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Mozambique's politics landscape shifts ahead of October vote

June 26, 2024

Many lawmakers from Mozambique's main parties are defecting to a newly-formed coalition ahead of the country's October 9 general election. The coalition aims to mobilize protest voters and become a key political force.

Members and supporters of Mozambique's newly-formed Coalition Democratic Alliance (CAD) hold posters and banners in a street
A raft of lawmakers have defected to Mozambique's political newcomer, the Democratic Alliance Coalition (CAD)Image: Sitoi Lutxeque/DW

President Filipe Nyusi will not run as a candidate in Mozambique's general election scheduled for October 9. The Mozambican constitution limits the president to two consecutive five-year terms, and Nyusi has been in power since 2015. 

Frelimo — the ruling party that has held power since the southern African nation's war for independence from Portugal in 1975 — has selected Daniel Chapo as its presidential nominee. At 47 years old, the former radio announcer is the first Frelimo candidate born after independence.

Although a relatively unknown figure in national politics, Chapo is the governor of the southern province of Inhambane. He holds a law degree and a master's in development management and has served in various political roles, including as an administrator of the districts of Nacala and Palma.

Chapo is being presented by Frelimo as a political fresh face, who it hopes will garner significant support from Mozambican youth. 

President Filipe Nyusi (right) at the introduction of the new Frelimo chairman, Daniel Chapo (center).
Chapo (center), a former radio presenter who was born in 1977, is the first Frelimo candidate born after Mozambique's independenceImage: M.Mueia/DW

Political newcomer challenges Frelimo's grip on power

The newly-formed Democratic Alliance Coalition (CAD), meanwhile, is seen by many as perhaps Mozambique's only chance of avoiding another opposition defeat.

CAD — which consists mainly of dissidents from the country's main opposition party, the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo) —  is trying to mobilize dissatisfied voters and decisively influence the October vote.

And CAD's efforts appear to be working. 

"For over 40 years, I stood by Renamo, but that's over now. I now support the Democratic Alliance Coalition of Venancio Mondlane, because not only the ruling Frelimo but all old parties — including Renamo — stand for corruption and nepotism," Abdala Naize, a businessman from the northern province of Nampula, told DW.

Naize joined Renamo in 1980 when it was still operating underground, actively opposing Frelimo's socialist one-party state. 

After independence, Renamo and Frelimo fought a civil war from 1977 to 1992 that devastated the Mozambican economy and left almost 1 million people dead. Peace negotiations eventually paved the transition from conflict to multiparty democracy, during which both military factions evolved into political parties. 

"I had great hope back then and thought Renamo would govern our country sooner or later and democratize it fundamentally," said Naize. "But Renamo has turned into an ordinary clientelist party, betraying all its ideals," he added.

"The current party chairman actually plays into the hands of the ruling Frelimo. What upset me most was the last party congress in Alto-Molocue. It wasn't a congress but a commercial event where only positions were distributed among friends and friends of friends."

Renamo congress marred by allegations of irregularities

The recent party congress turned into somewhat of a farce, marked by reports of party infighting and disagreements.

Renamo party chairman, Ossufo Momade, who succeeded the party's late charismatic leader Afonso Dhlakama in 2018, emerged victorious against several challengers — but with "questionable methods," according to intra-party critics.

Delegates with voting rights were handpicked, challengers and their supporters were pressured and the post distribution had little to do with democracy, the critics said.

Venancio Mondlane and Ossufo Momade
Venancio Mondlane (left) quit Renano in a dispute with party chairman Ossufo Momade (right) and founded his own partyImage: Roberto Paquete/DW // Amos Fernando/DW

One of Momade's main opponents was not allowed to run for the party chairmanship, allegedly for violating party statutes by taking legal action against the party leadership before the congress: the 50-year-old Venancio Mondlane, of the newly-formed CAD.

The former party spokesperson was the top candidate for Renamo in the last municipal elections in the capital, Maputo.

Could CAD succeed?

Mondlane left Renamo after the party congress and gave up his parliamentary seat. Shortly after the gathering, he announced the formation of the CAD and declared his presidential candidacy.

Mozambique's October 9 vote will combine elections for the presidency, legislative assemblies, provincial assemblies and provincial governors, to be held simultaneously across the country.

Mondlane's CAD coalition plans to field its candidates for all elections and significantly shake up the opposition camp.

Observers believe this could succeed, as Mondlane is considered highly charismatic and media-savvy. For his appearances, especially on social media, he has adopted a label reminiscent of the brand name CR7 of Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo: "VM7."

Defectors from all parties flock to the CAD

"Venancio Mondlane gives a voice to the discontented and rebels," said human rights activist Adriano Nuvunga from the Center for Democracy and Development based in Maputo.

As a result, more and more members of other parties have defected to the CAD. Recently, many members of traditional parties Renamo, Movimento Democratico de Mocambique (MDM), Nova Democracia and Partido Humanitario de Mocambique (Pahumo) have left their parties to join CAD.

As of last week, MDM claimed to have lost about 130 members in Nampula province alone. One of the defectors now joining CAD is Luísa Marrovica, a former member of MDM's National Council who said the death of the party chairman was a turning point.

"Before Daviz Simango's death, we had many projects that were supposed to lead us to a safe harbor, but the person who succeeded Daviz Simango as party chairman is not advancing us and is mostly absent," said Marrovica, explaining her support for CAD.

Filomena Mutoropa, Pahumo's general secretary, has not yet left her party but wants to run in the next elections in third place on the CAD list for Nampula's provincial parliament.

"I have come to the conclusion that opposition parties in Mozambique must unite. Otherwise, victories against the overpowering Frelimo are not achievable," she told DW.

CAD 'open to all who want change'

CAD's provincial coordinator, Castro Niquina, has confirmed a significant increase in membership from various parties. CAD said that it remains open to citizens and politicians committed to transforming the Mozambican government. 

"All our expectations were exceeded in the first weeks after the party's founding. More and more people from other political parties are joining us," said Niquina. 

"We have even welcomed people from Frelimo."

This article was originally written in German. Sitoi Lutxeque contributed reporting.

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