said that we should not lose focus, that Mozambicans should not be “disturbed”. However, it is revolting to hear this when, in one week, about 9000 people were evacuated from Palma by land, air and sea, many of whom do not know how they will survive, since they have abandoned everything they had in their village of Palma.

– What should these people now be focusing on?

– Is it wrong for these displaced people to be disturbed, after having to focus only on surviving?

We must not forget that there are already about 300,000 displaced people living in transition reception centres and resettlement centres so far.

The first displaced persons of this war are being resettled practically permanently in the surrounding districts of the city of Pemba and now with the attack on Vila de Palma, many more arrive, although proper conditions are still not created for the displaced people of Macomia, Quissanga, Mocimboa da Praia and Muidumbe. Should we not be disturbed when we have no answers for the hundreds of people who arrive in Pemba and other parts of the country, coming from the attacked districts without even knowing if they will ever be able to return?

Should we be undaunted and serene in the face of the massacres that we have been experiencing since 2017?

So, Mr. President, since 2017, we have been ‘disturbed’, since 2017 we have howled and called for an end to the attacks and demanded that concrete measures must be taken, but because perhaps Mr. president has a different focus than ours, so tell us, in desperate situations like this, what should we do to not lose focus?

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PRESS RELEASE

Historic process continues at the UN: States resume substantive negotiations on the text for a binding treaty on transnational corporations with respect to human rights

28 October 2020, Geneva:

Amidst the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations (UN) Open Ended Inter-governmental Working Group (OEIGWG) enters its sixth round of negotiations on a treaty on “transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights,”1 from 26 -30 October. UN member states will negotiate a second revised draft of this groundbreaking treaty, which aims to elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations.

Interest in the process continues to grow as evidenced by the significant presence of UN member state delegates taking part in negotiations.

The Global Interparliamentarian Network (GIN) has issued a statement in support of the UN Binding Treaty urging “states to actively engage in this UN process and to work towards an effective and legally binding instrument, to ensure that people´s dignity enshrined by universal political, economic, social and cultural rights, is prioritised and guaranteed worldwide over private profits.”2

Mayors and City Council Members of cities including Barcelona, Strasbourg and, Paris have issued a call to local authorities around the world to support the UN Binding Treaty on Transnational Corporations and Human Rights.3

The continued presence each year since 2015 – the start of this process – of hundreds of representatives from affected communities, civil society organisations, trade unions and social movements makes it one of the most strongly supported in the story of the OEIGWG. This year, however, due to COVID19 restrictions, physical presence in Geneva is limited, although remote participation has been enabled through various online platforms. In this context, the Global Campaign to Reclaim Peoples Sovereignty, Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity (Global Campaign)4 together with the GIN hosted a virtual Press Conference (full recording here) with high level political and civil society actors.

Leïla Chaibi, Member of the European Parliament, France insoumise (GUE/NGL) remarked :

“Today there is no Binding International Treaty that protects people, but there are treaties that protect the investments of large corporations. Thanks to initiatives such as the Toxic Tour, I was able to see how these companies destroy health and communities in Mexico. The EU has had no problem signing free trade agreements with third countries and this is deeply unfair. Along with many of my deputies, we continue to ask that we cannot put ourselves in the sidelines in the face of these human rights violations by transnational corporations.”

Charles Santiago. Member of the Malaysian Parliament. Chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights stated:

“At present, 43 million people have been infected by the Corona virus and more than one million have died. It is a catastrophe. Developing a Covid-19 vaccine is critical and has to be a global public good. Prices and profits need to be regulated. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) provisions in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement need to be suspended to allow patent production of generic and bio similar products.

Transnational corporations (TNCs) and rich countries are refusing to suspend IPR provisions because, they claim, it would undermine patent protection. A global mechanism must be developed to regulate big pharmaceuticals on prices, profits and IPR. Transnational corporations’ ‘business as usual approach’ which prioritises profit during a global pandemic is not politically sustainable. The UN Binding Treaty is the best place to reset and enhance accountability of TNCs.”

