Maputo — The strike by workers of the Angoche municipality, in the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, went into its sixth day on Tuesday with little sign of consensus between the municipality and the strikers.
About 400 municipal workers went on strike last Thursday, demanding payment of their end-of-year bonus for 2018 and their January 2019 wages.
The spokesperson for the strikers, Nazir Alberto, told reporters on Tuesday that a further problem concerns the municipality's sacking of casual workers.
"We began the strike on 28 November because of our wage arrears", he said. "There are also 54 service workers who have been expelled and the mayor says he doesn't recognise them, because they're not legal. So he recruited others who are in the same situation".
The mayor, Ossufo Raja, had told the strikers that the municipality is negotiating with the Ministry of Economy and Finance, "and that we will be paid", said Alberto. "But he also said that the outgoing mayor knows the whereabouts of the money we should have received".
Ossufo Raja is from Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, which won the October 2018 municipal elections in Angoche, dislodging the previous administration of the ruling Frelimo Party.
Raja believes the strike is a Frelimo conspiracy, and told reporters that the municipality's debts had been inherited from the previous Municipal Council, run by Frelimo.
He said the strike had taken him by surprise. "Last Thursday I got the information that a strike would begin that same day", he said. "It was a surprise, but I then became aware that the other sovereign bodies (a reference mainly to the central government) had already been informed".
Raja said he was aware of the debts and, at a meeting of the Municipal Assembly, he had promised to pay them in December.
"The problem is that the outgoing municipal government had the money to pay these debts and did not do so", he added. "From the documents in our possession, I believe this was a deliberate action. During my term of office, there are no debts".
Raja added that there is no reason for the strike to continue, because actions are underway to pay off the wage arrears. "Right now, I am waiting for the wages sheet to sign, and then they will all receive the money they claim".
As for the casual workers who were sacked, Raja said their true number is 51 and not 54, and that they have no contractual ties to the municipality. "We're not going to pay them, because we don't have any budget for this", he stressed.
Some of the casual workers had collected taxes in the Angoche markets. But the market sellers accused the tax collectors of theft, and refused to pay the daily market tax. That was why other people had been hired to replace those sacked, said the mayor.
"We went for two weeks without receiving a cent from the markets", he added. "And these are sums that contribute towards paying the expenses of the municipality".
Raja saw Frelimo's hand behind the municipality's problems. "This is all politically motivated", he said. "These are orchestrated disturbances. They sabotaged vehicles and facilities, and they even assaulted two councillors who were working. When they received the news that the wages were being processed, why didn't they call off the strike?"
The mayor described the strike as "real sabotage", and claimed that Frelimo "is envious of the excellent work the municipality is doing".