Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, on Wednesday demanded the dismissal of Interior Minister Basilio Monteiro, following the assassination on Monday of prominent civil society activist, Anastacio Matavel.
This was no ordinary murder: Matavel, a leading figure in election observation, was shot dead in broad daylight, as he was leaving an observation training session in the southern city of Xai-Xai. But the assassins became involved in a traffic accident in which two of them died, two were arrested, and a fifth is on the run. On Tuesday the General Command of the Mozambican police announced that four of the assassins were members of the police force. For the first time the existence of a death squad, operating inside the police, was proved.
At a Maputo press conference, the Renamo general secretary, Andre Majibire, condemned the "barbaric murder", adding that "the saddest and most chilling aspect is that we were informed, through the police spokesperson, that the victim was assassinated by police agents".
"The police, whose primary mission is to defend national sovereignty, and defend citizens and their goods, has today become a killer of those whom it once swore to defend", accused Majibire.
Majibire demanded the immediate dismissal of Monteiro "because he is incompetent in the fight against crime, and above all because his Ministry is in charge of the police force".
He had no doubt that Matavel was murdered because of the impending general and provincial elections. Majibire believed it was an attempt to intimidate and silence all those who want to ensure that the elections are fair and transparent.
"We want to urge all Mozambicans to remain vigilant as we approach voting day", he added.
The independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique" has also called on Monteiro to resign or, if he refuses to go, for President Filipe Nyusi to sack him.
The paper does not believe that the measures announced by the General Commander of the police, Bernadino Rafael, of suspending two provincial commanders, and setting up an inquiry that will report in 15 days, would prove effective.
"Society needs a more vigorous signal from the state and from the political class that gives orders to the police", it said. "This signal can only be given by the dismissal of Basilio Monteiro, as the minister who has supplied most oxygen to the death squads. He is the potential moral author of the assassination of Anastacio Matavel".
The paper did not believe that the killers who struck down Matavel were acting on their own: instead they were executing "an order given centrally, obeying the hierarchical nature of the police command".
Meanwhile, about 5,000 election observers have still not received their credentials from the provincial elections commissions, even though the lists of observers' names were submitted weeks ago. According to the electoral law, credentials for observers must be issued within five days of receiving their applications.
The spokesperson for the National Elections Commission (CNE), Paulo Cuinica, told AIM on Wednesday afternoon that the problem is being overcome and that "all observers will be accredited".
He denied reports of discrimination in the issuing of credentials, with groups thought to favour the ruling Frelimo Party receiving their credentials promptly while other applications are pushed to one side.
"This is not true", said Cuinica. "The credentials for all observers will be issued".