Dr. Manoela Carneiro Roland. HOMA’s Coordinator (Human Rights and Business Center) Prof Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil stated:

“We must regulate transnational corporations. This implies establishing direct obligations for them. Transnational companies already have rights established in the 3,000 plus signed investment agreements. We need to transform the paradigm of due diligence because it is a framework that erroneously leaves the task of self-monitoring to companies. We must establish effective control mechanisms, such as an International Court that has competence to judge transnational companies.”

Keamogetswe Seipato. Coordinator of the Southern African Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power. Alternative Information & Development Center (AIDC), South Africa. claimed:

“We have to reduce or limit the power of companies. The African continent is a breeding ground for human rights violations. The primacy of human rights must be respected. It is a question of underlining the need for companies to be accountable because they cannot come to our countries to expand and neglect the main Human Rights Conventions. We must remember that the UN Binding Treaty must be a mechanism to help communities access redress for human rights violations – one that provides both the assistance and support affected people need.”

(1) This mandate is a result of resolution 26/9 adopted by the Human Rights Council in 2014. Official page: https://www.ohchr.org/en/

(2) Global Interparliamentarian Network in support of the UN Binding Treaty is formed by more than 300 members of parliaments from all over the world. https://bindingtreaty.org

(3) https://bindingtreaty.org/

REPORT RELEASE

Gas in Mozambique: A Windfall for the Industry, a Curse for the Country

Today JA!, Friends of the Earth France and Friends of the Earth International have released a report which exposes deep French involvement in the gas industry in Mozambique. The report, entitled Gas in Mozambique: A Windfall for the Industry, a Curse for the Country, details how the French government, its banks and corporations are part of a web of state corruption, arms deals, human rights violations and economic diplomacy, all in the interests of a $60 billion industry that has left destruction in its wake before a single drop of liquid natural gas has even been extracted.

The report shows how the French State, major private banks including BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole, and fossil fuel giant Total, are some of the greatest beneficiaries of the devastating impacts of the industry in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

JA! works closely with local communities directly facing these impacts on a daily basis. We have seen entire villages uprooted from their homes, fisherpeople moved many kilometres from the coast, and their struggle and heartbreak at losing the land and sea that has been their livelihood for generations.

We have been present with them as they try to speak up in meetings where Total brings the news of their coming difficulties and losses, but have their voices suppressed. They have told us of their nightmarish fear of insurgents who have terrorised the region with violent and fatal attacks, and of the heavy-handedness of the military that has been deployed to protect the industry.

The report includes detailed and up-to-date information from the ground, and divulges the depths to which the French public authorities have gone to ensure their economy, bankers, fossil fuel and arms industry are the greatest profiteers of the gas exploitation, even it it means devastation of the local environment, lives, economy and climate.

With this report, JA!, Friends of the Earth France and Friends of the Earth International call for the French state, banks and fossil fuel companies to withdraw from their involvement in Mozambique, stop the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and cease corrupt diplomatic dealings which are leaving the Mozambican people, and the planet, in a state of hardship and chaos.

“France is determined to ensure that this gas windfall benefits first and foremost its own transnational corporations, even if this means sowing chaos for Mozambique and setting off a climate bomb equivalent to seven times France’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. Neither the French government, nor Total and its bankers, seem concerned about the impacts this will have in fuelling climate crisis, local conflict, corruption and human rights violations.”— Cécile Marchand, Climate and Corporate Justice Campaigner at Friends of the Earth France

“The fossil fuel industry is peddling a lie that gas can be part of the clean energy transition. In reality, this so-called transition in Mozambique has meant a shift from freedom to human rights violations, from peace to conflict, from communities living well through farming and fishing to starving populations deprived of their livelihoods. The gas rush, which is exacerbating the climate crisis and benefiting only transnational corporations and corrupt elites, must stop.”— Anabela Lemos, Director of Justiça Ambiental (JA!)/Friends of the Earth Mozambique

