Skip to content

Zitamar Week in Review and Week Ahead, 1-14 June 2024

With four months to go until elections in Mozambique, and seven months until a new president takes office, where does Mozambique look for leadership?

You say goodbye, I say hello: Daniel Chapo and Filipe Nyusi on the campaign trail in Maputo last week. Photo: Frelimo

Hello, and welcome back to Zitamar News’ free weekly email, giving a taste of some subscriber-only content from the past week, and looking forward at the week to come.

There are four months to go until presidential, parliamentary, and provincial elections in Mozambique; and seven months until a new president takes office. That's a long time for the country not to know exactly where to look for leadership: is the outgoing President Nyusi still in charge, or is it president-in-waiting Daniel Chapo?

Chapo could in theory still lose the election, of course, but as the CIP election bulletin reported at the weekend, President Nyusi last week vetoed revisions to the electoral law, a move which “ensures Frelimo victory in elections on 9 October”.

Winning those elections remains Frelimo's number one priority, but within the party the game is afoot to decide who gets the plum positions in the national and provincial assemblies — including as provincial governors. As we noted last week (see below), this is the first time that the president — in this case Daniel Chapo, as of 2025 — will not be able to select his team of provincial governors. More than that, the secretaries of state who are nominated by the president look set to be abolished. And as the scramble for positions intensifies, so party discipline appears to be crumbling, most notably in the provinces of Gaza and Zambézia.

But the power vacuum may also be being used by some for nobler aims than party infighting. As we noted on Tuesday last week, an unprecedented strike by the authorities against organised crime may have been made possible by the weakening of those alleged criminals’ political allies.

Whether the forces of justice can ultimately prevail remains to be seen — just as it remains to be seen how the power struggle within Frelimo will ultimately be resolved. It's an unpredictable time for Mozambique; but also a time of some optimism. Stay with Zitamar News to keep up with, and understand, all the most important developments.

Have a great week.

Week in Review


Power struggle looms at Frelimo
The selection of candidates for governor is a setback for presidential candidate Daniel Chapo
Frelimo’s Political Commission decided to just re-select the existing candidates and not attempt to have genuine selection processes. Chapo, who is Frelimo’s interim secretary-general and thus a member of the commission, could have been consulted, but it appears that he was not. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that senior party figures in Frelimo want to demonstrate to Chapo that he is not in full control of the party.
The change of leadership in Frelimo was always going to involve a power struggle. Those figures have their own interests to protect: their ability to secure lucrative jobs, licences and contracts for themselves and their allies, and to steer government policy to protect those interests.
The curtailment of Chapo’s power will be reinforced if Frelimo goes ahead with plans to abolish the provincial secretaries of state. These central government appointees have always overlapped with provincial governors, and getting rid of them would save money and reduce duplication of roles. It would also mean that the president would have no appointees of their own directly involved in provincial government.
For his part, Chapo has already shown signs of assertiveness, by intervening in the controversy over new mobile phone tariffs and forcing the regulator to suspend their introduction. The selection of the candidates for governor may turn out to be the first shot in a battle for control of the party that erupts once Chapo takes power.


An unprecedented strike against organised crime
The change of power at the top has provided an opportunity for prosecutors to act
Undoubtedly a key reason for the timing of the operation is the transition of power in ruling party Frelimo and the Mozambican state. Mozambique is to elect a new president in October, who will take over in January, and Frelimo is to choose a new secretary-general. Changes of power in politics weaken the grip of those in charge, and often provide a brief opportunity to defy their authoritarian control. Prosecutors seem to think they have a chance to strike against the gangs, who up to now have been protected by friends in law enforcement, Frelimo and the state.


Non-welcome organisations
The government is always hostile to NGOs, but claims about terrorism financing are unlikely to reflect official policy
A convenient excuse to harass NGOs is to suggest that they have links to the Islamic State-backed insurgency in Cabo Delgado province. It therefore looked predictable last week, when French broadcaster RFI published an article quoting an official at the Financial Information Office of Mozambique, who supposedly claimed that a forthcoming report had found a “very high risk” of NGOs financing the insurgency. There is just one problem with this assertion: it's not true.


Cutting down on the charcoal trade
Mozambique needs a viable alternative to charcoal, both as a fuel and as a source of employment

Electoral body accused of creating 1.2m “ghost voters” (AIM)
The NGO the Centre for Public integrity (CIP) has accused the Technical Secretariat of Electoral Administration (STAE) of inventing 1.2m “ghost voters” ahead of the elections on 9 October. According to the CIP, the voter figures that STAE has submitted to the National Elections Commission are 1.2m more than the numbers of adults eligible to vote provided to STAE by the National Institute of Statistics. The southern province of Gaza has the highest number of fraudulent voter registrations, with 400,000, according to the CIP. “The number of impossible voters is so high in all the districts of Gaza and in the neighbouring province of Inhambane, that there must have been organised criminal activity,” the NGO says.
Creating fake voters is nothing new: it happened the last time these elections were held five years ago, and is a standard way of rigging elections in favour of ruling party Frelimo. In the run-up to the 2019 elections, the then head of the National Institute of Statistics was forced out of his job for daring to question the numbers of voters registered in Gaza province, which just happens to be a stronghold of Frelimo.


Frelimo elections: Nyusi loses his grip
Revolts by party activists reflect the president’s diminishing power

“More than 70 insurgents” killed in Mbau (TVM)
Brito Simango’s reports have been proved wrong before, so this one should be treated with caution. However, as we reported recently, another source says they counted over 60 bodies after the Mbau attack. Either number would be a very large proportion of the insurgents, whose exact numbers are not known but are thought to number in the region of 300 in total. If something like 60-70 is a true figure, then it suggests the insurgents were reckless in how many fighters they committed to the Mbau attack.