MAPUTO– Mozambiques’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, has approved an amendment to the Constitution to allow for the indirect election of provincial governors and district administrators, as well as mayors of cities and towns.

All contentious issues had been dealt with in long discussions between the leaderships of the three parliamentary groups — from the ruling Frelimo Party, the rebel movement Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) prior the second and third readings of the Bill.

Edson Macuacua, the chairperson of the Assembly’s working commission on legal and constitutional matters, presented the final version of the amendments, and the 223 deputies present in the chamber Thursday approved them unanimously.

Up until now, the President of the Republic has appointed and dismissed provincial governors, and the Minister of State Administration has appointed all district administrators. However, beginning in 2019 for governors, and 2024 for administrators, these posts will be elected.

Provincial assemblies already exist, but their powers are very limited. From 2019, however, whoever heads the winning list in the election of a provincial assembly will become the governor. Thus the voters will know that they are electing both the assembly and the governor on the same ballot paper.

The provincial government is renamed the Provincial Executive Council, chaired by the Governor, and will be responsible for implementing the programme of governance approved by the provincial assembly.

The same structure is replicated in the 154 districts. For the first time, there will be elected district assemblies in 2024, and whoever heads the list that takes a majority of votes will become the district administrator and will head the District Executive Council.

The issue that almost derailed the constitutional amendments was: who will appoint district administrators between 2019 and 2024 ?

Frelimo argued that the current system, whereby the Minister of State Administration appoints district administrators, should remain in force until 2024. But Renamo insisted that the provincial governors who will be elected next year should have the power to appoint the administrators.

A compromise was reached whereby, up until 2024, the district administrators will be appointed by the Minister of State Administration, but after consultations with the provincial governor. The nature of these consultations has been postponed to future legislation.

The amendments also eliminate the direct election of mayors in municipalities. Instead, the procedure will be analogous to the provincial and district elections. Citizens will elect the municipal assembly and whoever is head of the winning slate becomes mayor.

Once in office, the governors, administrators and mayors cannot be removed by their political parties � only the relevant assembly – provincial, district or municipal – can sack them. The grounds on which they can be sacked are not stipulated in the constitution, but are another issue postponed to future legislation.