LINKS TO THE REPORT

English Executive Summary: https://www.foei.org/resources/gas-mozambique-france-report

Relatório Português: https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Gas-Mocambique_Portuguese.pdf

French report: https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/De-l-eldorado-gazier-au-chaos_Gas-au-Mozambique_Amis-de-la-terre_rapport_FR.pdf

For enquiries

For press enquiries, please contact:

Cécile Marchand, Friends of the Earth France, cecile.marchand@amisdelaterre., +33(0)669977456

Daniel Ribeiro, Justiça Ambiental, daniel.ja.mz@gmail.com, +258842026243

Friends of the Earth International, press@foei.org

Justiça Ambiental entrevista a Organização de Trabalhadores de MoçambiqueCentral Sindical, por ocasião do 1 de Maio, Dia Internacional do Trabalhador

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Entrevista a Damião Simango, membro do secretariado, responsável pelas relações internacionais e porta-voz da OTM-CS

Justiça Ambiental (JA!):

Caro Damião, obrigada por esta oportunidade de conversa. Sabemos que a Organização dos Trabalhadores de Moçambique – Central Sindical (OTM-CS) é a maior entidade representativa dos trabalhadores no país. Pode nos falar um pouco do que é a OTM e como se estrutura?

Damião Simango (DS):

A OTM é a central sindical mais antiga e mais representativa de Moçambique. Estamos em todas as províncias e em alguns distritos. Congregamos diversos sindicatos nacionais (15) que incluem o sindicato dos funcionários do estado, e também a associação dos trabalhadores da economia informal. No total, e pelas estatísticas de 2018, somos cerca de 145 a 150 mil membros. Na sua estrutura, a OTM também tem uma estrutura representativa das mulheres e outra dos jovens.

Existem outros sindicatos independentes, como o dos professores e jornalistas. Outra importante federação sindical é a CONSILMO, a Confederação Nacional de Sindicatos Independentes e Livres de Moçambique.

JA!:

Qual é a vossa missão?

Damião Simango (DS):

A OTM é uma congregação que dá a voz aos trabalhadores em Moçambique. Lutamos pela defesa e promoção dos nossos direitos e interesses sócio-profissionais, junto às entidades empregadoras e através do contacto permanente com organizações do Estado e outros actores sócio-profissionais e económicos.

JA!:

Indo directo ao assunto, aproximamo-nos do dia do trabalhador, 1 de Maio. Na situação em que vivemos actualmente, devido à pandemia do COVID-19 e as medidas tomadas para tentar contê-la, de que forma o trabalho da OTM é afectado por esta situação?

Damião Simango (DS):

Esta situação impacta-nos de muitas formas. Por exemplo, em condições normais, nesta altura provavelmente estaríamos nas negociações em torno do salário mínimo, mas estas foram suspensas por causa do COVID-19. Estas negociações estão previstas por lei, que prevê que anualmente deve haver um reajuste nos salários mínimos.

Claro que, por um lado, podemos compreender a fragilidade das empresas neste momento devido à pandemia, no entanto, a nossa preocupação é o trabalhador. Gostaríamos de, em contrapartida, particularmente durante a pandemia, ter a garantia da manutenção dos postos de trabalho e pagamento dos salários.

Devemos notar que, apesar de não se aumentarem os salários, a pressão sobre os salários já baixos dos trabalhadores aumentou – não só devido ao incremento dos preços dos produtos essenciais, como também pelo surgimento de novas demandas e despesas extraordinárias, como as máscaras, materiais de limpeza e higiene, etc.

JA!:

E quais são as vossas principais preocupações face ao cenário actual?

