Mozambique: Mayor of Quelimane Appears Before Anti-Corruption Body

The mayor of the central city of Quelimane, Manuel de Araujo, appeared before the Zambezia provincial branch of the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC) on 28 December to answer questions about allegedly illegal expenditure incurred by the Quelimane Municipal Council in 2018. An audit for that year found that the Council, under Araujo's leadership, spent much more money on capital goods than allowed for in the 2018 municipal budget. The anti-corruption office wanted to hear the mayor explain this overspending.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Araujo admitted that the audit finding was correct, but claimed he had authorised the use of the funds "involuntarily".

The correct procedure would have been for the Quelimane Municipal Assembly to pass an amended municipal budget for the year that would have covered the extra expenditure. Araujo claimed that this was impossible because, between August and December 2018, the Municipal Assembly did not meet, and thus effectively refused to pass an amended budget. As a result, "we made some expenditure that was outside of the legally established criteria", he admitted.

Araujo claimed he had to make a difficult decision, "between obeying the law, and leaving the city dirty because we couldn't pay for fuel or repairs for the garbage trucks to clean the city, and that would have risked outbreaks of cholera or other diseases". So, he opted to break the law. Cited by the independent television station STV, Araujo said, "this was an involuntary act because the Municipal Assembly refused to meet and pass the amended budget".

The reason 2018 was a difficult year for Quelimane was that Araujo decided to change his party. Araujo was first elected mayor of the city in a by-election in 2011. Two years later, he was re-elected in the nationwide municipal elections of 2013. In both of these elections, Araujo was the candidate of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). But as the 2018 municipal elections approached, Araujo abandoned the MDM and announced he would run for another term as mayor, but as the candidate of the larger opposition party, Renamo. It was this decision that cost Araujo the support of the Municipal Assembly. Previously, he had near-automatic support of the Assembly, which had an MDM majority. But the MDM group in the Assembly reacted to what it regarded as Araujo's betrayal by removing Araujo from his position of mayor at an extraordinary meeting of the Assembly on 22 August. In this vote, the MDM was supported by the Frelimo Party (in power nationally, but in opposition in Quelimane).

Araujo refused to accept the decision and pledged to continue as mayor. But in Maputo, the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) was quick to ratify the Municipal Assembly's decision and confirmed that Araujo was no longer mayor. Araujo appealed against the government decision but in January 2019 the Administrative Tribunal threw out the appeal.

By then, however. Araujo and Renamo had won the October 2018 municipal election in Quelimane, and so in February 2019, Araujo returned to office.

However, it may now prove an uphill struggle for Araujo to persuade the GCCC that his political difficulties of 2018 somehow justify the illicit expenditure discovered by the audit.

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