Maputo — The Mozambican Defence and Security Forces are in a state of "permanent combat readiness" in order to guarantee public order and tranquillity throughout the national territory, according to a press release from the General Command of the police, issued on Tuesday
It claimed that this combat readiness was due to the criminal activities by terrorist groups operating "in some districts in the north of Cabo Delgado province".
The release gave no details, other than saying that activities in Cabo Delgado included "ostensive patrolling" to combat and neutralise the criminal gangs.
The defence and security forces, it added, are continuing to pursue "Renamo armed men" who have been ambushing civilian vehicles on main roads in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala, "in order to neutralise them and hold them criminally responsible for their actions"
As has become habitual in police statements, this release drew no distinction between the Renamo mainstream, led by Ossufo Momade, and the dissident "Renamo Military Junta", believed to be responsible for all the recent attacks on the roads. For the police, they are all just "Renamo armed men", even though Momade signed a peace agreement with President Filipe Nyusi on 6 August last year, and the military junta has denounced that agreement.
The release reiterated the "unconditional commitment" by the police to guarantee public order throughout the country, and called for "the active participation of all live forces in society in preventing and fighting crime, traffic accidents and other acts which might endanger public order and tranquillity.
This largely uninformative release was issued because the weekly press briefing by the General Command of the police, which should have occurred on Wednesday, was cancelled. The cancellation, the police said, was due to "an overloaded agenda".
This meant that the police avoided awkward questions from journalists about the promotions granted to three members of the death squad that assassinated civil society and election observation activist Anastacio Matavel in the southern city of Gaza on 7 October.
The shocking news of the promotions was published in last Friday's issue of the independent weekly "Savana", which showed extracts from the dispatches granting the promotions, signed by the General Commander of the police, Bernadino Rafael.
Five members of the Gaza provincial branch of the Special Operations Group (GOE) of the police, namely Euclidio Mapulasse, Edson Silica, Agapito Matavele, Nobrega Chauque and Martins Wiliamo, received the "mission" to eliminate Anastacio Matavel, the Executive Director of the Gaza Provincial Forum of NGOs (FONGA), and Gaza representative of the election observation coalition known as the "Sala da Paz" (Peace Room).
But the "mission" went wrong, because the getaway car was involved in a major traffic accident, hitting three other vehicles and overturning. Nobrega Chauque and Martins Wiliamo died in the crash. Silica was injured, arrested and taken to the Xai-Xai provincial hospital. Mapulasse managed to flee from the crash, with a gun and headed for the Gaza command of the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR - the Mozambique riot police). Agapito Matavele also fled, taking two guns with him. Mapulasse was arrested later, but Agapito Matavele is still on the run and believed to be in South Africa.
Silica and Mapulasse are now awaiting trial for first degree murder, and Agapito Matavele remains a fugitive, believed to be in South Africa. Astonishingly, this did not stop the police from promoting them.
According to "Savana", Silica's name is included in a dispatch of 27 December which promoted a number of officers to the rank of police sub-inspector. Mapulasse and Agapito were promoted to sergeant in a separate dispatch.
The police have neither confirmed nor denied the "Savana" report, and, had the press briefing been held, journalists would certainly have raised the matter.
A report in Wednesday's issue of "Savana"'s sister publication, the daily newssheet "Mediafax", suggests that the police intend to argue that the two infamous dispatches were revoked, when it was realised that they contained the names of police agents facing charges of first degree murder.
This argument would have the public believe that the list of promotions had been drawn up many months ago, when there was no money available in the budget to pay increased wages to the promoted officers. When the money became available, Rafael simply signed the lists without checking the names.
This is highly suspicious since we know from the prosecutors' interrogations of Silica and Mapulasse, that the members of the death squad had been promised promotions for their part in the murder of Matavel.