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The ten councillors and six heads of administrative posts in the northern Mozambican city of Nampula, sacked a fortnight ago by the interim mayor, Manuel Tocova, will resume their positions as from Monday, following court decisions that the sackings were illegal.
Tocova is the chairperson of the Nampula Municipal Assembly. Following the assassination of Mayor Mahamudo Amurane on 4 October, Tocova became interim mayor and set about removing all of Amurane’s close collaborators.
Despite warnings from the local branch of the public prosecutor’s office that he was acting illegally, Tocova swore into office replacement councilors loyal to him. These included people whom Amurane had sacked on suspicion of corruption.
Amurane and Tocova were both members of the same political party, the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM). But a rift had opened between Amurane and the rest of the MDM leadership. Bitter words were exchanged, with Amurane accusing the MDM of wishing to use municipal funds for political party purposes. Although Amurane never formally resigned from the MDM, he repeatedly announced that the intended to run for a second term as mayor, but not as an MDM candidate.
Last Monday the Nampula City Court sentenced Tocova to three months imprisonment, suspended for two years, for the crime of disobedience. The public prosecutor charged Tocova with disobedience when he refused to supply documents on the dismissals and appointment of municipal councillors, and rejected the warning that he had no power to sack councillors.
Tocova’s excuse in court was that, because of his low level of educational qualifications, he had not fully understood the limitations on the power of interim mayors expressed in the municipal legislation.
On Friday the case came before the Nampula Administrative Tribunal, which ruled that the dispatches Tocova had signed dismissing and appointing councillors were null and void.
Maria Moreno, director of the mayor’s office under Amurane, told reporters that, following the court decisions, the councillors sacked by Tocova would be back at their desks on Monday.
“We shall comply with the law, and we shall work until another, legally established city council replaces us”, she said. That will not happen until a by-election is held to elect a new mayor. The National Elections Commission (CNE) must propose a date for the by-election to the government.