Mozambique: Renamo Pushes for Dhlakama to Be Declared National Hero


The Mozambican National Resistance Movement (Renamo) is pushing for former party leader Afonso Dhlakama, who died on May 3, 2018, to be declared a national hero. But how can a man who spent his life in the opposition be given such a title? The answer could be in the role he played in the history of Renamo party.

For 39 years, Dhlakama led Renamo, a rebel group which fought a 16-year war against the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) party until 1992, and then emerged as an opposition party. It still retains armed fighters.

Frelimo has ruled Mozambique since the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

In fact, Renamo began as an offshoot of Frelimo. In the 1970s, disgruntled members of Frelimo were aided by the then Rhodesian Central Intelligence Organisation to begin a rival movement, meant to push back the alleged communist tendencies of the then Frelimo. The result was a bitter war after Mozambique’s independence from the Portuguese.

An independent Mozambique descended into a civil war that lasted more than a decade, and Dhlakama was in hiding since 2013 in the remote Gorongosa mountains even as sporadic conflicts erupted in the country.

To mark Dhlakama’s death anniversary on May 3, Renamo’s top party leaders commemorated with an official event in all provincial offices.

Renamo’s current leader Ossufo Momade says his party continues to be inspired by Dhlakama’s ideals and wants its founder to be acknowledged as a national hero. Mr Momade took over the opposition party in January 2019. Last October, Renamo lost the election to incumbent President Filipe Nyusi’s of the Frelimo party. Renamo disputed the results, with some NGOs and observers claiming the numbers were manipulated.

During his address to the nation on May 3, Mr Momade lamented the fact that Mr Dhlakama died without fulfilling his dream.

“His dream was a developed Mozambique with a robust economy, an administration free of corruption as well as governors coming from free, just and transparent polls. We exalt Afonso Dhlakama as our hero and hope that the Mozambican state acknowledges him as such because of his contribution to nationalism and patriotism,” said Mr Momade.

It was also Dhlakama’s dream that Renamo push to have district administrators elected in 2024. But there is currently a contradiction in how Renamo is playing its role as an opposition party. Mr Momade has accepted privileges as the head of the second most popular party in the country — something Dhlakama would never accept – arguing that there were civil servants who needed the help of Renamo.

Like his predecessor, Mr Momade, who has been a member of parliament since 1999 and served as the party’s secretary-general between 2007 and 2012 and a guerrilla leader during the civil war, lived in the remote Gorongosa field headquarters. This was Renamo’s way of showing independence from political largesse.

But soon after Dhlakama’s death on May 3, 2018, Mr Momade left Gorongosa and moved into a resort hotel for the peace talks with the government. Last August, the Frelimo-led government and Renamo signed a deal, and it was expected that he would leave the resort soon after the peace deal for Gorongosa. But, in March, Renamo confirmed that Mr Momade was still living in the hotel.

Renamo’s spokesperson, José Manteigas, confirmed that the party leader was still living in a tourist resort in Maputo and that the international community pays his expenses without specifying names and amounts.

Mr Manteigas noted that the hotel stay was not his leader’s choice, suggesting some sort of trust deficit on his security situation.

But political observers argue that Renamo has become weaker since Dhlakama’s death as it incited internal crisis and defections. Renamo now has two party wings: The political one led by Mr Momade and an armed one led by Mariano Nhongo.

“Renamo is clearly divided and. There is a party sector in parliament and the other one is in the rural areas,” said Mozambique University dean Severino Ngoenha, adding, Dhlakama’s death does not mean the end of Renamo but it has generated a decentralisation of the country’s main opposition party.


Source: East African