Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi on Wednesday announced that, in his protracted discussions with Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the Renamo rebels, the two men have agreed to submit to the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, constitutional amendments that will eliminate the direct election of mayors.
As from the municipal elections scheduled for October this year, the voters will only elect the municipal assembly. The political party (or coalition of parties, or independent group of citizens) that wins a majority of votes in the assembly election will propose the major from among the Assembly members.
If this amendment is passed by parliament, there will never again be any mayoral elections or by-elections. If a mayor dies, or resigns, he will simply be replaced by the majority party.
A similar arrangement is envisaged for provinces and districts. The President of the Republic will appoint the Provincial Governor – but on the proposal of whichever party, coalition or group that obtained a majority of votes in the election for the Provincial Assembly. The Governor must be a member of the Assembly. This ends the current situation where the President of the Republic can appoint whoever he likes as Provincial Governor
The constitutional amendments introduce, for the first time, district assemblies. The party with a majority of votes in the Assembly will propose one of the Assembly members as District Administrator, who will then be formally appointed by the Minister of State Administration.
The provincial governors and district administrators will answer to the provincial and district assemblies. The provincial assemblies elected in the general elections of 2019 will choose governors, but the district assemblies will not be elected until 2024.
Provincial governors and district administrators can be sacked by the assemblies – hence they are at risk of losing their position if they clash with the majority party in the assembly. The President of the Republic may also dismiss governors and administrators, but only in cases explicitly envisaged in the constitution.
Each province will have a Secretary of State for the Province, appointed by the President, and responsible for state functions that are not decentralised to provincial level. Nyusi said that the areas not subject to decentralisation include the definition of the territory and its borders, defence and security, diplomatic relations, mineral resources and energy, the issuing of currency, and the creation and alteration of taxes.
Nyusi said that he and Dhlakama were agreed that Mozambique remains a unitary state, and that all elections must be held on the basis of universal suffrage and secret ballots.
The net effect of the constitutional changes proposed is that the only individuals whose names will be on ballot papers in the future will be the candidates for President of the Republic. Every other election will be by party list. Thus the changes, although made in the name of decentralisation, will have the effect of strengthening the grip of political party machines on Mozambican politics.
Nyusi’s statement, televised to the nation at midday, did not go into many details, which will doubtless be the subject of debate in parliament. For example, he did not say what sort of majority a party will need to propose a mayor, administrator or governor: should it be an absolute or simple majority?
It could easily happen that one party wins a simple majority in an assembly, but that two other parties, if they combine, can outvote it. Would the party with the simple majority name the mayor, administrator or governor, or would it need to form an alliance with at least one of the other forces first?
A mayor, administrator or governor who did not enjoy the support of a majority of Assembly members could find himself in difficulties, since he would need the Assembly to approve his budget.
Decentralisation is just one of the two issues debated by Nyusi and Dhlakama, and by working groups set up a year ago between the government and Renamo. The other is “military matters” – by which the government means the disarming and demobilisation of the Renamo militia, and the reintegration of the militia members into society.
Nyusi said that consensus was being achieved in this area too, but gave no details. “We are aware that this process is awaited with great expectation by all Mozambicans, including our brothers in Renamo, since it is determinant for an effective peace”.
He added that “the spirit of trust, openness and cooperation with the Renamo leader is continuing to prevail”, and promised that, in the near future, he will “bring to the knowledge of Mozambicans the steps that will follow in the context of military matters”.
Nyusi praised Dhlakama for his “collaborative role in this common vision which defines as its priority a dialogue and the search for peaceful solutions to political problems”.
Dhlakama has repeatedly demanded leadership positions in the armed forces and the police for members of his militia, and the government response to this demand is not yet known. The Renamo leader is still living in a military base in the central district of Gorongosa, and says he will not leave until Renamo forces are integrated into the military and the police.-AIM