Dhlakama Tries to Explain 'Autonomous Provinces' (

Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s main opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, has scaled back his demand for “autonomy” in those parts of the country where he claims that Renamo won the October 2015 general elections, and is now suggesting that each province should be treated as if it were a huge municipality.
Immediately after Renamo’s defeat in the elections, Dhlakama claimed that he was the victim of enormous fraud – even though Renamo had boasted that its amendments to the electoral law rendered it proof against fraud, and even though Renamo had literally tens of thousands of people at all levels of the electoral apparatus, from the polling stations upward.
Dhlakama’s immediate ploy was to call for a “caretaker government” to run the country for the next five years, with ministers appointed by Renamo and by the ruling Frelimo Party. When Frelimo rejected this proposal, he switched to calls for “autonomy” in the northern and central parts of the country.
In its maximum version, this would be a separatist “Republic of Central and Northern Mozambique” of which he would be president. Speaking in the north in early February, he promised to declare such a Republic “within days”.
But his two meetings in Maputo with President Filipe Nyusi have led Dhlakama to drop the separatism, and adopt a more modest terminology, speaking instead about “autonomous regions” or “autonomous provinces”.
In an interview in the latest issue of the independent weekly “Savana”, Dhlakama says that these “autonomous provinces” would be modelled on the existing municipalities. Just as Maputo City has both provincial and municipal status, he did not see why similar arrangements could not be made for other provinces, and without any need to change the Constitution.
The Constitution establishes two levels of local councils – town and city municipalities, and “settlement municipalities” based on administrative posts (the level of state administration between districts and localities). However the constitution also says that other types of local council could be established, at higher or lower levels.
“So judicially our proposal does not violate the Constitution”, Dhlakama said.
“We don’t need any public consultation. We just go to the law. It is envisaged that a local council higher than those that exist can be created”.
This argument about provincial-level municipalities is drawn almost verbatim from that made by a prominent professor in constitutional law, Gilles Cistac, although Dhlakama did not mention the fact.
Dhlakama did not want anything “complicated” – such as asking the public if they want a radical shake-up in the way the state is organised. “I want something that will enter now and be implemented”, he said.
His agreement with Nyusi a week ago was that Renamo will submit a bill on “autonomous provinces” to the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. He wanted this steamrollered through, without opposition from Frelimo. It should be “discussed and approved in March”, and new forms of provincial government would then be set up “immediately”.
This would be based on the provincial assemblies that were elected last October. In some unspecified manner the “President of the Provincial Council” would emerge from the assembly.
“All the executive powers of the existing governors will be transferred to the President of the Provincial Council, who will be from Renamo, and who will work with the Provincial Assembly, as if it were a small parliament”, Dhlakama said.
However, the powers of the Assemblies, established under the Constitution, are very limited. They are “to control compliance with the principles and norms established in the constitution and the laws as well as with decisions of the Council of Ministers concerning the province”, and “to approve the programme of the provincial government and supervise compliance with it”.
At no point does the Constitution suggest that some new form of provincial government could emerge from the Assemblies.
As for drawing the “President of the Provincial Council” from Renamo, in reality, although Dhlakama claims six provinces, Renamo only has an outright majority in three provincial assemblies – in Sofala, Zambezia and Tete.
In Nampula Renamo and Frelimo are tied, with 46 seats each – the sole member elected from the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) could swing decisions either way.
In Manica, Frelimo has the narrowest of majorities – 40 seats to 39 for Renamo.
Again there is one MDM member in the Assembly. As for Niassa, the sixth province claimed by Dhlakama, Frelimo has a clear majority with 42 seats to 34 for Renamo and four for the MDM.
Dhlakama claimed that, unless the “autonomous provinces” are established, there would be anti-government demonstrations in the northern and central provinces.
This is not the first time Dhlakama has made such threats. After losing the 2009 elections, he promised to hold “nationwide demonstrations” – but in reality not a single Renamo demonstration took place.
As for the current provincial governors, they would not be expelled from the provinces (thus contradicting threats Dhlakama had made a few weeks ago).
Instead they would remain as “representatives of the state, without executive powers”. This too is borrowed from the current municipalities, each of which has a largely toothless “state representative”.
Asked whether the Frelimo leadership would not simply order the Frelimo parliamentary group to vote against the Renamo bill, Dhlakama said “I have already warned them”. Indeed, he had publicly threatened to overthrow the government, unless Frelimo meekly signed up to the Renamo proposals.
“If Frelimo plays about and rejects the bill on autonomous regions, the government will immediately fall”, he menaced, immediately after his second meeting with Nyusi.
While it is impossible to discuss the Renamo bill in any detail, since it has not yet been written, there are some obvious problems. First, not all constitutional lawyers agree with Cistac that an “autonomous province” is just a municipality writ large, or that the exceptional status of Maputo City can be transferred to the other provinces.