Damião Simango (DS):

Neste momento da pandemia, o que mais nos preocupa é o futuro dos trabalhadores. Em Moçambique não temos, por exemplo, um subsídio de desemprego ou uma segurança de rendimento para estas situações, principalmente para os grupos mais vulneráveis. Apenas o subsídio de emergencia básico previsto pelo INSS (Instituto Nacional de Segurança Social), e o subsídio de acção social previsto pelo INAS (Instituto Nacional de Acção Social), que varia entre Mts 540 e Mts 1050. Portanto se esta situação se prolongar por mais 3-4 meses, o que isto vai significar para os trabalhadores? Isto preocupa-nos muito, devido ao impacto que provavelmente terá nos trabalhadores e, consequentemente, na sociedade. Alguns impactos disto poderão ser um intensificar da pobreza, desigualdade, violência doméstica, criminalidade, entre outros.

JA!:

Recentemente, um grande número de organizações e indivíduos da sociedade civil, incluindo a OTM-CS, publicou um documento de posicionamento a respeito do Estado de Emergência. Este documento contém algumas propostas concretas para o governo, incluindo na área de emprego e protecção social. Quais são as vossas demandas neste momento? (Este posicionamento pode ser consultado em: https://aliancac19.wordpress.com/)

Damião Simango (DS):

De forma ampla, nós exigimos que o governo desempenhe o seu devido papel de protector social, que se torna mais urgente que nunca devido à situação de crise. Queremos que não sejam tomadas nenhumas medidas sem que se pense concretamente como é que os grupos sociais irão implementá-las, em particular as camadas mais vulneráveis.

O INSS tem evoluído bastante nos últimos tempos. Por exemplo há alguns anos, para se registar no INSS, teria que ser através da entidade empregadora. Isso já evoluiu, agora o trabalhador informal pode se registar no INSS de forma independente. Mas é preciso continuar a evoluir, principalmente no sentido de ampliar a abrangência da protecção social, que alcança ainda poucas pessoas, e adoptar medidas concretas para lidar com esta crise.

Sabemos que os empresários tudo farão para proteger as suas empresas, e alguns poderão até mesmo aproveitar-se desta crise para lograrem outros intentos que em condições normais não poderiam. Temos noção que a CTA (Confederação das Associações Económicas de Moçambique) tem um grande poder de influência sobre o governo, e já há tempos que temos observado uma pressão por medidas que contribuem para a precarização do trabalho e do trabalhador. No entanto, temos que perceber que as medidas propostas pelas empresas e demais entidades empregadoras não serão suficientes para lidar com esta crise, é fundamental que o governo intervenha com medidas de protecção social. O que nós exigimos, portanto, é que o governo possa dar uma resposta concreta a estas questões, e que as medidas negociadas não sejam em qualquer circunstância em detrimento dos direitos dos trabalhadores e da sua protecção social.

JA!:

Esta crise causada pela pandemia COVID-19 vem evidenciar também uma série de outras crises, de desigualdade, pobreza, precariedade do trabalho, etc, tanto a nível de Moçambique como a nível global. Como é que vê a interligação destas crises com o sistema sócio-económico predominante, o capitalismo neoliberal?

Damião Simango (DS):

As crises são oportunidades – isto pode até soar mal, mas é verdade. As oportunidades apresentam-se de diversas formas, e esta é uma delas. Temos a oportunidade de repensar o papel do Estado e, de forma mais ampla, o modelo de desenvolvimento que seguimos. Antes, a maioria das pessoas estava convencida que este modelo, por ser o mais praticado actualmente, é o que responde às nossas necessidades. Agora é hora de despertarmos, e percebermos que este modelo não nos serve. E foi, neste caso, o sector da saúde que evidenciou isto – vemos milhares de mortes nos Estados Unidos, principalmente da população mais pobre, porque têm um sistema de saúde privado.

Precisamos de resgatar um papel fundamental do Estado, que é o seu papel protector da sociedade, garantindo a sobrevivência do seu povo. Este papel, que tem sido fragilizado devido ao modelo económico vigente, não se pode perder. É agora o momento ideal para o Estado desempenhar o seu papel protector, independentemente das pressões impostas pelo sistema de mercado.

