Mozambique: New Party Claims to Emerge From Frelimo Grass Roots

Maputo — Mozambican Justice Minister, Joaquim Verissimo, on Monday finally authorised the creation of a new political party, which is supposedly a breakaway from the ruling Frelimo Party, although Frelimo denies there is any such breakaway.

The party calls itself the Optimistic Party for the Development of Mozambique which gives the acronym PODEMOS - the Portuguese word meaning "We can". This echoes - probably deliberately - the name of the Spanish populist, left wing party PODEMOS, and the slogan "Yes we can", used by Barack Obama in his successful 2008 US presidential campaign.

Verissimo delayed in authorising the new party, and, according to the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", although he signed the dispatch on 7 May, the document was only given to the founders of PODEMOS on Monday.

Last week the police briefly detained several of those founders, apparently without any plausible justification.

They were protesting at the delay in legalising their party. They had submitted the necessary paperwork on 25 February, and, under the law on political parties Verissimo had 60 days to confirm that the papers were all in order, a deadline which ran out on 26 April.

Rumours are circulating in Maputo that the new party is connected with Samora Machel Junior ("Samito"), the son of the country's first President, Samora Machel, and currently a member of the Frelimo Central Committee.

But according to "Carta de Mocambique", in private conversation Machel Junior denies having anything to do with the launch of PODEMOS.

But there is no doubt that some of the founders of the new party are linked with the Youth Association for the Development of Mozambique (AJUDEM), the civil society organisation which attempted to run Machel Junior as its candidate for Mayor of Maputo in last year's municipal elections.

In the event, Machel and AJUDEM could not stand in those elections, because the National Elections Commission (CNE) disqualified AJUDEM on the grounds that its list did not contain enough candidates to fill all the seats on the Maputo Municipal Assembly.

The PODEMOS guidelines, acquired by "Carta de Mocambique", claim that the new party is a breakaway from Frelimo - the document says its genesis "lies in the grass roots of Frelimo who, fed up with various internal abuses and after several requests and denunciations about internal irregularities which went unanswered, acted through a petition and a demonstration at the Frelimo Party headquarters on 23 July 2018".

PODEMOS arose, the document continued, because of "violations" such as "lack of democracy and transparency in the management of internal elections; bad governance, kleptocracy and corruption; clientelism and the spread of oligarchies in the party; usurpation of the powers of the grass roots by higher bodies; harassment, psychological torture, demotion and isolation of internal critics".

As for its political programme, PODEMOS says it is guided by "liberal socialism, resting on social justice, freedom and equitable development". It promises to fight for the democratisation of the Mozambican state, to "rescue the moral values of society", and "to redeem the good name of Mozambique in the concert of nations".

PODEMOS spokesperson Zefanias Langa told the paper that the party "has come to make a difference" and that it fully intends to run candidates in the general elections scheduled for 15 October. He denied any connection with Samora Machel Junior.

Frelimo spokesperson, and Central Committee Secretary for Mobilisation and Propaganda, Caifardine Manasse, contacted by AIM on Tuesday, categorically denied that PODEMOS was a Frelimo grass roots revolt against the leadership. He said that some individuals may have left Frelimo to join PODEMOS, just as individuals had drifted into various other parties, but there had been no organised movement of Frelimo members to set up an alternative party.

He had no idea whether Zefanias Langa had ever been in Frelimo, but was certain there had never been petitions of the sort mentioned by PODEMOS, and there had been no demonstration at the Frelimo offices in July 2018.

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