Maputo — The interim mayor of the northern Mozambican city of Nampula, Manuel Tocova, has gone into hiding, claiming that he has suffered death threats, according to a report in the independent daily “O Pais”.
Tocova's disappearance follows his attempt to sack municipal councilors and heads of Nampula administrative posts loyal to Mayor Mahamudo Amurane, who was assassinated on 4 October.
Although the municipal legislation places limits on the powers of an interim mayor, stating that he can only carry out routine acts of day-to-day management, Tocova threw out Amurane's team and replaced them with councilors loyal to himself, including some whom Amurane had sacked on suspicion of corruption.
He was warned by the Nampula branch of the Public Prosecutor's Office that his actions were illegal. But this did not deter him from swearing in the new councillors. A week ago he was tried by the Nampula City Court on a charge of disobedience and sentenced to three months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Despite his disappearance, Tocova is still in cell phone contact, and told “O Pais” that he preferred to go into hiding because he feared for his life. He also alleged he was being framed for the murder of Amurane.
“They've produced an individual who says I paid him 50,000 meticais (about 820 US dollars) to assassinate Amurane”, he claimed in an interview with the independent daily “O Pais”. He did not say who “they” were.
Tocova alleged that on Saturday armed individuals entered his house and threatened a security guard. The same men then intercepted the Councillor for the Municipal Police and searched his car, apparently believing that Tocova was inside the vehicle. Tocova said the councillor recognised the individuals as members of the police force.
He compared himself to Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Renamo rebels, who is currently living in a bush camp somewhere in the central district of Gorongosa. “I have become the second Dhlakama”, he said. “I am fleeing inside my own country, in my own city. I am in an unknown place”.
But in an interview with the daily newssheet “Mediafax”, Tocova denied that he is a fugitive. He told “Mediafax” that he had gone to Monapo district on Saturday because he wanted “to relax a bit” after the court proceedings, “and to be closer to my family”.
Thus he told “O Pais” he is in Nampula, but “Mediafax” that he is in Monapo. He intended to visit his father's grave in the locality of Itoculo on Monday. If this ceremony ended early, he would return to his post in Nampula. “It's not true that I'm on the run”, he said - though that is exactly what he had told other media.
In Nampula, the struggle for power continued on Monday between the Councillors loyal to Amurane, and those imposed by Tocova. The councillors whom Tocova had sacked believed they could return to their desks on Monday.
They interpreted a ruling given on Friday by the Nampula Administrative Tribunal as meaning that Tocova's changes to the composition of the Municipal Council are null and void. But Tocova's appointees gave the ruling a completely opposite interpretation, and claim it allows them to stay at their posts until a ruling is given on a more complex procedure, that of “litigious appeal”.
Amurane's team attempted to return to their offices on Monday, but found them still occupied by Tocova's appointees. Eventually the latter moved out, but they took with them the keys to municipal vehicles.
According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias” there were confrontations in the Nampula administrative posts between those whom Tocova had sacked and those he had appointed. In the Namicopo administrative post, Tocova's men broke down the door to seize control of the office.