Mozambique clashes stoke tensions ahead of elections

Clashes in Mozambique's second city of Beira between rival party supporters and riot police injured more than 20 people and stoked tension ahead of local elections this week that will test opposition to the Frelimo government.

In the municipal elections on Wednesday, the Frelimo party – which has ruled the Southern African state since independence in 1975 – faces an emerging challenge from the smaller Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), after the main opposition party and former rebel group Renamo decided to boycott the vote.

Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama is a fugitive after the government army overran his jungle camp last month, following sporadic ambushes and skirmishes by Renamo guerrillas that have persisted mostly in central Sofala province. Dhlakama accuses Frelimo of monopolising political and economic power.

These attacks have revived painful memories of the devastating 1975-1992 civil war between Renamo and Frelimo and foreign donors have urged President Armando Guebuza's government to preserve peace like "a treasure".

The unrest is also worrying companies who are developing Mozambique's big coal and gas deposits.

Despite Renamo's boycott, campaigning for Wednesday's local elections had been relatively peaceful until Saturday, when riot police in the port of Beira fired tear gas at a rally of supporters of MDM leader Daviz Simango, who is the mayor of Beira, witnesses said. Frelimo party vehicles trying to drive through or past the MDM crowd had been stoned.

Election convoys
MDM partisans then attacked the nearby Frelimo party headquarters, burning several cars. Frelimo's candidate, Jaime Neto, told local television he was injured in the arm.

A spokesperson for Beira's central hospital, cited by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, said at least 26 people were treated for injuries. A spokesperson for Mozambique's interior ministry declined to comment when asked about the incident.

On Wednesday, when voters cast their ballots to elect mayors and local representatives of 53 municipalities across the former Portuguese colony, MDM will be seeking to hold onto the two city mayorships it already holds in Beira and Quelimane, and win more, even taking on Frelimo in Maputo.

"These elections will show the strength of the opposition," Joseph Hanlon, a senior lecturer at Britain's Open University and an expert on Mozambique, said. Guebuza's government faces criticism over corruption and for not using aid and resource revenues to reduce still widespread poverty.

Hanlon said MDM needed a good showing to prove itself a viable political force to challenge Frelimo in presidential and legislative elections due in October next year, especially if Renamo boycotts them too.

MDM, formed by ex-Renamo members, has eight seats in the national Parliament against Renamo's 51 and Frelimo's 191.

Hit-and-run ambushes
Honking horns, waving flags and distributing T-shirts and posters, Frelimo and MDM election convoys criss-crossed the capital Maputo at the weekend, without incidents in that city.

Also on Saturday, suspected Renamo gunmen killed a government soldier and wounded several more in an ambush in central Mozambique, local TV reported. One attacker was killed.

Renamo, which was originally created by the Rhodesian secret services and backed by South Africa's apartheid-era military during the civil war, is no longer viewed as having the armed capacity to fight an all-out conflict any more.

But hit-and-run ambushes by its guerrillas on the major north-south road in central Mozambique have already hurt tourism and there are fears these small mobile groups might also threaten coal export corridors and the activities of foreign companies working to develop gas reserves.

'Innocent people are dying'
"The Frelimo government has tried a limited military solution but that has been unsuccessful in preventing attacks by small Renamo cells – fighters numbering less than 10 – in rural parts of central and northern Mozambique," Mark Schroeder of risk consultancy Stratfor said.

With most Mozambicans strongly opposed to any idea of a return to war, MDM is calling for dialogue.

"Renamo and Frelimo, they only know how to fight," said Silverio Ronguane, MDM candidate running for the Matola municipality, a major suburb of Maputo.

"Innocent people are dying … they could end it if they wanted," Isabel, a 43-year-old nurse in Maputo who only gave her first name, said, commenting on the unrest.

Guebuza has offered to meet Dhlakama to discuss their differences but the two sides have failed to agree on a venue, and Renamo wants security guarantees and foreign observers. – Reuters

Pascal Fletcher
Pascal Fletcher has over 70 followers on Twitter.
Advertisting

Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

Despite tweet, Zuma keeps silent about providing his taxpayer information

The Public Protector has still not received confirmation from former president Jacob Zuma that she may access his tax records —...

Ahead of WEF, Mboweni will have to assure investors that...

The finance minister says despite the difficult fiscal environment, structural reforms are under way to put SA on a new growth path
Advertising

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.