14 June 2014

Mozambique: Proposals Made to Cut Beira in Two

Maputo — The representative of the central state in the Mozambican city of Beira, Jose Cuela Antonio, has proposed a new administrative division under which Beira would not only be cut in two, but would lose some of its most populous neighbourhoods, reports the independent television station STV.

All municipalities have a state representative, since there are some functions which, under Mozambican law, remain in the hands of state bodies and cannot be run by the municipal council. But the state representative normally keeps a low profile - in this case, however, the proposals by the previously obscure Cuela Antonio, are bound to produce a major clash with the Beira Municipal Council and Municipal Assembly, both of which are currently in the hands of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

Antonio made two proposals for possible changes to the Beira boundaries. In the more radical one, Beira would be reduced to a fairly small area centred on the port. Only eight of the current 26 neighbourhoods would remain under an elected municipal jurisdiction - the other 18 would form part of surrounding districts, run by unelected district administrators.

Beira would lose densely populated neighbourhoods such as Munhava and Manga, and all the city's expansion areas. Key facilities such as the city garbage dump, the cemetery and the airport would fall outside of municipal jurisdiction.

In an alternative, less radical proposal, Beira would keep 13 neighbourhoods, including Munhava. But in either case, the Municipal Council would lose buildings and facilities that it has built over the past few years with municipal funds.

The Mayor of Beira, and leader of the MDM, Daviz Simango, gave a press conference on Friday in which he denounced what he regarded as a central government attempt to divide the city. He pointed out that the proposed new administrative division contradicted laws approved by the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, as well as the city development plan.

Simango warned of a likely hostile reaction from the people of Beira if the government attempts to truncate their city.

Many Mozambican municipalities have outlying rural or semi-rural areas, and a case could be made for removing them from municipal jurisdiction. But when the proposal only concerns one city, and that city is an opposition stronghold, then the impression is given that the people of Beira are being punished for the way they vote.

Even if the proposal is adopted it could not possibly be put into practice before the next municipal elections, scheduled for 2018. Municipal elections were held last year on the basis of the existing city boundaries, and on the understanding that the term of office of a mayor and of a municipal assembly is five years.

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