Maputo — Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party has strongly condemned the threats by the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, that it will send armed men to the polling stations during next Wednesday's municipal election to block alleged Frelimo fraud.
On Thursday, in a message sent from the Renamo military base in the central district of Gorongosa, the interim coordinator of the Renamo Political Commission, Ossufo Momade, claimed that Frelimo had hatched a plan to steal the elections, and that the Renamo militia (whom he called "rangers") could intervene to stop it.
This alleged plan involved bussing in people from outside the municipalities to vote en masse for Frelimo. These people would not only come from Mozambique but also from Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Reacting to these accusations, the Frelimo Central Committee Secretary for mobilisation and Propaganda, Caifadine Manasse, speaking in the northern city of Nampula, said they lacked any sense and were absolutely groundless. They were of great concern precisely because they came from the Renamo Coordinator, and were made on the "Day of Peace" - the 26th anniversary of the signing of the General Peace Agreement between the Mozambican government and Renamo in Rome on 4 August 1992.
On the anniversary of the Peace Agreement, said Manasse, it had been hoped that Momade would say something in line with the speech of President Filipe Nyusi who had spoken of the efforts to secure a definitive and lasting peace.
Instead, Manasse added, Momade had lost an opportunity to build his own identity as someone leading a peace process in Mozambique.
"It's also worrying because Renamo has lost its way", he claimed. "It has been assaulted as a political party and there are people who came from the MDM (Mozambique Democratic Movement), and they are controlling Renamo, which is living in an extremely disturbed environment".
This is an extraordinary statement and is the opposite of the truth. Ossufo Momade has never had anything to do with the MDM. And far from MDM members taking Renamo over, Renamo has deliberately enticed senior figures out of the MDM by offering positions to them (examples are Venancio Mondlane in Maputo, Manuel de Araujo in Quelimane, and Ricardo Tomas in Tete).
As for the threats to send Renamo gunmen to the polling stations, Manasse said "the intention is to manipulate public opinion and frighten the voters. At this time, anything that threatens the Mozambican people is not useful".
"We in Frelimo will not allow this kind of threat to society, because we want to continue building the rule of law in a democratic state", he added.
Claims of Frelimo recruiting vast number of people who are not entitled to vote are nothing new. Renamo has regularly made claims that Frelimo is bringing in foreigners to vote for it, but no foreigner has ever been caught casting a ballot at a Mozambican polling station.
As for bringing in Mozambicans from outside the municipal area, this claim was made insistently during the campaign for the mayoral by-election in the northern city of Nampula earlier this year. But it was the Renamo candidate, Paulo Vahanle, who won that election - whereupon Renamo immediately stopped talking about mysterious busloads of people infiltrating Nampula from outside the municipality.