Sabemos que o sector empresarial conta com forte apoio, fundos e especialistas para defender as suas posições. Nós não contamos com o mesmo apoio – mas sabemos o que queremos! Queremos a sociedade e os trabalhadores protegidos pelo Estado. Não haverá qualquer saída viável, justa e produtiva desta crise sem os trabalhadores.

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Muito obrigada pela vossa disponibilidade para conversar conosco, e estamos em solidariedade com a vossa luta!

 

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Justiça Ambiental (JA!) Celebrates Human Rights Day with the Launch of 2 Case Studies

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On the occasion of International Human Rights Day, commemorated on 10 December, the date marking the adoption and proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, JA! launched two important case studies. These publications expose some of the continuing human rights abuses and violations that agricultural communities are subject to in Mozambique, as well as the difficulties that they face in claiming their right to information, land, food and demonstration. They illustrate the difficulty in the exercise of the right to say NO, and above all, the right to a dignified life.

These case studies also highlight the difficulties faced by civil society in their legitimate search for information – a right provided and safeguarded by law. Through these two examples, we intend to denounce the banality and regularity of violations of the law, and the weak capacity and political will to implement them, in our country.

One of the case studies “Jindal – An example of Corporate Impunity” concerns the Indian company Jindal’s open-pit coal mining project in Tete, which began exploration in 2013 without making the EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and its respective environmental license duly available to the public. The company began operating without relocating the Cassoca community, which found itself surrounded overnight by a Jindal fence. Their territories were usurped to make way for coal exploitation, and families were thereafter forced to coexist with the constant explosions and resulting dust, and polluted waters. Even their freedom of mobility was restricted as they were required to pass through a gate controlled by Jindal, sometimes even during restricted hours. If these are not serious human rights crimes, what are they?

JA! appealed to the courts to have the rights of these families recognized. It all began with a letter to the National Directorate of Environmental Impact Assessment (DNAIA-MICOA) unsuccessfully requesting copies of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report and its respective Environmental License. Numerous requests, complaints and letters to various agencies followed, and after nearly 4 years of legal battle, in June 2018 and in response to the appeal submitted by JA! to the First Section of Litigation of the Administrative Court, Jindal was ordered to relocate the Cassoca communities by December 2018. The resettlement process only began in March 2019, and the new homes are not yet in suitable condition.

This case highlights the numerous difficulties and challenges faced by both local communities and civil society organizations seeking to protect and promote human rights. It shows how justice is not within the reach of all Mozambicans, and especially those in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable social strata.

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The second case “Land and Conflict – Land-grabbing in the Cocomela irrigated area of ​​Namaacha Village” deals with land conflicts in the Cocomela irrigated area in ​​Namaacha village. JA! received a complaint and request for support to stop a peasant land-grabbing process being carried out by the Namaacha Municipality.

We have been working constantly with land-grabbing issues in rural areas, mostly related to foreign investment, and often with government sponsorship. But this case struck us as unusual – why was the Municipal Council grabbing land from its own citizens? When we started investigating the issue, we found that the complaints were indeed well-founded, and the case deserved seriousness and support.

In 2010/2011, JA! in conjunction with UNAC (National Peasant Union), made a preliminary analysis of the land-grabbing landscape in some provinces of Mozambique, and launched the study “The Owners of the Land”. This study confirmed several illegalities in the processes of peasant land-grabbing, as the Mozambican Constitution and Land Law provide the necessary tools to protect customary land rights. We believe that in addition to the huge difficulties in implementing the law, there is also a poor understanding of the law itself, especially at government level. Time and again we have heard that the land belongs to the State, and as such belongs to the Government. This is wrong: the State is the Mozambican people, not the Government. This false but surprisingly convincing premise is the starting point for many of the land conflicts in Mozambique today.

