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Mozambique – Business as usual

Mozambique’s next president will be Filipe Nyusi but lost its two-thirds majority in the parliament. Renamo claimed that the vote was riddled with widespread irregularities.

According to the National Electoral Commission (CNE), Frelimo’s Filipe Nyusi has reportedly garnered 57 per cent of the presidential vote, with Renamo’s Dhlakama getting 36 per cent and MDM’s Daviz Simango 6 per cent.
The 11 provincial constituencies, shows that Nyusi won 2.75 million votes, or 57.14 percent. The previous elections, in 2009, the current president, Armando Guebuza, won 75 percent of the vote.
Nyusi’s main rival, Afonso Dhlakama, leader of the former rebel movement Renamo, took 1.75 million votes, and saw his share of the vote more than double, from 16 to 36 percent. The third candidate, Daviz Simango, of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) trailed on 6.5 percent, down from the 9 percent he won in 2009.

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As for the parliamentary election, Frelimo too scored about 57 percent, a sharp decline from its 75 percent of 2009. Renamo took over a third of the vote, and the MDM slightly more than 9 percent. Calculations based on these figures, show that the composition of the new parliament is likely to be 142 seats for Frelimo, 89 for Renamo and 19 for the MDM. Thus Frelimo is set to lose 49 seats, while Renamo gains 38 and the MDM gains 11. Frelimo also loses its two-thirds majority – which means that, should it wish to change the constitution, it can no longer do so on its own.
Soon after the announcement the results the main opposition candidate, Afonso Dhlakama, 61 years old claimed that the vote had been a ‘puppet show’ and that widespread rigging in favour of the ruling party had taken place. These allegation were mainly dismissed by the international observers’ missions (including those of the European Union and African Union) even if the tight control of Frelimo over the electoral machinery is indisputable. Nevertheless, Dhlakama, although clearly defeated, had some reasons to celebrate.

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Obtaining a third of the vote, as he did, was regarded as impossible by many experts at the eve of the elections: the former rebel leader was seen as a leftover of the past, in decline. The future, many said, belonged to another opposition politician, the 50 year old mayor of Beira (the second largest city in the country), Daviz Simango, but unexpectedly he did not fare well at all.
No matter how inexplicable they might have been to some observers, these results were not a surprise to the ordinary Mozambicans. “Frelimo gives work and benefits to those who support it”, says Nélio, a disgruntled opposition supporter in Beira. “That’s why everybody appears to be for them”. But Beatriz, a woman in her 40s working in South Africa, disagrees: “It is not for that, she argues, but because many people still remember what Renamo did during the civil war”, which ended in 1992. “They shed so much blood, people lost their relatives, at least Frelimo didn’t harm us”.
Beatriz’s perception, though inaccurate, is shared by many civilians who associate the former rebels with violence and the ruling party – which even now can be virtually identified with the State – with the few social developments obtained in these years. Widespread party propaganda seems to have worked from this point of view, as it did in turning Nyusi into a winning candidate. The new president a few months ago was just a relatively unknown government official and he is still widely regarded as a loyal aide to the outgoing head of State, Armando Guebuza, a Frelimo stalwart and successful businessman. The latter, despite stepping down from the presidency after having completed his second mandate, remains in charge of the party, a position which still enables him to retain some form of invisible yet effective power and political influence.

Growing inequality

What is at stake are the fruits of the recent, resource-driven economic boom, from which Guebuza and other members of the élite have greatly profited. Discoveries of oil, natural gas, coal and other minerals have been a major cause of the recent dramatic economic growth (an average 7% since 2009, which is expected to become 8,5% for 2014) but the profits of the country’s riches have been unevenly distributed. While multinational companies such as Eni, Anadarko, Vale and Rio Tinto and the local rulers have greatly benefited from mining and drilling, the life of a great share of the population – especially in the rural areas – is not so different from that of 10 or 15 years ago. Moreover, the development is unequal also from a geographical point of view: the northern provinces, where much of the resources have been discovered, feel deprived of their fair share of wealth by the south, where most Frelimo leaders come from. It is not by chance that Dhlakama and Renamo did quite well in the north at the polls.

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Some people hope that Nyusi himself, coming from the northern province of Cabo Delgado, can change something from this point of view, but neither this nor the presence of a still politically active Guebuza on the scene are his only concern. The resource boom has greatly benefited Mozambique, but the bonanza might not last, if the problem of inadequate infrastructures, which negatively affect exports, is not solved; moreover, the economic boom has also brought with it an increased cost of living, fostering further inequality.
The government, in turn, proved unable to provide adequate job and education opportunities to many people: for many youth, in the capital Maputo, the only means to make some money is to sell airtime for cellphones or small crafted objects at the crossroads. It is from those social classes that some signs of dissatisfaction towards the ruling party can be seen. In fact, Frelimo lost some 18 percentage points in comparison to the previous elections. Continuidade was not the citizens’ main desire: many of them, probably, would have preferred to see at least some form of mudança, change – as another electoral slogan went. But this is something that, in present day Mozambique, no political leader seems able to assure.
Davide Maggiore

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