Mozambique: Renamo Promises Lower Taxes and Electricity Prices

Maputo — Marracuene (Mozambique), 11 Sep (AIM) - Ossufo Momade, the leader and presidential candidate of Mozambique's main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, on Tuesday promised that a future Renamo government will reduce taxes and cut electricity prices.

Speaking in the town of Marracuene, about 30 kilometres north of Maputo, Momade told an election rally that Renamo "has a good project to govern our country", which includes wage rises, lower energy prices, lower Value Added Tax (VAT), employment for young people, and the fight against corruption.

"We know that you are suffering a lot", he said. "We know that business people are being attacked by VAT, and so Renamo and Ossufo Momade will reduce VAT".

Although Momade did not acknowledge it, this policy is stolen from the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), which for the past decade has been calling for a cut in the standard rate of VAT from 17 to 14 per cent. Momade did not say what he believed would be a fair VAT rate, nor how the government would recoup the money it would lose from a tax cut.

"You suffer in order to buy electricity", he said. "You pay a great deal for it, but this will stop. Renamo will end your suffering by cutting the price of electricity".

He saw no reason for high electricity prices, now that, as the government has repeatedly said, "Cahora Bassa is ours!" This slogan refers to the government's acquisition, in 2007, of a majority stake in HCB, the company that operates the largest energy asset in the country, the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi river.

Again Momade was short on specifics. It was not clear whether he was suggesting a return to subsidising household electricity consumption, or merely obliging the electricity distribution company, EDM, to cut its tariffs. EDM has argued that its tariffs are not particularly high when compared with other countries in the southern African region, and that the money is needed for continued electrification of the Mozambican countryside.

Momade also denounced the alleged shortage of medicines in the pharmacies of public hospitals, although those medicines are readily available in privately owned pharmacies. He regarded this as the result of corruption.

The previous day, Momade had campaigned in the neighbouring district of Manhica, where he urged the electorate "don't trust those whom I shall not name here. They are thieves and they are corrupt. They only want to fill their own pockets".

Turning to the scandal of Mozambique's "hidden debts", Momade claimed that former Finance Minister Manuel Chang (currently under police custody in South Africa, awaiting extradition to either Mozambique or to the United States) was "small fry".

"There are sharks who are sitting in their palaces", he claimed. "We want them to go to jail too". They deserved imprisonment for provoking a debt "which nobody should pay".

In Manhica town, there were scuffles between supporters of Renamo and of the ruling Frelimo Party. According to a report in the independent daily "O Pais", the Frelimo supporters started the brawl, but seem to have got the worst of it. A vehicle belonging to a Frelimo militant was vandalised, and the headlight and mirrors of a Frelimo motor-cycle were smashed.

In both Manhica and Marracuene, Momade introduced Antono Muchanga, the Renamo candidate for governor of Maputo province. "He's never been corrupt, he has clean hands, and so we trust him", declared Momade.

Muchanga said that one of his priorities, should he be elected, would be to end the corrupt practice of buying and selling land in Marracuene.

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