Mozambique: Quelimane Mayor Wants Another Term of Office

Maputo — The Mayor of the central Mozambican city of Quelimane, Manuel de Araujo, announced on Saturday that he intends to run for a further term of office in the municipal elections scheduled for 11 October 2023.

Speaking at a ceremony where ten new Quelimane city councillors took office, Araujo said "I am willing to continue leading the Quelimane municipality. The date fixed for the election coincides with the date of my birthday, which means we will have a double party, the first for our victory at the polls, and the second for my birthday".

Araujo was confident that he will be the Quelimane mayoral candidate for the main opposition party, Renamo. This is a daring assumption, since relations between Araujo and the rest of the Renamo leadership hit a new low last week, when the Renamo national spokesperson, Jose Manteigas, publicly called Araujo a liar.

This followed an interview Araujo granted to Mozambican Television (TVM) in which he claimed that Renamo obliges mayors elected on the Renamo ticket to steal money from the municipal coffers and deliver it to the party, and denounced the lack of democracy inside Renamo.

Manteigas retorted "It is not, and never has been, the practice or culture of Renamo to abuse its position, much less to instruct or oblige or in way force members of the party to commit illicit acts". That would be "completely opposed to our ideology and philosophy of governance".

He pointed out that Araujo had benefitted from Renamo's internal democratic procedure. He passed through an internal election to become the Renamo candidate for mayor in 2018, and at the Renamo congress held in January 2019, he was elected to the party's national council.

Araujo has made a habit of changing his party. He was elected to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in the 2004 elections, on the Renamo list. But he then deserted Renamo and joined the newly formed Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) in order to run as the MDM candidate in the mayoral by-election in Quelimane in 2011. He won that election, and two years later, in 2013, he was the MDM candidate for mayor of Quelimane in nationwide municipal elections.

The MDM wanted to run him again at the next local elections, in 2018, but Araujo abandoned the party on whose back he had prospered, and rejoined Renamo. He was head of the Renamo list for Quelimane in the 2018 elections, and again he won. He has thus been mayor of Quelimane for over a decade, but representing two different parties.

Manteigas said that Araujo's own trajectory proved that there is genuine democracy in Renamo. He urged Araujo "to concentrate on solving the problems of the Quelimane municipality", and not to run to the mass media to express his disagreements with the rest of the party leadership.

Manteigas did not suggest that Renamo might take any disciplinary measures against Araujo, but this clash must reduce Araujo's chances of being the Renamo candidate for Mayor of Quelimane in the municipal elections scheduled for 2023.

On Saturday, Araujo admitted that Renamo may no longer look on him favourably. But, with or without Renamo's backing, he intended to run for mayor in 2023. "It's up to Renamo", he said. "Whether Renamo accepts me or drops me, I shall run in the election. If it doesn't want me, too bad".

The Renamo provincial delegate in Zambezia, Elisa Cipriano, told reporters it was "premature" to comment on Araujo's remarks. Nonetheless, she said that if he does submit nomination papers, Renamo will support him.

Araujo said he wants a further term of office to recover the time lost because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme on which he was elected in 2018 was unfinished: the Quelimane Council had been unable to pave roads, install more cycle paths, or expand the city's drainage system. "All of this was compromised by the coronavirus pandemic", he claimed, "which means that the last two years were lost".

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