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Corruption's long shadow

Mozambique's new Minister of the Interior was caught up in scandal two decades ago

Today’s front pages in Maputo. Photo credit: Faizal Chauque / Zitamar News

Good afternoon. Mozambique has a new Minister of the Interior, in the shape of a long-forgotten chief of police, of whom little has been heard for the last 20 years. Mozambican journalists with long memories, however, have dug up stories from when he — Pascoal Ronda — made the headlines for involvement in an apparently corrupt scheme.

As we discuss further below, the scheme was certainly irregular, and would be frowned upon today even more than it was in the era before a similar scheme blew up into the international scandal known as the ‘hidden debts’.

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From the Zitamar Live Blog:

Zitamar Mozambique Live Blog
Pascoal Pedro João Ronda is the new interior minister, replacing Arsenia Massingue, who had held the post since November 2021, according to a press release from the Presidency of the Republic issued this evening. Pascoal Ronda is a former general commander of the police. The full statement is attac…

Zitamar understands that the outgoing interior minister, Arsenia Massingue, was ousted by President Nyusi for failing to act forcefully enough against the scourge of kidnapping. Although kidnapping does seem to be on the rise again, she did seem to be taking a strong stance against organised criminals who are believed to be acting in concert with the police. Massingue was also responsible for streamlining visa and immigration services, such as providing visas at border posts and changing the passport application process.

Mozambican interior ministers are always in a slightly precarious position. They are the titular head of the police but are often resented by the police as a meddling civilian. Massingue came from the police, but seemed prepared to take them on.

Pascoal Ronda, whose name has not been heard publicly for years, was chief of police between 1995 and 2001 — and was caught up in a scandal whereby he and other senior officers set up a company allegedly to divert funds from the ministry to spend on equipment, uniforms, and arms for the police, bypassing the state budget. Within paramilitary circles those solutions were defended in order to circumvent the heavy bureaucracy at the Ministry of Finance to procure funds to effectively maintain law and order and fight threats against national sovereignty.

This sort of quasi-public company has gone out of fashion somewhat since the ‘hidden debts’ scandal, which involved similar companies such as Monte Binga, founded by the Ministry of Defence. Until that scandal, ministries saw such companies as a fairly normal instrument of business.

Separately, the think tank CIP has published a report on Frelimo elites owning mining concessions. There is certainly nothing new in that, but again it would be good if it were something that Mozambique could consign to history.

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