Maputo — Ricardo Manganhe, a teacher who works for the Chibuto Municipal Council in the southern Mozambican province of Gaza, on Friday confirmed that he had lent the car used in the murder of civil society and election observation activist, Anastacio Matavel, to a member of the death squad, Nobrega Chauque.
Giving testimony to the Xai-Xai provincial court, Manganhe said he was buying the car, a Toyota Mark X, from the mayor of Chibuto, Henriques Machava. He had paid Machava 200,000 meticais (slightly less than 3,000 US dollars, at current exchange rates) of the agreed price of 250,000.
He thus still owed Machava 50,000 meticais, and the car was still registered in Machava's name. Nonetheless, Manganhe said he had been in possesson of the Toyota since 29 August 2019.
According to the report of the trial in Monday's issue of the independent newssheet "Mediafax", Manganhe agreed to lend the car to Nobrega Chauque, a childhood friend, whom he described as his "brother in Christ", since they attended the same church. Chauque claimed he needed the car for "family purposes".
The court leant that Chauque did not have a driving license and the Toyota was not insured. Manganhe said he believed Chauque had a driving license, but he had never seen it. "I lent him the vehicle as brothers", he said.
When he discovered that the car was used, not for any family business, but to commit murder, "I went into a panic. I was traumatised", said Manganhe. He switched off his two mobile phones, because people who recognised the car were ringing him up about the assassination.
The death squad had no opportunity to hide the vehicle: immediately after the murder, in the provincial capital, Xai-Xai, on the morning of 7 October, the Toyota was involved in a major traffic accident, in which Chauque and a second killer, Martins Wiliamo, lost their lives. Three others, Euclidio Mapulasse, Edson Silica (who was driving), and Agapito Matavele, survived. Mapulasse and Silica are in the dock, while Agapito Matavele is a fugitive. The five assassins were all members of the Special Operations Group (GOE) of the Mozambican police.
Manganhe said it did not occur to him to contact the police to reveal that he had lent the car to Chauque: he claimed he knew Machava would contact him about the crash. Nor did he contact the owners of the other three cars involved in the accident, He said he was sure they would contact Machava, "which did indeed happen".
Manganhe is charged with being an accomplice in first degree murder, and membership of a criminal association. Originally, Machava was also charged, but his name has been removed from the list of accused without explanation.
Police inspector Justino Muchanga, who was in charge of the Gaza armoury of the Rapid Intervention Unit (UIR - the Mozambican riot police), from which the death squad obtained the guns used in the murder, told the court he only became aware of the assassination of Matavel the following day.
Muchanga registered the return of two of the guns used in the murder, but signed the registry book in the name of Mapulasse. He is thus accused of forging a signature, as well as acting as an accomplice to first degree murder, and membership of a criminal association.
He admitted that he did not report that the guns were used to commit a crime, and that the rules governing the armoury were violated.
The trial is due to resume on Tuesday, when the court will hear evidence from relatives of Anastacio Matavel, from colleagues of members of the death squad, and from the owners of the cars damaged in the accident.