Maputo — Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party has declared its determination to win back control of the central city of Quelimane, which fell into the hands of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) seven years ago.
Speaking in Quelimane on Monday, Frelimo General Secretary Roque Silva told his Party's members "I have come here to see how you are organised to recover Quelimane".
Cited by the independent television station STV, Silva was speaking after leading a march of Frelimo militants from a Quelimane garden to a rally in the centre of the city. He declared that winning control of Quelimane is "an imperative" for Frelimo.
The loss of Quelimane was a self-inflicted wound. Frelimo ordered the mayor of the city, Pio Matos, to resign in 2011. He obeyed the party's instructions, and in the ensuing election, MDM candidate Manuel de Araujo cruised to victory. Araujo repeated that performance in 2013, and those elections also produced an absolute majority for the MDM in the Quelimane municipal assembly.
The situation has now changed because in July Araujo defected to the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, which promptly announced he would be its mayoral candidate in October.
But the municipal legislation states that if an elected official joins a party other than the one on whose ticket he was elected, not only does he lose his office, but he becomes ineligible to stand in the next round of municipal elections. Last week, the government stripped Araujo of his mayoral office and, although he is appealing, it seems unlikely that he will be able to run in October.
This may give Frelimo a chance to win back control of Quelimane. "The people of Quelimane deserve to be well governed, deserve to be led by people who are firm in following a single cause", said Silva. The challenge in the forthcoming elections was to defeat the candidates of both Renamo and the MDM.
Silva wanted a Frelimo victory in Quelimane as a present for President Filipe Nyusi "for all that he has been doing to guarantee peace and well-being".
He praised the President effusively, declaring "the country is being led by a great man, who can only be compared with God or with Allah. This man is called Filipe Jacinto Nyusi".