Maputo, 5 May (AIM) – The anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP), argues that the decision regarding the postponement of the election of district assembies, originally scheduled for 2024, was based on biased hearings.
The Commission to Reflect on the Relevance of Holding District Elections (CRED) in 2024, which was headed by the Minister of Justice, Helena Kida, presented last Friday its report arguing that there are neither political nor financial conditions for holding District Elections in 2024.
But since elections in 2024 are written into the Constitution, CRED had to recommend amending the Constitution to delete the date.
According to the CIP document published on Thursday, CRED “was created by the Government with the intention of validating a position taken by the segments that hold political influence in the country, which for a year have been advocating the postponement of the district elections.”
“The public scrutiny on holding the district elections took place between April 18 and 20 throughout the country. The initial 15-day mandate given to CRED was marked by a questionable consultation process”, CIP claimed.
According to CIP, the information about the consultation meeting of the Civil Society Organizations in Maputo City, for example, was not shared through the formal means conventionally used for this type of event (invitation letters or e-mails), but through WhatsApp messages and random conversations with friends and co-workers.
“CRED has a scope of work that goes beyond its nature, since besides discussing the pertinence of holding district elections in 2024, which is the main objective of its existence, it has been given the mission of assessing the process of implementing decentralisation in the country; as well as analyzing the territorial coexistence and functional articulation between provincial governance bodies, municipal bodies, and district decentralized governance bodies”, the CIP bulletin says.
“CRED’s mission was to discuss the viability of district elections in 2024. From a methodological point of view it was necessary that CRED members should travel through each of the country’s districts, in an exercise that would include assessing their financial capacity, their needs and potential, their extent and number of inhabitants. The work would have to include public consultation with the district’s inhabitants about the relevance of these elections. Thus, the work of CRED was not representative because it was not fully national in scope”, says the document. CRED has not yet stated where its consultation meetings were held or how many people attended them.
In fact, CRED was doomed from the start, since both of the main opposition parties, Renamo and the MDM (Mozambique Democratic Movement), made clear that they would have nothing to do with it. They regarded it as unconstitutional and demanded that it be dissolved.
It was thus inevitable that CRED would only reflect the opinion of the ruling Frelimo Party and its sympathisers.
The Frelimo parlamentary group argued that it would be far too expensive to hold district elections in 2024. A document signed by almost all 184 Frelimo deputies and sent to the parliament’s governing board, its Standing Commission, put the annual running costs of the 154 district assemblies at 79 billion meticais (1.2 billion US dollars at the current exchange rate). In addition new buildings for the district assemblies would cost about 41.6 billion meticais.
“These costs cannot be borne by the state budget”, said the Frelimo document, cited in Friday’s issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”. The costs were equivalent to about 40 per cent of the total fiscal revenue estimated for 2023.
Frelimo’s financial argument is powerful – but perhaps even more powerful is the fact that nobody knows what the district assemblies will do. The Constitution merely states that there shall be elected district assemblies – it does not say what powers they will have, or how they will relate to the existing provincial and municipal assemblies.