Maputo — The peace process in Mozambique "is irreversible", declared Caifardine Manasse, the Central Committee Secretary for Propaganda and Mobilisation of the ruling Frelimo Party, on Saturday.
He was speaking at a Maputo press conference and reacting to the threats made earlier in the day by the interim coordinator of the Renamo Political Commission, Ossufo Momade, who said Renamo would break off its talks with the government unless attempts to alter the results of Wednesday's municipal elections in three municipalities were halted.
"Ossufo Momade is losing the chance to affirm himself as a politician", said Manasse, noting that his Saturday statement was very different in tone from the conciliatory remarks made by the Renamo general secretary, Manuel Bissopo, the previous day.
He suspected that this reflected disputes inside Renamo. "Political blackmail has to end", he said. "The Mozambican people should not be made to pay for disagreements inside Renamo".
Momade's threats were nothing new, Manasse added, but were part of Renamo's standard behaviour. "Since 1976 (the date of Renamo's creation by the secret services of Ian Smith's Rhodesia), we have been defending Mozambique against the threats and the actions of Renamo", he said.
As for Renamo's claims of fraud in the municipalities of Marromeu, Alto Molocue and Monapo, he stressed "it's not Gorongosa Mountain (the site of the Renamo military headquarters) that takes decisions on electoral disputes".
Nor did Frelimo take such decisions: the responsibility for ruling on disputes fell on the electoral commissions, in which Renamo is represented, Manasse added.
He pointed out that when Renamo had disagreed with the decision to disqualify its mayoral candidate in Maputo, Venancio Mondlane, it had had used the correct channels for appeals, and he suggested it should do likewise now.
As for the election results, Manasse found grounds for optimism in the fact that, despite the gains made by Renamo, Frelimo will still run over 40 of the 53 municipalities. He admitted that Frelimo had failed in its stated goal of winning back from the opposition parties the cities of Beira, Nampula and Quelimane.
But he stressed that Frelimo had increased its vote in Nampula, in comparison with the mayoral by-election in the city earlier this year. There had been a similar increase in the Frelimo vote in Beira. Indeed, taking the municipalities as a whole, Frelimo had increased its vote, he said.
In absolute terms, this is a true, and is a function of the much higher turnout on Wednesday than in previous Mozambican local elections. But in percentage terms, the figures were less rosy. In much of the country, the Frelimo percentage of the vote fell when compared with the last nationwide municipal elections, held in 2013.
Thus in Pemba, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, the Frelimo vote fell from 74 per cent in 2013 to 54 per cent now. In Lichinga, capital of Niassa province, the fall was from 66 to 52 per cent. And Frelimo lost the second largest urban centre in Niassa, Cuamba, to Renamo even though it had taken 80 per cent of the Cuamba vote in 2013.
Manasse stressed that Frelimo will continue to work for the well-being of all Mozambicans, regardless of how they had voted on Wednesday. Frelimo had lost in Nampula and Beira this time, but he was confident that sooner or later Frelimo would be running both those cities again.
One reason for this optimism was that he did not believe Renamo had the capacity to manage municipalities well. "Renamo made lots of promises during the campaign", said Manasse. "Now it will have to implement them, and it will not be able to do so".