The leader of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), Daviz Simango, has given his support to the illegal measures taken by the interim mayor of the northern city of Nampula, Manuel Tocova.
After mayor Mahamudo Amurane was assassinated on 4 October, Tocova, as chairperson of the Nampula Municipal Assembly, automatically took over as interim mayor. Although municipal legislation limits the powers of an interim mayor, allowing him only to undertake acts of routine, day-to-day management, Tocova set about reshaping the entire Municipal Council. He sacked all the councillors who had worked closely with Amurane, and appointed ten councillors and six heads of administrative posts whom he trusted. They included people whom Amurane had sacked on suspicion of corruption. Both Tocova and Amurane were members of the MDM, but over the past year a bitter conflict erupted between Amurane and the MDM leadership, and Amurane promised that he would run for a second term of office, but not as an MDM candidate.
The Nampula branch of the Public Prosecutor's Office warned Tocova that he had no power to sack or appoint councillors. But he went ahead, and the case was sent to the Nampula City Court where Tocova was tried for disobedience and sentenced to three months imprisonment, suspended for two years. A few days later the Nampula Administrative Tribunal ruled that the dismissals and new appointments were null and void.
Cited by the television channel STV, Simango said "if the measures taken by the interim mayor of Nampula are for the good of the municipal citizens, then Manuel Tocova has the unconditional support of the party".
"For the MDM, all actions which contribute to good management, and to serve well the citizens in the cities governed by the MDM, have our support", Simango added. "The MDM believes that the interim mayor analysed the situation and concluded that the best way of fully satisfying the citizens of Nampula was to appoint new councillors. So he acted according to the circumstances".
He said the MDM leadership had played no part in Tocova's decisions. "There is no interference by the party leadership", he stated.
As for Tocova's trial on charges of disobedience, Simango claimed this was a "political" trial intended to intimidate Tocova and the MDM. "The speed with which the case was heard", indicates this", he claimed.
The normal criticism of Mozambican courts is that they are too slow, but Simango was accusing the Nampula court of acting too quickly. In reality, summary trials are perfectly normal in cases of minor offences where there is no dispute over the facts, no investigation to be held, and no witnesses to call.