20 June 2014

Mozambique: Beira Will Not Be Divided

Maputo — Mozambique's Ministry of State Administration has rejected as illegal the proposal made by the Sofala provincial government to divide the city of Beira in two.

Two alternative proposals were made for dividing the city.

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.

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 areas carved out of the city would form a separate Beira district, under an unelected administrator. The permanent secretary of the Sofala government, Claudina Mazolo, claimed that this decision was “irreversible”, and the city would be split in two some time later this year.

Far from being “irreversible”, the decision was quashed by the central government within a week. The Deputy Minister of State Administration, Jose Tsambe, met on Thursday with the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, and assured him that the city will not be cut in two.

A senior source in Simango's party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), assured AIM on Friday that the meeting had taken place, and plans to divide Beira had been thrown out. “It's back to square one”, the MDM source said.

This outcome was predictable, since the idea to carve up Beira was flagrantly unconstitutional. Article 274 of the Constitution states that changing the boundaries of any municipality requires prior consultation with the municipal bodies (the mayor, the Municipal Council and the Municipal Assembly). There had been so such consultation.

Furthermore, changes in the territorial administration are made by law, and not by administrative fiat. When the government proposed creating 13 new districts, by splitting existing ones, it did not simply issue a decree, but submitted a bill on the matter to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, which passed it into law last year.

Clearly dividing Beira, and shoving most of its existing neighbourhoods into a new Beira rural district would also have to be approved by parliament.

Had the Sofala provincial government persisted with its illegal plans it could have provoked serious trouble on the streets of Beira, where Simango and the MDM enjoy mass support. In last November's municipal elections, Simango was re-elected mayor with over 70 per cent of the vote.

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