Mozambique: Respected Statistics Head Forced Out Over Gaza by Vitriolic Nyusi

Photo: AfDB
President Filipe Nyusi (file photo).

With a harsh warning to any official who speaks out, President Filipe Nyusi forced the resignation of Rosario Fernandes, head of the National Statistics Institute (Institute Nacional de Estatistica, INE). His crime was to publicly defend the integrity of 2017 national population census data against Gaza electoral registration figures believed to have been inflated to benefit the ruling party, Frelimo.

"We do not want stars here. We want a star ministry, we don't want individual stars" because they do not shine light on anything, Nyusi said at the opening of the new Ministry of Economy and Finance headquarters on 16 August. He criticised the minister, standing next to him, for allowing the INE to publish statistics without approval; this, he argued, only discredits the ministry. Without naming him, in an improvised section of the speech, he launched a vitriolic attack on Fernandes. "We cannot have people who say what they want, what they think, that they know more."

"My father said that on a farm, it is easy to use your hand to pull out the grass that grows higher on its own. But you cannot pull out all the grass that has grown together," Nyusi continued. "We must pull out the tall grass that grows alone."

Within hours, Rosario submitted his resignation, which was accepted Tuesday.

When the National Elections Commission (Commmissao Nacional de Eleicoes, CNE) said it had registered 1,166,011 voters in Gaza, Rosario published the data given to the CNE before the registration saying there were only 836,581 voting age adults in Gaza. The head of the census, Arao Balate, then told the press that Gaza would not reach 1.2 mn voting age adults until 2040.

Gaza votes overwhelmingly for Frelimo and 300,000 extra votes could make a difference in the 15 October national elections. Frelimo is looking increasingly nervous about the elections, worried about the electoral impact of the $2 bn secret debt and growing corruption, despite facing a weakened Renamo now under Ossufo Momade.

Rosario Fernandes has huge respect. Savana (23 Aug) said he is one of the few civil servants who can look in the mirror and say "I am not corrupt". The state news agency AIM (23 Aug) called him "highly competent and honest." He won high praise for setting up the tax authority (Autaridade Tribularia, AT) which increased tax collection, but he was forced out when he tried to combat illegal imports by senior Frelimo people and when he continued to challenge high tax incentives for the mega-projects. He was moved to head statistics (INE) which seemed a safe backwater - until the CNE found 300,000 Frelimo voters that INE said did not exist.

Speaking to Savana (23 Aug), Fernandes said "I am leaving his post to someone better able to acquiesce to the pressures. … I am committed to professional ethics and international standards.”

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