Maputo — A court in the Maputo municipal district of KaMpfumo on Friday threw out the case against Herminio dos Santos, leader of the Forum of Demobilised Soldiers, on the grounds that there was inadequate evidence against him.
Last Tuesday, dos Santos led a peaceful demonstration of about 350 former soldiers outside the office of Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina demanding that the government pay the demobilised a pension of 20,000 meticais (about 664 US dollars) a month.
Although no arrests and no significant disturbances were reported at this protest, early on Wednesday morning armed police detained dos Santos at his home, although, according to his family, they had no arrest warrant.
It seems that the motive for the arrest was a scuffle during the Tuesday demonstration at which some of the demobilised soldiers seized a man whom they claimed was an agent of the state intelligence service, SISE, and deprived him of his pistol.
When dos Santos was hauled before the district court on Friday, the judge, Marina Augusto, could see no reason to hold him and ordered his immediate release.
According to a report in Monday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, during the brief hearing the court building was entirely surrounded by police. No explanation was given for the heavy police presence.
Later dos Santos told reporters he was tired of the “systematic detentions” he has suffered – this was the third time he had been arrested. He accused the government of harassment.
The Forum says it will continue to hold demonstrations in the coming period to demand pensions of 20,000 meticais a month. This sum is regarded as completely unrealistic since it is more than three times higher than the largest of the current statutory minimum wages. The monthly minimum wages in force since April last year range from 2,300 meticais for agricultural workers to 6,171 meticais for workers in financial services.
The Forum is one of several organisations claiming to represent demobilised soldiers. The Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs last week pointed out that the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, has already passed a “Statute of Veterans”, which covers the grievances of the demobilized soldiers.