Maputo — Parliamentary deputies from Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, on Thursday repeated their by now habitual claim that loans from the District Development Fund (FDD) are only granted to members of the ruling Frelimo Party.
The FDD started life in 2006 as an allocation of seven million meticais (about 235,000 US dollars, at current exchange rates) from the state budget to each of the 128 districts. It was to be lent to people with viable projects that could boost food production and create jobs. It is still referred to colloquially as “thee seven million”, although the amounts have subsequently increased, and districts are now treated differently, depending on their size and population.
Renamo claims the whole scheme is just a way of diverting state funds into Frelimo members’ pockets. During Thursday’s debate on the 2013 Plan and Budget in the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, Jose Palaco declared “the money is distributed among the comrades”. He calculated that the total amount lent by the FDD to date is in excess of 250 million US dollars, “which would have been enough to build three more bridges across the Zambezi”.
Likewise, the Renamo group in the Assembly’s International Affairs Commission, in its written submission on the budget, claimed the FDD was an example of corruption and illicit enrichment since the money “only benefits the comrades”.
But this time, several Frelimo deputies had done their homework, and discovered that in their districts FDD beneficiaries included Renamo members. Thus Ana Paula Cordeiro named four people in Mandimba district, in the northern province of Niassa, who were “active members of Renamo”, who had received loans varying in size from 50,000 to 100,000 meticais, and had not yet repaid anything.
Marguerita Laforte named another four Renamo members, from Nacaroa district, in Nampula, who had also taken loans from the FDD, and had not made any repayments.
Maria da Luz Antonio, a Frelimo deputy from Sofala province, often regarded as a Renamo stronghold, said that a large number of members of Renamo and other opposition parties had benefitted from the FDD in various Sofala district.
A Frelimo deputy from Manica province said he knew of 200 members of the opposition with small projects in Machaze district alone, who had benefitted from FDD loans averaging 80,000 meticais.
“The district fund is not distributed on a partisan basis”, Sabado Malendza told the Renamo benches. “What is your response to the lists my colleagues have revealed? We’re only not giving more lists for time constraints”
The Renamo beneficiaries “don’t pay, and when they’re asked to pay, they say they’re being persecuted because they’re members of the opposition”.
In fact, a failure to repay the FDD loans has been recognised as a problem across the country, regardless of the political affiliation of the debtors.
Repayment rates are reported as being extremely low, at less than ten per cent, in most districts.