Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has set up a commission consisting of six former Renamo guerrillas and one jurist who will assist him in discussions with President Armando Guebuza.
Introducing the team to reporters at his bush camp in Satunjira, in the central district of Gorongosa, Dhlakama said he had formed this team to help him discuss matters of defence and security with Guebuza.
The team is headed by a former Renamo secretary-general, Ossufo Momade, who is now head of the Renamo security department. The other five former guerrillas are Mandava Meque, Jose Manuel, Antonio Muzorewa, Raimundo Taio and Renato Martins.
The team will be assisted on the legal side by Ezequiel Gusse, who was appointed by Renamo to the 2007-2012 National Elections Commission (CNE). Renamo has refused to appoint the two members to which it is entitled to the new CNE, which took office earlier this year.
According to a report in Thursday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais", Dhlakama told reporters that Renamo's main concern is to end what he called "the climate of instability".
But the country is not unstable - people and goods move around the country unhindered with the exception of some parts of Sofala province, notably the 100 kilometre stretch of road between the Save river and the small town of Muxungue.
It was in Muxungue that Renamo murdered four members of the riot police in April. In mid-June the head of the Renamo information department, Jeronimo Malagueta, publicly threatened attacks on the Save-Muxungue road.
A few days later Renamo kept this promises, attacking buses and trucks on the road and killing two people. The danger led to the establishment of a system of military convoys to protect vehicles along the road.
The government thus considers that the only source of tension is Renamo itself, and put, as a matter of urgency, the question of disarming Renamo on the agenda for the dialogue between the government and Renamo which has been taking place in Maputo for the past five months, without any significant results. The Renamo delegation to these talks has refused to discuss the issue.
Dhlakama said the new commission will not replace the current team at the dialogue, which is led by a senior Renamo parliamentarian, Saimone Macuiana. It would deal exclusively with defence and security matters, in order to "simplify" the projected meeting with Guebuza.
"Mozambicans cannot remain hostage to two political parties, Frelimo and Renamo", Dhlakama said. "The country has been living disturbed moments since early April, a fact which is holding back our economy, and thus perpetuating still further the suffering of Mozambicans".
"I, Afonso Dhlakama, have said and I say again that I am prepared for a frontal dialogue with the President of the Republic, at any place, to overcome this crisis as quickly as possible", he added.
But Dhlakama has placed conditions on the meeting, He said once again he would not leave Satunjira and travel to Maputo, unless the government removes the police and military units which he claims are encircling his base.
"Nobody will make me change my mind", he said. Only if the police units (whom he disparagingly referred to as "kids") were removed, would he go to Maputo and meet Guebuza in the presidential offices there. The government, however, has repeatedly made it clear that it will not accept dictates from Dhlakama on where it should station the defence and security forces.
Dhlakama also claimed that the dialogue with the government in Maputo was going well. "For anyone who knows Frelimo, and I know it well, the negotiations are on a good path", he said. "Some of our demands have been accommodated".
When journalists pressed him on this, he refused to give any further explanation, and said he would only be willing to speak further on the matter as from next Monday.
Dhlakama's optimism is in sharp contrast to the repeated complaints by Macuiana that the government has refused to yield on what Renamo regards as its central demand - namely for "parity" between Frelimo and Renamo on the CNE.
The dialogue appears to be going nowhere - last week the government said there could be no session because its members were occupied with other tasks, and this week it was Renamo who said its delegation was too busy (as it happened, they had gone to Satunjira).