Pretoria — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Friday said that opening the Shire and Zambezi rivers to international navigation must depend on the conclusions of a viabilitystudy.
Guebuza was speaking at a press conference in Pretoria, where he had headed the Mozambican delegation to a bilateral economic summit between Mozambique and South Africa.
The question of theShire-Zambezi waterway has been pushed hard by the Malawian government, which regards the route as a cheap way of moving its exports to the sea. But Mozambique has consistently argued that the waterwayproject must be put on hold until a full viability study is carried out, including an environmental impact assessment.
Despite this, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika inaugurated a river port atNsanje on the Shire on 23 October, as if the waterway project was already signed, sealed and delivered.
Guebuza, in his first public statements on the matter, said that, while he understood Malawi'sdesire to use the two rivers for its trade, that could only happen after the viability and environmental studies.
"After the study, should it come down in favour of navigating the two rivers, thenagreements, contracts and treaties can later be drawn up", he added.
"You don't send ships along the territorial waters of another country without having very clear norms which indicate exactly whatprocedures must be followed", he stressed. "We are open and we are going to work on the matter. In this whole case, economic viability cannot be imposed, not even as a joke. A study should be made withour agreement, and after this we shall see what position to take".
Last week, the Malawian High Commissioner in Maputo, Martin Kansichi, accused the Mozambican authorities of breaking agreements onmaking a "trial run" to prove the navigability of the Shire-Zambezi waterway, from the Indian Ocean to Nsanje. He said that Malawi was surprised when the barges it sent onto the Zambezi were seized. He...