Maputo — The interim mayor of the northern Mozambican city of Nampula, Manuel Tocova, says that he returned to the city on Tuesday night, and will be back in his office on Wednesday.
Contacted by the in dependent newssheet “Mediafax”, Tocova said “Yes, I'm in Nampula. I'm alongside the municipal citizens”.
He said he intended to continue “working for the good of the citizens of this municipality”, and has no intention of going into hiding, regardless of any harassment he might face.
On Monday Tocova had indignantly rejected claims that he was a fugitive on the run. This, he said, was just an attempt to damage his image.
But the source for the story that Tocova had gone into hiding was none other than Tocova himself. To prove this, the independent television station STV, on its Tuesday evening news, broadcast the recording it had made of a phone call with Tocova on Saturday.
In this phone call, Tocova said he was on the run because he had received death threats. He compared himself with Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Renamo rebels, who had gone into hiding in the bush 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”.
Yet on Tuesday, in a phone conversation with Radio Mozambique, which STV also played, Tocova denied he had ever been in hiding. He claimed that some people (whom he did not identify) were trying to depict Nampula as a city without a government. He said he had only left the city briefly, in order to attend to family business.
Asked by “Mediafax” about the Nampula mayoral by-election scheduled for 24 January, Tocova said he was not interested in it because “my mission is to work for the municipal citizens” - which sounds like a denial that he has any intention of running for mayor as the candidate of his political party, the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
Tocova suggested that the by-election was irrelevant. “I don't know whether the citizens of Nampula are interested in this election”, he said.
Meanwhile, a struggle for power is continuing in Nampula Municipal Council between the councillors appointed by the late mayor Mahamudo Amurane, murdered on 4 August, and their replacements appointed by Tocova.
Tocova has been repeatedly warned that he has no power to sack councillors and appoint new ones. Under Mozambique's municipal legislation, an interim mayor has limited authority, restricted to undertaking routine acts of day to day management.