Maputo — The final sitting in 2020 of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, ended on Thursday in an exchange of insults between the ruling Frelimo Party and the main opposition force, Renamo.
The head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Viana Magalhaes, spent much of his speech giving the Renamo view of recent Mozambican history. He denounced the entire record of the post-independence government under Samora Machel, and claimed that a heroic group of freedom fighters under the first two Renamo leaders, Andre Matsangaissa and Afonso Dhlakama, had waged "a war for peace".
Notably missing from this history is the role of the Ian Smith regime in what was then Rhodesia in creating Renamo, and of the South African apartheid regime in providing it with military support throughout the 1980s.
Moving closer to the present, Magalhaes repeated the familiar Renamo claim that all Mozambican elections have been fraudulent, but added a new twist, asserting that the Mozambican intelligence service, SISE, runs the entire electoral apparatus from top to bottom.
Nonetheless, he was optimistic that the new National Elections Commission (CNE) "will break the cycle of fraud".
But the new CNE was formed in much the same way as the old one. It is dominated by political parties, and the seven members supposedly from civil society organisations have in fact been filtered through the parties.
As for the current crises facing the country - the Covid-19 pandemic, jihadist terrorism in the northern province of Cabo Delgado and the attacks by the dissident Renamo Military Junta in Manica and Sofala - Magalhaes claimed these were no more than "excuses for dilapidating the state treasury".
The head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, Sergio Pantie, retorted that President Filipe Nyusi was "the unquestionable winner" of the October 2019 general elections, and that "the people know who is really at their service".
He noted that Magalhaes had not mentioned the crimes committed by the Renamo Military Junta, and suggested there is no real difference between the Renamo leadership and the Military Junta. They were "brothers under the skin".
He warned the Renamo deputies that if they continue to be associated with men like Mariano Nhongo, the leader of the junta, "you will never be legitimated at the ballot box".
Infuriated by the claim that the two wings of Renamo are one and the same, the Renamo deputies tries to shout down Pantie, until the Assembly chairperson, Esperanca Bias, ordered them to keep quiet.
The third parliamentary group, that of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), boycotted the closing session, just as it had boycotted President Nyusi's State of the Nation Address in the Assembly the previous day.
The MDM is annoyed that Frelimo and Renamo denied it the chance of appointing a civil society member on the CNE. Perhaps inadvertently, the MDM thus exposed how deeply politicized the CNE is - for here was one political party complaining that two others had not allowed it to appoint to the CNE someone who should not be from a political party at all, but from an independent civil society organization.