Maputo — The Mozambican government on Friday denied opposition claims that, during the floods crisis of January and February, party political criteria were used in emergency relief.
Speaking during the second day of a debate on the floods, in the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, the Minister of State Administration, Carmelita Namashalua, declared “it is not, and never was, the practice of the government to save people’s lives in accordance with their political affiliations or religious beliefs”.
“When floods, cyclones and other extreme events occur, they do not choose party colours – we are all equally affected”, she said.
Namashalua insisted that relief goods should only be distributed by the official relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC), and not directly by donors to wherever they may see fit.
Distribution “is, and will always be, coordinated by the INGC to avoid the concentration of support in a particular area to the detriment of other places that were equally affected”, she said. “This coordination of the management of donations, through a specialized agency, allows us to control the quality of the goods that are donated, especially foodstuffs, before they are channeled to the beneficiaries”.
Some opposition deputies had claimed that flood victims had died in the accommodation centres set up by the government. Namashalua denied this. All 117 deaths that had taken place during the present rainy season occurred outside the accommodation centres.
Far from people dying in the centres, children were born there. Namashalua said that while there was no record of a single death in the centres, 230 women had given birth there.
“Education, health and sanitation services always operated in the accommodation centres”, she stressed.
These centres were places of temporary shelter for victims of disasters, and were closed immediately after search and rescue operations were over and plots of land were demarcated in areas identified for definitive resettlement.
The Minister also pointed out that the role of the South African air force in the flood relief operations “was not a mere act of charity”. In fact, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, had taken the decision to phone up his South Africa counterpart, Jacob Zuma, and ask for this support.
Namashalua’s statements had no impact on deputies of the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, who continued to insist that the government had handled the floods crisis in an incompetent and partisan manner.
Renamo deputy Francisco Maingue claimed that the ruling Frelimo Party had tried to milk the crisis for electoral gains. His evidence for this was that district administrators involved in the distribution of aid were seen wearing Frelimo T-shirts.
“The government is not interested in saving people’s lives, but in trafficking in timber”, he declared (a reference to the illegal export of Mozambican timber to China).
Frelimo deputy Danilo Ragu retorted that suffering people don’t care what T-shirt their rescuers are wearing.
Another Renamo deputy, Carlos Manuel, claimed that not only was there discrimination in the distribution of aid, but that district administrators and other officials had stolen donated goods. He offered no evidence for this, and did not say whereabouts in the country such abuses had supposedly happened.
The spokesperson for the Frelimo parliamentary group, Edmundo Galiza-Matos Junior, accused Renamo of being “totally alien to the suffering of Mozambicans”. They had never given any support to the flood victims – the mobilization of solidarity among the public had been undertaken by Frelimo.
Frelimo was on the grounds working with the victims, “while Renamo just watches on television”, he accused.
For Renamo, Anselmo Vitor claimed that his party had supported the flood victims, but it had preferred to do so without any publicity. “We did what we could”, he said, but had not called the press.
Galiza-Matos did not believe in this invisible solidarity. He accused Renamo of doing nothing to assist during the crisis, and then coming to the Assembly to make “baseless, unfounded accusations”.
He warned that Renamo “is digging its own grave”, for Mozambicans “will not fall into the trap” of believing them at the next election.