Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has accepted the decision by the Constitutional Council, the country's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, to reject Renamo's appeal against the disqualification of Venancio Mondlane, its candidate for mayor of Maputo in the municipal elections scheduled for 10 October.
At a Tuesday press conference, the Renamo national election agent, Andre Majibire, said that, although Renamo did not agree with Constitutional Council decision, it had no choice but to accept it, and would press ahead with another mayoral candidate.
He will almost certainly be the number two on the list of Renamo candidates for the Maputo municipal assembly, Herminio Morais, a former Renamo general during the war of destabilisation.
"We deeply regret the exclusion of Venancio Mondlane who would have given a new dynamic to Maputo city", said Majibire. But he rejected any idea that Renamo would boycott the municipal elections (as it boycotted the 2013 elections).
Mondlane fell foul of a clause in the legislation on municipalities which states that any elected municipal official who resigns from office, may not be a candidate in the next round of local elections. Mondlane had been elected to the Maputo municipal assembly on the ticket of the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), in 2013. The following year he was elected an MDM member of the national parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. He then resigned his municipal seat, since nobody may hold parliamentary and municipal seats at the same time.
In July Mondlane announced his defection to Renamo, and Renamo immediately made him head of its list of Maputo assembly candidates for the October election - which meant he would become mayor, if Renamo won.
The party he had betrayed, the MDM, requested that the National Elections Commission (CNE) disqualify Mondlane. A slim majority on the CNE supported the MDM request, but Renamo appealed against disqualification to the Constitutional Council.
The Council's ruling, published on Tuesday, found that the CNE was right, and that Mondlane's 2014 resignation from the municipal assembly meant he is not eligible to stand for election in October.
Majibire accepted that there is no appeal against Constitutional Council decisions. "Unfortunately, there is nowhere else we can appeal", he said. "We can only regret it, but we are not going to stop working, so that we can take revenge for this persecution and win the elections".
"In Maputo, we shall advance", he said. "Our list has not been rejected". He did not confirm that Morais will be the mayoral candidate. Formally, that decision will be taken by the Renamo Political Commission.
He claimed that some political parties wanted to win elections before any votes had been cast "by excluding their potential adversaries", and accused Frelimo and the MDM of forming a coalition against Renamo.
The spokesperson for Frelimo, Caifadine Manasse, told reporters the Constitutional Council decision "shows that Mozambique is a democratic state under the rule of law, where the primacy of law prevails".
Renamo's purpose in putting forward a candidate such as Mondlane, he argued, was "to destroy the MDM".
Indeed, Renamo has made a determined effort to poach senior members of the MDM - including the mayor of Quelimane, Manuel de Araujo, and the man who would have been MDM candidate for mayor of Tete, Ricardo Tomas. All defected to Renamo at about the same time, in what looked like a concerted attempt to disrupt the MDM.
Manasse said Renamo only had itself to blame for its failure to observe the legislation on municipal elections. Renamo had plenty of time to prepare for these elections. Since it is represented in parliament, it had participated in the debates on the electoral law and (in July) it had voted in favour of a new version of the law.
Just like the old one, the new law contains the clause banning people who have resigned from municipal office from standing in the next elections. Two months ago Renamo had no objection to this, but now it alleges that the law is unconstitutional.
"Renamo participated in all the laws we currently have on elections", Manasse pointed out. "And it participated with a great deal of weight, since it was Renamo that forced us to have a politicised elections commission".
He was referring to the 2014 law on the composition of the CNE, which ensures that the CNE is dominated by the three parliamentary parties (Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM). This was a concession made to Renamo to ensure an end to Renamo military hostilities prior to the October 2014 general elections. (That turned out to be a short truce, since, after losing the elections, Renamo resumed hostilities in late 2015. It was to take direct talks between President Filipe Nyusi and the then Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, to secure a lasting truce in December 2016).
Manasse thought that Renamo "was not prepared for these elections", and urged it to "work within the law".
Meanwhile, the MDM has replaced all of its candidates who had switched their allegiance to Renamo and on Sunday, the party's leader, Daviz Simango, the mayor of Beira, presented all 53 of the MDM's mayoral candidates at a meeting in Beira.
Simango was optimistic about the MDM's chances, and said he was "not shaken by the desertions" of men such as Mondlane and Araujo.