Maputo — Manuel Tocova, who until Monday was interim mayor of the northern Mozambican city of Nampula, has been released from police detention, according to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent daily “O Pais”.
When he left the Nampula branch of the Criminal Investigation Service (SERNIC), after five days of imprisonment, Tocova declined to speak to reporters. His lawyer, Kantedza Mthini, was not much more forthcoming, saying merely “the work is under way. Our client is at liberty and is, in principle, continuing with his daily affairs”.
He said it was “not opportune” to speak of any bail that might have been paid. Reports had circulated that bail was set at 300,000 meticais (about 4,920 US dollars).
The police have charged Tocova with illicit possession of a firearm - a pistol he was hiring form Pedro Hussene, a former parliamentary deputy from the rebel movement Renamo, for 3,000 meticais a month. The police say they have found no link between this gun and the murder, on 4 October, of Nampula mayor Mahamudo Amurane.
Tocova's two positions, chairperson of the Municipal Assembly and interim mayor, are now taken over by America da Costa Iemenle. Da Costa was elected at an extraordinary session of the Municipal Assembly on Monday. He had previously been head of the majority group in the Assembly, that of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
At the meeting, the MDM demanded that da Costa be sworn into office immediately as interim mayor, arguing that decisions taken by Tocova had been annulled because he had never formally taken office.
But a representative of the Ministry of State Administration, Luis Aristides, told the Assembly this was not true, and that, under the municipal legislation, interim mayors are never formally sworn into office.
Da Costa's task is simply to handle the urgent and routine matters of the municipality until a new mayor is elected in the by-election scheduled for 24 January.
The real reason the Nampula Administrative Tribunal annulled Tocova's decisions was that he had exceeded his authority. Far from merely looking after day to day business, he had attempted to sweep out ten city councillors and six heads of administrative posts who had worked with Amurane and replace them with his own appointees. This measure was declared illegal.
A letter from Tocova, renouncing his position was read out: Tocova said he was leaving his positions “for personal and family reasons”, saying nothing about his detention.
After winning the vote, the 36 year old da Costa promised that he will represent the Municipal Assembly “with all my zeal”, and was open to working with all Assembly members, regardless of their political affiliation.
The ruling Frelimo party, which is in a minority in the Nampula assembly, holding 20 seats to the MDM's 24, declined to stand a candidate, and its members all cost blank ballots. The head of the Frelimo group, Pedro Kuliumba, described the situation in Nampula as “sombre, apocalyptic and tragic”.