Mozambique: MDM Monitors Still Detained in Gaza

Maputo — Four polling station monitors from the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) who were detained in Chokwe district, in the southern province of Gaza, on the day of the country's general elections, 15 October, are still in jail, seven weeks later, reports the latest issue of the "Mozambique Political Process Bulletin", published by the anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP).

This case is much less well-known than that of the 18 monitors of the newly formed party Nova Democracia (ND - New Democracy), who were also detained in Chokwe on the same day.

ND campaigned for the release of its monitors, and eventually the Chokwe district court agreed to grant provisional freedom - but only if each of the monitors paid bail of 40,000 meticais (about 625 US dollars).

Neither the relatives of the 18 nor ND itself had the money to pay such exorbitant sums of bail. An international fundraising campaign was successfully organised, and the 18 were released last Saturday.

But the four MDM monitors are still in jail. MDM spokesperson Fernando Bismarque told the Bulletin that the MDM's lawyers have been fighting for the release of the monitors, so far without success. The only change has been that the detainees were moved from Chokwe to the prison in the provincial capital, Xai-Xai. There is no sign of a trial.

The monitors were accused of falsifying the credentials used to enter the polling stations, a charge they deny.

In the northern province of Nampula, a traditional leader, Ana Margarida Fernando Martunato, also known as Queen Macuta, was deposed as "Queen" of Mogovolas district, supposedly because she had supported an opposition party - even though Macuta insists that she is a supporter of the ruling Frelimo Party.

Macuta was detained for seven days, without charge, in the Mogovolas prison, and was forced to resign her position and hand over the uniform and insignia the government gives to all traditional leaders . The arrest took place at the beginning of September while the election campaign was underway.

Macuta told the Bulletin that the Mogovolas District Administrator had made the complaint against her. "It was not the government that removed the uniform, it was the Chief of Staff who went to complain to the administrator and ordered the police to take me to jail," Macuta said. "After seven days in jail they took me to court, and there they demanded that I hand over the uniform, saying that if you do not hand in your uniform, we will return you to jail."

Yet Macuta says she was campaigning for Frelimo - until the local party leadership banned her. "The Mogovolas Frelimo district secretary did not want me to campaign", she said.

This Frelimo secretary, Joao Pereira, denied preventing Macuta from campaigning - but he added "Her behaviour did not please Frelimo members. She is confused".

Macuta has not performed any duties as traditional leader since September. She said her nephew, Ezequiel Mario, has taken over, "but he is not doing the job properly".

Macuta claimed community members still turn to her when they have problems to solve.

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