Maputo — Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, on Sunday released Jonas Gerente, a man Renamo had accused of poisoning a well in Gorongosa district, in an attempt to assassinate Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
According to a report in Monday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, a Renamo delegation led by the party’s Sofala provincial delegate, Albano Jose, took Gerente to the headquarters of the Vunduzi administrative post at about midday on Sunday.
Two vehicles drove up to the administrative post – one full of former Renamo guerrilla fighters, and the other containing Gerente’s family.
Jose announced that Renamo had decided to release Gerente because it had been informed that “Frelimo was planning to kidnap and execute this citizen and then blame Renamo, in order to discredit our President (Dhlakama)”.
So Renamo opted to deliver the supposed poisoner “to the administrative and police authorities, and in the presence of his relatives, in order to conform that he is safe and sound”.
“Our responsibility ends here”, said Jose. “Our main concern now is to find who sent him. We think that only he can explain this case”.
Gerente is just the latest of a series of people seized by Renamo and accused, either of spying for the Mozambican intelligence agency, SISE, or of trying to assassinate Dhlakama.
In what looked like a carefully staged event in front of television cameras, Gerente had confessed to pouring pesticide into the well. He claimed he poisoned the water at the request of his brother, Xavier Gerente, who promised him 20,000 meticais (about 678 US dollars). The money was to be brought by an unnamed police officer.
The Sofala provincial police commander, Joaquim Nido, denied that the police had anything to do with the Gerente brothers. Poisoning water supplies is a crime, he added, and if Renamo had a case against the men they had seized, it should turn them over to the police.
Right from the start the story was suspicious. Nobody was reported as falling ill, let alone dying, because of the supposedly poisoned water.
There was no explanation of where Gerente obtained the pesticide, and no sign of the packaging used to hold it. No samples of the water from the poisoned well were sent for laboratory analysis.
By holding Gerente and others who it has called “Frelimo spies”, Renamo has committed the crime of private imprisonment. Yet so far no attempt has been made to arrest any Renamo official in connection with these crimes.