Human rights violations like these happen routinely in our country. We believe that we can only truly combat poverty and so many other problems that plague the country by reflecting on these conflicts, and seeking inclusive, effective and real ways to solve them. Our government denies that there are cases of land-grabbing in Mozambique. If we continue to turn a blind eye to serious human rights violations such as those described in these two cases, we will continue to foster an enabling environment for increasing inequality, violence and crime, unemployment, and environmental destruction. If we continue to deprive most Mozambicans of access to comprehensive and impartial justice, the promotion and protection of human rights in Mozambique will remain a mirage.

To access the studies email: jamoz2010@gmail.com

JA! is taking on Sasol

Over the last month, JA! has been confronting South African energy company Sasol in several ways, interrogating them on what they’re really getting up to in Mozambique.

Most recently, last week JA! attended the Sasol 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Johannesburg, along with four other civil society organisations, to question the board and inform shareholders about what the company is currently doing, and planning to do, in Mozambique.PHOTO-2019-11-27-09-12-09

Leading up to the AGM, JA! sent the company questions to understand the technicalities of their present and future projects, followed by a meeting with five vice presidents at their headquarters in Johannesburg, with the support of a fellow activist from partner organisation groundWork.

JA! raised two issues at the AGM:

The first was about the Pande and Temane gas fields in Inhambane that Sasol has been operating since 2006 after removing many community members from their homes and creating only 300 permanent jobs. Sasol has been accused of transfer pricing in this operation – Sasol Petroleum International (now Sasol Africa) is the sole purchaser of the gas extracted here by its wholly-owned subsidiary Sasol Petroleum Temane, which it buys at a tiny percentage of the market value.

The second question was about Sasol’s planned shallow-water drilling off the coast of Vilankulos, also in Inhambane. The drilling will destructively affect fishing communities, endangered species of animals and plants, and the tourism industry, a huge income generator for the province. Accompanying JA! Was a member of the Protect Bazaruto Campaign, which is working to stop the project.

Here are the questions asked by JA!:

1. The first subject is the Pande and Temane project in Inhambane.

To give context, Sasol has regularly insisted that the fields have brought benefits to the surrounding communities since operations began in 2006. However, setting aside schools and soccer fields, the rate of literacy and employment has increased only in line with the rest of the country, including those provinces without extractive industries. Furthermore, 12 years later, according to the World Bank, only 25% of the population of Inhambane has access to electricity, which is less than the country as a whole, at 27%.

When communities were relocated from their homes in 2006, they were given once- off compensation of R 12 000. I emphasise, R 12 000. However, Sasol signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the government which promises annual benefits to the people. Note that this amount is a mere 2.75% of the 6% production tax that the company pays to the government.

JA! questions are:

  • Why has Sasol not paid the annual benefits to the communities as per the PPA for the last four years?

  • Does Sasol recognise that the amount it offers as benefits is too little to maintain the livelihood of a family?

  • And will Sasol renegotiate the terms of the PPA to increase the amount of the benefit, by using total revenue as a basis as opposed to production tax, now that it has the option to do so?

2. The second subject regards Sasol’s planned seismic testing and drilling for gas in the shallow waters off the coast of Vilankulos

Sasol plans to do seismic testing and drilling in ocean shallow water ocean blocks 16 and 19 in Bazaruto, a national park and IUCN Important marine mammal area. Block 16 is home to the only viable dugong species in the Western Indian Ocean as well as two important reefs for commercial and subsistence fishing for many communities.

The best case scenario for this drilling is impacting critically endangered species such as dugong; Fish stocks and livelihoods of fishing communities; sustainable tourism which is central to the economy and can outlast oil and gas.

While Sasol maintains that it is taking all necessary actions to avoid environmental damage, it has been well documented that mitigation of the impacts of gas drilling and seismic testing is impossible. Communities, too, have shown strong resistance to the project.

