Maputo — Quelimane (Mozambique), 9 Oct (AIM) - The Mozambican police in the central province of Zambezia have appealed to voters to avoid illegal acts during Wednesday's municipal elections, so that the police are not obliged to intervene to restore public order.
"Do not oblige us to use force, for we would not like this to happen", said the director of public order and security in the Zambezia Provincial Police Command, Antonio Paulo, at a Monday press conference in the provincial capital, Quelimane.
He warned that the police will not tolerate people who have already voted staying in the polling stations afterwards.
"The police are urging all voters to go to the polls, but to do so in a disciplined manner. That's the law", he said. "The police will not tolerate voters remaining in the polling stations after they have voted".
Once voters have cast their ballots, Paulo added, they should go home and wait for the results to be announced.
Officials in both the main opposition parties, the former rebel movement Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), have urged their supporters to hang around the polling stations "to protect the vote" - even though both parties voted in favour of the law that specifically outlaws this behaviour.
Past experience suggests that large numbers of people staying in the vicinity of a polling station, believing that fraud is somehow being committed, is a recipe for disturbances.
People allowed to stay inside a polling station are the seven members of the polling station staff (MMVs), accredited journalists and observers, and the polling station monitors appointed by the competing political parties and groups. One policeman is allowed to say in each polling station - other police must remain at a distance of 300 metres.
The three parties represented in parliament - Renamo, the MDM and the ruling Frelimo Party - may appoint one MMV at each polling station who take part in all polling station operations, including counting the votes, and writing the results sheets. The parties' polling station monitors are authorised to ask the MMVs any questions about their work, and to demand that any irregularities be corrected. The polling station chairperson must put into writing, any complaints or protests that the monitors make.
Paulo said that the election campaign in Zambezia was mostly peaceful, but in the municipalities of Gurue and Alto Molocue there were incidents in which the police were obliged to use tear gas and rubber bullets.
In last Sunday's disturbances in Alto Molocue the car of the current mayor was ambushed by persons unknown and its windscreen was smashed. Paulo said there are strong suspicions that those responsible were Renamo members and sympathisers. The same group physically attacked a local secretary of the Mozambican Women's Organisation (OMM), which is affiliated to Frelimo.
A policeman had been shot dead in Gurue, but Paulo said this had nothing to do with the elections. He was killed while chasing a criminal gang, three of whose members were subsequently arrested, while others were still at large.
Asked about the theft of ballot boxes and other material from the delegation of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) in Ile district, Paulo said he knew nothing about it, but would investigate.
His response is strange, because STAE General Director Felisberto Naife said the Ile break-in took place on 29 September and the police were immediately informed.
According to Naife, the thieves took 15 ballot boxes and 24 jackets for MMVs. This was not material to be used in the municipal elections - indeed, there are no municipalities in Ile. It was material put into storage after the 2014 general elections.
STAE officials assured AIM that the stolen ballot boxes cannot be used in Wednesday's local elections. This is because the ballot boxes for municipal and general elections have different identification characteristics. Furthermore, before any ballots are cast, the MMVs at the polling station must unseal the ballot box to show that it is empty, and then reseal it, taking note of the serial numbers of the seals.