Political Analysis of Mozambique


Space, role, capacity and will of the political parties



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3. Space, role, capacity and will of the political parties
10 years after the introduction of multiparty elections in Mozambique, a search is still continuing to define the role of political parties in a democratic environment. Apart from the governing party, Frelimo, and the opposition party Renamo, to which 10 other parties are allied in a coalition, little is known about the functioning of the other officially registered parties, which move into action on the eve of, or during, the general elections held every five years.

Even those parties linked to Renamo in the coalition have so little impact that the Renamo leadership has announced that it will not renew the coalition for the next elections, since it no longer sees any added value in keeping the coalition alive.

The space for political parties, which should represent the longings and concerns of their members, looks favourable, since the country no longer depends on a single voice in terms of the mass media, and since freedom of assembly also largely exists, despite some disturbances that occur during election periods. But one notes that many political parties, because of their defective organisation and incapacity to mobilise people, and even lack of clarity in their ideological positions, do little or nothing. They justify this with talk about how they lack resources.

In principle, a political party must have a base of support. Indeed, the party’s only reason for existing is if there is a group of people who are identified with its principles. Thus, to be a political party, an organisation must have people who share the same ideals and agree to dedicate their energies and resources for the cause of those ideals. But many of the parties that officially exist in Mozambique came into being, not out of any need to represent any group or thought, much less because of any need to fight against what is wrong in the current system and present an alternative. Instead, they were motivated by the opportunity to obtain funds that the state provides during election periods.

Several of the extra-parliamentary party leaders claim that their lack of material and financial resources are the foremost reason why they are not very visible5. Others allege that the larger parties do not open space for the little ones to be seen, citing as an example the threshold clause whereby a party needs 5% of the national vote before it can enter Parliament.

University lecturer and Renamo-Electoral Union deputy Eduardo Namburete believes that political parties have the responsibility, not only to participate regularly in elections, but also to put pressure on and influence the government of the day, so that it responds positively to the demands of their members. This activity should be undertaken inside and outside of parliament. The mass media are a priority forum for this action, but what one notes is that, while the media do not go looking for the parties, these in general remain silent.

Also according to Namburete, the space for political parties in democracy can be found in monitoring the government’s activity and in the struggle to satisfy the needs of their members. These activities have not been fully carried out by most of the political parties in Mozambique, due to their poor capacity, both for mobilization and for organisation. Furthermore, in the current shape of the political scenario, although the Constitution recognises the separation of powers, the tradition of a party-state persists, making the activity of opposition parties particularly difficult. The ruling party, which controls the state, makes any political initiative or project of other parties non-viable, since it takes control of the administrative machinery of the state.

The perception that the ruling party makes the action of opposition parties difficult is very generally held among members of the opposition.

Manuel de Araújo, an academic and Renamo-Electoral Union deputy, feels that in Mozambique there is repression of “thinking differently”, that the opposition, particularly in the provinces and districts, is demonised, and that state security services are used to monitor opposition activities (there is a unit in the State Information and Security Services, SISE, whose task is to collect information in favour of the ruling party)6.

However, the lack of organisation and internal democracy within the parties, the absence of internal spaces to debate ideas, the cult of personality of the leaders, the absence of a culture of constructive opposition, the lack of autonomy and separation of powers within the parties stand out as the main obstacles for an increasingly relevant role by political parties in Mozambique.

Jack Maloouf, an independent intellectual, argues that in Mozambique there is a legal framework that confers on citizens freedom of expression and of forming political parties, and which guarantees parties the space to exert influence over all process in the country.

But these parties lack the internal capacity to do so. The association of citizens into political formations, is seen merely as a source, as a means of income, of opportunities for their members. Groups of citizens come together without any development project for the country, without any strategy for obtaining one, and without any commitment or sacrifice for this objective, he noted.

Also in Maloouf’s view, the sole structured party, Renamo, also does not regard the country as its mandate. Its programme seems to be just to oppose Frelimo. This lies in its genesis as dissidents – they were not set up to develop the country in another way, they were set up to oppose Frelimo, by people unhappy, not with the direction that Frelimo wanted to give to the country’s development, but unhappy because they were overlooked in access to privileged command positions within that political formation. And they have not advanced from this.

For its part, Frelimo, a mature and shrewd party, is described as having appropriated the discourse and presents itself as a party of everyone, pretending to bring together in itself the opposed interests of employers and employees, of left and of right, which ends up also placing it also as opposition to itself - which it has done with noteworthy success with Guebuza in charge, in reneging vehemently on itself. And in so doing, it has taken space away from others.

