COUNTRY UPDATE: 13 October 2023
Johan Viljoen, Reabetswe Tloubatla


TotalEnergies prosecuted for insurgent massacre in Mozambique in 2021


Seven survivors and relatives of victims of a bloody jihadist attack in March 2021 at Palma have filed a lawsuit against TotalEnergies, accusing it of failing to protect its subcontractors, their lawyers said on Tuesday. Militants killed dozens of people when they attacked Palma on March 24, 2021, sending thousands fleeing into the surrounding forest. The attack lasted several days. Some of the victims were beheaded. The criminal complaint filed on Monday accuses TotalEnergies of manslaughter and failure to assist people in distress. Mozambique’s government said about 30 people were killed in the attack, but Alex Perry, an independent journalist who contributed to a five-month investigation into the massacre, counted 1,402 people killed or missing. The seven British and South African plaintiffs – three survivors and four family members of the victims – accuse TotalEnergies of failing to take steps to ensure the safety of subcontractors before the attack. “The danger was known. Several villages had already been attacked before the Palma attack and there was a real jihadist threat,” argued the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Thulliez. Total is also accused of refusing to supply fuel to a South African security company that organized helicopter rescues from a besieged hotel during the attack. The company eventually ran out of fuel, leaving people stranded inside. Janik Armstrong, a Canadian whose husband Adrian Nel was killed in the siege, told reporters in Paris on Tuesday how she resisted the siege for two days at Amarula Lodge, with 150 other people “waiting for a rescue from Total or the Mozambican security forces that never came.” She said that when they realized they “had been abandoned,” they tried to flee in a convoy of cars, but were attacked by the gunmen, who killed her husband. She quoted Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne declaring in February 2021 that the safety of both Total staff and subcontractors in Mozambique was its “highest priority” and said: “We are here today to call Total to account for these broken promises.” Britain’s Mark Mawyer, whose brother Philip also died in the attack, said he joined the legal action to commemorate the dead because he didn’t want to “let Total sweep his memory under the rug”. On Tuesday, on its website, TotalEnergies said that “all personnel of Mozambique LNG and its contractors and subcontractors were evacuated,” mostly by boat. The company also insisted that it provided fuel for the rescue operation.

TotalEnergies has however rejected blame saying that it “was not provided access to this complaint” prior to this stage, and as such, with what’s at hand, it would like “to categorically reject these accusations”. The company also said the insurgency in the Cabo Delgado province had security issues long before their arrival. “The conflict in the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique predates gas development in the region and is linked to many factors unrelated to Mozambique LNG,” it said. TotalEnergies agrees that the attack that lasted for days claimed many lives, but the number was unknown. “To the best of our knowledge, there exists no official count of the number of dead and missing civilians following the Palma attack, but this tragic terrorist attack claimed many lives and caused part of the civilian population to flee the area,” the oil firm said.

TotalEnergies disowned claims made in the class suit that it didn’t help in the evacuation process. As soon as the attacks had started and the situation had been assessed, Mozambique LNG lent its assistance to the Mozambican authorities, namely by supplying fuel for the evacuation and rescue operations. “The runway at the Afungi site was used by the authorities of Mozambique and international organisations operating in the area to evacuate people by air,” TotalEnergies said in a statement. TotalEnergies emphasised that it was not its role but the country’s to guarantee safety for its communities. “The government of Mozambique is responsible for restoring security: that is the prerogative of a sovereign state,” it said. project depends on the ability to complete the project under good security conditions,” it said. TotalEnergies rejects blame over 2021 Mozambique insurgent attack and avoiding SA security help | News24




Local government elections: violence, rigging and surprising results


Local government elections took place in Mozambique’s 65 local government areas on 11 October 2023. The elections were marred by pre-election violence, reports of intimidation, ballot boxes filled before voting started with ballots for FRELIMO, and violence during and after voting. In Chiure a young person was shot dead by Police when they opened fire on a crowd celebrating the victory of an opposition candidate. Carta de Mocambique reports: “After reports of aborted fraud, unrest, delays and many other occurrences recorded in some municipalities in the early hours of this Wednesday (11), the “Sala da Paz” observer platform continued to monitor. The platform, made up of 20 civil society organizations and with observers spread across the country, reports that numerous previously completed votes were detected in favor of the party in power, Frelimo, mainly in the city of Beira , Quelimane and Nampula. In Marromeu, Beira and Nampula, “Sala da Paz” reported that an election observer was caught trying to insert previously marked ballots into the ballot box. The observer in question is a professor at Rovuma University. In the municipality of Quelimane, the platform also reported that an observer from the Provincial Youth Council (CPJ) of Zambézia caught a professor from the Catholic University of Mozambique (UCM) trying to introduce votes in favor of Frelimo. In a statement the University’s Rector’s Office confirms that it “became aware of allegations involving a member of its teaching staff in connection with possible irregularities in the local election”. However, the institution distances itself from this attitude, allegedly because “it is entirely his responsibility as a citizen and does not reflect the official and institutional positioning of our University”. Just hours before closing, there was increased police security at polling stations, creating an environment of tension, with the main emphasis on the city of Beira. Until the closure, observers at the “Sala da Paz” were reporting the lack of electricity in some polling stations, with greater incidence in Maputo, Quelimane and Nampula.

