Political Analysis of Mozambique


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41 year old Daviz Simango is the second son of Uria Simango, one of those who founded the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) on 25 June 1962, in Dar-Es-Saalam, deputy president of Frelimo from 1962 to 1969, later declared a “reactionary” of the Revolution and executed, extra-judicially, in 1977, at the Majune re-education camp, in Niassa province, together with his wife, Celina, and several other veterans of the national liberation struggle, who were also declared reactionaries by the Frelimo socialist government.

As for the Municipal Assembly, Renamo holds 25 seats, Frelimo 19 and IPADE 1. IPADE is the Democratic Institute for Peace and Development, led by Raul Domingos before he founded the Party for Peace, Democracy and Development (PDD) of which he is president.

Daviz Simango inherited a municipality full of problems, with a corrupt and disorganised municipal administration: Beira city was going through difficult moments with the cyclical cholera outbreaks that hit the city every year due to extremely poor public health conditions. Several names that were on the Municipal Council wage sheet did not work at the Municipal Council, but were Frelimo Party leaders at various levels. Six months wage arrears were owed to the Municipal Council workers, the Municipal Council coffers had no money, and there were debts to be paid in excess of five billion meticais.

Two years later, the Beira scenario is totally different: for two years there have been no cholera deaths in that city; the wages for the ghost workers were cut; all the wage arrears were paid; the cleaning and hygiene system in the city was improved, and all the Municipal Council’s creditors were paid.

Where did the money come from for all this? Daviz Simango replies that the money came from a new system of collecting and managing the Municipal Council’s revenue. The Municipality complains that the central and provincial governments have impeded and boycotted the Municipal Council’s access to international funds.

Many Beira citizens think that, with its new manager, their city really has changed its face, and they believe that the conditions have been established for foreign investment. Most of the local business class regard the young mayor as a very competent and very honest person in managing the public good.

Daviz Simango is a civil construction engineer. So many of the municipal building works that once would have needed expensive consultancies, are technically designed and implemented under his supervision, which greatly reduces operational costs. He says that he found a municipal administration “deliberately disorganised in order to facilitate corruption”.

But in the opinion of the Frelimo Party, Daviz Simango’s management is disastrous in that he does not take into consideration advice from those more experienced in municipal management, who are in the ranks of Frelimo. Even so, some Frelimo members recognise that Beira city is better now than it was before.

But the fundamental question in Beira concerns the absence of foreign investment. The Beira industrial park has a lot of potential, but it needs capital to get moving. Daviz Simango says he has made several appeals to investors to put their money there, but the response is not yet satisfactory.

On the other hand, there is a kind of competition between the provincial government (run by Frelimo) and the municipal government (run by Renamo) in which the former is trying to show some activism in solving Beira’s problems at the expense of the work undertaken by the municipal executive, For example, the Municipal Council was recently going to sign a partnership agreement with an international institution for financing work to combat coastal erosion in the city. When the provincial government learnt of this, it ordered that the signing ceremony be stopped, and decreed that instead of the Municipal Council, the agreement should be signed with the Provincial Government, even though the funds were intended for the Municipal Council. Thus it happened, and a few days later the local press received the news, and announced, in bold headlines, that “the Sofala provincial government will finance with 33 billion meticais coastal rehabilitation work in Beira”. For public consumption the wrong idea was transmitted that the money to be invested comes from the coffers of the provincial government when, in reality, the funds were mobilised by the Municipal Council itself from its cooperation partners. But for the Frelimo provincial government the important thing is not to let the public understand that a Renamo government is capable of mobilising support from potential cooperation partners.

A further dispute opposing the new municipal administration to Frelimo concerns the administrative headquarters of Beira’s municipal neighbourhoods. On the eve of the 2003 municipal elections, these were “administratively” registered as belonging to the Frelimo Party. After it lost the elections, Frelimo demanded that the Municipal Council pay a monthly rent to Frelimo, if it wanted to continue using the building as neighbourhood offices.

