MOZAMBIQUE had real gross domestic product growth of 7.4% last year, according to the African Development Bank.

The prediction for this year is 8.5% and 8% next year. Albeit off a low base, these are handsome numbers. As South Africans we wish we could get half this performance. But it’s never easy. Foreign direct investment has turned negative, in keeping with global pessimism about emerging markets, and Mozambique’s ambitious infrastructure programmes will have to be paid for by private finance and public-private partnerships. The social safety nets that are being trumpeted will put more pressure on the fiscal deficit (running around a worrying 9%).

The festering ulcer underlying that country’s vast agricultural potential and its huge natural resources (coal, oil and gas) has suddenly become much more dangerous. More than 20 years after the civil war that took about 1-million lives ended, the warring parties are at it again.

At the heart of the problem is the well-known tendency of African national liberation movements, once they come to power, to establish a stranglehold over the state to the extent that it becomes excessively difficult for the opposition to challenge this monopoly. Since the 1994 election, the first after the civil war, Frelimo (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) has won every presidential and legislative ballot.

And every time the opposition Renamo (Resisténcia Nacional Moçambicana) has complained about electoral fraud. Though the country has prospered, certainly since the turn of the century, Renamo has been financially isolated and its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, often complains bitterly about the ruling party’s "exclusive governance strategy", its illicit enrichment, misuse of the country’s wealth, the way it has packed the police and public service, and electoral fraud. He probably has a point on each count.

Renamo’s anger has been building over the past six months and Dhlakama has now decamped to one of his old military bases (near the Gorongosa National Park in central Mozambique) with about 800 followers. That’s insufficient to start a war but enough to cause plenty of damage, and Dhlakama is likely to be reinforced by many former Renamo fighters, now poor and resentful.

Aditi Lalbahadur of the South African Institute of International Affairs says Dhlakama is Mugabe-like, which means he doesn’t tolerate dissent and can be irrational. I am sure she is right but that doesn’t negate his political complaints, most significantly about the membership of the all-important National Electoral Commission (NEC), which Renamo claims is packed with Frelimo supporters and nongovernmental organisations sympathetic to Frelimo. Renamo wants the NEC to consist of four members each from Frelimo, itself and the MDM (Movimento Democrático de Moçambique), a party that broke away from Renamo in 2009. Though there’s not much love lost between the MDM and its dissociated parent, Frelimo is unlikely to accept anything that might trump its hold on power.

The result is stalemate — and guns. The international affairs institute, whose report on Mozambique will be published at month-end, thinks there might be a bilateral intervention by South Africa if things get too hot. I think Angola might get involved too.

For a country that has only recently emerged from the human and national tragedy that is civil war, none of this is good news.


HAS Primedia, the radio broadcast company owned by Brait and the Kirsh consortium, become one of those I castigated last week for eagerness to hide beneath the parapet?

I ask because Simon Mantell, a Cape Town businessman, tells me a radio ad he sponsored was canned by Talk Radio 702’s GM, Karl Gostner, who wasn’t available when I called, on the curious ground that it was considered "editorial". Notably, he didn’t claim it was offensive.

The ad concerns Princess Vlei, a green area near the less affluent suburbs of Grassy Park, Retreat and Steenberg. It is in a shocking state, says Mantell. He believes — and so it seems do the greater Cape Town Civic Association and other organisations — it should be a green lung for those residents.

Instead, it appears the city council, which owns the land, has fallen in with developers who intend building a shopping mall and associated structures beside the vlei, much of which will disappear under concrete. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is among those protesting against the council’s action.

Since residents of these suburbs are chronically short of funds, Mantell offered to pay for a radio ad designed to bring the vlei to public attention. He says he was taken aback by Talk Radio 702’s response.

As Frans Cronje, who is set to replace John Kane-Berman as CE of the South African Institute of Race Relations, observed in conversation with me a few weeks ago, if business doesn’t get involved in politics, politics will get involved in business.


SO THE red card that ruled Bismarck du Plessis out of last Saturday’s rugby Test against the All Blacks in New Zealand has been withdrawn by order of the International Rugby Board (IRB). Du Plessis was yellow-carded twice, and his enforced occupation of the bench left his team short for a total of nearly 50 minutes.

The IRB’s decision confirms a conclusion displayed on the South Africa Rugby Referees website. There’s little doubt that the incompetence of French referee Romain Poite left what should have been a high-quality international encounter in tatters.

Why is it invariably South Africa that attracts these bizarre occasions? The last time was the performance of the extraordinary Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand), who will never again referee an international rugby match.

But even under a knowledgeable, even-handed referee, the Springboks wouldn’t have won the Eden Park Test. Breath of fresh air though he’s been, coach Heyneke Meyer, who rightly refused to blame the referee, might ruminate unhappily on that observation by former Springbok coach Andre Markgraaff that there are only two types of coaches — those who’ve been fired and those waiting to be fired.