Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has changed his mind about dialogue with the government, and now wants more time for talks.
According to a report in Thursday's issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, Dhlakama on Wednesday urged Renamo members not to embark on violence, and to give more time for the dialogue between the government and Renamo to continue until consensus is achieved.
He was speaking at the closing session of a meeting of the Renamo National Council, held at Dhlakama's bush camp in Satunjira, in the central province of Sofala.
His position came as a surprise since, just two days earlier, at the opening of the meeting, Dhlakama had given the government an ultimatum of just a few days to conclude the dialogue successfully. On Monday, Dhlakama had declared “if by the end of next week, there is no consensus, I shall call my delegation to Satunjira, and I shall personally solve the problem”.
But on Wednesday Dhlakama said that, following his bellicose speech of Monday, he had come under pressure from members of the public, academics, religious figures and foreign and domestic investors to change tack. He was therefore proposing to the National Council that Renamo should be patient, and show confidence in its team at the dialogue, led by prominent Renamo parliamentarian. Saimone Macuiana.
Dhlakama took this relatively conciliatory position, despite a report from Macuiana which claimed that the government is not willing to yield on any of the questions raised by Renamo. Two months have passed, he said, and no consensus had yet been achieved on the first point on Renamo's agenda, namely the amendment of the electoral legislation.
In the debate on this report, all the members of the Council who spoke, according to “O Pais”, declared that Renamo should give no more time to the dialogue.
Some made inflammatory speeches, which were strongly applauded, demanding that Renamo should not allow this year's municipal and next year's general elections to go ahead.
Although Dhlakama ignored the opinions of the Council on continuing the dialogue, he seemed to agree with them over the Renamo tactic of boycotting the municipal elections.
He stressed that, unless the legislation was changed, Renamo will not take part, and will do all in its power to stop them from being held.
Earlier in the year, Renamo had threatened to make voter registration in the 53 municipalities impossible. But registration took place between May and July, without a single Renamo attempt to disrupt them.
Dhlakama also claimed that members of the armed forces (FADM) are deserting to Renamo, many of them bringing guns and ammunition with them. The most recent case, he said, was of two soldiers who turned themselves over to Renamo on Wednesday.
But he did not give their names, much less show them to the journalists covering the National Council meeting. There is thus no way of checking his story.
Dhlakama claimed he was withholding their names to protect their families from government reprisals.
He also made the unlikely claim that he has been receiving support from senior members of the government and of the ruling Frelimo party, which he took as a sign that Frelimo cannot remain in power much longer.
He launched an attack on Deputy Interior Minister Jose Mandra who on Tuesday had declared that Dhlakama habitually makes threats and the country has become used to them.
Although such threats had to be taken into consideration, Mandra said, what was important was to ensure that units of the defence and security forces “are in position and prepared to ensure peace, stability and public security”.
Dhlakama called Mandra “a traitor inside Frelimo” and “an ass”, claiming that he wanted more Renamo attacks, notably against the companies exporting coal from Tete province along the Sena railway - though nothing in Mandra's remarks will bear such an interpretation.