Maputo, 19 Jun (AIM) – Mozambique’s main opposition party, Renamo, has softened its position towards the election of district assemblies, according to a report in Monday’s issue of the independent newssheet “Carta de Mocambique”.
As part of the package of decentralization measures approved in 2018, the Mozambican constitution was amended to include an article stating that the first elections of district assemblies will be held in 2024.
But nothing at all, in the Constitution, or in any other legislation, states what powers district assemblies will have, and how they will relate to the existing provincial and municipal assemblies.
Last year, President Filipe Nyusi called for a national reflection on the feasibility of district elections in 2024. A Commission on the matter was set up, which reported back saying that it would be impossible to hold the elections in 2024.
The parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party reacted by submitting a constitutional amendment, eliminating any date for the district elections. Instead, they would be held “when the conditions have been created”. That amendment will go before an extraordinary sitting of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in August, where it will certainly be passed, given Frelimo’s overwhelming majority.
Last Friday, Renamo leader Ossufo Momade suggested that elections could be held, not in all 154 districts, but only in some of them. He was speaking in the central province of Manica, at a meeting with citizens from Guro and Catandica, two districts where municipal elections will be held in October.
He suggested that the principle of “gradualism”, already in effect with regard to municipal assemblies, should be extended to the districts. Municipalisation began in1998, with elections for mayors and assemblies in just 33 cities and towns. Gradually, more towns have been municipalized until reaching the current figure of 65 municipalities.
The same approach, Momade said, could be taken to the districts. “With regard to the district elections, we reiterate our position that they should be held, since this is a constitutional command. So we are proposing the creation of a technical working group formed by staff from the three parties with seats in parliament (Frelimo, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement, MDM)”.
“Our desire”, he continued, “is that gradualism in decentralization should be achieved by holding district elections in some districts”.
Clearly this message was intended for a larger audience than the population of Guro and Catandica, since Momade published it on his Facebook page.
This is the first time Renamo has proposed that the elections be held in some, rather than all, districts.
Momade did not say which districts he believed should hold elections. One obvious possibility would be to avoid holding elections in districts which cover the same, or much the same, area as municipalities – such as all the provincial capitals.
There is a precedent for this. Maputo city is a municipality, a province and a district. But no provincial assembly has been set up in the city, since it would clearly duplicate the work of the municipal assembly.