Eduardo da Silva Nihia, a member of the Mozambican ruling Frelimo party admits that the party is in the throes of a crisis, countering the party’s “no crisis” official version.
On Tuesday, in response to a public withering and critical letter from social activist Graça Machel, widow of the country’s first president, Samora Machel, Frelimo’s Central Committee Secretary for Mobilisation and Propaganda, Ludmila Maguni, denied that there was a crisis in Frelimo, adding that Machel’s opinion was a “private matter.”
Nihia not only shot the notion down, but he bolstered the thesis that the party has been captured by people who are alien to its statutes, programme and objectives, adding that senior party members have taken to writing and publishing letter “because there are few party meetings.”
The notion that of a few or no party meetings has been mentioned by lots of Frelimo members and has come to the public since after the party’s electoral debacle in the 11 October local elections in which the ruling party claimed victory in 65 of 65 municipalities in dispute, with the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) winning the central city of Beira.
However, the parallel counting data from local observers and the main opposition party, Renamo, show that there was “massive fraud” in Maputo, Matola, Vilankulo, Quelimane, Nampula and Nacala, where it won handsomely.
It was against this background and in the face of the refusal for openness and dialogue that Graça Machel wrote a letter calling for a broad party meeting to be held as a matter of urgency: the “Meeting of Cadres”, a political meeting that preceded Central Committee meetings to discuss the party’s internal situation – President Filipe Nyusi is accused of closing the space for internal dialogue and of managing Frelimo in a tribalist and ad hoc way.
Nyusi has avoided commenting on the elections, but the divisive issue has seriously affected his popularity. On Wednesday, Nyusi was heckled in Nacala by the local population as he was delivering a speech at an event.
Frelimo insists on moving ahead with the narrative of victory even though the matter has yet to be determined by the Constitutional Council.
The electoral debacle seems to have affected Frelimo quite substantially, followed by the massive fraud to benefit the ruling party. In various fora, some Frelimo members had expressed anger at the level and shamelessness of the electoral fraud. The emphasis has always been the same: “hand over the municipalities where the opposition won”.
Meanwhile, to restore what it calls “the electoral truth,” Renamo has been organising peace demonstrations, with some strongly repressed by the police in the towns mentioned above. Police violence is one of the aspects Frelimo members have been complaining about in their criticism of the electoral process.
The rise in tone and the number of protests against the party’s management of internal and national affairs have placed Nyusi in a tight spot, not least because he needs more room for manoeuvre to achieve his objectives, such as appeasing the country and partners like the French-oil giant TotalEnergies so that it can return the soonest to provide him with resources to manage the end of his second term of office, and at least have a say in the succession process – under the current conditions, Nyusi is a weakened president and TotalEnergies might as well delay its return in order to begin talks with the next president.
Agricultural Minister and member of the Political Commission Celso Correia has been a key figure throughout Nyusi’s presidency and his main electoral “capo”, ensuring him comfortable victories in 2015 and 2019. He is currently at the epicentre of the current crisis in Frelimo.
Fuelled by his ambition to become Mozambique’s president, Correia may have thought that delivering Nyusi and Frelimo rigged electoral victory would increase his political importance in the succession race. However, it seems as if he might have sounded the death knell of his presidential ambitions.
It remains to be seen whether Nyusi can still carry him to the finish line. Analysts say that Nyusi has no other chance but to endorse Correia, who has acted as the de facto president and as if he has a strange hold over Nyusi.
The fact is that before the Constitutional Court issues a ruling on the elections, the crisis in Frelimo only deepens, with more members questioning the current situation, which means questioning Nyusi’s leadership and the party management by the current secretary-general, Roque Silva.
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