The 16 Renamo parliamentary deputies who took their seats at the first session of the new Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on 12 January, in defiance of orders from Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, on 4 February defended their actions and denied that they had “betrayed” their party.
Almost all the 51 Renamo deputies elected last October have now taken their seats. However, the first 16 did so very publicly, while the others have trickled in, almost shamefacedly, one by one, signing their oaths of office away from the gaze of TV cameras.
It is the first 16 who have been vilified and threatened with unspecified disciplinary measures. They include the former head of the Renamo parliamentary group, and current second deputy chairperson of the Assembly, Viana Magalhaes, the head of the Renamo election office, Luis Gouveia, and the former Renamo parliamentary spokesperson, Jose Manteigas.
At a press conference, the 16 did not denounce Dhlakama by name, but he was obviously their target. They pointed out that the decision to boycott the new parliament was not taken by any Renamo body.
When the Renamo Political Commission met in Nampula in November, and discussed the elections, it decided to hold demonstrations across the country against what it regarded as fraudulent election results. However, that meeting did not mention boycotting the Assembly. The 16 say they were surprised to hear threats of disciplinary action against them since, as far as they were concerned, they had not broken any party rules.
Speaking for the entire group, Anselmo Vitor noted that, “against all expectations, and to the surprise of the party’s members and sympathizers, the Renamo President and various party spokespersons then transmitted through the media something which had not previously been decided – namely that the members of the Provincial Assemblies and of the Assembly of the Republic elected on the Renamo lists were forbidden from taking their seats”.
The man who made the most violent public attacks on the 16 was, Meque Braz, who is currently a member of the Zambezia Provincial Elections Commission. Speaking to the independent television station STV on 24 January, he denounced the 16 as “traitors”, and suggested that severe punishment was in store for them.
The 16 warned that they would not be made “scapegoats” for Renamo’s crushing defeat in the October elections. They noted that ever since the first multi-party elections in 1994, it had been Renamo’s practice to look for scapegoats.
They asked Meque Braz (and thus, indirectly Dhlakama) whether he did not think the time had come “to reflect, discuss and find the true reasons for electoral failures, instead of trying to distract the public”.