Frelimo Threatens To Sue Venancio Mondlane
Maputo, 3 Mar (AIM) – The parliamentary group of Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo Party is considering suing a prominent opposition deputy for defamation, according to a report in Friday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
The deputy in question is Venancio Mondlane, the rapporteur of the parliamentary group of the main opposition party, Renamo. During a plenary session of the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 1 December, Mondlane claimed that a Frelimo parliamentary deputy was involved in drug trafficking in the central province of Zambezia.
Mondlane did not name this deputy, but his claim was sufficiently sensational for the Assembly to set up a parliamentary commission of inquiry.
The Commission reported back to the plenary on Wednesday – and said there was no evidence to support the claim that a deputy was involved in drug trafficking through the Zambezia port of Macuse.
All members of the commission, including those appointed by Renamo and by the second opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), signed the report. Not a shred of evidence had been found that any parliamentary deputy was a drug trafficker.
Frelimo believes that Mondlane should be held responsible for spreading a damaging claim without any evidence. Mondlane said he had evidence, but he did not provide the Commission of Inquiry with any proof.
Renamo’s response was that Mondlane had spoken in the name of the entire Renamo parliamentary group. So, if there was any question of a libel suit, it should be aimed against the Renamo group as a whole, and not just against Mondlane.
Although the report from the Commission of Inquiry was debated behind closed doors, journalists soon knew what had happened – particularly that the plenary approved the report finding there was no evidence for the involvement of any deputy in drug trafficking.
The spokesperson for the Frelimo parliamentary group, Feliz Silvia, said that, in the absence of any evidence, it had to be concluded that Mondlane had lied to the Assembly.
The Frelimo group, he added, had moved a resolution recommending that measures be taken to hold Mondlane responsible for his lies.
Taking this action, said Silvia, could help restore the Assembly’s credibility, and ensure harmony between institutions. He was referring to Mondlane’s claim that he had contacted the National Criminal Investigation Service (Sernic), which Sernic denied.
“We, as the Assembly of the Republic, have to create harmony in the operation of state institutions”, said Silvia. Hence, Frelimo was recommending that a resolution be sent to the Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) “so that Mondlane be held responsible for his actions, in order to guarantee the good functioning and respect of state bodies”.
“There is a need to restore the good name of those who have been defamed”, added Silvia. Although Mondlane did not accuse any individual parliamentarian of drug trafficking, he was clearly taking aim at “certain deputies”.
Renamo responded by claiming that Silvia was attempting to “assassinate politically” Mondlane.
It also alleged that the Commission of Inquiry had harassed Mondlane. Its evidence for this was that the Commission had invited Mondlane personally to give evidence, rather than addressing this request to the Renamo group.
The Renamo General Secretary, Clementina Bomba, wrote to the chairperson of the Commission, Antonio Niquice, claiming that, when he addressed the Assembly plenary on 1 December, Mondlane was merely reading out a request from the Renamo group. So he should not be held personally responsible.
Matters became murkier when the independent weekly “Savana” published an article which claimed that the Frelimo Provincial Committee in Zambezia has begun disciplinary proceedings against a former Frelimo spokesperson, Caifadine Manasse, for supposedly accusing other senior Frelimo figures of involvement in the illicit drugs trade.
The note from the Provincial Committee, “Savana” said, alleged that Manasse had associated Helder Injojo (the first deputy chairperson of the Assembly), Damiao Jose (another former Frelimo spokesperson), Momade Juizo, Sabado Chombe, and Deolinda Chochoma, with drug trafficking from the port of Macuse.
The MDM parliamentary group said that the resolution passed by the Commission of Inquiry showed that the true purpose of the Commission was not to investigate the involvement of deputies in drug trafficking, but to “lynch the messenger, Mondlane”.
MDM spokesperson Fernando Bismarque said it is quite certain that Zambezia is an entry point for large quantities of illicit drugs, due to the vulnerability of its 440 kilometres of coastline, and its porous land border.
Organised and transnational crime is a reality in Mozambique, he stressed, and the authorities needed to take serious measures to ensure that Mozambique is no longer named as a drugs corridor.
Two people have been detained in connection with trafficking drugs through Macuse. One, Lucas Martinho Joao, is a member of the Mozambican armed forces (FADM), and owner of a boat used to move drugs. The second, Abdala Ali Molde, is a teacher at the Macuse Secondary School. They were found to be in possession of three kilos of metamphetamine.
Bismarque complained that the Commission of Inquiry was not able to complete its work – in particular, it was not granted access to the boat used by the drug traffickers because of “higher orders”.