Looking more critically at the real weight of political parties in Mozambique, one concludes that, in real terms, the country is divided, by and large, into supporters of Frelimo and supporters of Renamo. In the first and second presidential elections in 1994 and 1999, Renamo won in Nampula, Niassa, Zambézia, Sofala, Tete and Manica provinces, and Frelimo won in Cabo Delgado, Inhambane, Gaza, and Maputo provinces and Maputo City. Frelimo, though it won in fewer provinces, won the elections because of the margins with which it won in each constituency.

In the 1994 and 1999 elections, Renamo had an interesting performance which put it very close to power. From no deputies prior to the 1994 elections, Renamo rose to 112 parliamentary deputies in the elections of that year. Frelimo, which previously used to hold 100% of the seats in Parliament dropped to 129 deputies, and a small coalition of parties, the Democratic Union (UD), took 9 seats, bringing the total to 250 seats.

In 1999, Renamo, now in coalition with 10 small parties, reached 117 deputies, while Frelimo elected 133 deputies. The small UD disappeared.

Things changed drastically in 2004, when Frelimo won an overwhelming victory of 160 seats against only 90 for Renamo.

In fact, things changed a year earlier, with the municipal elections of 2003. The general expectation was that Renamo would split the 33 municipalities about half and half with Frelimo, but reality showed that Renamo won no more than five municipalities (Nacala, Angoche, and Mozambique Island, in Nampula province, and Beira and Marromeu, in Sofala province), leaving Frelimo governing the other 28 municipalities.

Three main reasons are given for Renamo’s electoral decline:


  • While Frelimo renovated itself profoundly with the choice of Armando Guebuza as its presidential candidate (and with this it recovered many people who were already ceasing to believe in the party), Renamo not only kept the same candidate, but also maintained the same anti-communist electoral discourse that it had used in 1994 (when it still made some sense to talk of Frelimo marxist-leninists).

  • While Frelimo banked on the internal unity of its members, Renamo weakened itself on the eve of the elections by expelling some senior cadres from its ranks (Raul Domingos, formerly the number two in Renamo, was expelled in 2000. He set up the Party for Peace, Democracy and Development, PDD, based on militants from Renamo itself, and came third in the 2004 elections).

  • Renamo has difficulty in arranging funds domestically, since most Mozambican businessmen are faithful to Frelimo from whom they received companies during the privatisations, or from whom they received sponsorship for access to Treasury loans which, as is known, do not require real guarantees, but political confidence in the potential beneficiary. Thus while Frelimo wages luxurious election campaigns, often stiffened by state resources, such as vehicles, fuel and staff, Renamo’s campaigns are poverty-stricken with almost no distribution of material goods, and facing all kinds of shortages of land and air transport.

The emergence of the PDD of Raul Domingos was received with warm sympathy inside the Frelimo Party where it was expected that this party would steal most of Renamo’s electorate and reach parliament in a stronger position than Renamo. But that did not happen, for the PDD did not win more than 2% of the votes nationally, which is not enough to elect a deputy, thanks to the 5% threshold which requires that any party must have at least five per cent of the national vote before it can elect any deputies to parliament. In the presidential election, Raul Domingos won 2.7%, which is also insignificant. The recent Frelimo proposal, which will certainly be approved by the Frelimo parliamentary majority, to eliminate the 5% threshold for access to parliament, may allow the PDD to enter parliament in the 2009 general elections, should it continue to display the levels of organisation and mobilisation shown in the 2004 elections.

Even with the PDD in Parliament, everything indicates that the national political scenario will continue to be dominated by Frelimo and Renamo or a long time. So far they are the only parties with a physical and political presence in all of Mozambique’s localities.


3.1. Reforming the current democratic model
Changing the current framework for the exercise of politics in the country requires some reforms, both within political parties, and in the legislation that regulates political activity.

According to several interviewees, the democratic model in force in the country is not, in itself, a participatory and democratic system. At least, not in a country where the majority of the voters are illiterate, and with such a high dependence of citizens’ well-being on the benefits and perks that flow from such jobs as that of a parliamentary deputy.

The intellectual Jack Maloouf considers this model as very useful for the elites of corruption, since it makes it possible to legitimise all kinds of decisions that they take for their own benefit, at the cost of abusing the riches of the country and of the citizens (it is happening here now, as it has already happened in the creditor countries) – it is a model composed of supposed representatives, simultaneously elected by the people, who approve the innocuous reports of the Attorney General’s Office, the reports of the state accounts which are absolutely corrupt, the undeniably corrupt state budgets.

