Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, has changed its mind and is no longer demanding the presence of 'national facilitators and international mediators' before it resumes dialogue with the government.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, after the end of the 23rd round of dialogue, the head of the Renamo team, senior parliamentarian Saimone Macuiana, declared 'it is our understanding, as Renamo, that in the next rounds, the work will only begin when the national facilitators and international observers are at the table. We believe that, since there is no advance, it is fundamental that they should be at the table, following the debate'.
Macuiana specifically demanded the presence of Anglican Bishop Dinis Sengulane, and the Vice-Chancellor of the Polytechnic University, Lourenco do Rosario, as facilitators. The government, however, has repeatedly said that it sees no need for either facilitators or mediators.
On Thursday, the Renamo national spokesperson, Fernando Mazanga, overruled Macuiana. At a Maputo press conference he declared that the Renamo team will be at the city's main conference centre next Monday, for yet another round in the dialogue.
Nonetheless, he also demanded that 'the debate must make progress.
Neither we nor the Mozambicans are interested in permanent and constant impasses'.
And he continued to demand facilitators and mediators, although he no longer made their presence a condition for continuing the talks. He claimed that the presence of outsiders is necessary because nobody knows exactly what is happening at the dialogue meetings.
In reality, the positions of both sides are very well known because the heads of the government and Renamo delegations speak at press conferences immediately after the end of each round. But that was not enough for Mazanga, because he claimed that the versions given to the press by the two sides 'are contradictory'.
'Why can't we have a neutral element who can tell the Mozambicans what is going on?', asked Mazanga, 'We want transparency. Hence we are inviting other people so that we can understand each other. If we are wrong, they will tell us'.
Mazanga also demanded that the government pay all the expenses incurred by Renamo during the dialogue, mostly the repeated visits made by members of the Renamo delegation to the bush camp at Satunjira, in the central district of Gorongosa
The Renamo team had gone repeatedly to Satunjira. 'The government hasn't paid a penny to support our travel', complained Mazanga. 'We are not dealing with questions of Renamo and Frelimo. We are dealing with matters of the Mozambican state. So the government should pay these costs'.
Mazanga ignored the fact that Renamo already receives a state subsidy every month, because of its parliamentary representation, and can use that money for trips to and from Satunjira, if it so wishes.
Furthermore, last week the head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, said the government was in fact willing to pay the Renamo expenses. The only response from Renamo to this offer was a demand that he put it in writing.
Asked when Dhlakama would be willing to meet with President Armando Guebuza, Mazanga said 'if it depended on Renamo, then this meeting could happen very soon'. Such meetings should be fruitful, he added, 'because they are the guarantee of peace in the country'.
The matters Renamo wanted discussed in a meeting between Guebuza and Dhlakama were amendments to the electoral legislation and questions of defence and security.
He claimed that the government is not interested in such a meeting.
However, it is Dhlakama who has put conditions on the meeting. He has repeatedly said he will not go to Maputo, or anywhere else, to meet Guebuza, until the government withdraws the police and military units which, he claims, are encircling his Satunjira base.
The government, however, refuses to take orders from Dhlakama about where the police should be stationed.
Mazanga added that consensus between the government and Renamo is essential in order for Renamo to participate in the municipal elections scheduled for 20 November.
But that is now impossible. Renamo's boycott of the elections meant that it did not register to take part in them, and no lists of Renamo candidates were submitted to the National Elections Commission (CNE). At this late stage, when the CNE has already checked and accepted the lists from other parties and groups contesting the elections, an exception cannot be opened for Renamo.
Perhaps Mazanga's real meaning was that the law should be amended and the elections postponed, so that Renamo can take part. The government, however, has insisted that the elections should take place on schedule.
The dialogue is taking place because Renamo requested it. Renamo also submitted the agenda which consisted of four points - the electoral legislation, defence and security, separating the state from political parties, and unspecified economic matters. But Renamo has refused to move beyond the first point.
Initially Renamo demanded 'parity' with Frelimo on the CNE, but in September it changed this to a suggestion that Frelimo could appoint 50 per cent of the members of the CNE, with the rest divided between Renamo, other political parties such as the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) and civil society.
The government's fundamental objection is that changes to the electoral laws must be made by the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, and the government should not present the Assembly with a fait accompli cooked up in the government-Renamo dialogue.
Strangely enough, the latest Renamo proposal would give Frelimo more members on the CNE than it currently has. The CNE, under the laws passed last December, has 13 members. Eight are appointed by the parliamentary political parties (five by Frelimo, two by Renamo and one by the MDM), and three are drawn from civil society organisations. The last two are a judge appointed by the Higher Council of the Judicial Magistracy, and an attorney appointed by the Higher Council of the Public Prosecutor's Office.