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Zitamar Week in Review, 12-19 May 2024

Zitamar News' look back at the best of the week that was in Mozambique

Hello. “Renamo gears up for a fight” was how the Zitamar Daily Briefing started the week, and sure enough, Mozambique's biggest opposition party had one. By Friday, though, any excitement had fizzled out: “Renamo votes for more of the same”, was our headline yesterday.

Renamo leader Ossufo Momade, who had been forced into holding this week's party  congress and faced reelection after five years in the job, managed to tightly control the event, which sounds like it was largely a celebration of the man himself. Dissenters like Venâncio Mondlane were effectively excluded from the congress, and Momade was returned to office with a resounding victory, and subsequently confirmed as the party's candidate for Mozambique's presidential election coming up in October.

The outcome was predictable — and predicted in the Zitamar Podcast which came out earlier this week, which focused mainly on Frelimo's candidate for the presidential election, Daniel Chapo.

Zitamar Podcast: Mozambique’s next president: Daniel Chapo?
Daniel Chapo, governor of the southern Mozambican province of Inhambane, arrived in Matola on 3 May to participate in the ruling party Frelimo’s selection of its next presidential candidate. Two da…

Renamo and the MDM's selections of their incumbent leaders to fight the presidential election only makes it more inevitable that Chapo will be Mozambique's next president. As we argued this week, picking Momade suggests that Renamo is not interested in winning. But perhaps that's not the point: Renamo knows it cannot win, so what was at stake at this week's congress was not really a shot at becoming president of Mozambique, but the right to control Renamo — with the money and power that that implies. Far less than being President of the Republic, but that was never really on the table anyway. Being leader of the opposition was the prize, and Momade ensured he won.

Elsewhere this week: Mozambique continues to debate how to develop the country with an economy so dependent on natural resource extraction; while a new report shows how the country is failing to benefit from the extraction of one resource in particular, timber, while the natural environment is devastated.

President Nyusi ended the week with a trip to Rwanda, a vital ally in the fight against the insurgency in Cabo Delgado — even more so since the mission of regional allies is withdrawing. Also present in Kigali was the head of TotalEnergies, Patrick Pouyanné, who tried to sound reassuring about restarting the Mozambique LNG project, while sounding understandably concerned about recent developments in the conflict in the province.

Ten years ago, few would have believed we'd reach the end of the Nyusi presidency with the LNG projects still yet to get underway in earnest. Will Daniel Chapo preside over Mozambique’s transformation into a major LNG exporter? Probably, but unlike a Chapo victory in October's election, you shouldn't bank on it.

Have a great week ahead.

Week in Review


Renamo gears up for a fight
Neither Ossufo Momade nor his challenger Venâncio Mondlane are prepared to back down ahead of the party’s leadership vote
Momade will not have enjoyed the resulting scenes that have been shared on social media. Mondlane received a hero’s welcome from local Renamo supporters, who formed a massive procession of cheering, chanting well-wishers. Impressive though it was, the procession could be Mondlane's last hurrah: party rules currently exclude him from running, although the congress could vote to change them. That is what Mondlane and others are hoping for. Joining the crowds was Quelimane’s Renamo mayor Manuel de Araújo, sending a clear statement that, whoever he chooses to support at the congress, he would like to see Mondlane’s name on the ballot paper at least.


A corrupt police for a corrupt country
The lawlessness in police ranks is reflected in Mozambican society
If police corruption is hard to shake off, it is because it only reflects the widespread corruption that runs all through society, from presidential family members (if we leave aside allegations against presidents themselves) down to the lowliest public official. Taking illicit payments and lawbreaking is institutionalised in Mozambique, and it is hard to see how the cancer can be cut out of one part of the state, when it spreads in all directions. Also reflected in wider society is the prejudice against people of Asian origin who are the typical victims of kidnappings in major cities.


The return of foreign funding
Mozambique’s days excluded from donor funding seem to coming to an end, but it is unclear if the government will be held to account in return
Mozambique seems to be coming out of the cold as far as external aid is concerned. Not only has the EU agreed to extend its training mission, but it is also considering providing funding once again for the state budget, something it stopped doing last decade after the so-called “hidden debts” or “tuna bond” corruption scandal emerged. In the meantime, the International Monetary Fund has begun its fourth evaluation of the Mozambican government’s performance in meeting the conditions for another tranche of loan financing.


The dream that won’t die
Natural resources won’t provide mass employment. Mozambique needs to look elsewhere for inclusive economic growth
Mozambique need not dismiss entirely the prospect of moving up the value chain of its natural resources; but its economic policy should also not be guided by the resources it happens to have underground. The country can bank the proceeds of extraction, and spend them on improving the lives of citizens, and improving the business environment — which includes improving health provision, education, and infrastructure. That way, the business environment will improve, whether or not the extractive sector ever ends up providing significant employment opportunities.


Renamo votes for more of the same
The party is destined to perform badly again under Ossufo Momade
All of Renamo’s authoritarian tendencies were on show at the party congress. Provincial delegates delivered effusive and exaggerated tributes to Momade, and security guards (with the help of police) prevented his critics from entering the congress venue. Police also failed to help enforce a court order requiring Renamo to allow Venâncio Mondlane, Momade's main challenger for the leadership, into the venue. It is clear that they were acting in sympathy with ruling party Frelimo, which would like to see Renamo continue with an unpopular leader. But even if Mondlane had been allowed in, the mood of the congress would have been against him. Mondlane is now saying that he is considering whether to leave Renamo and join a different movement — although he has previously promised that he would not run as an independent presidential candidate.