It is suggested that a democratic electoral model be rethought, in which the citizens deposit their votes in a visible representative who can be held directly responsible, and from whom his constituents can demand results. The current electoral model does not allow responsibility of the “representatives of the people” to the people, because the people don’t know who they voted for. This system instead allows these representatives to be responsible to the political parties, because they are chosen by the political parties to sit in the Assembly of the Republic. The people vote for the party and the party votes for the candidates for the Assembly of the Republic.

According to the archbishop of Beira, Dom Jaime Gonçalves7, the current model allows the political parties to despise the people. The parties went to the extreme of “sending us, in the latest elections, to be our deputies, people who never lived or worked in Sofala. People from the North, for example”.

Under the current democratic model, according to several interviewees, it is the people who sustain and protect corruption. It is the “representatives” of the people who approve systems that potentially promote corruption.

One Frelimo deputy, who asked that his name not be cited8, believes that the current model promotes trafficking in influence, “so that one can be put in an electable position on the list of candidates, in order to have access to the perks, a favour which is later returned by blindly voting for laws that stir up acts of authentic state piracy”.

The same Frelimo deputy believes that the democratic model currently in force in Mozambique was imported and transferred. He thinks there is no way to reform it. It was created by the bourgeoisie to legitimate the exploitation of man by man – that is, the model allows the abuse of human rights by this same bourgeoisie, so that it may continue its illicit enrichment and the corruption on which this rests.

However, at the decision making level, Frelimo does not share these positions and thinks it is still too early to embark upon an electoral system different from the current one, based on party lists and proportional representation.

In Frelimo’s view, the current party list system allows the consolidation of peace, national unity, and democratic institutions, and it allows, for example, a better gender balance in the composition of the parliament because everything can be decided and controlled at party level.

Carlos Machili, Vice-Chancellor of the Pedagogic University, believes that “to change this electoral system before consolidating the culture of state would be precipitate and could have disastrous consequences for the country”. He notes that Mozambican parties should begin to have a culture of consolidating democratic institutions rather than constantly changing them.

But, alien to the feeling of a need for far-reaching changes in the country’s electoral system and model, the Frelimo and Renamo parliamentary groups have just deposited in the Ad-Hoc Commission for Revising the Electoral Legislation9 their proposals for amendments which do not include the basics of the general feeling expressed in this report.

In their proposals both Frelimo and Renamo limited themselves to improving articles in the existing legislation without introducing radical changes.

In substance, Frelimo is proposing to eliminate the 5% threshold10, to reduce the number of members of the National Elections Commission from 19 to nine and to introduce a deposit of 100 million meticais for candidates for the Presidency.

For its part, Renamo proposed to maintain the 5% threshold, to increase the number of CNE members from 19 to 23, and to transform the current Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) into the General Secretariat of the CNE. This body, currently subordinate to the government and to the CNE at the same time, would now depend directly and absolutely on the CNE.

The two parties agree on the need to hold elections on a single day, and outside of the rainy season, preferably in October11.

The two proposals will go to a public debate in January and February 2006 but analysts do not believe there will be any substantial change.

In reality, the feeling that there is a need to reform the current electoral model arises mostly from the opposition and from the more critical sectors of the Frelimo Party. Fundamentally this represents a certain political discomfort that some people feel at the sometimes abusive implementation of the party list model, where political leaderships decide on placing or withdrawing names from the lists regardless of the feelings of the grass roots of the same party.

In both Frelimo, and in Renamo it has happened that when the time comes to draw up the lists, several cadres chosen in the primary elections in the provincial constituencies, do not appear in the final lists, by decision of the party leaderships, and some who were not elected appear in electable positions and end up sitting in Parliament.

These changes of position are justified by the party leaderships as the need for the material accommodation of certain party figures who, if they did not go to parliament, would be practically unemployed, burdening their respective parties with wages and other kinds of social assistance. By putting such people in parliament, the material weight of their wages passes from the budget of the parties to the general state budget, which finances parliament and pays the deputies’ salaries.

It is more this practice which has sparked off the debate about the need to change the model than the political ineffectiveness of the model in itself. That is, it is abuse of the model by the party leaderships that leads to a debate among the grass roots, who feel they have been prejudiced, about the need for a total reform in the model, and not necessarily the political exhaustion of the model.

With the growth of political culture, the parties will probably reach gradually an internal democratic debate which forbids party leaderships from abusing the will expressed by the grass roots memberships of each party, about who should represent the interests of the party in parliament.



