Maputo — Members of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, on Friday rioted against their own local leaders in three municipalities, accusing them of selling out to the ruling Frelimo Party in the municipal elections held on Wednesday.
The riots took place in Chimoio, capital of the central province of Manica, and in the towns of Montepuez and Mocimboa da Praia in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. In all cases angry Renamo members, convinced that they had been cheated of victory, took local Renamo delegates and mayoral candidates prisoner and in some cases severely beat them.
In all three cases, the police had to intervene to rescue the Renamo officials from the wrath of their own members.
In Chimoio, Renamo members demanded the head of the party's Manica provincial political delegate, Sofrimento Matequenha and four other senior Renamo officials. The protestors claimed that Matequenha and the others had been bribed by Frelimo.
They claimed they had received 50 million meticais (about 833,000 US dollars) to support the appointment of Manuel Macocove as the Renamo mayoral candidate in Chimoio. Macocove was clearly not a consensual choice
The Renamo protestors, one of them evidently drunk, told the independent television station, STV, that the officials had "sold votes" to Frelimo.
Matequenha suffered serious injuries from the blows inflicted by his fellow Renamo members, and the police intervention may have saved his life. Police fired rubber bullets to disperse the crowd gathered outside the Renamo office in the Soalpo neighbourhood of Chimoio
"They said that I and some other members of the party leadership received money to choose the mayoral candidate", Matequenha, who is now in the Manica Provincial Hospital, told reporters. "They tied up my leg and my neck and began to beat me on the back. As you can see, I'm injured. I can't walk. I escaped when the police arrived".
The provincial police commander, Francisco Simoes, said the police acted after some Renamo members asked them to restore order at the party office. "Because the demonstration was putting at risk the lives of those citizens held captive, we were obliged to open fire with rubber bullets to disperse the crowd", he added. "We were able to rescue the delegate and the others who were being held prisoner".
The police arrested five Renamo members accused of being ringleaders in the disorder.
In Montepuez, a Renamo election agent named Assane, was seriously injured in the attack, according to his wife, Celia Sualehe.
In this municipality, the Renamo protestors started by attacking offices of Frelimo, and of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), and then turned their attentions to Assane.
The rioting began when the District Elections Commission announced the official results from Wednesday's municipal elections. Frelimo won with 13,641 votes (49 per cent), followed by Renamo with 11,577 (41 per cent), and 1,162 (four per cent) for the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). All these numbers are slightly lower than those given by STAE on Thursday in its provisional account, but the final result was much the same.
Despite the anger of their local members, this is in fact an extremely good result for Renamo. The whole of Cabo Delgado has long been regarded as a Frelimo stronghold, and in the last municipal election, in 2013, the Frelimo candidate for mayor won 86 per cent of the vote. Renamo boycotted those elections, and so the only opposition came from the MDM, whose candidate won 12 per cent.
Despite Renamo's dramatic improvement on the 2013 showing by the MDM, the Renamo members on the streets of Montepuez on Friday thought they had been cheated and that their delegate had pocketed money from Frelimo.
The Renamo spokesperson in Cabo Delgado, Alberto Nkavandame, told AIM that the injured Montepuez delegate has been taken to the local hospital.
In Mocimboa da Praia, it was the Renamo mayoral candidate, Singane Assamo, who was kidnapped and beaten by members of his own party. As in the other two municipalities, the rioters accused him of "selling votes".
In all three cases the victims of mob violence vigorously denied that they had received any money from Frelimo.