12 September 2018

Mozambique: Renamo Still Trying to Reinstate Venancio Mondlane

Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, is making a second attempt to reinstate Venancio Mondlane as its Maputo mayoral candidate in the municipal elections scheduled for 10 October, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent newssheet "Mediafax".

The National Elections Commission (CNE) disqualified Mondlane on the basis of a 1997 law on municipalities which states that anyone who resigns from a municipal office may not stand in the next round of municipal elections.

Mondlane was elected a member of the Maputo municipal assembly in the local elections of 2013, when he was still a member of the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). The following year he was elected as an MDM member of the national parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, and resigned his municipal assembly seat.

When the CNE found this resignation constituted grounds for disqualifying Mondlane, Renamo appealed to the Constitutional Council, the highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law. But the Council found that the CNE had acted correctly, and Mondlane was indeed not eligible to stand in the October elections.

Renamo had tried to argue that the clauses in the 1997 law cited by the CNE are unconstitutional, but the council retorted that a basic feature of the Mozambican system is that all norms in the country's legal order "are presumed constitutional unless declared unconstitutional by the relevant body" - i.e. by the Council.

And nobody had ever asked for the Council's view of the 1997 law on municipalities. The Council cannot simply declare a law unconstitutional just because that is what a political party wants.

For its second appeal, Renamo has changed its ground. According to a Renamo source cited by "Mediafax", Renamo is now asking the Constitutional Council to annul the CNE's decision on the grounds that the complaint against Mondlane was brought by "an illegitimate body", namely the MDM.

It is hard to see why the MDM should be considered as any less legitimate than Renamo. Both are legally recognised political parties, both are standing candidates in all 53 municipalities, and both have appointed members to the CNE, and to all other electoral bodies.

The MDM is certainly trying to take down all of its former members who defected to Renamo, and in Mondlane's case it found a strong legal argument for doing so. But the current bitter dispute between Renamo and the MDM should not be a factor weighing on the Constitutional Council's decisions.

The spokesperson for the CNE, Paulo Cuinica, confirmed that this second Renamo appeal to reinstate Mondlane was deposited on Monday. The CNE must give its opinion on the appeal, before forwarding it to the Constitutional Council.

Cuinica told AIM on Wednesday that the CNE has not yet had time to analyse the Renamo document. He was not entirely sure what Renamo could possibly want after its first appeal had been categorically rejected by the Council. It was not clear to him whether the Renamo document could really be described as an appeal, or was a simple complaint.

Time is now running out, and CNE members are busy with the preparations for the elections. A list of polling stations (about 5,000 in all) has been drawn up, and was published on Tuesday in the largest circulation daily paper "Noticias".

CNE members are involved in training the people who will staff the polling station. Since each station should have seven members of staff, there will be about 35,000 of them. The CNE is also in charge of producing the election materials, notably the ballot papers, which will be printed in South Africa.

It is certainly impossible to print the ballot papers for the largest municipality, Maputo City, since there is a pending appeal to the Constitutional Council from AJUDEM (Youth Association for Development), which is running Samora Machel Junior ("Samito"), the son of the country's first president, as its mayoral candidate.

The CNE disqualified the entire AJUDEM list, on the grounds that it did not have sufficient supplementary candidates. AJUDEM disputes this, and the Constitutional Council has not yet ruled on the matter. The Council's decision will determine whether AJUDEM appears on the ballot paper.

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