17 April 2017

Mozambique: Mayor of Beira Withdraws Libel Suit

Maputo — The mayor of the central Mozambican city of Beira, Daviz Simango, has withdrawn a libel suit against the daily paper “Diario de Mocambique” (DM), according to a report in the latest issue of the independent weekly “Savana”.

An agreement to drop the suit was reached last Sunday after mediation by the Mozambican chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa).

The libel suit arose from statements by Albano Bulaunde, Sofala provincial delegate of the rebel movement Renamo, in 2015, which the paper reported. Bulaunde accused Simango of corruption, claiming that he was influencing and even paying international bodies to award him prizes for his municipal management.

PMR (Professional Management Review)-Africa, which is a division of C.J. Hattingh and Sons, a consultancy and research company based in South Africa, awarded him a prize in 2015 as “best pro-active leader”, and Beira was honoured as the best Mozambican municipality in solid waste management.

Bulaunde declared that Simango was not worthy of the prize, and accused the mayor of “spending a lot of the money of Beira's municipal citizens to win the prize”.

The claim of corruption thus came from Renamo, and not from DM, which merely reported it. Furthermore, before publishing Bulaunde's accusations, the paper interviewed Beira Council member Jose Manuel, who refuted all the Renamo claims.

MISA-Mozambique pointed out that not only was DM not the source of the corruption charge, but the paper had behaved correctly by hearing, and publishing both sides of the story.

In light of these facts, Rodrigues Luis, chairperson of the Beira nucleus of MISA-Mozambique, advised Simango to drop his libel suit. Simango took the request seriously and withdrew the suit.

Commenting on the incident, MISA-Mozambique said it showed the value of dialogue “which can bring divergent positions closer, dissipate misunderstandings and normalize relations between parties in conflict”.

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