MDM and FRELIMO clash in Cuamba

An ugly incident marred the municipal by-election campaign in the northern Mozambican city of Cuamba on Thursday when members of the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) attacked four members of the ruling Frelimo Party and held one of them hostage for several hours.

According to a report in Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, one of the victims was the “Queen” (woman traditional leader) of the Adine 3 neighbourhood, Luisa Benesse.

Eye-witnesses told the paper that the MDM militants attacked their opponents because they believed they were collected voter cards from citizens for unknown purposes, and writing the details down on a mysterious list.

They went to the home of Luisa Benesse where they physically attacked her and three other women members of the Frelimo campaign team. One of them, Suzete Ernesto, was then taken to the MDM office, where she was held hostage for several hours, until the police intervened to rescue her (although the MDM say they handed her over to the police).

A confrontation between Frelimo and MDM members then followed in front of the police command, with both parties demanding that justice be done. The police promised that investigations would be undertaken.

The head of the Frelimo brigade in Adine 3, Remos Mathula, denied there was any collection of voter cards. The list which the MDM mentioned was a list of addresses in the neighbourhood, used by Frelimo to check which houses have been visited by its canvassers. The list is updated every day.

The MDM had thus confused a normal canvassing technique with an attempt at electoral fraud.

In the election campaign in the central city of Quelimane, the Frelimo candidate, Lourenco Abubacar, held a meeting with local journalists and promised that, if he becomes mayor, he will improve their working conditions.

He said the challenge was for the municipality to sign an agreement with the National Union of Journalists (SNJ) under which the SNJ would be given its own premises in Quelimane.

Abubacar asked for support from the media in achieving his ambition of turning Quelimane into a model municipality.

Some of the journalists present took advantage of the meeting to complain of the difficulties they faced in acquiring land in Quelimane on which to build houses. The Frelimo general secretary, Filipe Paunde, who also attended the meeting, promised that a solution would be found to this problem with the victory of Abubakar whom he described as “a successful businessman with an ambitious plan for the development of Quelimane”.

To the surprise of some observers, the former mayor of Quelimane, Pio Matos, whose resignation sparked off the by-election, has been playing an active role in the Frelimo campaign. He shows no sign of the poor health he invoked as a reason for resigning.

The independent daily “O Pais” noted that Matos is guiding the routes of the Frelimo motorcades, and even dances at the campaign rallies.

Paunde told the paper he could see no contradiction. “I might be ill for a time, and later my condition might improve. I think that is what’s happening. The most important thing is to praise the human dimension that Pio Matos represents. When he realized that his health would not allow him to carry on, instead of trying to stay in power, he relinquished his position. He put the interests of the municipality above his personal interests”.

Today, Matos was feeling fit, “but we have to understand that the election campaign only lasts for a few days”, said Paunde. “That’s different from being mayor, a job which forces us to make a great mental effort, which can end up damaging our state of health”.

In his campaigning on Thursday, the MDM candidate, Manuel de Araujo, promised that the first issue he would tackle, if elected, would be to improve the Quelimane water supply. He told vendors in the city’s central market that better water supply will significantly improve individual and collective hygiene, particularly in crowded places such as markets. He also promised to end what he regarded as waste of money in the city.

The spokesperson for the MDM Quelimane campaign, Calisto da Silva, cited in “Noticias”, said he was happy with the first three days of canvassing in the city. He added that the police are now actively collaborating in ensuring law and order during the campaign. Earlier, Araujo had complained that the police did not offer the MDM the same level of protection as Frelimo – the spokesperson for the police command retorted that was because the MDM had not provided them with the itinerary for its motorcades and rallies.

Both Araujo and Abubakar on Thursday attended the funeral of a well-known catholic priest, Fortunato Simone, held in Quelimane cathedral.

Post published in: Africa News

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