Maputo — The opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) has lost its candidate for Mayor of Maputo, Venancio Mondlane, who has categorically refused to run for his party.
This comes as something of a shock, since MDM members in Maputo have enthusiastically endorsed Mondlane as the party's candidate for mayor not once, but twice.
The first time was at a meeting in October. Then Mondlane had no problems in accepting the nomination, "With the strength that the MDM has in Maputo City, we believe that this will be an opportunity to improve the image of the capital, if we manage to win the elections", he declared, at the time.
With Mondlane's nomination, the MDM became the first party in the country to select a candidate for the municipal elections scheduled for 10 October.
On Friday, MDM Maputo members reaffirmed that they wanted Mondlane at the head of the list of candidates for the Maputo Municipal Assembly. Under the new system imposed by the constitutional amendments approved in May, the head of the list of whichever party or group wins the largest number of votes in the assembly election automatically becomes mayor.
As in October, the Friday decision was consensual - no other MDM member put his name forward to challenge Mondlane.
But Mondlane was not present at the meeting, and a few hours later he issued a statement refusing nomination. In a recording which he made and sent to the media, Mondlane declared "I am not the head of the MDM list. I will not be and I do not want to be head of the MDM list. I am not the MDM's candidate for mayor of Maputo".
The MDM members' announcement, he continue, "is false and it doesn't come from me. It does not have my consent. It is null and void".
On Saturday, the MDM General Secretary, Jose Domingos, said the party would respect Mondlane's decision, as long as he put it in writing. He added that the MDM political commission will meet on Monday, and will discuss who should be the Maputo candidate. The meeting will also approve the MDM mayoral candidates for the other 52 municipalities.
There has been speculation that Mondlane may stand for Mayor of Maputo, as head of the list of the rebel movement Renamo. The late Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, was known to have been in contact with Mondlane shortly before his death on 3 May.
But if Mondlane were to stand as the Renamo candidate for Mayor he would almost certainly lose his seat in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
Mondlane did well when he stood as the MDM mayoral candidate in 2013. He cut the majority of the ruling Frelimo Party from 85 to 58 per cent of the vote. Bu there is no guarantee that those voters will automatically support Mondlane if he switches party from the MDM to Renamo.
The MDM suffered a second blow this weekend when another prominent member, Antonio Frangoulis, announced that he is leaving the party. Frangoulis was once the Maputo City director of the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC), and from 2009 to 2014 he was a deputy in the Assembly of the Republic for Frelimo. He abandoned Frelimo for the MDM in 2014, and ran as an MDM parliamentary candidate for Maputo province in the general elections of that year, but did not win a seat.
Speaking on Friday night on a programme of the independent television station STV, Frangoulis accused the MDM of being "anti-democratic". He claimed that the MDM does not hold "internal elections", and so could not be described as a political alternative for Mozambique.
Frangoulis also alleged that many young people are now abandoning the MDM because they have concluded that it does not behave democratically.