Mozambique News Agency

No.146, 2nd November 1998


Government presents electoral bill

The Mozambican government on 22 October unveiled draft bills that will govern the 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections. At a meeting with representatives of the country's registered political parties, Justice Minister Jose Abudo distributed amendments to the 1997 law creating the National Elections Commission (CNE), and a new law on electoral procedures based largely on the law used for the country's first multi-party elections in 1994.

Abudo announced that the bill will be discussed at seminars throughout the country before being submitted to the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.

There is very little time for this public debate, as the Assembly is due to debate the electoral law in late November. The main opposition party Renamo has already submitted its own electoral bill.

The Minister in the Presidency for Parliamentary Affairs, Francisco Madeira, who accompanied Abudo, urged the political parties to send comments on the bill to the inter-ministerial commission the government established.

Party representatives who spoke complained that there was too little time for the debate, and some wanted the government to distribute the Renamo draft as well.

Renamo general secretary Joao Alexandre accused the government of leaving the task of drafting a new electoral law to the last minute "even though it has known since 1992 that there would be general elections in 1999". He claimed that a hurried draft would now be rushed through the Assembly. "This is an old tactic for us", he declared.

Wehia Ripua, of the Democratic Party (PADEMO), said that all public debate would be in vain, if Frelimo simply used "the dictatorship of the vote" (the opposition's term for the fact that Frelimo enjoys a parliamentary majority) to push the government's bill through the Assembly. Had the government talked to the Frelimo parliamentary group to persuade it not to use its majority vote, he asked.

In reply Abudo said the government would not tell other sovereign bodies, such as the Assembly, how to organise their agenda. Both the government and the Renamo parliamentary group had the power to submit bills, and both had done so.

Government bill gives ground to Renamo

In the draft electoral legislation the government has made major concessions to Renamo.

The most important of these concerns the re-establishment of provincial and district elections commissions, subordinate to the National Elections Commission (CNE). This means that at all levels there will be two overlapping electoral bodies - the CNE and its provincial and district organs, and the electoral branch of the civil service, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE). This is essentially the same bureaucratic and expensive model used in the 1994 general elections.

The government's amendments to the 1997 law on the CNE propose provincial district commissions consisting of seven members, a chairman appointed by the government, and six others chosen by political parties in accordance with their parliamentary representation.

District commissions would consist of five members - a government-appointed chairman and four others, chosen on the basis of political party representation.

As Frelimo has an overall majority in parliament, this formula means that Frelimo will choose four members of each provincial commission and three members of each district one. The parliamentary opposition (Renamo and the Democratic Union coalition) would select two members of provincial commissions and one member of district ones.

There are 11 provinces and 149 rural and urban districts. This would mean appointing 822 people to these bodies, all of whom are certain to demand some form of payment. (Renamo's own draft election bill proposes slightly larger district commissions, raising the total number of commission members to 960.)

The government also proposes expanding the CNE from its present nine members to 13. As at present, the chairman will be appointed by President Joaquim Chissano, and one member will be named by the government. The other 11 will be elected by the Assembly (which means six will be chosen by Frelimo and five by Renamo).

As for STAE, this will have a director-general appointed by the government, and two deputy general-directors appointed "after consultation with the majority and opposition parties". In practice this will mean one deputy director nominated by Frelimo and the other by Renamo. In essence, this is exactly what is proposed in the Renamo bill.

The government is proposing simpler procedures for parliamentary candidates. They will no longer have to go on a bureaucratic paper-chase, as happened in the municipal elections, where it was necessary for candidates to produce a complex series of documents, including certificates as to their criminal record, and their place of residence.

Instead, candidates must simply identify themselves and submit a signed declaration that they accept nomination, are only standing on one list, and are eligible for election.

But when it comes to the presidential election, the government's bill complicates matters. It is a constitutional requirement that any presidential candidate must be supported by the signatures of at least 10,000 voters. The government's bill demands that each of these signatures must be "recognised" by a public notary.

This is supposed to avoid the collection of fraudulent signatures. But the effect will be to exclude smaller parties, or independent candidates, from the presidential contest. Even Frelimo and Renamo may find it difficult to take 10,000 people to notarial offices, which are few and far between, to have their signatures recognised.

A further concession to Renamo comes in the treatment of Mozambican emigrants. Both the government and the Renamo bills deny emigrants the right to vote in presidential elections.

They can vote in parliamentary elections (three seats are reserved for Mozambican communities abroad) - but only if the CNE verifies "that the necessary material conditions and mechanisms for controlling and monitoring electoral acts outside the country have been established".

There is a similar formulation in the Renamo bill. The major difference is that, in Renamo's conception, the CNE will operate "by consensus", which would give Renamo a veto, and, in light of its track record in 1994, it would certainly use this to disenfranchise the emigrants. In the government bill, the CNE will operate by majority vote in those situations where consensus is not possible.

