Mozambique: Russian Ship Off Beira, as China and Russia Increase Their Presence

The Russian cargo vessel Lady R is currently at anchor off Beira having sailed from the South Africa Naval Base at Simon’s Town on 9 December, where it apparently loaded and unloaded cargo at night during blackouts (load-shedding). Commercial cargo ships do not normally go to naval bases.

Nothing has been said officially, but South African Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais, investigated and he concludes that the Lady R was delivering materiel, probably ammunition, for SANDF Special Forces ordered by the government agency, Armscor. It is a longstanding order, outstanding since pre-COVID-19 restrictions, probably intended for older equipment that came from former Soviet Union countries. The Lady R is sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for apparent involvement in the ongoing Russia/Ukraine conflict. (DefenceWeb 4, 3 Jan, 13, 9 Dec)

China, Russia and South Africa will conduct a joint naval exercise 17-24 February on South Africa’s east coast near Durban and Richards Bay, close to Mozambique. It is called Exercise Mosi (smoke), and a similar joint naval exercise was held off the Cape of Good Hope in 2019.

Meanwhile CNOOC (Chinese National Offshore Oil Company) has been award five exploration blocks in the most recent Mozambique licensing round. Three are offshore of Angoche, Nampula, and two are offshore of Inhambane near the mouth of the Save River. The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) holds 20% of area 4 off the coast of Cabo Delgado, where LNG shipments from a floating platform began late last year. The two main owners of area 4 are ENI and ExxonMobil with 25% each.

China has become the fourth largest foreign investor in Portugal. The state-owned China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) recently took a controlling interest in Mota-Engel, the largest Portuguese construction company which also is largest in Mozambique. It is involved in construction relating to the Cabo Delgado LNG production facility, mining, and Maputo apartment blocks. Most recently it has been involved in constructing wharf and unloading facilities in Palma and Afungi.

The Fosum group is the biggest shareholder in Portugal’s largest bank, Millennium bcp, with 29.95%; Millennium bcp owns 66.7% of Millennium bim, the largest bank in Mozambique. China Three Gorges (CTG) is the largest shareholder in EDP Energias de Portugal with 20.22%. EDP is a leader in renewable energy and has projects in Mozambique.

The first flooding of the rainy season is occurring in Maputo and Gaza provinces, on the Maputo, Limpopo and Incomati rivers. Fields and roads close to the rivers are flooded. In part this is caused by South Africa dumping water from dams which are already over 80% full. Heavy rain and strong winds are predicted tomorrow (Friday) for this zone. Early heavy rains in Nampula have already destroyed more than 1000 houses.

FEWS (Famine Early Warning System, 28 Dec) reports “Across southern, central, and most of northern Mozambique, cumulative rainfall is average to above average. The timely start and good rainfall are supporting agricultural labor opportunities and planting across the country.” The only exceptions are the far north and northern coastal areas, where the rains have not yet started. Dry weather has also allowed fighting to continue in Cabo Delgado.

Malawi’s cholera outbreak had spread to Niassa by mid-December, with 337 infected and 7 deaths. In Malawi 600 have died and there have been 18,000 cases; the opening of some schools has been delayed. (Al Jazeera 2 Jan)


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