Mozambique veteran set to become president

By Beauregard Tromp Time of article published Oct 1, 2004

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Twenty-four-twenty. This was the nickname given to Armando Emilio Guebuza after Mozambique's liberation war.

An integral member of his country's struggle against coloniser Portugal, Guebuza famously gave Portuguese settlers 24 hours to leave the country, carrying no more than 20kg.

This was 1975 and the communist Frelimo government was taking control of the country.

Guebuza was the interior minister then. Today he is ready to assume the leadership of a country enjoying a phenomenal economic growth rate.

President Joaquim Chissano announced late last year that he would not seek re-election in the December 1 and 2 elections this year.

Guebuza, Chissano's anointed successor, is regarded as certain to become the next president of Mozambique after the people of the former Portuguese colony had voted overwhelmingly for Chissano's party, Frelimo, in the last elections.

Guebuza and a panel co-ordinating his campaign hosted a dinner for business people at Gallagher Estate in Midrand this week in order to raise funds for the campaign.

Addressing the media at the Johannesburg northern suburbs mall Melrose Arch, he said he would focus his attention on strengthening demo-cratic principles in Mozambique.

Guebuza has a history of heavy-handedness in implementing policies. In 1975, the new government outlawed prostitution, shutting down brothels and bars where the trade was rife. Sex workers were sent to "re-education camps".

In 1983 "Operation Production" was put in place. Machel's government decided that no unemployed people were allowed to live in cities and shipped thousands to outlying northern areas such as Nyasa. Many people died and Guebuza's name was associated with this programme too.

He is rumoured to be one of the richest businessmen in Mozambique.

Although there are detractors, Guebuza is expected to win the election comfortably with the challenge from Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, who will be standing for the third time, not expected to amount to much.

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