3.2. Changing practice rather than the laws
When various political stakeholders are asked their reaction to the proposals for amending the electoral legislation deposited by the two parliamentary parties, the common response is that changing the legislation is worthless as long as wrong practices continue. “The problem in my view lies, not in the laws, but in the practice. We can change the laws a thousand times, but if the practice does not change, such changes will have been worth nothing”, argued Manuel de Araújo.

In the view of Dom Jaime Gonçalves, what is wrong in the Mozambican electoral system is that “the ruling power has absolute power over the entire electoral process”, including the power of sending the police to arrest opposition election personnel at the crucial moment of voting or of counting the votes.

The AWEPA Bulletin on the Mozambican Political Process12 writes that during the by-election in Mocímboa da Praia, last May, there was a “very heavy police presence during the election period, with extra police brought in from the provincial capital, Pemba. Both Renamo and national observers have accused the police of being heavy-handed and biased. An independent national observer commented that the police even confused the high early turnout with an attempt to disrupt the elections. The observer noted that when votes were being counted, high officials of both parties were going around the polling stations ‘in an extreme violation of the climate of tranquillity that the process requires’, but only Renamo officials were arrested”.

Maria José Moreno13, head of the Renamo-Electoral Union parliamentary group, also notes that changing the law without any change in practice will not change the situation for the better.

For example, affirms Moreno, a huge number of citizens are not registered in areas of Renamo influence, for alleged lack of resources and conditions. One notes, however, that state vehicles, that are not available to provide support for the voter registration, or during the voting (to collect and distribute polling station kits and staff etc), are used abusively during the election campaigns where literally all the district and provincial directors, with state vehicles, drivers, expenses and fuel participate intensely in the Frelimo election campaigns.

A further example, continues the head of the opposition parliamentary group, is that the complaints that would constitute material proof of electoral offences are habitually not on the polling station minutes, because the chairpersons of the stations refuse to accept them. In the recent case of Mocímboa da Praia the chairperson of a polling station, the wife of the district administrator, not only did not accept the complaint, but also jeered at the polling station monitors. This polling station recorded the largest number of invalidated ballot papers (dirty fingers, dipped in an ink cushion hidden among her clothing, etc.). There is legislation on these matters. What has not happened is the application of the law.

Also on the question of applying the electoral law in Mocímboa da Praia, Joseph Hanlon writes that the National Elections Commission (CNE) rejected the Renamo complaints for lack of “proof”. But this creates an impossible situation. The only “proof” possible is the invalid votes, but all these votes are held by the CNE. To invalidate ballot papers is a crime. It would not be difficult to look at the invalid votes to see if there are excessive finger marks, and the police could easily compare these marks with the fingerprints of the polling station staff.

A member of the Frelimo Central Committee, who preferred not to be named, agrees that that the existing legislation would be sufficient for a more just electoral process if there was willingness “on both sides” to apply the law, regardless of the political colours of the offenders.

A regular columnist in the Mozambican press thinks the only reform the system needs is transparency. “Allow the only bodies where one can find independence (more in some, less in others) – the media – to be present at each and every stage of the process and its decisions. There should be no secret decisions about public matters, and the elections are supposed to be a matter of public interest. There is no reason to count votes secretly. What is secret is the decision of each individual citizen, not the will of all the citizens. Let each polling station include a journalist, from the written press, the radio, the television, to make each and every stage of the process public. Let teams of journalists be present, in a rotating but permanent way, in the CNE, at each meeting, at each session.

3.3. Beira municipality: the difficult political cohabitation
Following the 2003 local elections, the largest opposition party in Mozambique, Renamo, won in the municipalities of Nacala, Mozambique Island and Angoche, in Nampula province, as well as the municipalities of Beira and Marromeu, in Sofala province.

Accepting Renamo’s victory in the Beira municipality was not a peaceful exercise on the part of Frelimo, and the results of the Beira vote were released more than ten days after the results from all the other municipalities had been published. This was the first time, in about three decades of governance, that Frelimo, in effective terms, was going to share power with the opposition, and Beira is the second largest city in the country, containing the second largest industrial park and the second largest sea port. It is from Beira that the countries of the hinterland, namely Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, have access to the sea, through the Beira and Tete corridors.

Sofala is the home province of the Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, and it is the area where Renamo’s war against the government was at its most intense. Sofala elects 21 deputies to parliament, and in the first legislature, in 1994, 19 deputies were from Renamo and 2 were from Frelimo. In 1999, Renamo fell to 18 deputies and Frelimo rose to 3. In 2004, Renamo dropped to 17 and Frelimo rose to 4 deputies.

In the 2003 municipal elections, the Renamo candidate, Daviz Simango, won the elections, and the Frelimo candidate, Djalma Lourenço, lost them.




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