Afonso Dhlakama, leader of Mozambique’s former rebel movement Renamo, on Friday threatened that there would only be peace and stability in the country, if Renamo’s proposal for “provincial municipalities” is accepted.
Speaking in Beira, at the end of a meeting of the Renamo National Commission, Dhlakama seemed to retreat from the threats of a return to war made the previous day by the meeting’s spokesperson, parliamentary deputy Jose Manteigas.
Manteigas had boasted that Renamo has men “in combat positions” throughout the country ready to respond to any attempt by the government to prevent Renamo from imposing its “provincial municipalities”.
Dhlakama, however, struck out in a different direction, giving the government and the ruling Frelimo Party a deadline of three days to begin negotiations on what he called “decentralisation of the state”, covering all 11 provinces.
“We shall extend the municipalities to the 11 provinces, to avoid any misunderstanding that we want to divide the country”, he said.
Some reporters covering the Beira meeting seemed to regard this as a significant change – which merely proves that they did not compare Dhlakama’s words with the original Renamo bill. For the concept of “provincial municipalities” was always intended to cover the entire country.
But Dhlakama insisted that it first be implemented in the six central and northern provinces where he claims that Renamo is the majority party (Manica, Sofala, Tete, Zambezia, Nampula and Niassa), and only later, perhaps as from the next general elections, scheduled for 2019, extended to the rest of the country. This has not changed.
Dhlakama said he wanted to negotiate with Frelimo to reformulate the Renamo bill. “With this new model of provincial municipalities no-one can point the finger at Renamo and accuse us of wanting to divide the country”, he said, “because the bill covers the entire country. We think that both Frelimo and its president, Filipe Nyusi, will accept this new approach for the good of democracy and development”.
Dhlakama seems to have backed down from the Thursday threats that Renamo will occupy government buildings in the centre and north. This fits in with a well-worn Renamo strategy, whereby other members of the Party make radical statements, and Dhlakama then presents himself as a moderate.
Dhlakama said he would be “misunderstood” if he decided to use force of arms to secure his “autonomous provinces”, but he promised to put pressure on Frelimo “to stop its playing about and manipulation”.
As for a possible meeting with Nyusi, Dhlakama, cited by the independent television station STV, claimed he was ready to meet the President “tomorrow or even tonight” – but only if such a meeting would assist in “the well-being of our people, especially by accepting power sharing and the decentalisation of the 11 provinces”.
But if the meeting was “just for a handshake, just to deceive the international community – never again!”, he declared. “The people don’t want that”.
Dhlakama also proposed the creation of a “Commission for peace, democracy and economic and social development”, to be formed by political parties and religious and traditional leaders.
It would have “hundreds and hundreds of members”, he said, and the chairmanship would rotate by region every 12 months. The first year it would be held by someone from the north, while in the second year someone from the centre or south would take over, he said.
He said that initially the commission would be based in Beira – although so far Renamo has not spoken to anybody else about the feasibility or desirability of such a body. “This is not a Renamo commission, it’s a commission of the country”, he declared.
He did not explain how such a commission would be funded, and how it would relate to existing bodies (such as the government, parliament or local authorities).
As for the dialogue between Renamo and the government, normally held every week at Maputo’s Joaquim Chissano Conference Centre, Dhlakama seemed to accept that it had reached the end of the road. He said the two delegations should just sign what they had agreed so far on the separation between political parties and the state, and hand the matter over to the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
The delegations were close to agreement on this issue in February – but then Renamo, rather than sign a final document, suddenly added extra demands. In particular, it insisted that the President of the Republic and all the ministers he appointed should be barred from any party political activities during working hours.
In vain did the head of the government delegation, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco, point out that the President was elected on a party political programme which he was committed to implementing. Renamo would not yield.
Dhlakama appears to have dropped this point, and just wants Pacheco and the head of the Renamo delegation to the dialogue, Saimone Macuiana, to sign those points on which there is consensus and send the document to the Assembly.
But if Dhlakama expects the Assembly simply to pass into law whatever Pacheco and Macuiana send, he may be in for a shock. For the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), already has a bill on separating parties from the state which was deposited months ago. In terms of parliamentary procedure, that bill takes priority.