Maputo — The Morrumbala district court, in the central Mozambican province of Zambezia, on 7 August found four members of the local electoral bodies guilty of registering more than once as voters, in the voter registration period that ran from 15 April to 30 May.
The four are the Morrumbala district director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), Joao Cassamo, the head of STAE operations in the district, Isabel Chaves, the first deputy chairperson of the Morrumbala District Elections Commission (CDE), Joao de Aguiar, and another member of the CDE, Ana Chilomo, The court acquitted a fifth accused.
Much to the annoyance of the main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, the Morrumbala judge, Francesca Paulino, opted to fine the four. They were each sentenced to pay a fine equivalent to three months of the minimum wage. This works out to 13,401 meticais (about 221 US dollars, at current exchange rates),
The Renamo provincial delegate in Zambezia, Abdala Ibraimo, cited in the independent daily "O Pais", thought the sentences were far too lenient. He feared that such relatively small fines would only perpetuate "fraud and violence".
"Those who ought to protect the law, create anomalous situations because they know that the penalties are minimal", said Ibraimo. The sentences "discredit both justice and the elections", he warned, demanding that "exemplary penalties" should be imposed on all those who deliberately manipulate electoral procedures.
But in fact the judge was following the law on voter registration, which states that anyone who registers more than once "shall be punished with a fine of between two and three times the national minimum wage".
Contacted by AIM on Wednesday, the spokesperson for the National Elections Commission (CNE), Paulo Cuinica, said the CNE has so far taken no measures against the four, and that it has not even discussed the Morrumbala case.
He did not know the details of the case, he added, and the CNE would have to study the court's verdict and sentence before taking any action.