Mozambique News Agency

No.195, 13th November 2000


Forty dead as Renamo clash with police

Forty people died and over a hundred were injured during bloody clashes between the opposition movement Renamo and police on 9 November. The deaths came as Renamo staged demonstrations throughout the country claiming that the results of last December's elections were fraudulent.

In some parts of the country, such as in the capital Maputo, demonstrations took place peacefully. Elsewhere, armed Renamo members attacked the police and state institutions, leading to pitched street battles.

Montepuez scene of worst violence

The worst violence took place in Montepuez, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where the current death toll is 25. Of these, seven were police officers including the local director of the Criminal Investigation Police.

Fifteen of the Montepuez injured have been evacuated to the hospital in the provincial capital, Pemba, because the Montepuez Rural Hospital is short of staff and blood.

According to Radio Mozambique, former fighters from Renamo's guerrilla army, and from the Naparama peasant militia, regrouped at the Montepuez Renamo offices, where they continued to shout anti-government slogans.

The Cabo Delgado provincial attorney, Arone Nhaca, said that so far 26 people have been detained in Montepuez. Depending on the seriousness of the offences with which they are charged, they will be tried either in the Montepuez district court, or in the provincial court in Pemba. But they will probably have to be held in Pemba anyway, pending trial, given the damage that the Montepuez district jail suffered during the riots.

About 500 people took part in the Renamo demonstration in Montepuez. They attacked the district administration, the police command and the district jail. Renamo released prisoners from the jail and from the police cells, and seized guns from the police station. They took the interim district administrator and two policemen hostages.

A Montepuez policeman told the Radio that the police did not intend to open fire, and only did so when the district police command came under attack.

However, Renamo overwhelmed the defenders, and for 24 hours the town was under effective Renamo occupation. On 10 November, the scene was desolate with the district administration, the police command, the jail and the local market completely deserted. All documents that Renamo had found in the buildings had been torn to shreds.

A correspondent for the daily paper "Noticias" who visited Montepuez on 10 November said that the Renamo rioters had not only attacked the district administration and the police command. They had also destroyed important economic infrastructures. Thus a new telephone exchange and earth station, inaugurated just six months ago, were completely destroyed.

"This whole building has been wrecked", a worker of the telecommunications company, TDM, told the paper. "Right now we are working with just one telephone in the old exchange. The new earth station is in ruins. The rioters also destroyed the Montepuez central market.

A Cabo Delgado government spokesman told "Noticias" that the armed Renamo men who attacked the Montepuez police had come from Chapa, which used to be the Renamo provincial base during the war of destabilisation.

Attacks in other parts of Cabo Delgado

In Quissanga, on the Cabo Delgado coast, Renamo attacked the residence of the district administrator. The police blocked their path, and opened fire, successfully defending the building. However Renamo succeeded in occupying the Quissanga administrative offices, which they held for several hours. They withdrew in the late afternoon, when police reinforcements arrived. Four people were injured in the Quissanga clashes.

In Balama, in the south of the province, three people died in street fighting.

In the provincial capital, Pemba, police opened fire to prevent the demonstrators reaching the provincial governor's residence. But demonstrators succeeded in seizing and beating up the provincial director of the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat, Assara Marques, whom they blamed for Renamo's electoral defeat.

In Chiure, the Renamo march was allowed to go ahead, after the organisers agreed to change the route to aviod the commercial area and the Chiure district administration.

In Mecufi, there was a peaceful demonstration. According to the district administrator, Magido Ali, "they marched, shouted their slogans, and went away, without causing any disturbances".

There were also peaceful protests by small groups of Renamo supporters in Metuge, Macomia and Mocimboa da Praia.

Niassa province

There were no disturbances at all in the neighbouring province of Niassa. In the town of Cuamba, the "demonstration" took the form of a lunch held in the back yard of a locally influential Renamo member, Ferreira Moreno.

An AIM correspondent visited the Renamo offices in the provincial capital, Lichinga, and found about 100 demonstrators, mostly children. Renamo officials said they would not go onto the streets because of the strong police presence.

Niassa police commander Zacarias Cossa said the rest of the province was quiet.

Nampula province

In Nampula province there were ten deaths, at least 15 people were injured, and 65 demonstrators were detained. The worst clashes occurred in Nampula city, Mogovolas, Moma, Nacala- a-Velha, Angoche and Mozambique Island.

Renamo briefly occupied the small towns of Mogovolas, Calipo and Iapala. The police had to clear away barricades which protestors erected on the road leading into Nampula port.

Zambezia province

In Zambezia, there were no reports of any deaths or injuries. Indeed, the only place where a demonstration went ahead was Gurue, and it was peaceful.

In the two main Zambezia cities, Quelimane and Mocuba, Renamo did not even try to march: instead, the local Renamo leadership accepted that they had not delivered notification of the demonstrations to the municipal councils with the requisite four days notice.

Sofala province

There were two deaths in Caia, on the south bank of the Zambezi, in Sofala province. They occurred when demonstrators stormed the district administrator's office - the police shot one man inside the office, and a second died while he was trying to rip down the national flag from the building.

There were also clashes in the port city of Beira, and the districts of Machanga, Nhamatanda and Dondo, but no fatalities were reported.

In all, 86 people were detained in Sofala, and the police promised to bring them before magistrates to formalise the detentions.