The government bill keeps the "barrier clause" used in the 1994 elections. This stipulates that no political party can win representation in parliament unless it wins at least five per cent of the national vote. In 1994, only Frelimo, Renamo and the Democratic Union (UD) coalition broke through this threshold. There were 11 other parties and coalitions in those elections, but none of them came close to achieving five per cent.

The government is also proposing removing most of the prison sentences that the 1994 legislation envisaged for electoral offences. They will be replaced by fines. The government justifies this on the grounds that "the time when such offences occur, the electoral campaign, is characterised by political disputes in which emotion often overrides reason".

Prime Minister comments on bills similarities

Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi on 23 October claimed that the similarities between the electoral bills drawn up by the government Renamo were mere coincidences, deriving from the fact that both were taking Mozambican electoral experience into account.

He was responding at a press briefing from a question that, noting the striking similarities, asked "who's plagiarising whom?"

He claimed that the government's bill was not as expensive as the Renamo one, in that the provincial and district elections commissions it envisaged would only operate during electoral periods. It was not intended to set up "a full-time parallel machinery" running alongside the electoral arm of the civil service, the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE).

Prime Minister Mocumbi admitted that the government is in breach of the 1997 law on voter registration. This states that the electoral registers must be updated every year. There has been no updating in 1998. "We don't have the resources", said Mocumbi.

As for 1999, he revealed that the government is considering not a simple updating of the registers but an entirely new voter registration starting from scratch. He said this was the recommendation of the electoral bodies, arising from the fact that in the updating of the registers in 1997, in preparation for the local elections, it was found that a very large number of voters had moved.

However, an entirely new registration exercise, effectively discarding all the registers from 1994 and 1997, is also a demand raised by Renamo. The government position looks like another concession to Renamo.

EU prepared to assist elections

Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the European Commissioner in charge of cooperation between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP), said on 23 October in Maputo that the EU may lend financial assistance to the 1999 Mozambican general elections.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, Pinheiro said that the Mozambican government has not yet submitted any such request, but "whenever there is a genuine request our response is positive".

"We learnt that the electoral process in Mozambique is being organised in a very careful manner for it to be exemplary and transparent", said Pinheiro, adding that "nowadays, our understanding is reciprocal and excellent".

News round-up

Electricity consortium created

The electricity consortium MOTRACO, which will supply power to the MOZAL aluminium smelter under construction on the outskirts of Maputo, has come into formal existence.

The consortium consists of the Mozambican publicly owned electricity company, EDM, and its South African counterpart, ESKOM. It is expected that the Swaziland Electricity Board (SEB) will join later.

The share capital of MOTRACO should eventually reach $130 million. However the initial capital is $40 million - $13 million from EDM and $27 million from ESKOM. The other $90 million is expected to be raised through loans.

MOTRACO will supply 435 megawatts to MOZAL. The project will consist of two lines, with a total length of about 900 kilometres. One will run directly from South Africa to the sub-station on the MOZAL site at Beluluane, 17 kilometres from central Maputo. The second line will run through Swazi territory where a second sub- station will be installed. The installation of new lines should eliminate the power cuts Maputo frequently suffers.

Grain production target set

Grain production is expected to reach at least 1.9 million tones in the 1998/99 agricultural campaign, according to Agriculture Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario.

Rosario was speaking on 16 October in Chokwe district, in the province of Gaza, during a ceremony to launch officially this year's campaign, which coincided with the celebration of World Food Day.

He said that the government is determined to relaunch rice production in those areas where this grain has traditionally been cultivated, such as Gaza, in the south, and Sofala and Zambezia in the centre of the country.

Experts say that 5,000 of the 22,000 hectares of irrigable land in Chokwe has become salinised because of mal-functioning of the irrigation system for several years. The full rehabilitation of the irrigation system is budgeted at $8 million.

Japanese help for demining

Japan is to make a million dollars available for land mine clearance programmes, President Joaquim Chissano announced after a meeting on 19 October in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

President Chissano is in Japan to participate in the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 2).

MOZAL workers get wage rise

Mozambican construction workers on the site where the MOZAL aluminium smelter is being built outside Maputo, have won a wage rise of 10 per cent.

The building workers staged a brief strike in late September demanding a 900 per cent wage rise. Their union, SINTICIM (National Union of Timber, Construction and Mining Workers), persuaded them to scale this down to 200 per cent.

Negotiations under Labour Ministry arbitration led to a ten per cent increase backdated to 1 October. This rise is applicable to unskilled workers. MOZAL has agreed to give professional training after a minimum of two months work. There will be a further 10 per cent increase taking effect from 1 January.

Prior to the wage rise these workers were receiving 2,840 meticais an hour. Their wages are now 3,124 meticais an hour and will rise to 3,436 meticais an hour in January. This is considerably higher than the statutory minimum wage of about 1,930 meticais an hour.

