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FILE: A press conference by Sala da Paz. [File photo: DW]
Two members of the death squad who murdered prominent Mozambican civil society activist Anastacio Matavel on Monday, in Xai-Xai, capital of the southern province of Gaza, have been named as Euclidio Mapulasse and Edson Silica.
According to the Facebook page of the coalition of election observer groups known as “Sala da Paz” (Peace Room), the assassins were involved in a serious traffic accident as they tried to flee the scene of their crime.
Two of them died in the crash (and have not yet been named). Mapulasse sustained severe injuries and is currently undergoing medical treatment in Gaza Provincial Hospital. Silica is under arrest in the Xai-Xai second police precinct. A fifth member of the gang fled from the damaged car and is on the run. He is believed to be in possession of the AK-47 assault rifle used in the assassination.
Matavel, a university lecturer who has taught in both Mozambique and South Africa, was the Executive Director of the Forum of Gaza Non-Governmental Organisations (FONGA) and also the Gaza Focal Point for Sala da Paz. He was also a member of the Mozambique Forestry Forum (FNF), and a strong defender of the country’s wildlife and biodiversity.
On Monday morning, Matavel opened an election observer training session organised by the civil society organisation Joint. He left the room and walked over to his car, but the killers were waiting for him, and shot him in the abdomen and legs ten times.
In a press release after the murder, Sala da Paz said such a barbaric act is a clear violation of the human rights and freedom of expression enshrined in the Mozambican constitution. It urged the Mozambican authorities to undertake a thorough investigation “to uncover the authors of this heinous crime, who should be punished in an exemplary manner”.
It urged the election observers in Gaza to carry on with their work, “reporting all electoral incidents with impartiality, transparency, rigour and professionalism”.
The getaway car used by the death squad was a Toyota Mark X, with the number plate ADE 27 MC. From this number plate it should be possible to trace which person or institution owned the car.
Inside the car pistols were found and, according to the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, uniforms belonging to the Special Operations Group, a unit linked to the Rapid Intervention Unit (the Mozambican riot police).
The anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity described the murder as “a direct attack not only on this citizen and his family, but also on all civil society organisations and individuals working on independent electoral observation”. CIP demanded that President Filipe Nyusi make a statement “repudiating the electoral violence that has been taking place throughout the country since the beginning of the election campaign”.