The new Municipal Council challenged Frelimo’s position. It did not withdraw from the municipal administration in the 23 Beira neighbourhoods, and initiated legal proceedings with the local Attorney’s office against Frelimo’s intention of evicting the Council.

About a year later, the local Attorney’s office ruled against the Municipal Council, and regarded the Frelimo position, of appropriating the buildings as its own property, as legitimate. Not satisfied with this decision, Daviz Simango appealed to higher levels of the judiciary, and is currently waiting for their decision. The position of the legal bodies in Beira was interpreted, by public opinion, as a further symptom of the judiciary’s lack of independence from the ruling party.

4. Where is civil society?
Normally, when there is a political confrontation in the country, or when the politicians seem not to understand enough about crucial processes in the nation’s life, people tend to try to find out where civil society is so that it can intervene and possibly help find a consensual solution.

In Mozambique, although the legal space exists for more vigorous action by civil society, it is still not affirming itself as much as people expect of it. It still faces several weaknesses, which may be summarised as follows:

  • Many civil society organisations were not inspired by their own agenda, but arose because of donor willingness to provide funds to support a particular area of activity;

  • In most cases, the leaderships of civil society organisations still have strong links with government and ruling party bodies (where they provide free or paid services, where they hold frequent meetings, and participate openly in political campaigns to the detriment of NGOs’ agenda)14;

  • Eventually, deriving from the previous point, many civil society organisations, do not intervene in public causes, and do not express themselves publicly on behalf of causes that may be perceived as contrary to those defended by the government;

  • The leaderships of many civil society organisations are not democratically elected, nor do they allow any great space for internal democracy. Some leaderships remain in office for more than ten years without holding general meetings where ideas can be debated and new people elected to the leadership.

According to several civil society activists, “Good internal governance” is the fundamental question for NGOs in Mozambique. And on it obviously depends their ability to influence other processes.

According to Álvaro Casimiro15, LINK launched three years ago a code of conduct for NGOs, which they signed up to voluntarily. “Even so there are still those - among NGOs and donors – who prefer to avoid the question”.

When the problem of “internal governance” is scarcely resolved, Mozambican NGOs have a limited voice and action on various matters of Mozambican society. The activities they undertake are more reactive than pro-active.

Ermelindo Monteiro, a member of Caritas of Mozambique, notes that Mozambican civil society still suffers from many weaknesses, particularly with regard to its capacity for concrete activities of monitoring the government’s performance, particularly in monitoring PARPA.

According to the government report, the implementation of PARPA allowed the reduction of poverty from about 69% in 1996/7, to about 54% in 2003/4. Representatives of twenty civil society organisations (G-20) noted in their analysis that citizen participation in the PARPA process was very limited.

For that civic activist, the greatest constraint seems to be linked to the fact that, in general, civil society organisations in Mozambique belong heavily to an elite. “They speak a language that is beyond the understanding of an illiterate Mozambican or one with basic literacy: an academic, university, statistical, percentage language which prevents the participation of the people who speak the language of the facts that they experience”.

Monteiro points to excessive centralisation of decision making within the NGOs as a further constraint on Mozambican civil society activism. “We speak in a democratic way, and act in an oligarchic one”.

However, events of the past five years point to the emergence of a new awareness and a new mode of operating of civil society organisations which should be taken into consideration in this analysis.

Following the violent police repression of the Renamo demonstrations in Montepuez, in November 2000, and following the brutal assassination, on a Maputo street, of the journalist Carlos Cardoso, in the same month and year, several civic organisations came together in Maputo and set up the Movement for Peace and Citizenship (MPC), a broad coalition of civic organisations whose objective is to express the viewpoint of civil society about peace keeping mechanisms and the need for Mozambican citizens to be ever more involved in public decision-making processes, forcing the two main political parties to abstain from violence in solving their differences.

The MPC also played an important role in the public discussion on amending the electoral law that governed the 2004 elections, and was also involved in training election observers for the 2003 municipal and the 2004 general elections.

