Maputo — The Mozambican police on Sunday used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a parade by members and supporters of the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, marking the end of the Renamo election campaign in the municipality of Alto Molocue, in the central province of Zambezia.
The Alto Molocue district police commander, Antonio Mandjendje, justified the police action, which was taken to avoid the Renamo parade clashing with a march of the ruling Frelimo Party, which he feared might lead to disorder.
"Renamo was marching into the Frelimo motorcade which was entering the municipal stadium for the close of the campaign", said Mandjendje. "My colleagues asked for the Renamo march to go round the other side. But they didn't agree to the police request. To avoid the worst, the police had to use rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse those who did not accept police instructions".
The Renamo district political delegate, Fernando Mario, said he did not understand the police position, since Renamo had informed the police beforehand of the route its march would follow.
This was the second time the police resorted to rubber bullets and tear gas during the election campaign in Zambezia. On 29 September, the police used these weapons against supporters of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), on the grounds that "they were trying to change the route of their march so that it would collide with a Frelimo march".
In the Zambezia provincial capital, Qelimane, Frelimo Political Commission member Manuel Tome, urged the city's voters to use the next two days to think deeply about how to vote to secure the future of Quelimane.
As in all previous Mozambican elections, the last 48 hours before voting is a "quiet period" for reflection, in which no campaigning activities are allowed. In this period, voters are supposed to weigh up the choices before them, and make their decision.
Speaking at the close of the Frelimo Quelimane campaign, Tome said "we want the citizens of Quelimane to feel proud of their city. Frelimo has you in its heart. With this pride, we want to rescue the neglected history of Quelimane, so that together we can build the city we want".
The Frelimo mayoral candidate, Carlos Carneiro said the pillars of Frelimo's programme for running the city included "the consolidation of peace, national unity and reconciliation, good governance, decentralisation and the fight against corruption, social development and human capital, the local economy and the financial sustainability of the municipality".
The time had come, Carneiro said, for Quelimane to stop being ruled from abroad - a reference to the constant foreign trips, mostly to Europe, of the current mayor, Manuel de Araujo. Only Frelimo, he said, could free Quelimane from Araujo's "damaging and ruinous mismanagement".
Araujo was elected mayor of Quelimane in a 2011 by-election, on the MDM ticket. He was re-elected with a convincing majority in 2013. But just three months ago Araujo defected from the MDM to Renamo, and Renamo promptly made him their mayoral candidate.
This may yet prove a costly mistake for Araujo. The government sacked him as mayor of Quelimane, citing an article in the law on the administrative supervision of municipalities which states that municipal officials who switch parties lose their position.
Araujo has appealed against the government decision to the Administrative Tribunal, which has not yet ruled on the matter.