Altering the powers of provincial assemblies, and introducing a new layer of governance, are fundamental matters that are likely to require, not merely a constitutional amendment, but also a national referendum. Dhlakama wants at all costs to avoid a referendum since it would be held, not just in the areas where Renamo has strong support, but in the entire country, and the result would not be regarded as valid unless more than half the registered electorate voted.
Other thorny issues include the relationship between the “autonomous provinces” and the existing district administrations and municipal councils, and the question of taxation. How will “autonomous provinces” be funded? Will vast numbers of functionaries be needed to staff the new forms of provincial government, and how will they be paid for?
There is no sign that Renamo has even begun to think of these issues – since the question of autonomy has arisen, not as a matter of principle, but merely as a response to losing an election.
Maputo, 16 Feb (AIM) – Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo is continuing to boycott the provincial assembly in the central province of Sofala – this time on the grounds that eight Renamo members were denied their rightful seats because their names were spelled incorrectly.
In January Renamo boycotted all ten provincial assemblies and the national parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, arguing that the general elections of 15 October were fraudulent. But last week, after two meetings with President Filipe Nyusi, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama called off the boycott.
At the first meeting of the Sofala assembly, on 7 January, only the 30 members from the ruling Frelimo Party and the seven from the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) took their seats. No other business could be done since, without the 45 members elected from Renamo, the Assembly had no quorum.
But on Friday all 45 Renamo members showed up – only to find the outgoing Assembly chairperson, Manuel Remessane, quibbling about the way their names were spelled.
According to a report on the independent television station STV, he refused to swear in eight of the Renamo members because their named were spelled differently on their identity documents and on the list of elected members sent to Sofala by the Constitutional Council, the body which had validated the elections.
The Renamo interim provincial delegate, Horacio Calavete, told reporters that blame for any spelling mistakes lay, not with Renamo, but with the Constitutional Council.
For the list drawn up by the Council derives entirely from documents provided by Renamo – namely photocopies of their candidates’ identity cards and voter cards. Mistakes could only have been made when somebody in the Council copied down the names.
What Ramessane should also have known is that variant spellings of Mozambican names are common, and have never previously been regarded as a reason for depriving citizens of their democratic rights. One of the examples cited by STV was of a candidate’s name written with an “s” instead of a “z”.
Not even the President of the Republic has been immune to indifferent spelling.
At the Frelimo Central Committee meeting which chose him as the Party’s presidential candidate, his name on the ballot paper was spelled “Nyussi”. The correct spelling is “Nyusi”.
Renamo sees, not a mistake, but a conspiracy. Calavete said the misspellings were deliberate, in order to deprive Renamo of its majority in the Assembly.
For if eight Renamo members are excluded, Renamo only has 37 members in the Assembly, the same as Frelimo and the MDM combined. This might deprive Renamo of its right to elect the Assembly chairperson.
So when the Assembly meeting reconvened on Saturday, Renamo boycotted it, announcing that none of its members would attend unless the eight excluded were allowed to take their seats.
Maputo, 16 Feb (AIM) – An Antonov AN-26 transport plane of the Mozambican air force crash landed near the central city of Quelimane because both of its engines failed, according to a press release from the General Staff of the armed forces (FADM).
The Antonov, with a crew of six on board, had been flying on Friday from Quelimane to Cuamba, in the northern province of Niassa. It was carrying supplies intended for victims of flooding in Niassa.
“A technical fault was the main cause of the accident”, said the release. One of the engines failed, and so the crew attempted to return to Quelimane.
But when it was about 100 metres from the Quelimane runway, the second engine also failed. Unable to reach the runway, the pilot made an emergency landing in a nearby field.
One member of the crew suffered slight injuries and received treatment at a local health post. The other five were unscathed.
The FADM has sent a commission of inquiry to Quelimane for a full investigation into the accident.
Maputo, 16 Feb (AIM) – The parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party has no intention of rubber-stamping the proposal from the former rebel movement Renamo for the creation of “autonomous provinces”, Frelimo Political Committee member Conceita Sortane warned on Monday.
Reporters asked Sortane about the Renamo proposal at a press conference in Maputo, where she is heading a Frelimo brigade looking into the health of party organisation in the capital.
Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama agreed in his meeting with President Filipe Nyusi a week ago that Renamo would bring a bill on “autonomous provinces” before the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
He clearly expected Nyusi to order the Frelimo parliamentary group to vote in favour of the bill, and warned of dire consequences if it did not. “If Frelimo plays about and rejects the bill on autonomous regions, the government will immediately fall”, he threatened.
But Sortane pointed out that Frelimo cannot be expected to approve a bill that so far does not even exist. “I can’t say anything about the case, because nothing concrete has been submitted to the Assembly yet”, she said. “We can’t advance on the basis of suppositions. Let’s wait and see. Reality will tell”.
But she was certain that the current Mozambican Constitution does not allow the creation of “autonomous regions”, and there was no question of approving anything that would undermine national unity.
She praised the dialogue currently under way between the government and Renamo, but warned that this should not be used as an excuse to divide the country.
