Mozambique: Quelimane Mayor Criticises Renamo Leadership

Nacala — The mayor of the central Mozambican city of Quelimane, Manuel de Araujo, has criticised the silence of his own party, Renamo, in the case of the house arrest of the Renamo mayor of the northern port city of Nacala, Raul Novinte.

Araujo expressed his disappointment with the Renamo leadership in a contact with AIM on Saturday in Nacala. Araujo had travelled to Nacala to express his solidarity with Novinte, after the Nacala city court had suspended him from office, and ordered his house arrest for 30 days.

The court took its decision in response to a request from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, in the context of a criminal case in which Novinte, and his advisor, Arlindo Chissale, are charged with “incitement to collective disobedience and public instigation to commit a crime’.

Novinte was elected mayor in 2018, on the Renamo ticket, and he was standing for a further term of office in the latest elections, held on 11 October. He has been leading demonstrations in Nacala against the election results, which Renamo regards as fraudulent.

There are ten criminal cases against Novinte. The prosecutors claim he was the “moral author’ of the Renamo demonstrations in Nacala, and is thus responsible for the damage caused during these protests.

He is also being blamed for the fire that broke out in one of the schools used for the repeat election held in Nacala on 10 December. Novinte has retorted that he could have had nothing to do with the fire, since he was in Maputo at the time.

“I am critical of the leadership of my party for its silence’, said Araujo. “I think the party should have taken a clear and more daring position towards this case of injustice against an elected mayor’.

“Power lies in the people, and it was the people who elected Novinte’, he continued. “A district attorney does not have the legitimacy to suspend him from office’.

He considered the house arrest of Novinte as an attack against the democratic rule of law, and an abuse of power. The cases in which an elected mayor can be suspended are described in law, Araujo added, and this decision did not obey the law.

He was sure the decision would already have been overturned if the suspended mayor had been a member of the ruling Frelimo Party.

Araujo had read the charges against Novinte and could not see that he had committed any crime. “Novinte merely asked the people of Nacala to defend Nacala, just as the people of Quelimane have defended Quelimane, and I don’t see any crime in this’, he said.

The mayor had called on the people of Nacala to defend themselves against the theft of their votes, but he was arrested while those accused of electoral fraud are free.

Araujo noted that some of Renamo’s mayoral candidates had been much more radical than Novinte, threatening to transform their municipalities into autonomous regions, if the Renamo victory was not recognized.

He was clearly referring to Venancio Mondlane in Maputo and Antonio Muchanga in Matola, who have both declared that Frelimo will not govern in these cities.

Araujo thought these threats, which call national unity into question, were much more serious than those made by Novinte.