Cyclones and Struggling Economy Could Impact Mozambique’s Elections

Cyclone Idai made landfall on Mar. 14 and 15, in Mozambique’s
Sofala, Manica and Zambézia provinces. It was followed by Cyclone
Kenneth on Apr. 25 which affected the northern province of Cabo
Delgado. Recent data from the World Food Programme (WFP) indicates
that more than 2.1 million of the country’s 31 million people
were affected. This, coupled with the country’s economic
downturn, could affect the elections planned for later this year.
Credit: Andre Catuera/IPS

By Amos Zacarias
MAPUTO, May 20 2019 (IPS)

Mozambique, which was affected by an unprecedented two tropical
cyclones over a matter of weeks, is still reeling from the impact a
month after the latest disaster. But resultant devastation caused
by the cyclones could impact the country’s elections as concerns
are raised over whether the southern African nation can properly
hold the ballot scheduled for later this year.

Currently, Mozambique does not have sufficient funds to go to
the polls on Oct. 15, with the national electoral body only having
44 percent of the required 235 million dollars needed to hold the
election.

Cyclone Idai made landfall on Mar. 14 and 15, in Mozambique’s
Sofala, Manica and Zambézia provinces. It was followed by Cyclone
Kenneth on Apr. 25 which affected the northern province of Cabo
Delgado.

The cyclones have also made it difficult for the National
Commission of Elections (CNE) to complete the process of voter
registration. Apr. 15 to May 30 was set aside for this but in the
regions affected by Cyclone Idai the census have not yet begun and
in Cabo Delgado voter registration was interrupted.

The damage caused by the two cyclones is enormous. Recent data
from the World Food Programme (WFP) indicates that more than 2.1
million of the country’s 31 million people were affected. Of
these, at least 60,000 people in the country’s central and
northern regions are still living in makeshift housing centres
created by the government and aid partners. While 1,67 million
people are still receiving food assistance, health care and water
from the government and NGOs, according to WFP.

Official data points to the death of more than 1,000 people and
schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and many public buildings were
destroyed.

Many have lost everything, including their proof of identity, as
researcher and social activist Jessemusse Cacinda explains to IPS:
“Many people have lost their documents, and the possibility of
being registered to vote is greatly reduced.”

Originally the CNE had aimed to register some 14 million voters
this year, up 3 million
from the country’s previous national elections. This year will be
first time that Mozambicans will vote for provincial governors.

But CNE president Abdul Carimo has acknowledged that the
electoral body is far from registering 14 million voters.

Though Mozambique’s Minister of Economy and Finance Adriano
Maleiane said in an interview with STV (Mozambican private
television channel) that the government and the CNE would find ways
to make the elections possible.

“If the solution is reorientation of the expenses within the
limit that has been fixed, we probably don’t have to go to make
an international [appeal],” said Maleiane.

Economist Manuel Victorino recognises that the difficulties in
spending money on the elections and on relief efforts. He tells IPS
that the country’s public accounts should also not be
ignored.

At the beginning of May, the World Bank announced 545 million
dollars in support for those affected by Cyclone Idai in
Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Of this, 350 million dollars is
allocated to Mozambique.

According to World Bank President David Malpass the money will
be used to re-establish water supply, for disease prevention and
reconstruction, among other things. It is also intended to ensure
food security, provide social protection and provide early warning
systems in the communities affected by the cyclones.

Rebuilding will not be easy.

Cyclones Idai and Kenneth made landfall amid an economic
downturn that has affected the country since 2015 when the
government’s programme partners decided to withdraw their support
for the state budget, due to the discovery of hidden debts.

The World
Bank stated before the cyclones
that, “Mozambique continues
to be in default of its Eurobond and the two previously undisclosed
loans.”

Mozambique has a “real gross domestic product (GDP) growth
estimated at 3.3 percent in 2018, down from 3.7 percent in 2017 and
3.8 percent in 2016. This is well below the 7 percent GDP growth
achieved on average between 2011 and 2015,” according to the
World Bank.

In addition, the Mozambique Tributary Authority says that
between 2016 and 2017, more than 2,900 companies closed their doors
due to the economic crisis and unemployment has risen. According to
the
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization
, the rate of unemployment in Mozambique is around
21 percent. But since the cyclones a number of private business
have also closed.

Despite the sharp rise in debt, the Mozambican economy was
expected to rise around 4 percent this year, against 3,3 percent of
2018, according to the International Monetary Fund. The country
expects to generate
95 billion dollars of natural gas revenue
over the next quarter
of a century.

Until then, however, ordinary people are struggling.

“The situation of the country is bad. The cost of living is
too high, and the purchasing power of the citizens is dropping a
lot. And it has become worse due the cyclones Idai and Kenneth,”
António Sabonete, a trader who sells clothes in Tete, central
Mozambique, tells IPS.

Sabonete has three children and says he decided to become trader
because he lost his job in 2016.

Cacinda says that the economic situation could impact the ruling
party’s reputation in the next general elections

The Mozambique Liberation Front, known by it’s Portuguese
acronym, FRELIMO, has dominated the polls since the first
multi-party elections in 1994.

“From this high cost of living and the purchasing capacity of
people has lowered. It can weaken and penalise FRELIMO [in the
elections],” says Cacinda, underlining that, “the opposition
parties will use all these elements linked to the crisis to build
their own speech to try to convince the voters. And it’s
obviously going to reduce the number of votes for FRELIMO.”

Cacinda adds that the economic crisis should create
opportunities for Mozambican opposition parties to have a stronger
showing in the upcoming polls, “Because for this year’s
elections we feel that there is some balance.”

But FRELIMO recently publicly condemned corruption and
accusations of such from within the party, appealing to justice
authorities to continue investigating these cases.

But in addition to clamping down on corruption, Cabinda says
that it is time for Mozambican politicians to prioritise the impact
of climate change on the country.

“Mozambique and many of the Africans countries are not
prepared to deal with climate change.”

“Our politicians must have a clear view of the kind of country
they intend to govern and they want to leave for the future
generations. Because locals development plans should be made that
include issues of climate change as a priority approach,” Cabinda
tells IPS.

In the meantime, others worry how they will start again from
scratch.

Beira, the capital city Sofala province, was razed by Cyclone
Idai. But people have started to return to the devastated city and
are picking up the pieces of their lives.

Gervasio John is one of them.

In a telephonic interview with IPS, John says that he and his
family returned to his home in Manga Mascarenha, a neighbourhood in
Beira.

John is rebuilding his house. He is one of many who are doing so
at their own cost as the government does not have the resources to
directly support the reconstruction of homes.

“It’s not easy, but I need to do something to restart life
after Idai, despite the fact that there is no money,” John
says.

**Writing with Nalisha Adams in Johannesburg

The post
Cyclones and Struggling Economy Could Impact Mozambique’s
Elections
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Cyclones and Struggling Economy Could Impact Mozambique’s Elections