12 November 2013

Mozambique: Detentions and Minor Clashes Mar Election Campaign

Photo: Renamo
Renamo soldiers at training in the bush (file photo).

Boane — The police have detained two members of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), in the town of Boane, 30 kilometres west of Maputo, accused of vandalising election campaign material of the ruling Frelimo Party.

According to the Frelimo candidate for mayor of Boane, Jacinto Loureiro, and the party's spokesperson, Matias Bila, the two were caught red-handed destroying propaganda material and the case was immediately reported to the police.

The two were held at a Boane police station for questioning, and were released on Tuesday morning. The police have opened a case file against them, but they will await their trial in freedom.

Under the law governing the municipal elections, anyone found guilty of destroying election material of their opponents is punished with a jail sentence of up to six months, and a fine of between six and 12 times the monthly minimum wage. The lowest of the current statutory minimum wages, for agricultural workers, is 2,500 meticais a month. So the minimum fine for this offence would be 15,000 meticais - about 500 US dollars at current exchange rates.

Bila told AIM that on Sunday the MDM members daubed a billboard bearing Loureiro's portrait with mud, and ripped up smaller Frelimo posters. “We had to arrange buckets of water to clean up the billboard”, he added.

“During the campaign, we are guided by the electoral law, and so we notified the police of the case”, he said, “so that measures could be taken in defence of a peaceful and orderly campaign without disturbances”.

A similar incident happened in the central province of Manica. According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the “Mozambique Political Process Bulletin”, published by AWEPA (Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa) and the Mozambican anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), nine MDM members have been detained over the last three days for destroying Frelimo posters.

According to the spokesperson for the Manica provincial police command, Vasco Matusse, the MDM members were caught in the act. He claimed that clashes between the two rival political forces had been avoided thanks to the police presence on the streets.

But he noted that Frelimo too has committed electoral offences, by using state-owned vehicles in its campaign in the provincial capital, Chimoio. “Frelimo used state cars and drivers with greater intensity over the weekend”, said Matusse. “Many of the cars bearing institutional number plates were plastered with posters of Frelimo and its mayoral candidate, Raul Conde”.

But there are, as yet, no reports of anyone being arrested for this offence, which carries a jail term of up to a year, plus a fine of between 10 and 20 time the monthly minimum wage.

In the Mueda municipality, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, two people, one an MDM member and the other an apparent Frelimo sympathizer, are reported to have been injured in brawls. The police, however, declined to comment on these cases.

In the western city of Tete, the spokesperson for the Frelimo election office, Domingos Macajo, accused the MDM of “violence and vandalism” against Frelimo members. He claimed that on Saturday MDM members had “invaded” the Frelimo offices in Tete, and had smashed the windows of the car of the Frelimo mayoral candidate, Celestino Checanhandza.

In the central municipality of Catandica the Frelimo candidate for mayor, Tome Maibeque, accused his MDM opponent, Rangel Mairosse, of being ineligible for office since he does not live in the municipality.

Mairosse denied the charge and said that he has lived in Catandica for the past five years. To stand for municipal elections, a candidate must have lived in the municipality for at least six months. Since the National Elections Commission (CNE) has put Mairosse's name on the ballot paper, his paperwork must have convinced the CNE that he is a bona fide Catandica resident.

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