Maputo — In the eight years since it was founded, in 2009, as a breakaway from the rebel movement Renamo, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) “has broken the political handcuffs on our country, proving that it is possible to think and act in a democratic manner”, declared the party's leader, Daviz Simango, on Tuesday.
Speaking at the opening of the MDM's second congress, in the northern city of Nampula, Simango, who is also Mayor of Beira, said “building a democratic space is a tough task. We have to preserve the MDM as a political party, with the unique identity it has built for itself, and not create a political front with the identity that each component wants for itself”.
Here Simango seemed to be referring to, and rejecting, the notion floated by some MDM members that the party should go into alliance with Renamo.
“We are a unit. We are a family, based on a centre-right democratic culture, which means guaranteeing freedoms and opportunities for all”, he said. “We cannot destroy mutual trust by individualist fragmentation”.
In words that eerily echo the concern for unity of the ruling Frelimo Party, Simango warned against divisions and a “predatory” approach to freedom of expression. “Division only interests those who are opposed to an idea”, he said. “And so, yes to freedom of opinion, but predatory freedom of opinion is not legitimate”.
The MDM had been set up “to provide new opportunities for the renewal of multi-party democracy”, he continued. It was not a case of “diversification for diversification's sake”.
For the MDM, “politics is not an end in itself”, stressed Simango, “but an instrument that allows us to change our society for the better”.
Politics, he warned, should never be used as “a trampoline” for those only interested in improving their own lives.
“Our success as a political party will not depend on appropriating public resources”, he said. “Our greatest wealth lies in hope, resting on ethical values and the desire for real change. If the MDM manages to catch Mozambican pluralist dignity, if it knows how to value political activity, and the respect for human beings, contributing to the moral improvement of our society, then we shall be on the right path”.
“Democracy does not function with powerful, arrogant parties”, Simango argued, “but with strong democratic institutions and with decent parties”.
“Democracy is only strong if the exercise of citizenship s strong”, he said. For that reason effective peace was not just a matter for dialogue between the government and Renamo, but demanded the participation of all citizens in discussing decentralisation and amending the Mozambican constitution. Restricting discussion to the government and Renamo “is to amputate our democracy and is also disrespect for the Assembly of the Republic (the Mozambican parliament)”.
Mozambican citizens do not want disagreements solved through violence, said Simango. “Tensions and conflicts should be dealt with through reasonable negotiations and not through force”.
Ideological opponents, he added, “should face each other in a climate of dialogue and free discussion. The legitimate interests of particular group should also take into account the legitimate interests of other groups”.
The MDM, Simango continued, wanted major constitutional changes, including the election of provincial governors, rather than their appointment by the President, and an expansion of the powers of the elected Provincial Assemblies.
“Undemocratic disputes in our provinces are the main justification for armed conflicts”, he claimed. “And development and modernity will only arrive with autonomous provinces, with their own powers”.
Alongside this, municipalisation, currently restricted to 53 cities and towns, should be extended to the entire country.
Simango said the MDM also wants to reduce the powers of the Head of State, “because no modern state has found prosperity under a totalitarian government”.
“Our main crisis is that we are not able to recognise our own weaknesses”, the MDM leader said. “We always find some way of blaming our weaknesses on others, or on natural disasters, or on some foreign hand. After 42 years of independence, 20 years of effective peace and four years of amputated peace, if Mozambique is still unable to produce enough for its sustenance, that is due mainly to us Mozambicans”.
Turning to the MDM slogan “Mozambique for all”, Simango said this “is a dream which can be transformed into a reality. It is an ideal, long exalted by poets and other artists. It is one of the most noble ideals for millions of citizens. It is a matter of the inclusion of men and women, of all ages, of all parts of the country, of all ethnic groups, races, religious beliefs, ideologies, cultures and professions”.
“We are all children of the same country, with the same rights and opportunities”, he declared.