Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo has recommended that the Renamo parliamentary group walk out of the room rather than participate in the vote on amended electoral laws that will be held in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, some time in the next fortnight.
Dhlakama, speaking at his bush headquarters in the central district of Gorongosa, announced this in an interview published in the independent daily "O Pais" on Friday. He said that he had spoken recently with the head of the Renamo parliamentary group (Angelina Enoque) "who told me that the discussions between the leaderships of the parliamentary groups about the electoral laws have failed".
"The intention of Frelimo is to have a vote on the laws", Dhlakama said, as if this were something unusual in a parliament. "Frelimo wants to keep things as they are so that it can continue to manipulate the election results. So I've recommended to the head of the parliamentary group that they abandon the room and we shall deal with the electoral laws from Gorongosa".
This threat not to participate in the vote is in line with the warning given earlier this week by the spokesperson of the Renamo parliamentary group, Arnaldo Chalaua, that his party might boycott future elections if the amended laws were not "consensual".
The term "consensus" in this context means a Renamo veto. Ever since the Assembly's Commission on Public Administration began discussing the electoral laws in 2010, Renamo has not moved from its demand that there should be an opposition majority on the National Elections Commission (CNE), and on its executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).
Renamo demands a 14 member CNE, all appointed by political parties – four by Frelimo, four by Renamo, four by the second opposition force in parliament, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), and two by the extra-parliamentary opposition parties. Renamo calls this "parity", but in fact it is a built-in opposition majority of ten against four.
The joint proposal from Frelimo and the MDM is for a CNE that consists of eight people appointed by the political parties in proportion to the number of seats they hold in the Assembly (five from Frelimo, two from Renamo and one from the MDM), three members chosen by civil society organisations, a judge and an attorney.
The idea of dealing with a set of laws in negotiations in Dhlakama's Gorongosa lair is not only unconstitutional, but it would also derail the electoral timetable.
Failure to pass the laws this month would make it impossible to appoint a new National Elections Commission (CNE) in time to hold municipal elections on schedule, in late 2013.
Dhlakama threatened that, if the government does not accept his demands, "the alternative that remains to us is to divide the country".
Dhlakama also claimed that Renamo has arrested five "spies" from the state intelligence service (SISE) and from the riot police (FIR). He said that two weeks ago "information came from the Renamo intelligence service that five people would arrive to spy in this area, three women and two men".
He said the five were three elderly women, one girl and an old man who was a veteran of Frelimo's war for independence.
"He said he was coming to see a traditional healer, whom he had known before independence", Dhlakama continued. "Only a mentally backward person could believe this".
He claimed that in reality they were FIR members "who wanted to corrupt the traditional healers to spy on our men scattered through the bush. It is lamentable that, 20 years after the peace agreement. Frelimo is sending its people here".
"Although I am here, I am not preparing war, since that can be prepared anywhere in the country", he said. "I am here to continue demanding peace and democracy, but they are still thinking about killing me".
He added that "coming to attack Dhlakama here in Gorongosa would be the end of the world".
Since superstition and belief in traditional medicine is rife in the Mozambican countryside, there is nothing at all strange about the old man's story, regardless of whether he is a veteran of the independence war.
Furthermore, if Dhlakama has the right to move around Gorongosa (as he does), then so does any other Mozambican citizen, even if Renamo regards them as "spies". Detaining the five is simply an act of kidnapping.
This is not the only illegality committed by Dhlakama's force in Gorongosa. To reach Dhlakama's base in the locality of Sanjundjira, the "O Pais" reporters had to pass through Renamo roadblocks. On several occasions, their vehicle was stopped by members of Dhlakama's "Presidential Guard" who submitted them to hostile questioning, in flagrant violation of the constitutionally-enshrined right to the freedom of movement.