Community Development

District of Palma: a territory outside of Mozambique (?!)

Sede do Governo Distrital de Palma, Cabo Delgado

The District of Palma, which is increasingly the “talk of the town” since it will host the largest industrial project ever implemented in Mozambique – the Liquefied Natural Gas Factory (LNG) – each day it surprises with unusual stories. For many media professionals, civil society organizations and independent researchers, Palma is renowned for the devotion to secrecy, including public affairs, such as public consultation minutes!

In connection with this, the latest news from Palma comes directly from the Office of the District Administrator, David Machimbuco: According to his secretary, in this office no one comes in with any electronic devices: cell phones, cameras or computers – the administrator will not allow that! He makes sure all electronic devices of any visitor are collected and left outside the Administrator’s office, if one has an appointment with him.

This was experienced two weeks ago by a monitoring mission of the Civil Society Platform on Natural Resources and Mining Industry that visited that peninsula to have an update on the status of the resettlement process of the affected communities.

But this irrational fear of the media and lack of transparency is projected into the communities living in the Afungi peninsula: the heads of these places have all clear instructions: not to speak to anyone “from outside” without prior authorization from the Head of the Post, who In turn seeks authorization from the district authorities! Who are the “outsiders”? Usually, the civil society organizations, independent researchers, journalists … It’s been like this for years. But within a short period, in 2015, there was a more open climate. This was in the era of Daniel Chapo, who in March 2016 was appointed governor of Inhambane. Representatives of civil society organizations in Palma say that with Mr. Chapo there was candidness and dialogue, but with Mr. Machimbuco – it is the other way round!

As a member of the platform’s monitoring team, SEKELEKANI was curious and questioned the whys and wherefores of this rule, to which the administrator replied: “each district has its ground rules”.

With exception to some embassies, no national civil servants’ offices – including members of sovereign bodies, such as Ministers – are known to ever forbid the entry of mobile phones, cameras or laptops in their offices. Therefore, the district of Palma portrays itself as a territory outside of Mozambique!