Maputo — The current owner of the car used in the assassination of civil society activist Anastacio Matavel on 7 October says he lent it to one of the murderers who claimed he needed a vehicle for "a family emergency", according to Monday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique".
Last week, the weekly paper "Savana" revealed that the car, a Toyota Marx X, with the number plate ADE 127 MC, had been owned by the mayor of the southern town of Chibuto, Henrique Albino Machava. The mayor said he had sold it in August to 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.
But, since Manganhe had not finished paying for the car, it remained registered in Machava's name on the Maputo Automobile Register right up to the date of the assassination.
"Carta de Mocambique" spoke to Manganhe on Sunday, and he said he had bought it from Machava for the price of 250,000 meticais (about 4,000 US dollars, at current exchange rates). He had paid 200,000 and there was just 50,000 meticais owing to conclude the deal. In the meantime, he continued using the records of the car in the name of its previous owner.
Manganhe said he lent the car to Nobrega Chauque, a member of the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR - the Mozambican riot police) who was a childhood friend. Chauque said he needed a car to deal with a "family emergency". On 5 October, two days before the murder, Manganhe handed the car over to Chauque, who promised to return it on 7 October.
But it turned out that Chauque was a member of a five man death squad, consisting of members of the police force, who murdered Anastacio Matavel as he was leaving an election observation training session in Xai-Xai, capital of Gaza province.
The gang had intended to make their getaway in Manganhe's car. But they were chased by other police (who were not part of the plot), and as they tried to speed out of Xai-Xai they became involved in a serious traffic accident in which two of the killers, including Chauque, were killed. Two others are in police custody and the fifth is on the run.
Manganhe said this was not the first time he had lent the car to Chauque, but he never imagined that his old friend would use the car for criminal activities.
"For me, it was a shock", said Manganhe. "I didn't know what to do. I still don't know what to do". He added that, although it is now almost a month since the assassination, the police have not yet contacted him about the car.
"Carta de Mocambique" also spoke to Machava who confirmed that he had indeed sold the car to Manganhe in August for 250,000 meticais. Manganhe should have finished paying for it in September, but he asked for the payment deadline to be extended.
Machava said only Manganhe could explain how the car ended up in the hands of the police agents who murdered Matavel.