Maputo — The interim mayor of the northern Mozambican city of Nampula, America da Costa Iemenle, is following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Manuel Tocova, by illegally sacking city councillors and appointing replacements.
This is precisely the behaviour that landed Tocova in trouble with the Nampula courts, earning him a three month suspended sentence for the crime of disobedience. Tocova was eventually forced out of his post as chairperson of the Municipal Assembly and interim mayor after the police arrested him for illegal possession of a firearm.
The legal position has now been made abundantly clear - it is that interim mayors can only undertake routine management of day-to-day affairs of the municipality in the interval between the death or resignation of an elected mayor and the ensuing by-election. They may not sack or appoint municipal councillors.
According to a report in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, last week Iemenle, almost clandestinely, swore the deputy chairperson of the Municipal Assembly into office as the interim chairperson, on the spurious grounds that he, Iemenle, cannot hold two posts at the same time, those of Assembly chairperson and of interim mayor.
But the municipal legislation does not envisage the position of interim chairperson of a municipal assembly, and the Minister of State Administration, Carmelita Namashalua, was quick to declare Iemenle's decision as null and void.
In a letter sent to Iemenle last Friday, Namashalua wrote “despite the explanation given, and in an act of total disobedience, disrespect and arrogance, you illegally swore into office and granted powers to the deputy chairperson of the municipal assembly, giving him the title of interim chairperson, a position that is not envisaged in the law”.
So she annulled the appointment, and urged the Nampula Assembly “henceforth to be guided by legality and discipline in the exercise of its powers, otherwise severe penalties envisaged under the law may be applied”.
Her warning seems to have had no effect. On Monday Iemenle did exactly what Tocova had done. He sacked councillors who had been loyal to the previous mayor, Mahamudo Amurane, assassinated on 4 October, and reappointed several of Tocova's men.
Iemenle made fewer changes than Tocova. Tocova had tried to sack ten councillors, while Iemenle was content to sack five. On Monday, Alexandre Caetano, Councillor for infrastructures, land management and town planning, Assane Raja (municipal police and inspection), Abduremane Andarusse (Women's Affairs, Health and Social Matters), Saide Ali (Economic Promotion, Markets and Fairs) and Reinaldo Pinto (maintenance and public works) were called into the municipality's human resources department and given letters informing them that they had been relieved of their duties.
Iemenle also sacked three heads of Nampula urban administrative posts - Tilia Waldemar (Namicopo), Armando Joaquim (Natikire) and Nergi de Jesus Miguel (Muatala).
Iemenle's dispatches are a clear challenge to the Nampula Administrative Tribunal which annulled the same measures when taken by Tocova.
Amurane's team have no intention of obeying Iemenle. Their spokesperson, Assane Raja, told reporters that the sackings are illegal, and the councillors purged by Iemenle will not leave their offices.
“It's clear that this country has a structure and we have the obligation to respect the guidelines given by our leaders”, said Raja. “We are not going to accept these dispatches”.
Once again Nampula is slipping towards a chaotic situation with competing forces struggling to control the municipality. This could force Namashalua to appoint a Management Commission to run the city prior to the mayoral by-election scheduled for 24 January, a suggestion first made during Tocova's brief reign, but apparently dropped after his arrest.
Iemenle, like Tocova, is a member of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), as was Amurane. But Amurane, although he never formally resigned from the MDM, effectively split from the Party, denouncing its leader, Daviz Simango, in a bitter and highly public dispute in the months preceding his death.