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The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, has suspended its plenary sessions scheduled for this week to allow deputies to attend the funeral ceremonies for Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the main opposition party, the rebel movement Renamo, who died last Thursday.
On Wednesday, there will be a public ceremony in the central city of Beira, where Dhlakama’s body will lie in state. The following day the body will be taken to Dhlakama’s birthplace at Mangunde, in Chibabava district, where he will be buried.
A question and answer session between the government and parliament had been scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, but has now been postponed.
Mangunde is named after Dhlakama’s father, who is the “regulo” (traditional chief) of the region. The 92 year old chief was completely unaware that his son was severely ill with diabetes, the disease that eventually killed him.
When a team from the independent television statiion STV, visited Mangunde, the chief said that, since he did not know his son was ill, the news of his death took him completely by surprise.
Questioned about his son’s political career, regulo Mangunde said he had never imagined that he would rise to such prominence.
The chief is evidently in fragile health himself, and needs assistance in walking. The Chibabava district government has allocated an ambulance and a medical team to accompany him permanently.
In Beira, the head of the Renamo parliamentary group, Ivone Soares, who is Dhlakama’s niece, told reporters “I still don’t believe that my uncle has died”.
Speaking after a religious ceremony, in which worshippers prayed for Dhlakama’s soul, Soares declared “now we must all be Dhlakama”.
She urged Mozambicans not to be “cowards”, just because “Dhlakama is no longer among the living to straighten out Frelimo”.
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