5 June 2019

Mozambique: Chairperson of Constitutional Council Resigns

Maputo — Hermenegildo Gamito, the chairperson of the Constitutional Council, Mozambique's highest body in matters of constitutional and electoral law, resigned on Wednesday, citing personal motives and his advanced age.

Gamito is just three months short of his 75th birthday. He told a Maputo press conference that he was leaving the office in time to allow his successor to become acquainted with the Council's procedures before the general elections scheduled for 15 October.

There is a great deal of work for the Council in an election year. It must verify the legality of the nomination papers for all candidates for President of the Republic, and acts as an appeal court in any disputes arising from the elections. Experience suggests that there will be a large number of such disputes.

After all the votes have been cast and counted, the Council must proclaim and validate the results.

Gamito told reporters that he is leaving the post "without drama or trauma". He was convinced that, throughout his period at the head of the Council (which began in May 2011), he had complied scrupulously with the law.

There is no indication that he had been in conflict with the other five members of the Council. Indeed, the great majority of Council decisions are taken unanimously - including the decision published on Tuesday declaring null and void the government guarantee for the ruinous loan of 850 million dollars from European banks for the fraudulent company Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company).

"I took this decision for two reasons", sad Gamito. "One is of a personal nature, which I will not mention here, and the other is because on 24 September I will reach the age of 75. I believe that after this date I should not be linked any longer to the Council".

Gamito added that in February, as a matter of courtesy, he had informed President Filipe Nyusi of his intention to resign. He thanked Nyusi, and all the political parties represented in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, for the support they had given him during his years in office.

His fellow judges on the Constitutional Council had worked "as a cohesive team", he said. There had never been any party-political conflicts on the Council, which operated as "a discreet but effective body".

He refused to comment on the Council ruling against Ematum, on the grounds that the Council never comments on its rulings. But he made clear that the Ematum case had nothing to do with his resignation.

Under the law setting up the Constitutional Council, the President has no choice but to accept Gamito's resignation.

Nyusi must now appoint a new chairperson for the Council, and that appointment must be ratified by the Assembly.

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