Maputo – Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo Party and the main opposition force, the rebel movement Renamo, have both praised the consensus reached in the dialogue between Renamo and the government, while the second opposition force, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), has condemned it as a blow against democracy.
The consensus announced by President Filipe Nyusi last Wednesday is that a constitutional amendment should be passed changing the political system so that all provincial governors, district administrators and mayors are chosen by whichever party, coalition or independent citizens’ group which wins the majority of votes in the elections for provincial, district and municipal assemblies.
The abolition of the direct election of mayors had never been mentioned in public prior to Nyusi’s Wednesday announcement. Equally surprising is the proposal to form district assemblies. No political force had demanded this previously, and setting up a new tier of assemblies in the more than 150 districts will be an expensive undertaking.
The Frelimo Political Commission immediately welcomed Nyusi’s statement and issued a statement claiming that the consensus reached was a decisive step towards effective and lasting peace. It claimed that amending the constitution to accommodate this consensus “is a process that results from the socio-political dynamic and from the need to respond to the longings of the people”.
Frelimo, the Political Commission said, believed that the consensus was “the fruit of the involvement of the Mozambican people, who believed in the dedication, firmness, pragmatism and courage of the President of the Republic in leading the dialogue seeking an effective peace”.
Renamo spokesperson Jose Manteigas told the independent television station STV that Nyusi’s declaration “portrays the understanding reached between the two parties. With this understanding on decentralisation we, as a party, feel that the country has won, Renamo has won, Frelimo has won, Mozambican democracy is winning. So it’s a victory for all of us”.
Manteigas hoped that the other Mozambican political parties would also welcome the deal as “for the good of democracy”.
But the leader of MDM and mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, took the diametrically opposed view. “This package is a setback in our democracy and an agreement to deceive the people,” he said.
“We will have mayors, administrators and governors who do not emerge from the people’s will,” he said. “The politicians, in an indirect manner, will continue to appoint whoever they like, and will impose on the people those who should govern them.”
He accused the two main parties of forming a “FRENAMO”, reviving a term used several years ago by the MDM to denote a supposed coalition between Frelimo and Renamo.
“This is an agreement that contributes to bipolarisation,” said Simango, “and creates the conditions for FRENAMO not to not allow other political forces enter governance.”
The Mozambican people had not approved the deal. It would be important, he stressed, for Nyusi and Afonso Dhlakama to ask the people “if this is the system of governance they would like to have. This is not the kind of agreement we were expecting”.
Meanwhile, Dhlakama has claimed in an interview with the weekly paper “Savana” that what he called the “decentralisation package” agreed with Nyusi means that in future “Mozambique will be different from the Mozambique of today”.
“This is not the time for us to want to identify a winner,” he said, “because nobody has defeated anybody. Neither Frelimo, nor Renamo, neither Nyusi nor Dhlakama have won this fight. The great winner is the people.”
The people living in the 53 Mozambican municipalities might disagree. For the deal announced by Nyusi last Wednesday deprives them of the right to elect their mayors. A right which municipal citizens had enjoyed since 1998 is being taken away from them. If the deal passes into law, mayors will not be elected by popular suffrage, but will be chosen by whichever party has a majority of votes in the municipal assembly election.
The hopes for directly elected provincial governors have also been dashed: the current system whereby the President of the Republic appoints the governors will be abolished, but it will be replaced by the majority party in the provincial assembly choosing the governor.
Dhlakama said that Nyusi’s Wednesday declaration was faithful to the arrangements discussed between the two men.
“It doesn’t differ much from what we’ve been negotiating for almost two years,” he added. “It’s been a work of sacrifice, or each side understanding the difficulties of the other. It’s not been easy.”
The constitutional amendment on “decentralisation”, now going before the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, “is an agreement which incorporates opinions of the Mozambican government of the Frelimo Party, and opinions of Renamo,” said Dhlakama. “We can’t say that anyone has achieved 100 percent of what they wanted. That wouldn’t be possible, negotiation is always 45 or 50 percent.”
“I want people to understand that the fundamental goal is to deepen democracy, peace, development and reconciliation and that there may be free and transparent elections,” he continued.
But despite his satisfaction at the agreement, Dhlakama is still refusing to leave the Renamo military base in the central district of Gorongosa where he has been living since late 2015. That, he said, is because the government and Renamo are still negotiating military matters.
Dhlakama is still refusing to disarm and demobilise the Renamo militia until the government agrees to appoint Renamo officers to leadership positions in the armed forces and the police. In fact, officers who originally came from the ranks of Renamo when the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) were set up in 1994, already hold several senior positions, including deputy chief of staff of the FADM.
Dhlakama brushed this aside, claiming that officers who came from Renamo “are marginalised, and are not in decision making positions”.
“One of the things Renamo is demanding at the negotiating table is that Renamo military cadres be incorporated to head battalions, brigades, departments.” He claimed this was necessary “to prevent the commandos of Frelimo from planning conspiratorial activities against the opposition, without our own commandos knowing what’s going on”.
Dhlakama made his familiar claim that the FADM acts on a political party basis and does not obey “the operational norms of armed forces of a democratic country”.
Yet it is Dhlakama who is demanding the politicisation of the FADM, with the open appointment of senior commanders on the basis of their loyalty to Renamo.
Dhlakama was optimistic that consensus could be reached on military matters – but until it was, he intended to stay in Gorongosa. - AIM