Maputo — "It makes no sense for people to be killing other Mozambicans in the bush in the name of democracy, because we are practicing democracy right here!”, declared Prime Minister, Alberto Vaquina, in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Thursday.
Winding up a debate on the government's plan and budget for 2014, Vaquina said such discussions “demonstrate the democratic openness of our country towards living harmoniously with differences”.
He contrasted the parliamentary group of the former rebel movement Renamo with what he called “the other Renamo” - the gunmen who are looting and killing in the central province of Sofala.
He said he was convinced that “if the members of the other Renamo who, believing what they hear from their leaders, behave like fugitives in the bush and kill other Mozambicans, if they were to enter this plenary session and witness the environment of calm and harmony, not only would they be surprised, but they would understand the falseness of the arguments which drove them to embark upon hatred and crime”.
If they could watch the Assembly at work, “they would understand the national and plural dimension of the country”. They would reach a sense of belonging “to this Mozambique which is theirs, but also mine and yours, this Mozambique which belongs to all of us and which has such a large and generous heart into which all differences and all forgiveness will fit”.
Vaquina stressed that the plan and budget are not a wish list. “Given the immense needs and concerns that Mozambique faces, we must courageously define priorities, based on the understanding that the activities with which we begin can influence or speed up the conditions for the other activities which are apparently sacrificed. That's what happens when we give priority to education, health and food production. Because we believe that these three areas are the starting point that will facilitate achieving the rest”.
All activities required funding, he pointed out, “and we don't yet have the financial capacity to cover all our needs. But with work, more work, and ever more work, we shall, day by day, meet the existing challenges”.
“We will not salve all the problems affecting our fellow citizens, our families and our communities all at once”, Vaquina said. “But we have to start somewhere, and above all we must have the necessary courage to explain to our people that not everything will be done today, and that the fight against poverty will take many years of intensive work”.
There were clear signs that the fight against poverty was bearing fruit. New companies, new businesses, new opportunities for employment and self-employment were appearing throughout the country.
“We can say that the jobs created are not enough to employ all Mozambicans, and that's true”, he said. “But it's not true or honest to say that there are fewer jobs than there were yesterday, or that we are poorer than we were yesterday - unless the intention is to discourage and demobilize Mozambicans from their efforts to improve their lives”.
During the debate, Renamo deputies once again tried to claim that the attacks on the main north-south road in Sofala were not carried out by Renamo gunmen at all, but were the work of government forces.
Jose Manteigas said it was “impossible” for Renamo to have dug trenches across the road (though this is precisely what Renamo did to hinder traffic during the 16 year war of destabilisation). He claimed it must have been the riot police who dug up the road. Manteigas had obviously not read the interview given on Monday by Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama to the paper “Canal de Mocambique”, in which he admitted to ordering the attacks on the road.
Citing the recent attacks on health centres, Frelimo deputy Carlos Siliya said “the banditry of yesterday has reappeared”, and told the Renamo benches “you are interrupting the peace that Mozambicans had enjoyed for the past 21 years”.
Mateus Katupha backed him up, declaring “Renamo behaves like sheep in the day, but as tigers at night. And we in Frelimo have tolerated this”.
He found it absurd that the opposition would reject the plan and budget, “but then they'll go to the Secretary-General of this Assembly and ask when their salaries for this month will be ready”.
For Renamo, Arnaldo Chalaua complained that the use of the term “bandit” was unparliamentary language - but in the next breath declared “it's Frelimo, which kills day and night, who are the bandits”.