JA! question is:

  • As it is scientifically certain that seismic testing and drilling will diminish the last viable population of dugong in the Western Indian Ocean, why does Sasol believe it has the right to contribute to the extinction of an iconic species, violate national laws protecting national parks, and detrimentally affecting the livelihood of fishing communities?”

Responses:

At the end of the round of questions, we received a verbal response from Jon Harris, Executive Vice President: Upstream, who JA! has engaged with on previous occasions.

His response was vague, a public relations exercise and in it he repeated the same story of the great benefits that the company had allegedly brought, and that we need to look at smaller sections of the population of Inhambane, those in the immediate vicinity of the plant, and not the province as a whole. He said he was not aware of whether people had been receiving benefits or not, and did not answer whether they would renegotiate their PPA with the government, which would enable the people to receive more benefits.

Regarding Vilankulos, he said that seismic drilling has no impact on the environment, and that they are putting the utmost care into avoiding any impact on animals.

There are several aims of JA! Attending an AGM like this – to confront the board, to inform shareholders, to ask questions, to receive information and to alert the media. There is always the risk that the responses will not be helpful, or even relevant, but our presence there was imperative – were it not for JA!’s presence few people would have known about Sasol’s crimes in Mozambique.

Outside protesters, against Sasol, and same are about to hand over the memorandum to Sasol Vice President Marcel Mitchelson

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Plantations are not FORESTS! And in Africa we know what forests are!!!!

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Justiça Ambiental has been following, for about 9 years, with much concern and indignation, the promotion and establishment of eucalyptus monoculture plantations in the country. It has paid particular attention to the plantations of Portucel, Navigator Company and Green Resources, the size of the area granted, and the negative social impacts that both have caused, which are already evident and documented.

In recent years, JA! has maintained contact with the rural communities affected by both companies and has unsuccessfully denounced the irregularities and numerous conflicts that exist with the companies concerned and government authorities, through letters, petitions and requests for meetings. JA! has also requested access to the processes of acquiring Land Use titles (Direito de Uso e Aproveitamento de Terra: DUAT) and Environmental Performance Reports, which constitute information of public interest and nature, but these companies have never offered to share or publish these. Finally, JA! very recently obtained access to the numerous processes for the acquisition of Portucel’s DUAT by means of a court action through Judgment 09 / TACM / 2019. We remain without access to Portucel’s Environmental Performance Reports because it “refuses” to share these. In May of this year, Justiça Ambiental, the Academic Action for Rural Development (ADECRU) and the World Rainforest Movement organized the “Sharing of experiences and resistance among communities affected by Monoculture Plantations” in Quelimane with community representatives from Nampula, Zambezia, Manica and Sofala provinces affected by monoculture plantations and rural communities struggling to protect their forests and natural resources. This meeting was preceded by visits to the communities affected by Portucel, where those present, members and leaders of these communities, reiterated their dissatisfaction with Portucel’s actions, with the numerous promises made during the community consultations as a way deceive the communities into giving up their land, promises that remain unfulfilled until today. Portucel was invited to the meeting so that we could, together with representatives of the affected communities and representatives of the provincial government, share the numerous complaints and discuss possible solutions. However, Portucel apologized and did not send a representative to attend but made sure to send someone to report on what was discussed, so they have full knowledge of what was discussed and how dissatisfied these communities are. The provincial government was represented and heard all the complaints, but also evaded the matter.

It is quite despicable to note through a news article published in “Clubofmozambique” that World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a huge international non-governmental organization that works on environmental issues, recently organized a debate on “Planting sustainable forests in Africa” that no more than gives companies such as Portucel a green seal once again, despite numerous studies and reports demonstrating the numerous problems this type of plantation brings, and in this case the numerous impacts of Portucel in Mozambique. It is unacceptable that it gives a ‘green seal’ to plantations, with a masked and misleading speech that intends to spread the belief that they are planting forests, leading those most inattentive to even believe that they are supporting concrete action to mitigate the effects of climate change. It is indeed misleading and problematic to completely disregard the systematic appeals of the communities affected by Portucel, as it is unacceptable to use its brand and the image of the harmless Panda to lead people to believe that large-scale monoculture plantations are somehow beneficial for mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is also equally unacceptable for WWF to position itself in this way, giving the green seal to companies with so many complaints against them and that are causing so many impacts, knowing that so many NATIONAL organizations have been working on this issue for many years and that it is quite problematic, and that NATIONAL organizations do not have a unanimous position on monoculture plantations… this corporate act is shameful!!!

