Cardoso haunts Mozambican poll

Four years after the murder of Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso, his legacy in investigating corruption has cast a shadow over the campaign for next week’s election.

On November 22 2000 Cardoso was shot in his car after leaving the Maputo office of Metical, the newspaper he edited. At the time of his death he had been investigating how more than $400-million had disappeared from Mozambique’s formerly state-owned banks during the privatisation process of the 1990s.

Last Friday’s Savana newspaper marked the anniversary with an article by Marcelo Mosse, co-author of Cardoso’s biography, listing the business interests of Armando Guebuza, presidential candidate for the Frelimo party. These interests span the areas of media, transport and engineering.

While the article makes no allegations of impropriety, it raises concerns about the weakness of laws regulating the business interests of public figures: these laws apply explicitly to other senior officials, but not to the president.

“If Guebuza or [Renamo candidate Afonso] Dhlakama wins the elections, nothing in the law says they may not take decisions that would benefit their business interests,” Mosse argues.

Mosse says it was Cardoso’s memory that prompted him to investigate Guebuza’s business affairs. He also believes corruption has had a higher profile during the current election campaign than in previous years.

“In the urban areas people have a good understanding of what corruption is, and more sophisticated people may vote on this,” he told the Mail & Guardian. “But in the countryside it won’t swing people.”

Attempts at investigating both corruption and the murders associated with it have yielded few results.

“In Mozambique there is no climate for open investigation — there is too much complicity,” Mosse says.

Isabel Rupia, head of the attorney general’s anti-corruption unit, admits that “the number of cases entering court is not very high”.

She says there is no evidence that her work is being deliberately obstructed, but “this type of crime needs auditors — we don’t have an independent body of auditors, we don’t have enough specialised investigators”.

Rupia was the victim of an assassination attempt in December 2002, which has never been investigated.

Aníbal “Anibalzinho” dos Santos, the hit man convicted in the Cardoso case , has twice escaped from jail in Mozambique, prompting suspicions among Mozambican journalists that he had inside assistance. After the second escape, he arrived in Canada in May this year, where he now has a political asylum application pending.

Cardoso’s murder was the most widely-reported killing linked to the bank scandals: two banking officials opposed to the plunder were also murdered, Banco Industrial de Moçambique MD José Alberto de Lima Félix in December 1997, and Bank Austral chair António Macuácua in August 2001.

Manuel Tomé, the head of Frelimo’s parliamentary bench, believes Cardoso’s death drew attention to the gravity of corruption in Mozambique.

“The situation is more controlled than it was, but we can’t be under the illusion that corruption doesn’t exist,” Tomé told the M&G.

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