Maputo — The Mozambican police announced on Sunday that they have launched an operation to locate and detain the gunmen who assassinated a prominent member of the rebel movement Renamo the previous day.
Jeremias Pondeca was a member of the Council of State, a consultative body that advises the President of the Republic, and one of the Renamo delegation on the Joint Commission between the government and Renamo set up to prepare a face-to-face meeting between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. He was gunned down on Maputo's Costa do Sol beach, where he had gone for his daily exercise routine.
Maputo City police spokesperson Orlando Mudumane told reporters that the murder was committed by four men who travelled to the beach in a Toyota Runx. They shot their victim at point blank range, then drove off.
At the scene of the crime, the police found seven spent cartridges from an AK-47 assault rifle. However, it seems that only four bullets hit Pondeca - two in the head and two in the abdomen.
“We don't know the motive for the crime”, Mudumane said, “but the Criminal Investigation Police is on the ground in order to identify those responsible for this macabre crime”.
Pondeca lived in the neighbouring city of Matola, but owned two establishments in the Costa do Sol area. He habitually opened them after his early morning jog along the beach. Renamo sources, cited in Monday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, said it was obvious that the killers had studied Pondeca's routine, and simply lay in wait for him on Saturday.
Pondeca left Matola at around 05.00, and the murder seems to have occurred at about 07.00. The body was discovered by local fishermen, who informed the police. Pondeca was carrying no identification documents and he was not immediately recognized. So the police sent the body to the morgue at Maputo Central Hospital.
Pondeca's family knew that something was wrong when he did not return on Saturday afternoon or evening, but it was only on Sunday morning they discovered that there had been a shooting at Costa do Sol. They then went to the police station to report him missing. The police told them a body had been sent to the morgue. Accompanied by Renamo members, Pondeca's relatives went to the morgue where they identified his body.
The head of the Renamo delegation on the Joint Commission, Jose Manteigas, was clearly shaken by the murder. He was in tears as he told the independent television station STV “Jeremias Pondeca has been barbarously assassinated. He was a man who devoted himself to the cause of Renamo and the cause of democracy”.
Antonio Niquice, the spokesperson for the ruling Frelimo Party, told AIM that Frelimo was shocked at the killing and expressed solidarity for the grieving family. “We are concerned when citizens fall victim to murder”, he said. “We are concerned because all citizens have the right to life”.
Asked what impact the assassination might have on the talks between Renamo and the government, Niquice said “it's too early to make any forecasts”.
Daviz Simango, the mayor of Beira, and leader of the second largest opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), said “We condemn this way of solving problems. Right now, the interpretation is that this is a political action”.
“The state institutions must clear up this case”, Simango added. It was yet another reason for investing in criminal investigation, and he repeated the MDM's demand that the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) should not be part of the Interior Ministry, but should be under the jurisdiction of the Public Prosecutor's Office.