The creation of the Electoral Observatory in 2003, from joint operations of the Islamic Council of Mozambique (CISLAMO), the Centre of Studies in Democracy and Development (CEDE), the Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH), the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM), the Mozambican Association for the Development of Democracy (AMODE) and the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church, gave a feeling of greater electoral responsibility and offered greater credibility and security to the electoral stakeholders.

The Electoral Observatory was not only active in electoral observation, but also created conditions for a parallel vote count, which gave greater credibility to the results announced officially by the CNE later.

On the front of economic transparency, one should note the work of the group of 20 civil society organisations (G20), who form part of the Council of Opinion of the Poverty Observatory, a forum created by the government for consultation and discussion of progress in the Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA). Thus, apart from the government and the donors, civil society, through the G20, has seats on the Poverty Observatory where it gives its opinion on various themes related to the mechanisms for designing, implementing and monitoring the progress of PARPA.

Apart from this presence at central level, civil society at provincial and even district level is increasingly active, and many good things are happening at this level with the involvement of civic organisations.

On the other hand, business organisations grouped in the CTA (Working Confederation of Economic Associations) exert increasing pressure on the government to speed up economic and fiscal reforms. It has been thanks to this pressure that good steps have been taken in reducing red tape, the delays in granting licences to companies and other obstacles to the proper flow of business.

One should also stress the role played by the coalition of NGOs known as the Mozambican Debt Group (GMD), which has been very strong in demanding transparency in the mechanisms for reducing and/or eliminating Mozambique’s foreign debt, and its conversion into resources for the development of education, health and other priority areas. This is a group which, thanks to its persistent work, has now won a prominent place in consultations with the government, and has acted to put pressure on creditor countries to analyse more closely Mozambique’s indebtedness.

The particular work of the Mozambican Human Rights League (LDH) also deserves some stress. This is a very courageous organisation which has carved out the difficult path of imposing respect for human rights in the country, denouncing police atrocities, extra-judicial executions, and other kinds of violations. Today, thanks to the persistent work of the League and the media, there seems to be more respect for human rights in the country than was the case ten years ago.

In the countryside, there are also various grass roots community organisations that bring together thousands of citizens and try to show them the path of forming community associations. There stands out the work of the National Union of Peasants (UNAC), a national network of the general unions of agricultural and livestock cooperatives, which have thousands of members, particularly women who have organized themselves to create forms of self-employment with which to sustain themselves and their families. This is a very functional and coordinated body, which was inspired by the experience of the powerful Maputo City General Union of Agricultural and Livestock Cooperatives, led very successfully for more than 10 years by the combative Celina Cossa.

In addition, one may note the work of the trade union organisations and the powerful associations of road transport operators, informal vendors and others whose voices are increasingly heard at the table where fundamental decisions are taken for the future of the country, challenging the government to show ever greater capacity to consult with and coordinate the various social, cultural, economic and religious interests expressed by these organisations.

Thus, ministers responsible for various areas are constantly meeting with various associations to hear their point of view on any government policy and/or measure to be taken. Frequently it is the organisations/associations themselves who call a particular minister to meetings and who not infrequently submits to the fire of their criticism.

5. The media and the struggle for transparency
A very dynamic aspect of Mozambican society is the growing role of the media particularly in the last ten years.

The opening to a free press in Mozambique was enshrined in the 1990 Constitution, and restated in the 2004 Constitution. It is regulated by Law no. 18/91, commonly known as the Press Law.

These legal instruments shape a democratic framework favourable to the exercise of press freedom in Mozambique, and are guaranteed by a government practice that is also favourable and respects the spaces of the mass media and of journalists’ work.

But the media in Mozambique face various material and financial constraints, since the sector does not enjoy large scale business investments, nor has it received support from the international community for its survival and expansion16.

According to the press law, the media property regime in Mozambique may be public, mixed and private.

Thus Radio Mozambique and Mozambican Television (TVM) are defined as public sector media. These are the two most important media in Mozambique. They have the largest audiences and are represented nationally – that is, they have delegations in all the provincial capitals.

Radio Mozambique is the most powerful means of communication in all the national territory, broadcasting in more than 20 languages spoken in Mozambique, including English.

