Maputo — The Mozambican police on Tuesday admitted that most of the death squad which murdered civil society activist Anastacio Matavel in the southern city of Xai-Xai were members of the police force.
Matavel was Executive Director of the Forum of NGOS of Gaza province (FONGA), and was Gaza focal point for the election observation coalition, known as the Sala da Paz (Peace Room). On Monday morning he opened an election observation training session organised by the civil society body Link.
When he left the building and walked over to his car, five assassins were waiting for him, and opened fire on him with an AK-47 assault rifles. He was hit by ten bullets. He was rushed to the Gaza Provincial Hospital, where he died at about 13.00.
But, unlike many previous high profile murders, the assassins failed to make a clean getaway. As they sped from the scene their car crashed with two other vehicles. Two of the killers died in the crash, and two others, one of them seriously injured, were taken into police custody. The fifth made his escape and is on the run.
At a Maputo press conference on Tuesday, the spokesperson for the General Command of the police, Orlando Mudumane, said that the five assassins have been identified. Four of them are policemen and the fifth is a civilian. He did not give their names.
Mudumane announced that the general commander of the police, Bernadino Rafael, has suspended the commander of the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR - the Mozambican riot police), Alfredo Macuacua, and the commander of the Gaza company of the Special Operations Group (GOE), Tudela Guirrego.
The GOE used to have a role in providing security for the President of the Republic, but now at least some of its members have found much more sinister work.
At the time of the Monday crash, it was reported that GOE uniforms were found in the wrecked car. Mudumane effectively admitted that GOE and FIR operatives were involved in the murder.
The General Command has set up a Commission of Inquiry into the Matavel murder, and has given it 15 days to present a detailed report on the assassination. The commission consists of Julio Bonicela, commander of the Frontier Guard, Duarte Augusto, head of the technical and operational department in the inspectorate of the General Command, and Mubanga Pita, head of the studies section of the legal department of the General Command.
Mudumane said the General Command "vehemently condemns the criminal conduct" of the police agents who murdered Matavel. It sent its deepest condolences to the murdered man's family, and pledged to do all in its power to ascertain the full truth about the crime.
For years Mozambican opposition parties have alleged that death squads exist in Mozambique, and Mudumane has just proved them right.
Inevitably, questions will now be asked as to whether any police officers were involved in other unsolved murders - such as the gunning down of Franco-Mozambican constitutional lawyer, Gilles Cistac in central Maputo in March 2015, or the murder on the Costa do Sol beach in October 2016 of Jeremias Pondeca, a senior figure in the main opposition party, Renamo, and a member of the Council of State, a body that advises the President of the Republic.