But it was not possible to manipulate results everywhere. Pre-election violence and allegations of stuffed ballot boxes and rigging by the ruling party are abundant in Nampula and Nacala – two Renamo strongholds in the north. The ruling party, assuming that southern municipalities are their strongholds, focused on the north at the expense of the south, handing the capital city of Maputo to Renamo. The party’s mayoral candidate, Venâncio Mondlane, called the press in the early hours of this Thursday (12.10), in Maputo to guarantee that he was the legitimate winner of the municipal elections in the City of Maputo. He said that Renamo will not accept any result manipulated by the electoral bodies at the behest of the Frelimo party, since in the parallel count that the party is carrying out, Renamo is ahead with more than 56% with Frelimo having 35% and the MDM 6%. He said that “Frelimo is completely devastated. It is terminally ill. Frelimo just needs to go to a resuscitation room, and then go to the mortuary and then we will have the funeral”.




Destruction of primary dunes in Moma: Who stops the excesses of the Chinese company Haiyu Mozambique Mining in Nampula?


Recently the communities of Corropa and Mpole, in the district of Moma, in the province of Nampula, denounced the Chinese capital company Haiyu Mozambique Mining (HMM) of destroying primary dunes, legally protected in Mozambique. The company is mining 12 meters from the high water mark, which the law does not allow. The company is protected by party and judicial authorities. Legal cases against the company never come to court. HMM’s abuses in Nampula are not recent. Last year HMM’s activities in the Angoche district, Nampula province, resulted in the destruction of the main road in the Inguri neighborhood, the most populous in that district. Since the beginning of the export of heavy sand in Murrua, the Chinese company has been transporting large quantities of the product by land to the local port without observing the environmental standards required for operations of this kind. The Chinese are also accused of raising dust and polluting the environment. “Here in my area there are more than 40 houses with cracks due to the vibrations caused by Chinese trucks”, tells us a community leader from the Inguri neighborhood, who states that “sometimes it is difficult to sleep here because of the dust and noise of trucks.” Concerned about the level of degradation of the road, the municipal council of Angoche issued a note to the company, stating that it will terminate the company’s use of the road if it does not repair the damage it caused. Yet its trucks continued to circulate. HMM has not honored its social responsibility commitments. Its Strategic Responsibility Plan has not been carried out.




Will Mozambique benefit from the global rush in the graphite industry?


Demand for electric vehicles (EVs) reaches new heights every year, with sales expected to grow 35 % this year, and graphite — a key component in the lithium-ion batteries used in EVs — has become a highly lucrative. Mozambique has one of the largest graphite deposits in the world and will play a key role in the global EV supply chain. But its production is still overshadowed by China and the advent of synthetic alternatives threatens to paralyze Mozambique’s graphite industry just as it is getting off the ground. Mozambique currently supplies almost 10% of the world’s graphite – a number that is expected to increase to around 15% by the end of the decade, according to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence analyst Tony Alderson. Most of Mozambique’s graphite potential is concentrated in Cabo Delgado, where Australian mining company Syrah Resources claims to operate the world’s largest graphite mine outside China. In the same province, British company Tirupati Graphite acquired two graphite mining operations in April, which it hopes to capture 8 % of total global supply by 2030. Triton Minerals, another Australian company, is also developing a graphite mining operation in the province close to the German-owned GK graphite mine, the oldest mine of its type in Mozambique. The US government sees Mozambique as a vital alternative to Chinese graphite, which currently represents around 70% of global supply. Last week, it announced that the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will provide a loan of up to $150 million to develop graphite mining and processing at the Syrah graphite mine in Cabo Delgado to “diversify the global supply chain ”. “Syrah Resources has been successful in Mozambique as it offers a more geopolitically sensitive option for companies looking to reduce their dependence on Chinese supply chains,” argues Indigo Ellis, managing director of consultancy firm Africa Matters. “However, as new sources of synthetic graphite come online in Europe and the US, this benefit becomes less attractive and the benefits of natural graphite may no longer compare to synthetic ones.” Synthetic graphite is primarily manufactured by heating petroleum coke, a byproduct of petroleum refining, to an extremely high temperature. It currently consumes a lot of energy and is expensive to produce, but its quality is much higher than that of natural graphite. It has also dropped in price by 20% this year, according to Benchmark Minerals . Despite Mozambique’s enormous mineral reserves, sustaining investment in the graphite industry can also be challenging due to social and political instability in Cabo Delgado. “ Insurgent attacks have delayed projects, worker strikes have disrupted operations, diesel prices are high, there are fertilizer shortages due to the war in Ukraine and food prices are rising – it’s simply not the best macroeconomic situation, ” Alderson explained. Although Mozambique’s relatively young graphite industry has already consumed a chunk of China’s global market share, it is still far behind its biggest competitor. Mozambique produced around 50,000 tonnes of graphite last year, compared to approximately 850,000 tonnes in China. According to Ellis, if Mozambique wants to seriously compete at an international level, it will have to develop infrastructure to refine and also extract graphite. Until the insurgency in Cabo Delgado is neutralized, it is unlikely that the necessary investment will materialize. But the growing global hunger for graphite gives hope that Mozambique will overcome these challenges. Mario Deus, mining specialist and director of Gondwana Consulting, points to the ‘supermaterial’ graphene, derived from graphite, as a potential opportunity for Mozambique. Although it is currently too expensive to be commercially viable on a large scale, it has the potential to revolutionize the industry as it is light and flexible, extremely conductive, resistant to acids and can withstand temperatures of around 1,000 degrees Celsius. Even China recognizes the potential of Mozambique’s graphite, as Chinese company DH Mining Development Limited intends to invest US$30 million in a graphite mine in the district of Nipepe, in Niassa province, which it will operate when it comes into operation in 2024.

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