Maputo — Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo declared on Monday that its leader, Afonso Dhlakama, will only register as a voter when security returns to those areas of the central province of Sofala where he is currently hiding.
At the end of the 54th round of dialogue between Renamo and the government, the head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, told reporters “during our work today we did not discuss matters concerned with the elections, but we believe that each of us, as Mozambicans, needs security in order to register”.
Macuiana added that, if everything depended on Renamo, then the discussion on the terms of reference for foreign observers monitoring a cessation of hostilities would have ended by now, thus creating security that would allow Dhlakama to go to a voter registration post.
In reality, Sofala was as peaceful as any other part of the country until Renamo, in the voice of the head of its information department, Jeronimo Malagueta, announced last June that it was resuming military hostilities.
At the time Dhlakama was living at a Renamo military base at Satunjira, in Gorongosa district. The armed forces (FADM) overran Satunjira on 21 October, and since then Dhlakama has not been seen in public. He has, however, been in contact with journalists via mobile phone, and is believed to be somewhere in the Gorongosa mountain range.
Voter registration began on 15 February and is due to end on 29 April. Registering as a voter is a requirement for anyone planning to stand as a candidate in the presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections scheduled for 15 October. If Dhlakama fails to register, his name will not be on the presidential ballot paper.
Several Renamo officials have called for an extension to the registration period, but on Monday, the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Abdul Carimo, told reporters the CNE had received no official request for an extension. If such a request was received, he said, it would be considered.
Renamo boycotted last year's municipal elections, just as it boycotted municipal by-elections in 2011 and 2012. It would thus not be altogether surprising if it opted to boycott this year's general elections.
The main beneficiary of a Renamo boycott would certainly be the other significant opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
Currently there are only eight MDM parliamentary deputies, compared to 51 from Renamo, and 191 from the ruling Frelimo Party. But if Renamo drops out of the picture in October, the MDM can expect a dramatic increase in the size of its parliamentary group.
And if Dhlakama fails to register, the presidential election will essentially be a two horse race between the Frelimo candidate, former defence minister Filipe Nyusi, and the MDM leader and mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango.