Rights violated ahead of poll in Mozambique

HUMAN RIGHTS

Mozambicans will go to the polls in October to elect their next leaders. Provincial governors will be elected rather than being appointed by the president, giving people a direct say in who becomes their provincial leader.

The lead-up to the election has been characterised by disturbing developments in Cabo Delgado province in the north. In the past 17 months, more than 100 people have been killed and more than 500 homes burned by unknown people described as militants.

The authorities’ response has been inadequate and they are failing in their most basic responsibility: – to protect lives.

In what appears to be a deliberate ploy to limit media freedom and access to information, journalists, human rights defenders, activists, civil society organisations and researchers who have spoken out against the attacks and killings are being harassed, intimidated, abducted and arbitrarily detained.

Mozambique is facing one of its worst economic crises since 2015. Triggered by what many people consider to be illegal and secret loans — amounting to $2.2-billion — taken out on the watch of former president Armando Guebuza, the crisis has left the country almost bankrupt, depriving the poor of their livelihoods. Former Mozambican finance minister Manuel Chang has been arrested in South Africa for his involvement in signing the loans.

On January 5, Amade Abubacar, a community radio journalist, was abducted and held by the military and later charged with “violation of state secrets through information technology” and “instigation of the public to commit crimes using information technology”. He was abducted while interviewing and photographing people who had fled their villages after the attacks. Amade is still in detention.

In December last year, investigative journalist Estacio Valoi was abducted along with two others by the military and held incommunicado for two days in Mocímboa da Praia district, north of Pemba, accused of spying and aiding and abetting the militants. The three were later released without charge although their equipment remains confiscated by the military for “further investigation”.

In June last year, Pindai Dube, who works for eNCA, was arrested by police in Pemba and accused of spying. He was released three days later without charge.

In the week of January 21 to 24 this year, police surrounded the offices of the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), a civil society organisation that has been reporting on corruption, accountability, transparency and good governance in the country. The CIP has been at the forefront of educating Mozambicans about the implications and significance of the loans for which Chang signed state guarantees.

In August last year, the Council of Ministers introduced a new law requiring local and foreign journalists and media organisations to pay prohibitive accreditation and licensing fees. The uproar that followed this decision forced the government to shelve the law.

The list of human rights violations goes on.

The fact that brutal crackdowns and repression are increasing just eight months before the elections is deeply worrying and it sends a chilling message to anyone with dissenting views that they will face the consequences.

The authorities must end the crackdown on human rights defenders, activists and civil society organisations and respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and movement for all, before, during and after the elections. This must begin by ensuring the protection of space for all to air their views.

David Matsinhe and Camile Cortez work at Amnesty International as a researcher and a campaigner respectively

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

David Matsinhe
David Matsinhe
David Matsinhe is a researcher at Amnesty International.
Advertisting

Test backlog skews SA’s corona stats

With thousands of samples still waiting to be processed, labs are racing to ramp up testing to help the government gain a better idea of how prevalent Covid-19 really is

M&G’s latest Covid-19 projections

Covid-19 numbers are prompting disaster declarations and dramatic action across South Africa this week. All steps should be directed by numbers

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories