Mozambique: Local Election Turns Nasty

(File photo).

Local elections have turned nasty, reflecting splits within Frelimo and MDM; the three way battle between MDM, Renamo and Frelimo; and the highly politicised nature of the electoral system.

Early Wednesday morning (22 August) the offices of AJUDEM, the citizens list headed by Frelimo dissident Samora Machel Jr ("Samito"), were ransacked and cheques and financial documents stolen. And the municipal assembly of Quelimane voted Wednesday to dismiss as Manuel de Araujo as mayor. Araujo had been in Renamo, then moved to MDM and was elected mayor, and has now returned to Renamo as head of its list (and thus mayoral candidate) for 10 October elections. Renamo did not stand in 2013 municipal elections so the assembly has only Frelimo and MDM members, who joined together to vote unanimously to dismiss, but Araujo says the assembly does not have the ability to dismiss him. (O Pais 23 Aug)

The two National Elections Commissions decisions on 19 and 23 August have generated a huge polemic. The CNE put in question the candidacies of the two main opposition candidates for mayor of Maputo. Venancio Mondlane, Renamo head of list, was removed because the law says an assembly candidate cannot have resigned from the previous assembly, which Mondlane did when he was elected a member of parliament in 2014. And four people have resigned from the AJUDEM list, which made it one person short, so the CNE rejected Samito's whole list.

Savana (24 Aug) reports that candidates for AJUDEM were threatened - a Maputo city official was told to resign from the list, and a Ministry of Health worker was threatened with transfer to Cabo Delgado. Zitamar (22 Aug) reports that a Ministry of Lands worker was told he had to choose between his job and AJUDEM and a staff member of the Frelimo youth wing (OJM) was dismissed.

Teodato Hunguana, a Frelimo stalwart and former Constitutional Council judge, in an article in O Pais (23 Aug & Savana 24 Aug), said the CNE was wrong, and that Mondlane's resignation from the municipal assembly was imposed by the law that says a member of parliament cannot be in a lower assembly, and thus cannot count as a "resignation" in legal terms. Hunguana also said that the law gives AJUDEM the right to replace the four resigners, even though the deadline has passed. Thus, in his interpretation, both opposition leaders will be able to stand.

The result has been angry and personal attacks on Hunguana on social media and between the two wings of Frelimo. The vote in the CNE was on party grounds (Frelimo voting to eject Mondlane from the list and Renamo voting to keep him), and reflects the highly partisan nature of the entire electoral system, with political parties naming CNE members, senior figures in the technical secretariat STAE, and even polling station staff. Ironically, this was imposed by Renamo as part of a 2014 peace deal, and now has come back to bite Renamo. But it responded with veiled threats to suspend the current peace talks if the decision is not reversed.

Frelimo CNE members used to laugh at the way Renamo CNE members would phone the late president Afonso Dhlakama for instructions during CNE meetings. But at the meeting on 22 August, it was the Frelimo members who suspended the meeting in order to take advice from their party leadership.


Both cases will be appealed to the Constitutional Council, whose members are appointed on a party basis (not dissimilar to the US supreme court). Members are senior lawyers and act with some autonomy (for example forcing a rerun of the 2013 Gurue municipal election due to Frelimo fraud), but also taking advice from their parties. Hunguana's views on Venancio Mondlane - that it was not a voluntary resignation so the rule does not apply - seems to have broad support, so Mondlane might be reinstated. Legal opinion is more divided on whether AJUDEM has the right to fill the gaps in its list at this late date, and keeping Samito out is more important to the Frelimo party machine, so judges may be under more pressure to back the rejection of the AJUDEM list. jh

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