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The parliamentary group of Mozambique’s main opposition party, the rebel movement Renamo, shows no sign of budging from its position that district administrators should be appointed by elected provincial governors, and not by the central government.
This is an issue that was not covered by the consensual document on decentralisation agreed in February by President Filipe Nyusi and the then leader of Renamo, Afonso Dhlakama, and then put into a series of constitutional amendments that are now before the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic.
The consensual position is that district administrators will be elected, but not until 2024. The Nyusi/Dhlakama document said nothing about how administrators would be appointed before 2024. The parliamentary group of the ruling Frelimo Party assumed that the prevailing system would remain in force, whereby the administrators are appointed by the Minister of State Administration.
Renamo, however, insisted that the administrators should be appointed by the provincial governors who will be elected, for the first time, in the 2019 general elections. Renamo is confident that several of its candidates will be elected governors (in Sofala, Zambezia and Tete provinces, for example), and wants to give them the power to appoint dozens of district administrators.
This is the issue on which discussions on the constitutional amendments have ground to a halt. The amendments have not yet made it onto the floor of the Assembly, but are still being finalised in the Assembly’s working commission on constitutional and legal affairs.
Speaking to reporters in Beira on Sunday, Ivone Soares, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, confirmed that the impasse has not been broken, and accused Frelimo of attempting to impose “a centralised decentralisation”, which would turn out to be “a poisoned sweet”.
She denied the Frelimo accusation that Renamo is attempting to drag new points into the discussion that are not covered by the Nyusi/Dhlakama consensus, and insisted that Dhlakama (who was her uncle) always believed that the administrators should be appointed by the elected governors.
She claimed that Dhlakama insisted on this “to the last moment”, and that it would make no sense for the administrators to be appointed by a member of the central government. But, if Dhlakama really did believe this, the question arises: why did he not put it in the document drawn up with Nyusi?
When the impasse first arose, Frelimo deputies in the Assembly told AIM they could see no way forward other than a further round of discussions between Nyusi and Dhlakama. But with Dhlakama’s sudden death from diabetes last Thursday, it has become impossible to know his real thoughts on the matter.
Soares said the matter should be discussed “in depth”, and an “intermediate solution” could be found.
This issue threatens to derail the Assembly’s discussions on the decentralisation package. Time is running out. This sitting of the Assembly is scheduled to end on 24 May, but there is no way it can complete its agenda by then, and so an extension into June looks inevitable.
The constitutional amendments are only the first step. After they have been passed, the electoral legislation must be rewritten to take the constitutional changes into account.
Unless agreement between Frelimo and Renamo can be reached, not a word of the Constitution can be altered, since constitutional amendments require a two thirds majority in the Assembly, which can only be achieved if the two main parliamentary groups work together.
If the constitution is not amended, the municipal elections scheduled for 10 October will have to be fought on the existing constitution and the existing electoral law.