Mozambique: Hidden Debts

Maputo — Ndambi Guebuza, the oldest son of former Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, on Thursday accused the current President, Filipe Nyusi, of attempting to poison the entire Guebuza family.

Guebuza Junior was addressing the Maputo City Court in a hearing intended to determine whether those accused in the case of Mozambique’s “hidden debts” are the owners of properties which the Public Prosecutor’s Office has asked the court to seize.

This was the third day in which defendants were asked to confirm or deny ownership of assets on a list of properties that could be seized to pay compensation to the Mozambican state for losses incurred in the scandal of the illicit debts. The assets specified on the prosecution’s current list will be seized temporarily, until the court reaches a verdict on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

But Ndambi Guebuza used the court as a platform for an attack on the Nyusi government. He claimed that he was the main target in the “hidden debts” trial, and the other 17 accused were just the “by-catch”.

The conspiracy against the Guebuza family, he alleged, included the murder of his sister, Valentina, in 2016, an attempt to poison the family by putting organophosphate pesticides into a pudding, his own arrest in 2019, and an alleged murder attempt against the Guebuza family lawyer, Alexandre Chivale.

But there is no mystery about the death of Valentina Guebuza. Her husband, Zofino Muiane, shot her dead in December 2016, and he is now serving a 24 year sentence for her murder.

The most serious of Ndambi Guebuza’s claims concerns the supposedly poisoned pudding. He claimed that the pudding had been prepared at the Ponta Vermelha presidential palace, where Nyusi lives. One person tasted the pudding, he said, fell ill, and had to be taken to hospital.

Those behind the conspiracy, he claimed, “are trying to attack my father through me. They want to get rid of old man Guebuza. But old man Guebuza is strong”.

Neither the judge, Efigenio Baptista, nor the prosecutor, Sheila Marrengula, paid any attention to claims about puddings laced with pesticides. They wanted to know whether Guebuza Junior owned a central Maputo flat that is on the list of properties the prosecution wants the court to seize.

“It’s not in my name”, claimed Guebuza. He said the owner is the company Epsilon. Marrengula, however, noted that this is just a real estate company that buys and sells properties, and there is documentary evidence that it had sold the flat to Guebuza.

The prosecution also wanted to seize Ndambi Guebuza’s five per cent holding in the company Focus 21. “That’s a company belonging to my father”, declared Ndambi, and seizing it was part of the strategy of “the Filipe Jacinto Nyusi regime”.

A second accused, Cipriano Mutota, once the head of the studies office in the Mozambican security service (SISE), accepted that he was indeed the owner of the three properties listed in his name by the prosecution.

He seemed resigned to losing them. “When we are born, we don’t bring anything into this world, and when we die, we don’t take anything with us”, he said.

But businessman Fabiao Mabunda denied ownership of the house listed in his name. Faced with an electricity bill for the house, he declared “the house at this address is not mine”.

A fourth accused, Zulfikar Ali, said the house listed as his “belongs to my brother. He gave it to me and my family”.

Marrengula, however, was certain that there is sufficient evidence to show that Mabunda and Ali are the true owners of the houses in question.