Maputo — With less than two days to go before the end of the voter registration period, Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE) has still not taken a decision on the request from the former rebel movement Renamo to extend the period.
Renamo made the request last Tuesday, alleging that there are still large numbers of potential voters to be registered particularly in the two most populous provinces of Nampula and Zambezia.
At about 10.30 on Monday morning, CNE spokesperson Paulo Cuinica told AIM that the CNE was about to hold a plenary session, and one of the matters on the agenda would be the Renamo request.
As of last Tuesday, 22 April, the 4,078 registration brigades set up by the CNE's executive wing, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), had registered 9,484,374 voters, which is 77.72 per cent of the estimated potential electorate of 12,203,727.
Nine brigades, who should have been registering voters in rural parts of Gorongosa, district, in the central province of Sofala, have still been unable to start their work because of clashes between government forces and Renamo gunmen.
Despite confident STAE predictions that they would be able to start their work last Thursday or Friday, in fact they are still in Gorongosa town.
Cuinica said he expected the nine brigades to depart for their registration posts “at any moment”. The CNE was just waiting for confirmation “from both sides” that it was safe for the brigades to advance.
Renamo and the government forces, he said, were “working out some military details”.
Renamo demanded that no members of the police or army should accompany the brigades, and promised that it would guarantee their security.
Although the government accepted this imposition over a week ago, it seems to have made no difference on the ground.
After clashes on Thursday and Friday, the government asked Renamo to give a formal commitment (presumably in writing) that the brigade members would be safe.
Asked about this on Saturday, Meque Bras, one of the CNE members appointed by Renamo, declined to comment, on the grounds that he was in Gorongosa representing the CNE and not Renamo.
Cited in Monday's issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, Bras said “for the brigades to work on the ground, there are some adversities of a military nature we have to overcome, and I cannot go into details. There are strong contacts between the government and Renamo so that these can be overcome.
But I can guarantee that by Monday the brigades will be operating at their posts in the interior of Gorongosa”.
But by mid-morning on Monday, they were still in Gorongosa town. Even if they open the registration posts by midday, they will have a day and a half to register several thousand people (perhaps as many as 20,000) - unless the CNE decided to extend the registration period.
Asked about Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, Cuinica confirmed that he has still not registered. He said the CNE has no idea where Dhlakama is.
However, it is generally believed that he is somewhere in the densely wooded slopes of the Gorongosa mountain range - which makes it likely that, if he registers, it will be at one of the Gorongosa posts.
Registration as a voter is a pre-requisite for anyone intending to stand in the presidential election scheduled for 15 October.