While Radio Mozambique and Mozambican Television have statutes as public corporations, operating with funds from the general state budget, the Mozambique News Agency (AIM) and the Mass Communications Institute (ICS) are regarded as more governmental than public due to their lack of status as autonomous public companies, and due to their direct financial and functional subordination to the Information Office, one of the departments of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The papers published by the company Sociedade de Notícias, SARL, although nominally private, are regarded by most of the public as being governmental due to their editorial line which is highly favourable to the government, and probably due to the fact that Sociedade de Notícias is an atypical private company in which the three main shareholders are the Central Bank (the State Bank), the extinct Ministry of Information (a state body) and the Mozambican Insurance Company (EMOSE), a company 80% owned by the state. Representatives of these three bodies are the only members of the Board of Directors of that news company17.

Outside of the papers owned by Sociedade do Notícias, there are several private newspapers in the country, mostly concentrated in the capital, and with little circulation in the other provinces.

A further important limitation of the written Mozambican press is that it is written in Portuguese, a language spoken by little more than 40 per cent of the population. Why then are newspapers not written in the languages that people speak? Because it is among the speakers of Portuguese that one finds the people with purchasing power in Mozambique. It is among the speakers of Portuguese, the one finds the elite, the academics, the politicians, the business people – in short, those who have money to buy newspapers.

Only one paper with a reasonable circulation, Diário de Moçambique, is published and printed in Beira, the country’s second largest city. It has been published since the 1950s. Founded by the then catholic bishop of colonial Beira, Diário de Moçambique is today a private company controlled by a group of three brothers, Mozambican businessmen of Asian origin, and influential members of the ruling party. They are the owners of the Académica group, which owns the Académica printing press, the Academica bookshop, the Rex and Africarte stationers, among other businesses including butchers and restaurants in Maputo city.

In terms of the daily press, Mozambique has many papers that are distributed by fax. This kind of company has spread in this country since the early 1990s, as a way of getting round the high costs of producing a newspaper that is physically distributed in the streets.

There are also several weeklies with a lot of influence in the coverage of political, social and economic matters.

Mozambique is one of the few southern African countries with liberal legislation that allows private business to run radio and television stations. Thus the country has more than 20 private radio stations, and two private television stations in operation. Apart from this, there are more than 40 community radios18 spread across the country’s various provinces.

In general, the Mozambican press is going through a process of growth both from the business point of view and from that of editorial influence. A great deal of effort has gone into denouncing acts of corruption and the lack of transparency in managing public property.

Several cases of corruption, that were later investigated by judicial bodies, were first raised by the press, and, “several others that we raised received no response either from government bodies or from the judicial authorities”, said one senior journalist.

According to the MISA-Mozambique report on the state of press freedom, “in general there is a great growth of the space for press freedom in Mozambique. However, as we go out of Maputo into the provinces this freedom declines, and declines heavily when we get down to the districts”.

One of the serious obstacles to the media’s work is the lack of legislation on access to the information held by public bodies. Various journalists complain that public bodies invoke miscellaneous sorts of official secrets in order not to provide the information required for the press to give to the public.

To tackle this problem, the Misa-Mozambique proposal on a Law on Access to Official Sources of Information is at an advanced stage of public debate. Such a law would make it compulsory for public officials to provide the public with relevant information about their work.

For greater development of the media in Mozambique, several analysts of the sector believe that the government should take some actions to remove certain legal hindrances to the growth of the sector. This is the case with Article 6 of the Press Law which limits the participation of foreign capital to only 20%. That is, in a joint-venture between Mozambican and foreign capital, the latter cannot hold more than 20%. Right from the start this is a disincentive for foreign capital to invest in the media, leaving this important sector to the mercy of national investments, which have not so far appeared in satisfactory amounts, since most of the current owners of the private media are the journalists themselves who have set up cooperatives and/or small commercial companies, usually without sufficient financial power for large scale investments.

