Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Thursday passed the first reading of a government bill amending the country's system of honours and official decorations.
It introduces, as the foremost honour, the title "Hero of the Republic of Mozambique", which may be granted in recognition of acts by Mozambican citizens which required sacrifice, courage, daring and selflessness, in the resistance to foreign occupation, the national liberation struggle , and the fight against racism and other forms of oppression and domination.
It may also be awarded to citizens who performed "exceptional acts of bravery and heroism in defence of the motherland and of human rights".
For foreigners who played a noteworthy role in the Mozambican liberation struggle and the country's subsequent economic and social development, the bill creates the title "Honorary Citizen of the Republic of Mozambique".
This title confers on its bearer "equal rights to those of Mozambican citizens, except for those which, by their nature, cannot be attributed to a foreigner".
The highest decoration remains the "Eduardo Mondlane Order", named after the founder of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo), who was assassinated in 1969. It is intended to value "extraordinary acts and sacrifices made in the struggle for national unity and economic, social and cultural liberation, against colonialism and racism, for peace, friendship, solidarity and the progress of humanity".
A new decoration is the "Samora Machel Order", named after the founder of the Republic and its first President, which is intended "to value exceptional acts of courage, sacrifice, solidarity, personal commitment and dynamism in leadership". The acts it recognises include those of commanding the defence and security forces, and those of fighting against discrimination and corruption.
The "25th June Order" (named after the date of Mozambican independence) may be granted to Mozambicans and foreigners "who contributed with heroism, sacrifice and selflessness in the defence of national independence".
The "25 September Military Order" (named after the date on which the armed struggle against Portuguese colonial rule began) is granted in recognition of "extraordinary merit" shown in the struggle for independence, the defence of the country's sovereignty and peace-keeping operations.
Lesser honours take the form of medals, such as the "Medal for Veterans of the Liberation Struggle", and the "Nachingwea Medal" (named after Frelimo's main camp in Tanzania during the independence war) attributed in recognition of "extraordinary merit" in such areas as the defence of human rights, the struggle against poverty, and the fight against natural disasters.
The "Bagamoyo Medal" (named after the site of a Frelimo secondary school in Tanzania) is awarded for similar merit shown in the education, culture and health areas. There are also medals for military, police and security merit, and merit in a wide range of other areas including science and technology, agriculture, sport and arts and letters.
At the suggestion of the Assembly's Social Affairs Commission, the government agreed to the inclusion of a "4th October Order", named after the date in 1992 when the peace agreement was signed between the government and the Renamo rebels. This decoration will recognise "extraordinary acts in the struggle for the preservation of peace and concord, and in promoting the values of peace, socio-economic inclusion and citizenship".
The honours and decorations will be awarded by the President of the Republic, on proposals made by the Assembly, the central and provincial governments, the defence forces, the municipalities and educational and research institutes.
All matters concerning honours will also be discussed by a new National Commission on Honours and Decorations, with representatives from a wide range of areas.
The bill was discussed and approved by the Social Affairs Commission and by the Assembly's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Commission. All Renamo members on these commissions voted in favour of the bill, and did not demand further amendments.
Yet in the Thursday plenary, Renamo deputies demanded that honours should also be named after people and places associated with Renamo's apartheid-backed war against the Mozambican state.
They wanted an Order named after Andre Matsangaissa, the man recruited by the Ian Smith regime in Rhodesia to head Renamo when it was being set up in 1976. There were even suggestions for an Order named after the current Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, even though he is still alive.
They demanded a "Maringue Medal", named after the district in central Mozambique where the Renamo headquarters was located during the war of destabilisation.
Renamo deputy Lucia Afate, who voted in favour of the bill in the Social Affairs Commission, in the plenary clamed it ignored "other dates, other places and other historical personalities of the country", and was therefore an attack against national unity.
The Frelimo majority rejected any attempt to equate those who liberated the country with those who attempted to destroy it. "We reject the rewriting of history", declared Danilo Ragu.
The bill passed its first reading by 188 votes to 48. All members of Frelimo and of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) present in the chamber voted in favour, and all members of Renamo voted against.