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Samora Machel Junior (“Samito”), a member of the Frelimo Central Committee and the son of Mozambique’s first President, Samora Moises Machel, and Josina Machel, is standing for mayor of Maputo as head of a citizens list.
From the early 1970s, Frelimo has been obsessed with maintaining unity, and in more than 40 years no senior figure has publicly quit. When the Frelimo party refused to let presidents Joaquim Chissano and Armando Guebuza stand for another presidential term, they both stayed within the party and remained influential. Samito’s public departure is a first, and the main question will be if others follow him.
Machel is head of the list of candidates for the Municipal Assembly submitted by the citizens list Ajudem (“help” in Portuguese, the acronym for Associacao Juvenil para o Desenvolvimento de Mocambique, Youth for Mozambique Development). He has gained support from young people in Maputo, as well as the some of the older Samora generation alienated by the greed and patronage that developed in Frelimo in the Guebuza era.
But Samito is neither young nor an outsider. The 48-year-old Machel is part of an elite group of Frelimo leaders’ children who have become wealthy. He is chair of Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM), the joint venture between Gemfields and Mwiriti Limitada, which has been strongly criticised for human rights violations at its ruby mine in Montepuez. He is also a director and leading shareholder of Cartrack Mozambique, is vice-chair of MozaBanco, is in the Machel family business Whatana, and is in joint ventures including real estate with a Mauritian-Portuguese company Southwind,
He is married to Jovita Sumbana, to the daughter of Antonio Sumbana, brother of businessman and former minister Fernando Sumbana, who is second on the Frelimo list and would become mayor for Frelimo if the first on the list, Eneas Comiche. becomes mayor and then resigns. Thus the election is also an intra-family dispute.
Samito campaigned hard to be head of the Frelimo list, and initially it was announced the choice would be between he and Comiche. But the party barons won out and Samito was not on the short list. So he created his own list.
The response of the party heavies was to put pressure on Ajudem candidates, often reminding them how dependent their family is on Frelimo patronage for jobs and contracts. Four agreed to leave the Ajudem list, putting the whole list into question. (More details below)
Interviews in O Pais (16 August) of Teodato Hunguana and Luisa Diogo suggest informal support for Samito. He has not formally left Frelimo and is standing on a citizen’s list, not another party, and some Frelimo members supported Juntos Pela Cidade in Maputo in the early elections. Hunguana argues that the internal Frelimo party structure has become less democratic. Diogo hints that once Samito has made his point about the need for Frelimo party reform, he need not be seen as having left the party.
Comment: Benjamin Franklin, before he signed the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776, said, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Frelimo may never have heard the quote, but it has been Frelimo’s highest priority for more than 40 years. Unity has been maintained at all cost, including keeping thieves and murderers within the Frelimo elite rather than expose them and split the party. Will this change now?
Mozambique faces the same problem as South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania of a liberation movement in power for decades which has become old, greedy and authoritarian. Progressive older militants link with marginalised younger members and try to challenge from inside using a figure like Samito who is part of the establishment, but might promote reform inside the party – which is resisted by key party figures in a heavy handed way.
Samito’s “rebellion” has been carefully orchestrated to keep him in Frelimo and its central committee, and thus to be seen as an internal challenge to the party machine. Party barons appear to be trying to prevent this by pushing Samito and supporters out of the party and marginalise them. The test will be if he and Ajudem are allowed to stand and if they do well in the municipal elections. If so, might he be welcomed back into Frelimo, perhaps as a potential presidential candidate? Or will he be crushed? Shaking up Frelimo, splitting the party, or demonstrating the high cost of dissent?
By Joseph HanlonSource: News reports & clippings