Maputo — Antonio Muchanga, the candidate for governor of Maputo province of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has promised that, if Renamo wins the forthcoming general elections, it will not pay any of the country's "hidden debts", on the grounds that they are unconstitutional.
The term "hidden debts" refers to the loans, in 2013-2014, of over two billion US dollars from the banks Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia to the three fraudulent, security-related companies Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management).
The loans were only granted because of illegal loan guarantees signed by the then Finance Minister Manuel Chang. No proper viability studies were undertaken for any of the three companies which are now effectively bankrupt, leaving the Mozambican state to repay the loans.
Campaigning on Sunday in the Mateque and Guava neighbourhoods, in Marracuene district, Muchanga said that, if Renamo and its leader, Ossufo Momade come to power, "the hidden debts will not be paid, because they are unconstitutional and are not recogised by the Constitutional Council".
Muchanga is right, in that the Constitutional Council, which is effectively Mozambique's highest court, in July ruled that the loan to Ematum and its government guarantee are null and void All the acts "inherent to the loan" were declared null, "with all the legal consequences".
Despite this, the Finance Ministry has pressed ahead with negotiations with the creditors on restructuring the Ematum debt, in clear defiance of the Constitutional Council. There is no appeal against rulings by the Council, which are binding on all citizens.
Muchanga said it made no sense that money from the extraction of Mozambique's natural resources, particularly from its vast reserves of natural gas, should go towards paying debts which the previous government (headed by the then president Armando Guebuza) did not even declare.
He promised that, if Renamo won in October, it would use the money from natural resources to increase the wages of public sector staff, such as policemen and teachers.
Muchanga also claimed that Renamo would end the land disputes that have long plagued Marracuene district.
The administrators of Marracuene should be natives of the district, he said, "because you deserve a decent life, which you will only have if you vote for Renamo and its candidate. We shall implement great changes in this country".