Maputo — Delegations from the Mozambican government and the main opposition party, Renamo, met again in Maputo on Monday, but the talks were, as usual, deadlocked over the country's electoral legislation.
There had been a hiatus of two weeks in which no meetings took place. First the government side, then Renamo said they were busy with other pressing matters. When the talks resumed no fresh ideas were brought to the table.
Renamo continued to insist on “parity” in the National Elections Commission (CNE) - by which it means that Renamo and the ruling Frelimo Party should appoint exactly the same number of members to the CNE.
This is essentially the same proposal Renamo brought to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, last December, after almost two years of discussions of the electoral legislation in a parliamentary commission, and between the heads of the political party parliamentary groups.
Renamo wanted a CNE consisting entirely of appointees of political parties - four chosen by Frelimo, four by Renamo, four by the Mozambique Democratic Movement (DM), and two by extra-parliamentary opposition parties. There was no room at all for civil society appointees in the Renamo scheme.
In December, the Renamo proposal was defeated by the combined votes of Frelimo and the MDM. The CNE which was then established has 13 members - eight from political parties, (five appointed by Frelimo, two by Renamo and one by the MDM), three nominated by civil society organisations, a judge nominated by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy, and an attorney chosen by the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office.
Since Renamo is boycotting the forthcoming municipal elections, it has refused to appoint its two CNE members.
Renamo is using the dialogue with the government to reintroduce a proposal that was democratically voted down in December. Apparently Renamo believes that if it can somehow force the government to accept a “political agreement” on the matter, this will oblige the Assembly to reverse its December vote.
At a press conference after this abortive round of dialogue, the head of the Renamo delegation, parliamentarian Saimone Macuiana, said that impasse prevailed because the government was not interested in dealing with questions of the electoral legislation
“I repeat there has been no advance since the government did not even allow us to present proposals with regard to the composition of the CNE and of STAE (Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat)”, complained Macuiana.
He said the meeting could have advanced if the government had “accepted the principle (of parity) in general, even if not agreeing with the number, But they didn't even accept this”.
Macuiana was being disingenuous - the government has made it repeatedly clear in previous sessions that it is precisely the principle of parity it does not accept, and has no intention of thrusting down the throat of the Assembly. Indeed in early August, the head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, stated that as far as the government was concerned the question of “parity” was exhausted and he wanted to move onto other matters on the agenda.
But once again, Macuiana said Renamo would only move on to the rest of the agenda if the disagreement over the electoral legislation is overcome. Yet the whole agenda for the dialogue was proposed by Renamo - it was Renamo that had demanded discussions on defence and security, on separating the state apparatus from Frelimo, and on unspecified economic matters, yet now Renamo refuses to talk about them until it secures “parity” on the electoral bodies.
The difference between this round of dialogue and the previous ones is that both Renamo and the government have appointed military commissions to advise on matters of defence and security, ahead of a possible meeting between President Armando Guebuza and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
The government hoped that at least the two military teams might have a fruitful discussion. But it was not to be - the government side, led by Maj-Gen Julio dos Santos Jane, turned up at the conference centre where the dialogue is being held, only to find that the Renamo team has not yet arrived in Maputo.
The head of the Renamo delegation at the dialogue, parliamentarian Saimone Macuiana, said the Renamo military team was still at Dhlakama's bush camp at Satunjira, in the central district of Gorongosa.
Jane told reporters he had not been told of Renamo's absence. “The information we have is that they confirmed they were coming”, he said. “We shall wait at the Conference Centre until we hear to the contrary”.
He stresses that the government commission is ready to listen to the Renamo concerns on defence and security issues.
Macuiana's excuse for the no-show of the Renamo military team was that Renamo had not yet received the full list of members of the government side.
“There was no correspondence between the sides”, he said. “We haven't received their list, but they know the composition of our team”. And he insisted that, although both sides had set up military commissions, the time had not yet come to discuss defence and security.
“We are still interested in discussing matters concerning the electoral legislation”, Macuiana insisted.
For his part, Pacheco said the deadlock prevailed because Renamo had brought to the table a matter that had already been thoroughly debated.
“We expressed our entire willingness to advance with other subjects”, he said, “and Renamo replied that the condition for dealing with the other points is to close the question they want, which is a political agreement on electoral matters”.
But the electoral question was not a prerequisite for discussing economic questions, or separating the state from political parties, he stressed - two of the other items which Renamo had put on the agenda.
He stressed that the discussion on the electoral laws has been exhausted and the government will only discuss it again if new materials are brought to the table.
He did not know why the Renamo military team was absent. “We asked Renamo about the reasons, and it seemed that the Renamo delegation did not have a mandate to make any statements about the matter”.
The government has now announced the full composition of its defence and security team. In addition to Jane, it includes Brig. Freitas Norte (Director of the personnel department of the armed forces), Xavier Tocoli (Director of Order in the Interior Ministry), Arsenia Massingue (General Inspector of the Interior Ministry) and Simeao Macave (also from the Interior Ministry).