Assembly elects ombudsman

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Friday elected former Justice Minister Jose Abudo as the country’s first ombudsman.

Abudo was proposed by the parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party. His sole opponent was Maximo Dias, proposed by the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).

Abudo has had a lengthy career in the Mozambican judicial system. He has been a judge on the Administrative Tribunal, a judicial inspector and the presiding judge on the Sofala Provincial Court. He was Minister of Justice from 1995 to 2004.

Dias was an opposition politician in exile from 1974 to 1991, leading a party called MONAMO (Mozambican Nationalist Movement). After the 1990 constitution enshrined political pluralism he returned to Mozambique and became a successful lawyer. MONAMO was one of ten parties that allied with the former rebel movement Renamo to form the Renamo-Electoral Union (RUE) coalition. Dias was an RUE parliamentary deputy from 2000 to 2009.

In the election Abudo received 175 votes and Dias 16. There were 11 blank ballot papers, and 23 invalid votes.

The Renamo parliamentary group had no candidate, and seemed to give its members no advice. Just seven MDM members were present – it is reasonable to assume that the other nine votes for Dias came from Renamo, and that most of those who spoiled their votes or cast blank ballots were also from Renamo.

The post of ombudsman was envisaged in the constitution of 2004, and a law on the ombudsman’s office was passed in 2006. But it proved impossible to elect an ombudsman then, because the election requires a two-thirds majority, and in the 2005-2009 parliament Frelimo did not have a majority of this size,

Renamo openly stated that there would be no ombudsman unless the 2006 bill was amended to provide for two assistant ombudsmen – one chosen by Frelimo and one by Renamo. This politicisation of the ombudsman’s office was unacceptable to Frelimo, and so no ombudsman was elected throughout the life of that parliament.

It is now possible to elect an ombudsman, despite any Renamo objections, because the Renamo vote in the 2009 general elections collapsed, and Frelimo now holds a majority, not of two thirds, but of over 75 per cent in the Assembly.

The law states that the ombudsman should “make recommendations to the relevant bodies with a view to correcting illegal or unjust acts or omissions of the public powers or to improve their respective services”.

The ombudsman may also note defects in the law and suggest amending or revoking legislation. He also has a public education role in publicizing legislation on the rights, duties and freedoms of citizens.

Complaints or petitions may be presented orally or in writing to the ombudsman, but must always mention the name and address or workplace of the petitioner.

Before issuing a recommendation, the ombudsman must always hear the version of the person or body against whom the complaint is directed – unless the person concerned refuses to speak to the ombudsman.

Post published in: Africa News

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