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Both opposition parties in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, have now declared their opposition to the acquisition of Mercedes Benz saloon cars as protocol vehicles for member of the Assembly’s governing board, its Standing Commission.
The cost of the 18 vehicles is 228 million meticais (3.8 million US dollars, at current exchange rates).
This expenditure was first denounced in some of the press, and indeed many of the deputies knew nothing about the vehicles before the press reports. The first sign that at least some deputies were outraged came from Venancio Mondlane, of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), who started a petition among parliamentarians against the purchase.
On Friday, MDM leader and Mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, condemned the purchase of luxury vehicles, and declared that no MDM deputy would use them.
The only MDM member on the Standing Commission is Simango’s brother, Lutero, who declared at a Maputo press conference on Friday that he has not received a new vehicle. He said he was using an older Mercedes, given to him in 2015, at the start of the current parliament, and which had also been used by other deputies.
“There has been no prior discussion about the possibility of replacing the vehicle or receiving another vehicle from the new fleet”, he said. Simango believed the matter needed to be discussed in depth in the Standing Commission itself and in the Assembly plenary.
The head of the parliamentary group of the largest opposition party, the rebel movement Renamo, Ivone Soares, also demanded a debate inside the Assembly. She suggested that the Mercedes should be replaced by other vehicles, more suited to the poor conditions of Mozambican roads.
The Renamo leader, Afonso Dhlakama, in a telephone conference with members of his party and reporters in Maputo claimed that the purchase of the cars was exclusively the responsibility of the ruling Frelimo Party, and that Renamo had never been consulted about the matter.
Dhlakama said it made no sense to use state funds to acquire expensive luxury vehicles at a time when Mozambique is going through a serious economic crisis.
There has been no official statement from Frelimo. When reporters raised the matter with the Party’s Secretary for Mobilisation and Propaganda, Antonio Niquice, on Thursday, he denied that it had anything to do with Frelimo, and suggested that the journalists contact the Assembly, “which has people mandated to speak about these matters”.
His remarks were disingenuous in that Frelimo holds an absolute majority in the Assembly and on the Standing Commission.
The Assembly has remained mute, while the spokesperson for the Finance Ministry, Rogerio Nkomo, interviewed by the independent television station, STV, dismissed concerns arguing first that the members of the Standing Commission have a right to such vehicles, and secondly that the expenditure is minuscule when compared with the entire Mozambican state budget.
His remarks contradicted all previous government statements on the need for austerity and for pruning superfluous expenditure.Source: AIM / Miramar
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