Denunciation of Violence Against Activists

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On Monday, 7 October 2019, Anastácio Matável, Executive Director of the Gaza Province NGO Forum – FONGA, lost his life in the city of Xai-Xai, a victim of murder.

Anastácio Matável, who was also a member and focal point of the joint electoral observation platform “Sala da Paz”, was shot point-blank 10 times as he emerged from an election observation training in which he had given the opening address. Matavel was shot around 11 am and succumbed to his injuries two hours later at Gaza Provincial Hospital.

Matavel was committed to activism, and he advocated for environmental causes and biodiversity conservation for over two decades, striving equally for social justice and the protection and defense of the rights of local communities. That’s how, since 2011, Justiça Ambiental has been cooperating and working with him in close partnership in various cases of environmental and social injustice, especially the fight against the usurpation of community land (land grabbing) in Xai-xai by the Chinese rice production company, WAMBAO.

All of this has happened 8 days before the presidential elections to be held all over the country on the 15th of October. The campaigning for these elections have been marked by violence in all parts of the country, and particularly in Gaza province, where opposition parties have suffered aggression at the hands of the members of the ruling party. It is believed that this will be the most violent election campaign in the history of Mozambique. It should be recalled that Gaza province stood out for its manipulation of the voter registration process, which led to confusion between the CNE and INE, Mozambican election agencies, and there was lack of compliance with the number of registered voters and potential voters entitled to vote on October 15th.

Based on previous experiences of similar murder cases, Mozambican society does not doubt that Anastácio Matavel was murdered by the death squads, which for some years have been claiming the lives of people who oppose or criticize the regime’s performance. Death squads are believed to act under the regime’s orders to safeguard the interests of the ruling party as a way of intimidating and / or removing people who in one way or another try to rouse the people about environmental issues, human rights and bad governance in the country.

Unlike other cases, this time the killers were identified after being involved in a violent car accident in which two of them lost their lives on the scene, one was hospitalized and another is being held in police cells in Gaza. At the same time as the accident took place, a fifth member of the group managed to escape and so far is in an uncertain place. The police would later confirm that four of the alleged killers are in fact members of the police assigned to the Special Operations Group.

Justiça Ambiental wants through this press release to show solidarity with the family and colleagues of our fellow activist Anastácio Matavel, as well as vehemently denounce this barbaric act that took his life. Likewise, we denounce all forms of violence against activists, journalists, academics, political parties and all citizens in general, as no one has the right to violate or take another person’s life. We also denounce the violent acts that have been characterizing this election campaign at all levels.


It is important to remember that these are not the first cases of violence, attacks and murders of anyone who thinks differently from the regime and freely expresses his/her opinion, as this has been characteristic in the country in the past years, especially in election years, as we could testify it around the period of the 2014 elections.

It is not enough just to dismiss some “police chiefs” and set up alleged committees of inquiry, which never give us plausible and credible answers and explanations.

We demand that these crimes are clarified, including their motivations, as well as that those responsible are brought to court and punished for their acts.

The Mozambican people need to feel free and secure and that we are really live in a state governed by the democratic rule of law.

“n the aftermath of our last general elections in 2014, JA!, along with other organizations, raised serious concerns about the irregularities in the election process, you can see our blog from 2014 here describing the irregularities. But now in this elections, activists are being killed even before the elections take place, the undermining of democracy is getting scary!”

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