Maputo — The spokesperson for Mozambique's National Elections Commission (CNE), Paulo Cuinica, on Friday insisted that the figures from the voter registration in the southern province of Gaza are reliable - even though they are in gross contradiction with the estimates for Gaza's population given by the National Statistics Institute (INE).
Challenged at a Maputo press conference over the CNE's figure, Cuinica insisted they derived from procedures that were in line with Mozambican electoral law, and that they had been approved "by consensus" at district and provincial level.
He claimed that at meetings of the Gaza district and provincial elections commissions the members appointed by the two opposition parties (Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM) had voted alongside the ruling Frelimo Party to approve the figures.
He regretted that, at national level, this consensus was broken, when the Renamo and MDM appointees on the CNE itself insisted on voting on the figures. The figures were approved by 11 votes to five.
Repeatedly Cunica mentioned the political parties, as though endorsement by the parties somehow overcomes the mathematical impossibility of the Gaza registration.
The CNE's executive body, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) set a target for voter registration in Gaza of 1.14 million, and the final number of voters supposedly registered in the province was 1,166,011.
But this is much higher than the number of adults of voting age (18 and above) found in the province by the INE during the population census of 2017. The census counted the number of people in Gaza at 1,422,460. At a population growth rate in the province of 1.2 per cent, the projected size of the Gaza population in 2019 is 1,456,599.
The INE says that, of this figure, 836,581 people are aged 18 and above (57.4 per cent of the total), and are thus entitled to register as voters. But the CNE/STAE figure is larger by almost 330,000 - clearly impossible.
The key difference between the INE and CNE/STAE is that the INE is a body of skilled professional statisticians, whereas the electoral bodies are deeply politicised. At district, provincial and national levels, the CNE and STAE are filled with many hundreds of people appointed by Frelimo, Renamo and the MDM - which explains why they are so top-heavy, expensive and inefficient.
The CNE claims that it based its figures on data provided by the INE - but since the definitive results from the 2017 census were not available by the time voter registration began on 15 April, it had to rely on projections from the previous census, held in 2007.
But these are even less favourable to the CNE/STAE figures. The projection for Gaza for 2019 from the 2007 census was that by that year there would be 726,531 people of voting age in the province. Changes in the pace of population growth, pushed this up to 836,581 in the projections from the 2017 census - but both censuses are fairly consistent, and come nowhere near projecting an adult population of 1.166 million in 2019.
Indeed the INE projection is that only by the year 2040 will the voting age population in Gaza reach 1.2 million.
Furthermore, Gaza is the only province displaying this anomaly. In all the other ten provincial constituencies, the number of voters registered by STAE is lower than the projection for voting age adults from the census.
The INE is the national statistical authority, and government bodies rely on it for statistics on inflation, agriculture, industry, and a vast range of other economic matters. Why should the INE be regarded as reliable on these issues, but not on the size of the Gaza population?
Asked to explain the discrepancy between the CNE and INE figures for Gaza, Cuinica replied "We are not going to comment on what the INE says".
A second CNE member, Fernando Mazanga, who was appointed by Renamo, denied that discussions in the Gaza district and provincial commission were as peaceful as Cuinica said. He told reporters there had been sharp disagreements, and the only reason Renamo members had signed the minutes of these meetings was to prove that they had been in attendance.
Mazanga added that the CNE has not yet scheduled a meeting of the CNE plenary to discuss the Gaza figures, despite Renamo's request for one.