Swedish support for balance of payments

The Mozambican and Swedish governments signed an agreement, on 28 October, whereby Sweden is to grant 75 million Crowns (about $10 million) to support Mozambique's balance of payments.

Last year Sweden disbursed 150 million Crowns (about $20 million) to support balance of payments. The aid is expected to reach a similar figure this year.

Swedish financial support to Mozambique's development programmes totalled about 430 million Crowns in 1997, making Mozambique one of the largest beneficiaries of Swedish aid.

PROAGRI gets donor pledges

Donors and funding agencies agreed on 29 October to provide $46 million to support the first phase of the Mozambican government's five year programme for public investment in agriculture, known as PROAGRI.

The programme, to take off in 1999, is budgeted at $202 million for the five year period. Of this sum, $132 million is capital expenditure, and $70 million will be spent on running costs.

Parliamentary groups argue over constitution

The Frelimo parliamentary group has reiterated its desire to see the country's constitution amended in February 1999, while Renamo claims that this date would be "illegal". These contrasting positions were debated in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 29 October.

Detailed constitutional amendments have been drafted by an ad-hoc parliamentary commission of 31 members - 16 from Frelimo, 14 from Renamo and one from the third force represented in parliament, the three-party opposition coalition, the Democratic Union (UD) (see AIM Reports no.145).

The amendments have now been put out to public debate. A national seminar on the constitution was held in Maputo, and provincial seminars are under way.

According to the chairman of the ad-hoc commission, Frelimo deputy Hermenegildo Gamito, no votes were taken during the commission's deliberations, and consensus was reached on almost all points.

However, the consensus broke down when it came to deciding a date for the final parliamentary debate and vote on the amendments. Frelimo and the UD proposed February, but Renamo wanted the debate postponed until October 1999 - which is the month when the next presidential and parliamentary elections should be held.

Frelimo parliamentary group spokesman, Edgar Cossa, insists that the constitutional amendments should be passed during this legislature, and in good time before the elections. This is because the constitution fixes the ground rules for how the future president and parliament will operate.

Frelimo has pointed out that approving the constitutional amendments only in October will mean fighting the elections on the basis of the existing constitution.

Cossa said that Renamo's current attitude implied that it did not want to see the amendments approved. "It's all just the sort of time wasting manoeuvres that we are used to from Renamo", he said. "It's designed to block the process, block all the efforts undertaken by the ad-hoc commission".

The spokesman for the UD parliamentary group, Jose Massinga, said the UD agreed with Frelimo. "For us the new constitution has to be approved in the first half of February", he said.

When the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Raul Domingos, was interviewed, he declined to give any proposal for the parliamentary debate on the constitution. He said it was up to the ad-hoc commission to produce a detailed timetable.

However, Gamito had made it clear that no timetable for the rest of the national debate on the constitution was possible without knowing when parliament would vote on it. Since there was no consensus within the commission, the Assembly plenary would have to decide on this.

Domingos claimed that a February date for the parliamentary vote would be "unrealistic and unconstitutional". Domingos bases this claim on a clause in the existing constitution that says that proposed amendments have to be deposited with the Assembly at least 90 days before they are debated.

Since the ad-hoc commission deposited its amendments in August, this clause would seem to have been fully respected. But Domingos draws an ingenious distinction between "anteprojecto" (preliminary draft) and "projecto" (final draft).

Arms caches uncovered in crackdown

Between 10 June and 16 October, the riot police dismantled 15 arms caches, allegedly belonging to Renamo, in the central province of Sofala. The caches were in the districts of Maringue , Gorongosa, Nhamatanda and Chemba.

On 15 and 16 October alone, four caches were dismantled in Maringue and Nharungue, on the boundary between Chemba and Maringue districts.

On 11 June, the riot police entered Renamo's Maringue stronghold where, just a kilometre from Renamo's old central base, they destroyed 450 AK-47s and over a thousand ammunition clips. These guns were fully operational and belonged to 150 Renamo "bodyguards" in the area.

The riot police commander in Sofala, Fernando Binda, said he knew that in the central base itself there was more weaponry, but the riot police have not been authorised to go in there.

Binda said that, although from June to October, enough weaponry was destroyed to equip six battalions, he knew that other caches had been moved. They were now "in places that we can't enter for political reasons".

In addition to the Renamo central base, these "politically sensitive" areas included a zone in Inhaminga district referred to as "Dhlakama's residence".

Binda said the police were surprised to find that many of the guns they had seized were "new and in excellent condition". Binda did not believe that all the weaponry had been buried back in 1992 at the end of the war. "Although in some cases their owners used good techniques to preserve the weapons, in others they're brand new and couldn't have been buried at that time", he said. There is a suspicion that Sofala province was being used as part of a corridor to smuggle guns into central Africa, particularly into Rwanda.

As for the use of the weapons, the riot police do not see them as the source of a new war, but for armed robberies.

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