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    20 April, 2009
Bill on Civic Service approved
 

The Assembly of the Republic on 2 April passed the second and final reading of a bill that will establish a national Civic Service as a complement and an alternative to military service. Under this law young people who register for military service and are not conscripted into the army may be required to undertake "activities of an administrative, social assistance, cultural and economic nature".

This "civic service" may take place in public or private institutions, which the government will specify. The government will also decide how many people should be incorporated into the civic service every year. They will be paid an allowance fixed annually by the government.

Like military service, the civic service will be for two years, the first six months of which will be used for training. People recruited into the civil service will have the same rights as conscript soldiers, and the two forms of conscription will have the same rules on postponement and exemption.

Deputies from Renamo tried to reopen debate on the bill, which passed its first reading in mid-March. But Frelimo argued that the bill had been sufficiently debated in plenary session and in the Assembly's commissions. The move to reopen the debate was rejected by 140 votes to 70, the same margin by which the bill was then passed.

Giving the Renamo "declaration of vote", Filipe Primeiro claimed the new law would "oblige people to work for two years without wages... this opens the way for opportunists to use young people to work on the farms and plantations of the Frelimo leaders".

Defence Minister Filipe Nyussi, who introduced the bill, told AIM after the vote that there are plenty of unemployed young people who would like to be given paid work - even if the payment took the form of a small allowance rather than a wage. Furthermore, the six-month training period ensured that when they left the civic service, they would possess skills they could use later in their lives.

Nyussi confirmed that there would be no mass press-ganging of young Mozambicans into the civic service. Initially, it would start with just a few hundred people a year, and would gradually expand.

He dismissed Renamo claims that civic service was equivalent to the introduction of slavery. Implementation would be monitored to prevent abuses. Employers, he added, would not be able to use the civic service as an excuse to cut wages paid to their workers.

 
 
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