Maputo — Mozambique's main opposition party, Renamo, on Friday accused the police of deliberately damaging the party's image by blaming "Renamo armed men" for the recent ambushes against buses and trucks on the main roads in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala.
Speaking at a Maputo press conference, the Renamo national spokesperson, Jose Manteigas, was reacting to statements by the spokesperson for the Sofala Provincial Police Command, Daniel Macuacua, following the detention of a group of people supposedly involved in the ambushes.
Macuacua, like other police spokespersons in the recent past, had labelled the attackers as "Renamo armed men", and drew no distinction between the mainstream of Renamo, led by Ossufo Momade, elected at a Renamo congress in January 2019, and the breakaway "Renamo Military Junta", which has described Momade as "a traitor", and does not recognise the peace agreement he signed with President Filipe Nyusi on 6 August.
Manteigas has repeatedly denied any connection between Momade's faction of Renamo and the Military Junta, and insisted that Renamo "is committed to peace, national reconciliation and social stability".
He asked why Macuacua had nothing to say about "the selective kidnappings and murders of Renamo citizens and other defenceless citizens carried out by the death squads set up by the regime".
Manteigas accused the police of "the silence of accomplices" when it failed to investigate crimes, "particularly the barbaric murder of citizens under the umbrella of the State itself".
When the police blames Renamo for "the macabre actions" of the groups attacking vehicles on the Manica and Sofala roads, he added, "this is a failed attempt to justify their own inefficiency and incapacity".
Manteigas suggested that, if the police cannot put a brake on the attacks, then it should seek help from those who can. Presumably he meant calling on foreign sources for help - but he did not specify who he had in mind.
Renamo, he added, "cannot accept that the police act as a mentor of social discord, when its behaviour should be marked by legality and impartiality".
He also pointed to the "critical situation" in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where terrorist groups, apparently inspired by Islamic fundamentalism, have been carrying out atrocities since October 2017.
"The police have never told us who the attackers are, much less who is giving them their orders", Mantiegas said. "Among the victims are members of the defence and security forces, but the police still say the insurgents are faceless".
He recalled that, on 30 December, Ossufo Momade had challenged the government "to set up a commission of inquiry, consisting of various sensibilities, to investigate on the ground the origin of these attacks, and identify their agents".
Renamo had hoped for a rapid response to this proposal, "but instead there has been absolute silence in response to this opening".
Manteigas accused the police of trying to push Renamo back to war, "but it won't succeed, since that is not our agenda".
The press conference came two days after the Attorney-General's Office (PGR) had questioned Manteigas about allegations that he was among those who were financing the Military Junta.
The PGR also questioned the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ivone Soares, and Antonio Muchanga, who was the Renamo candidate for governor of Maputo province in the elections held on 15 October.
After the interrogation, Manteigas spoke to reporters through his lawyer, who denied that Manteigas is involved in financing the military junta or supporting the ambushes in Manica and Sofala.
"My client was asked for clarification", he said, "but Renamo distances itself from these attacks. The party has never been involved in the attacks, and my client is the party's spokesperson".
The allegations come from six men detained last year in Zambezia province, who said that the head of the Military Junta, Mariano Nhongo, was intent on reopening the Zambezia front. Those detained claimed that Soares, Manteigas and Muchanga, among others, were providing funds for the Junta.