Mozambique: Car Used By Death Squad Was Owned By Chibuto Mayor

Maputo — The getaway car used by the death squad that assassinated civil society and election observation activist, Anastacio Matavel, in early October is registered in the name of the mayor of the southern Mozambican town of Chibuto, Henrique Albino Machava, according to a report in Friday's issue of the independent weekly "Savana".

Machava admits that he did own the car, a Toyota Marx X, with the number plate ADE 127 MC, but that he sold it in August. It was still registered in his name, because the new owner had not finished paying for it.

The death squad, consisting of five members of the Mozambican police, assassinated Matavel on 7 October in the city of Xai-Xai, capital of Gaza province, where he had been speaking at an election observation training session.

The assassins failed to make a clean getaway. They were chased by a police car, manned by policemen who were not part of the plot, and as they tried to speed out of Xai-Xai, 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.

With most of the assassins dead or in custody, the police came clean, and admitted that the death squad consisted of police officers, believed to be members of the GOE (Special Operations Group) of the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR, the Mozambican riot police).

The two who died in the crash have been named as Nobrega Chauque and Marins William. The two in custody are Euclidio Mapulasse and Edson Silica. The fugitive is Agapito Matavele, and the police say they have been unable to track him down.

The victim, Anastacio Matavel, was a prominent figure in Gaza civil society. He was the executive director of the Forum of Gaza NGOs (FONGA) and was Gaza focal point for the election observation coalition, known as the Sala da Paz (Peace Room).

He was not an opponent of the government. Indeed the Mayor of Xai-Xai, Emidio Xavier, spoke at Matavel's funeral, two days after the murder, and mentioned that Matavel had once been a member of the Central Committee of the ruling Frelimo Party.

AIM confirmed this with the Frelimo Secretary for Communication and Image, Caifadine Manasse, who said Matavel had been on the Central Committee about ten years ago. As far as Manasse knew, Matavel was still a member of Frelimo at the time of his death. "He never renounced his membership", he told AIM.

Machava imported the car from Japan in 2014. According to the records seen by "Savana", he paid 302,434.57 meticais (4,878 US dollars, at current exchange rates), taxes and duties included, for the car.

"Savana" checked with the Maputo Automobile Register and found that, on 7 October, the day of the murder, the car was still registered in the name of Henrique Albino Machava.

Machava told "Savana" that he had sold the car to a man named Ricardo Amone Manganhe, a teacher by profession, who currently works in the education sector of Chibuto Municipal Council, and is thus one of Machava's subordinates.

"Savana" says it has tried repeatedly to speak to Manganhe, so far without success. But according to jurists consulted by the paper, the fact that the car is still registered in Machava's name makes the mayor legally responsible for it.

After the murder of Matavel, the general commander of the Mozambican police, Bernadino Rafael, set up a Commission of Inquiry and gave it 15 days to produce a detailed report. On Wednesday, the spokesperson for the General Command, Orlando Mudumane, told reporters the Commission had completed its work, and the report was now in the hands of "the competent bodies" who are analysing its content.

"It is being analysed at the highest level", Mudumane said, and "in due time" the contents of the report would be made public.

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