13 March 2017

Mozambique: Rift Between Nampula Mayor and MDM Grows Wider

Maputo — The rift between Mahamado Amurane, mayor of the northern city of Nampula, and his political party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), has grown wider, with Amurane now demanding a public apology from the party's leader, Daviz Simango.

Interviewed in Monday's issue of the independent daily “O Pais”, Amurane said reconciliation with Simango would only be possible if Simango accepted responsibility for the split, and apologized for the “political lynching” the Nampula mayor claims to have suffered.

Amurane, who is also a member of the MDM Political Commission, gave his version of the background to the crisis, and particularly of a meeting of MDM members in Nampula in late 2016, chaired by Simango. “I was clearly defamed by almost everyone who spoke, before the complicit gaze of Daviz Simango”, he said.

Simango had come to Nampula to re-establish harmony among the Nampula MDM members, “but the way he chaired the meeting aimed to achieve anything but the reconciliation for which his presence had been requested”, said the mayor.

During the meeting, Amurrane recalled, he was accused of disloyalty towards the MDM, of working with the ruling Frelimo Party, and of “expelling workers from Nampula Municipal Council because they were members of the MDM”,

He replied by saying that, since it was obvious he no longer enjoyed the support of the MDM, it would be better for the party to start looking for another mayoral candidate for the 2018 municipal elections.

“I will not change”, said Amurane. “I will continue to defend the interests of the state and of the citizens of the municipality. At the same time, I shall continue to expel those who are corrupt , and all those who break the law and the rules”.

Simango responded, he said, with the remark that “politics is not for children. Children do not play politics”.

He recalled an earlier disagreement with Simango at a meeting of the MDM Political Commission in September, discussing possibly constitutional amendments. There was unanimous agreement on all issues, except how provincial governors should be elected.

Simango proposed indirect election - that is, the voters would, as now, elect the Provincial Assembly, and that Assembly would elect the governor from among its members. Initially, Amurane's was the only voice calling for the direct election of governors. Thus the voters would be faced with ballot papers for the assembly and for the Governor - and, as Amurane's opponents were swift to realize, the person they chose for governor would not necessarily come from the majority party in the Assembly.

Initially, all the members of the Political Commission sided with Simango. Amurane recalled the MDM General Secretary, Luis Boavida, explicitly stating that indirect elections would allow a greater degree of party control over the governor.

“By means of indirect election, we, as a party, will have greater control over the governors in the provinces where we win”, Boavida supposedly said, “unlike what happens now in some municipalities where the party has lost control”.

Amurane did not give up, approached several other members of the Commission during an interval, and then demanded that the discussion be reopened. It was then that three other members (Venancio Mondlane, Maria Moreno and Linette Oloffson) came out in favour of direct election.

Eventually, so did the head of the MDM parliamentary group, Lutero Simango (older brother of Daviz), who said it would be better to end the discussions and opt for direct elections. Daviz then yielded, and switched to supporting direct election.

A further point of friction, Amurane told “O Pais”, was that he rejected a demand that the Municipal Council should build an MDM office in Nampula.

“I explained that I can't build an office of a political party, a private entity, with public funds”, Amurane said. “We can't try to do what we say we are fighting against”.

In a second interview, with the independent weekly “Savana”, Amurane declared “The people are more important than the MDM”, and that Mozambican society would never advance “as long as we don't take off our political party shirts when we are in government positions”.

He thought it wrong that people in senior positions, either in municipalities or in central governments, were told they could not contradict the positions taken by their political parties. “In my opinion, this is very wrong”, he said. “We have to position ourselves to defend the majority in order for this society to advance”.

In Nampula, he continued, he staffed the Municipal Council with those he regarded as competent, regardless of whether they were supporters of the MDM or of other parties. “I don't look at the party a person belongs to, I look at whether he is competent to undertake a task in terms of providing municipal citizens with services”, Amurane said. “That's what the rulers of this country need to do”.

When the “Savana” journalist asked if he was leaving the MDM, Amurane refused to answer on the grounds that the question was just “speculation”. The reporter persisted on this line of questioning, asking why Simango had not attended a recent meeting of the MDM Political Commission held in Nampula. “Ask the President of the MDM (Simango)”, he replied.

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