Furthermore, the largest slice of the advertising cake from public institutions and companies goes to the publicly owned media and to the paper “Notícias”, leaving the private media with added economic difficulties.

Several operators of the private media do not look favourably on the investment of taxpayers’ money that the Central Bank makes in Notícias, a nominally private paper but financed with public money through the Central Bank. The same operators are preparing to publish, before the end of the year, a letter to the Governor of the Bank of Mozambique demanding the sale to the private sector of the shares the Bank holds in Notícias.

6. The role of Parliament
Throughout this first decade of Mozambican democracy, Parliament was regarded by some observers as a fundamental institution for democratisation and national reconciliation, as well as being a great school of politico-legal literacy and education for the hundreds of Mozambican citizens who have passed through it.

Several analysts regard Parliament and the army as the only two national institutions where there has indeed been effective cohabitation and national reconciliation between Renamo and Frelimo, since in other social and political areas Renamo members have always complained of political, social and above all economic exclusion.

Furthermore, Parliament has allowed “a unique opportunity for many Mozambicans to become legally literate and to learn a little about the culture of State, which is essential for the stability and development of this country”, comments Dr. Carlos Machili, of the Pedagogic University.

Also in the view of that academic, “Parliament is also a space for the formation of a new, highly paid political elite, since a deputy, who has sometimes not completed secondary education, in Mozambique earns more than a university professor with a doctorate”.

Even so, other interviewees, particularly some members of the international community, working with the country’s government, think the role of parliament is essential for the institutionalization of the democratic system in Mozambique, by creating a culture whereby the executive and other public bodies are accountable to parliament.

They also regard as essential the role of parliament in discussing and approving the General State Budget and the government’s Economic and Social Plans, as well as in discussing and approving the general state accounts, which show how the taxpayers’ money has been spent.

Other areas where Parliamentary intervention is considered crucial include the discussion and approval of reforms in Mozambican legislation, much of it dating from the time of the one-party state, and thus incompatible with the current moment, notably the reform of the judiciary and the reform of the public sector.

However, given the ruling party’s absolute majority in Parliament, some critics look at it with the suspicion that it is purely and simply legitimising decisions already taken by the Frelimo Party Political Commission.

In the opinion of Jack Maloouf, parliament does nothing more than approve the programme of the party that won the elections. “The vote of the supposed representatives of the people, bound by party discipline, merely legitimizes the prescriptions of the Political Commission of the winning party”, he claims.

The same concern is shared by Manuel de Araújo, who argues that, given the way it currently operates, the parliament is no more than a rubber-stamp lacking independence.

But the central question of the Mozambican parliament seems to lie in its reduced capacity to influence fundamental decision-making processes. Although it is, par excellence, a legislative body, about 85% of the legislation that it approves in every five year term originates from outside Parliament, namely from the Government, and only about 15% is the initiative of the Parliament itself. This is due to lack of technical capacity for drawing up bills.

The Mozambican parliament does not possess a technical body of advisors, able to provide support to the parliamentary groups in analyzing government documents and in drafting legislative proposals.

The Mozambican parliament has no technical office to coordinate and manage technical assistance to the parliament’s General Secretariat, to the specialised commissions and to the Parliamentary Groups.

In the absence of technical capacity, the Parliament has few eyes with which to analyse in detail the voluminous budgetary documentation which the government takes there. As a result, deputies often vote without full knowledge of the matters at stake. It so happened that, two years ago, Parliament voted, without realising it, two million dollars for building a mansion for former president Joaquim Chissano. After the press raised the issue, several deputies were surprised and swore they had not seen in the voluminous documentation anything like a two million dollar allocation for the residence of the former president.

Perhaps to overcome these limitations, the new Constitution of the Republic, in force since 21 January 2005, envisages the legal concept of the Decree-Law – that is, a special authorisation for the government also to legislate, particularly in the cases of very extensive and technically complex matters such as the approval of the new Criminal and Civil Procedural Codes, the Commercial Code, the Registry and Notarial Code, and other complicated legislation. This is all to be approved by the government this year in the first exercise of the concept of the Decree-Law.

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