Maputo — André Matsangaíssa Junior, one of the key figures in the dissident Renamo Military Junta, has surrendered to the Mozambican defence and security forces.
This defection was regarded as so significant that on Monday Matsangaissa was granted an audience in Maputo by President Filipe Nyusi.
Matsangaissa is the nephew (and not the son, as reported in some of the media) of Andre Matade Matsangaissa, the first commander of Renamo, when it was still known as the RNM, years before the acronym Renamo was coined. The Rhodesian white minority regime of Ian Smith put Matsangaissa Senior in charge of what was to become Renamo in 1977. He died two years later in an abortive attack against the town of Gorongosa.
Matsangaissa Junior was a key figure in the Renamo Military Junta right from the start, sitting beside Junta leader Mariano Nhongo at the meeting in mid-2019 when the existence of the Junta was announced.
He was thus one of those who denied the legitimacy of Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, although the latter won a contested election at a Renamo Congress in January 2019. He supported Nhongo's claim to be the true leader of Renamo, and participated in the war that Nhongo reignited, with attacks on vehicles using the main roads in the central provinces of Manica and Sofala.
But he has now opted to join the demobilization and disarming of the Renamo militia, and the reintegration of its members into Mozambican society. Speaking to reporters after his audience with Nyusi he declared "there must be peace in the centre of the country."
He said he had been in contact with Mirko Manzoni, the Swiss diplomat who is the personal envoy to Mozambique of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Matsangaissa said that, after hearing the invitations made by Manzoni and by Nyusi, requesting dialogue, "I preferred to meet with them, so that there would be no more problems in the central region".
He did not want to speak about his role in the Military Junta and in the war. "There will be opportunities to know about this shortly", he said. It is known, however, that he commanded the Junta's front in the Chibabava-Muxungue region, in Sofala.
Nyusi said the fact that Matsangaissa had surrendered shows that, in war, "victories are not always achieved by sacrificing lives". Indeed, the peaceful way in which Matsangaissa had chosen to return to a normal life "is one of the greatest victories we could have as Mozambicans".
Matsangaissa, he added, had taken "a correct attitude", and this was a way "of respecting our differences".
Nyusi said there are still Junta fighters, not only in Manica and Sofala, but also in Tete and Niassa provinces (although no Junta activities have ever been reported from Tete or Niassa. He wanted these people "to see reason, the reason of the Mozambican people, so that we can develop Mozambique".
Asked if Matsangaissa's surrender meant the end of the Junta, Nyusi said "We have reached a phase in which the attacks have almost stopped, and we would like them to remain stopped. I'm not saying they've finished. But we would like them to finish. This is a step forward. It's the result of a positive dialogue, where people are in permanent contact, through various means".
"We don't need to make a lot of noise", he continued. "We don't need to talk a lot. We need to do things so that Mozambicans live well and in tranquillity".
Matsangaissa is the third senior Junta figure to surrender recently, following the Junta's former spokesperson, Joao Machava, and its chief of staff, Paulo Nguirande.