Maputo – The leader of Mozambique’s rebel movement Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, has threatened to end Renamo’s negotiations with the government because of alleged fraud committed by the ruling Frelimo Party in Wednesday’s second round of the mayoral by-election in the northern city of Nampula.
Even before any votes had been cast, Dhlakama was accusing Frelimo of fraud. Interviewed by phone by the independent television station STV, Dhlakama claimed that Frelimo is bussing in supporters from all over the country to vote in Nampula. He said these fake voters came, not only from other districts in Nampula province, but from as far afield as Niassa province in the far north and from Maputo in the far south.
Dhlakama said this supposed fraud undermined the talks between the government and Renamo. He threatened to end the talks, renege on agreements already reached and “go back to square one”.
He said he had once believed that President Filipe Nyusi was better than his predecessors, Joaquim Chissano and Armando Guebuza, but now Nyusi “has disappointed me”. He menaced that if something was not done to stop the alleged Nampula fraud, he would organise “a revolution of the entire people” to remove Frelimo from power.
Dhlakama provided no evidence for his allegations, and nobody else has seen busloads of phoney voters arriving from Nampula from all over the country.
The Mozambique News Agency (AIM) says that, in the early afternoon, it spoke to an election observer in Nampula with long experience of Mozambican elections who said that so far only one person not entitled to vote had tried to do so. This was a woman with a voter card issued in the port city of Nacala.
When she tried to vote at a Nampula polling station, not only did the staff refuse to give her a ballot paper, but she was turned over to the police who arrested her.
Dhlakama’s allegations show a deep distrust, not only of Frelimo, but of his own people in the election apparatus. For Renamo is present at all 401 polling stations in Nampula, and so can prevent any attempt at fraud. Just as in the first round, held on 24 January, Renamo has two monitors for each station. Even more important, Renamo is directly represented on the polling station staff – at each station there are seven staff, and the political parties (Renamo, Frelimo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM) each appoint one member. So in all Renamo has over 1 200 people at the Nampula polling stations.
So far, none of them seem to have made any protests. The director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), Felisberto Naife, said he has received no complaints from any Nampula polling station about people being bussed in from outside the municipality to vote. Only people whose names are on the Nampula voters’ roll are entitled to vote.
The type of fraud alleged would not only be impractical but also extraordinarily expensive. Frelimo would have to obtain a fleet of long distance buses and large amounts of fuel (the distance from Maputo to Nampula is 1 400 kilometres). It would also have to provide food and accommodation for all its fake voters.
The by-election was precipitated by the murder of Nampula mayor Mahamudo Amurane on 4 October last year, a crime that has not yet been solved.
The by-election has gone to two rounds, because in January no candidate won over 50 per cent of the vote. So the Wednesday election is between the Frelimo candidate Amisse Cololo, who took 44.51 per cent in the first round, and his Renamo rival Paulo Vahanle who took 40.32 per cent.