Mozambique’s police have just given Mozambicans a preview of how the near future is likely to look like, if President Filipe Nyusi has his way.
After days of blistering criticism over their crackdown of peaceful demonstrations convened to pay tribute to the late rapper Azagaia, police Deputy-General Commander Fernando Tsucana made it clear at a press conference on Tuesday that police will not tolerate demonstrations and is hellbent on violating the rights of citizens to demonstrate.
Reading a statement. Tsucana listed evidence that police deem to be signs calling for the removal of elected authorities by force. In wilful ignorance of the law that give citizens the right to march peaceful; in blatant disregard for the law on decentralisation in force in the country, which demarcates the powers of local and central authorities; in spitting over the principles of multiparty and pluralism of ideas, Tsucana targeted all of them as enemies to the powers of President Filipe Nyusi.
Unwittingly, Tsucana admitted that Mozambique’s Republic Police (PRM) monitors civil society organisations, which might have led it to conclude that the sector was a threat to the state, arguing that there has been an “increase in social interventionism” which was aided and abetted by Non-Governamental Organisatons ((NGOs) and resulted in “violent demonstrations to perpetuate public disorder, characterised by the burning of tyres, setting up barricades on public roads, vandalising private and police vehicles in Maputo city and province, jeopardising the free movement of people and goods.”
Obviously, Tsucana presented flimsy evidence to buttress his case.
He accused the mayors of the central cities of Beira and Quelimane, Albano Carige of the opposition Mozambique’s Democratic Movement (MDM) and Manuel de Araújo of the largest Renamo opposition party, respectively, as agitators and rioters.
He also named activist Quitéria Guirengane, and Renamo member of parliament, Venâncio Mondlane, among others, as the ringleaders of a political demonstration which aimed at assaulting “Ponta Vermelha”, the presidential palace, to remove Nyusi from power.
The text of press statement Tsucana was reading from showed that in its incapacity, the police arrogated to itself constitutional powers it does not have by brutally cracking down on youths who were still assembling to start marching. Nobody had yet started protesting; the demonstration died at the hands of the police forces. What ensued subsequently is the entire responsibility of the police General-Commander and the Minster of the Interior.
Orders from above?
Never had orders from above had a visible face as in last Saturday’s event. The orders were given by General-Commander Bernardino Rafel, whose family connection to the Nyusi seems to grant him powers above other institutions such as the municipality which approved of the demonstrations.
The higher orders completely disregarded the power of local authorities and placed police power above them, with the president’s connivance. It beggars belief that the police could have acted without Nyusi’s knowledge, especially given that it has been acting as his private militia.
This leads to the conclusion that Nyusi is nervous and sees enemies everywhere. Last week, at a meeting of Mozambican Women’s Organisation, the ruling Frelimo party’s women league, Nyusi said that there are organisations that are conspiring against Frelimo, revealing the political motivations behind a Frelimo proposal for a law to regulated the functioning of non-profit organisations – the draft proposal has been criticised as an attempt to silence organisations critical to the regime.
Sources privy to party meetings have said that Nyusi has been increasingly combative and refuses to countenance suggestions that fall outside his plans and desires. It is worth remembering how the party dealt with Castigo Langa and Samora Machel Jr.
A member of the Central Committee, Langa was rebuked by the party’s Political Commission for daring to warn Nyusi against seeking a third term.
Machel Jr escaped being expelled from Frelimo when in 2018 attempted to run for mayor of Maputo.
Nyusi’s fears stem from his obscure plans to hang on to power, leading to the stymying of internal debate and the slow gutting of the party bodies. Judging from events on Saturday, clearly Nyusi also fears the youth and civil society, who might manage to do what Frelimo has failed to do: stop any manoeuvres geared towards a third term and all plans to secure it.
It is ironic that when Nyusi won the primaries to become Frelimo’s candidate to the 2014 presidential elections, the late veteran Marcelino dos Santos celebrated the victory and shouted “The People in Power”, which is the slogan used by Azagaia’s admirers and fans during his funeral ceremony. Perhaps Nyusi thinks he is the only “people” of Mozambique.
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