Maputo — Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique's former rebel movement Renamo, on Thursday declared that his decision to seize control of six northern and central provinces as from March is “irreversible”.
Dhlakama made this threat in a telephone press conference with journalists in the northern city of Nampula. But Dhlakama was not in Nampula - he was believed to be speaking from a bush hideout in the Satunjira region, in the central district of Gorongosa.
According to a report in Friday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, he said that the matter was “closed”, and there was nothing to negotiate. Everything had been decided, Dhlakama claimed, and he was now just dealing with “inner-party correspondence”, before starting to govern the six provinces (Sofala, Manica, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa) in March.
Asked precisely who would be doing this governing, Dhlakama refused to reveal any names. He said a list is being drawn up of provincial governors, district administrators and heads of administrative posts and localities. To cover all the localities in six provinces such a list would have to contain many hundreds of names.
Dhlakama said that not everybody on the list is from Renamo - it included people from other parties, including the ruling Frelimo Party, as well as academics and “members of civil society”. The likelihood that anyone in Frelimo would participate in Dhlakama's coup is, of course, remote.
Dhlakama has repeatedly claimed that his takeover will be peaceful - unless he faces resistance. But the existing governors, administrators and other official are unlikely to go away, just because Dhlakama tells them to. His threat amounts to setting up a parallel administration, recognized by nobody else in the world.
When journalists insisted that Dhlakama gives some names of people in this parallel government, he refused because “they might be harassed” before his government was declared.
He claimed that his provincial governments would show both the public and “the thieves” (i.e. the current government) “how a territory is governed democratically”.
“We want to teach how to govern a country”, he said.
“We shall govern by complying with the principles of democracy”.
“We are not going to exclude anybody, regardless of their party political colours, or any other condition”, he added. “We shall be an inclusive government”. He was notably short on practical details, particularly on how a Renamo government would be financed.
“This is not propaganda”, Dhlakama insisted. “We are going to govern the provinces where we won”. He was referring to the habitual Renamo claim that it had come top of the poll in these six provinces in the October 2014 general elections.
But this claim is grossly exaggerated. Dhlakama himself topped the poll in the presidential election in five provinces - Sofala, Manica, Zambezia, Tete and Nampula - but in the parliamentary elections Renamo only won a majority of votes in Sofala and Zambezia. In the elections for provincial assemblies, Renamo secured a majority in Sofala, Zambezia and Tete. As for the sixth province mentioned by Dhlakama, Niassa, Frelimo won a clear victory there in all three elections.
He admitted that his planned seizure of power would violate the Mozambican constitution, but he alleged that nobody in Mozambique respects the Constitution. Dhlakama claimed that President Filipe Nyusi violated the Constitution by forming a government “although he knows he did not win the elections”.
Once again, Dhlakama claimed the election results were fraudulent, even though they were held under electoral legislation that had been amended in February 2014 to include all of Renamo's demands. At that time, Dhlakama claimed the laws were proof against any attempt at fraud. Only after Renamo lost the elections did Dhlakama change his tune and claim that there had been generalized fraud. He has never produced any evidence that could explain the million vote gap between him and Nyusi.
Dhlakama also denied that any members of the Renamo militia are defecting - although a regular trickle of these defectors have told reporters that they have left the harsh conditions of the Renamo bush camps, and are accepting the government's offer of places in the armed forces (FADM) and the police.
Dhlakama claimed this was all “cheap propaganda”, and that “in Renamo, there are no desertions”.