Mozambique: Assembly passes bills on intelligence service

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Thursday passed the first reading of a bill on the status of members of the State Intelligence and Security Service (SISE), providing them with a legal framework to protect their rights and establish their duties, as is already the case with members of the police and armed forces.

The bill states that the “indispensable conditions” for recruitment to SISE are “recognised civic and patriotic suitability, professional competence, and relevant academic training”. A career in SISE is open to Mozambicans aged between 18 and 25 – but recruitment is not done publicly, and there are no tenders or adverts.

Recruits must “accept the risks inherent to the duties they will perform”, and must not belong to any “political pressure groups”. They must be “permanently available” for duty, even after they have retired.

The element of risk and the physical and psychological pressures of the job entitle SISE members to allowances in addition to their monthly wages.

As is usually the case with intelligence agencies, a veil of secrecy is thrown over SISE. The names of successful recruits are not published in the official gazette, the “Boletim da Republica”, and nor are the SISE wage scales. The trial of any SISE member accused of a crime will be held behind closed doors.

SISE members are banned from “interfering in the private life of citizens or in the operations of public and private institutions and companies”. They must not undertake any activities which “threaten the principles enshrined in the constitution and the law”, and must not usurp any powers that belong to the courts, the police or the public prosecutor’s office.

They are also barred from releasing any information about SISE to the media, and cannot write or publish anything concerning their work without authorisation.

Any interference in the lives of citizens will lead to dismissal, as will the unauthorized possession of firearms, or involvement in any illegal business or financial activities.

The bill passed with the 125 deputies present from the ruling Frelimo Party voting in favour, while 43 deputies of the largest opposition party, the former rebel movement Renamo, voted against, and five members of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) abstained.

The same breakdown occurred on Wednesday when the Assembly passed a bill on the nature and powers of SISE. This bill states that the mission of SISE is “to protect state security through the production of useful information on crimes against state security or cross-border crimes and other activities, which by their nature might alter the constitutionally established rule of law”.

SISE is allowed to intercept communications when there are signs that such crimes are being committed or planned, particularly attempted assassination of the head of state or other senior state figures, sabotage, terrorism, espionage, piracy, armed rebellion, money laundering, and trafficking in drugs, guns, people or human organs.

SISE is barred from any activity “that involves threats or offences against the rights, freedoms and guarantees of citizens, enshrined in the Constitution and the law”.

Renamo deputies claimed that SISE “harasses Mozambican citizens who don’t agree with Frelimo”, and makes death threats against people who want to be election candidates for opposition parties. No specific examples were given.

Fernando Matuasanga declared that the SISE commander-in-chief (President Armando Guebuza) “took power fraudulently”, and claimed that SISE “defends his personal interests rather than the interests of the nation”.

In reality, in the 2009 presidential election Guebuza won almost three million votes (75 per cent of valid votes) to slightly more than 650,000 (16.41 per cent) for Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama. Those incidents of fraud that did take place cannot possibly account for such an enormous victory.

The MDM’s concern was for lack of sufficient oversight over SISE. MDM deputy Eduardo Elias warned “those who are not properly supervised are prone to commit abuses”.

Post published in: Africa News

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