“We have to explain to the public that the country must not be divided”, she stressed. The Frelimo brigade would urge that no-one should be intimidated by threats to split the country in two.
She said the brigade will visit all of Maputo’s seven municipal districts, and will thank the Maputo electorate for placing its trust in Frelimo and in Nyusi.
It will also discuss how to implement the various promises made in the Frelimo election manifesto.
“When the elections are over, that doesn’t mean that the Party stops working”, she said. “Frelimo’s activities are permanent and continual”.
London, 16 Feb (AIM) – The Indian online newspaper, Live Mint, reports that Tata Steel has taken the decision not to invest any further in the open cast coal mine in Benga, in the western Mozambican province of Tete.
Tata Steel has a 35 per cent stake in the mine, which holds an estimated 2.6 billion tonnes of coal, and in the Zambeze and Tete East coal projects. Of the three projects, Benga is the only one where coal is currently being mined and exported.
Tata was the junior partner with the Anglo-Australian company Rio Tinto in these coal ventures. But Rio Tinto sold its 65 per cent interest in these Mozambican coal assets last year for a mere 50 million US dollars to the Indian state-owned consortium, International Coal Ventures Limited (ICVL). This represented a catastrophic loss as the company had bought the assets in 2011 for 3.9 billion dollars.
ICVL is pushing ahead with plans to invest two billion US dollars in Mozambican coal. This includes plans to mine 13 million tonnes of coal annually, a project to transform coal into liquid fuels, and a power station to be built at the mouth of the Benga mine.
But it seems that Tata will not be accompanying this investment. The company’s managing director for India and South-East Asia, T.V. Narendran, told Mint, “we don’t want to spend more money on this asset”.
According to the report, the company is now looking to sell its stake. However, a spokesperson for Tata told AIM that he was unable to confirm the report.
Maputo, 16 Feb (AIM) – The delegations to the long-running dialogue between the Mozambican government and the former rebel movement Renamo claimed on Monday that they are close to reaching consensus on the separation of the state apparatus from political parties.
At the end of the 94th round in the dialogue the head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco said “the declaration of principle on party-state separation is practically harmonised and concluded”. There were just “some final aspects” to be agreed.
Pacheco expected the document to be signed and presented to the public at the next dialogue round (probably next Monday).
The document was initially drafted by the Mozambican observers to the dialogue. Pacheco said the government is ready to adopt the principles contained in the document, though he did not reveal what they are.
The head of the Renamo delegation, Saimone Macuiana, appeared to agree. He said “about 95 per cent” of the text was now consensual, and he hoped that this issue, the third point on the agenda for the dialogue, would be wrapped up at the next round.
He said the two sides were currently discussing a proposal made by Renamo according to which state employees will be barred from undertaking political activities during working hours. “We are trying to reach consensus over this with our brothers from the government”, Macuiana said.
Both sides promised that the content of the document will be released to the press – but only after full consensus has been reached.
But on the second agenda point, defence and security issues, deadlock still prevails. Renamo is refusing to hand over the list of members of its militia whom it wishes to see recruited into the armed forces (FADM) and the police. Without that list, the Renamo gunmen remain at their bases, and nothing is being done to demobilize and disarm them.
Renamo has not backed down from its demand for a share-out of senior posts in the military and the police. It wants to appoint 50 per cent of all top positions, and the government finds this unacceptable.
Pacheco has pointed out that Renamo’s position is incoherent. On the one hand, it wants to depoliticize the state, separating political parties from the state machinery. But on the other hand it wants to politicise the armed forces, distributing senior positions on the basis of political party affiliation.
On Monday, Pacheco warned that there will be no extension of the international observation of the 5 September agreement between the government and Renamo on a cessation of hostilities. For the government the key parts of that agreement were the integration of Renamo men into the army, police and civilian life, and the subsequent disarming and dismantling of the Renamo militia.
An international observer mission, known by the acronym EMOCHM, is supposed to monitor all of this. It consists of 23 foreign military experts from nine countries (Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cape Verde, Kenya, Italy, Portugal, Britain and the United States), and 70 Mozambican officers (half appointed by the government and half by Renamo). With Renamo refusing to hand over its list, the observers have had virtually nothing to do.
The EMOCHM 135 day mandate runs out on 23 February and Pacheco made it clear that the government sees no point in extending the mandate. The 5 September agreement makes extension possible “but not automatic”, he said. “It depends on concrete performance”.
EMOHCM had been unable to do anything of substance, he stressed, and “as a government, we feel there are no conditions to continue our work counting on international observation”.
“The activity will continue between us at a political level”, Pacheco suggested. He hoped that trust created between the government and Renamo during the dialogue would allow the integration of Renamo’s “residual forces” without the presence of foreign observers.
Macuiana, however, thought it “indispensable” to extend the mandate of EMOCHM, but did not explain what the observers could possibly do while Renamo refuses to hand over its list.
Source: Business