Manica province

In Chimoio, capital of Manica province, demonstrators tried to gather but were twice dispersed by the police who first used baton charges, and later called on the assistance of the fire brigade who doused the Renamo crowd with water. The police did not open fire.

55 people were detained in Manica on 9 November, and a further 62 on 10 November.

Other provinces

In the western city of Tete, minor clashes occurred in which five people were injured. In the southern provinces, all regarded as Frelimo strongholds, there was no violence. Renamo did not attempt to demonstrate in Gaza, while in Inhambane there was a small protest in Govuro district. In Inhambane city Renamo members opted to stay in their party offices and did not venture onto the streets.

In Maputo, there was a small Renamo demonstration, of about 200 people, half of whom were Renamo members of parliament. This took place in an orderly fashion, accompanied by the police, and there were no incidents. The march stopped briefly in front of the Supreme Court, where the protestors expressed their anger at the court's decision in January to validate the election results.

All the demonstrations were small, in no cases attracting more than a few hundred people. Indeed, no attempt was made to mobilise anyone from outside the ranks of Renamo and its coalition partners.

Illegal marches

Technically, all the demonstrations were illegal. One clause in the Mozambican law governing demonstrations says that marches and parades may only be held on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and after 17.00 on weekdays.

But the police were prepared to turn a blind eye to this, at least in Maputo, in Gurue, and several places in Cabo Delgado. The government claims that the police only opened fire in cases where they came under attack from the protestors.

President Chissano blames Dhlakama for deaths

President Joaquim Chissano laid the blame for the violent demonstrations on Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.

"The deaths are a consequence of the police trying to defend itself when they were attacked by Renamo demonstrators", claimed President Chissano.

The Renamo behaviour was "barbaric, totally unacceptable and outside of the law", the President said. It is not the case that the Mozambican government was opposed to political parties holding demonstrations, he stressed, but such protests should take place within the law, and Renamo had been warned to follow the necessary legal steps.

Apparently, Renamo had not given the requisite four days written notification to all the local authorities and local branches of the police in the places where they intended to march.

Furthermore, the law on freedom of assembly states that marches and parades may only be held on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays, and after 17.00 on weekdays. Yet the Renamo demonstrations were scheduled for 08.00 in the morning of a working day.

President Chissano argued that Renamo's true aim had not been to hold peaceful demonstrations at all. "We saw that the aim of Renamo was to attack police posts, apparently to seize guns, to occupy administrative buildings, and to assault state officials", he declared.

Nobody was more to blame than Dhlakama, he said. "He's completely responsible for these deaths". This was based on the fact that Dhlakama has "always said that he could turn the country upside down in ten minutes", the President said.

Renamo had claimed that the population would stage spontaneous rebellions to show anger at the alleged fraud. But "the population isn't rebellious", stressed President Chissano. "The rebellion doesn't exist. There's only a rebellion organised by Renamo to cause instability, and create terror".

Dhlakama should not feel tempted to use the deaths to champion his cause within the international community, warned President Chissano. "He should not use these deaths to try and win glory for himself", he said.

President Chissano admitted that the violence would certainly paint a negative image of the country, but "we want to promise the world that we'll continue working so as to deepen democracy in the country. Democracy should be based on the rule of law, and we need to continue learning from these negative lessons".

The police would take measures to ensure calm, he said, and warned that those who are behind the violence "will be taken to court".

Renamo leaders detained

The police have made several hundred detentions, and among those arrested are five Renamo members of parliament, Manuel Pereira, Issufo Momade, Rui de Sousa, Albino Faife and Domingos Dhlakama (who is an uncle of the Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama).

Manuel Tome, Frelimo's general secretary on 10 November called for the prosecution of those responsible for the previous day's riots. Tome said he was referring not only to those who were physically at the head of the demonstrations, but also the "moral authors" of the riots.

Did that mean the Frelimo wanted to see Renamo President Afonso Dhlakama stand trial?, AIM asked.

"If it is assumed that Dhlakama is responsible, then he should be prosecuted", replied Tome. "No citizen is above the law. Dhlakama should be reminded that the laws are there to be obeyed".

Tome noted that three days ago he had warned, at a press conference, that the nationwide demonstrations called by Dhlakama were just a pretext for disturbances and disorder. They were part of Renamo's strategy "to take power at any cost, including the use of force".

"Renamo was always like this", he said. "They know nothing of democratic procedures or legal rules. They are genuine outlaws".

He noted that the worst Renamo violence had taken place, not in provincial capitals, but in outlying districts (such as Montepuez, Quissanga and Caia) because Renamo knew that no journalists are stationed there.

"Free from the eyes of the press, the Renamo leadership could feel much more comfortable to tell the public the most spectacular inventions, the most shameless lies", he argued.

"Events", said Tome, showed that "Renamo has not been able to free itself from the stigma of violence, although it cynically proclaims the reverse in a series of lies, threats and blackmail".

"Renamo uses democratic language to cover up its anti- democratic behaviour", Tome added. "Renamo uses democratic institutions, not to help solve the people's problems, but to create confusion and spread its lies".

Asked why the police had not used non-lethal methods against rioters, such as tear gas or rubber bullets, Tome insisted that the police had tried every means of dissuasion available, and had only opened fire on Renamo demonstrators as a last resort, "when the police themselves were the targets of physical aggression, endangering their lives".

"The police didn't act, they reacted", he said. "They reacted because of acts of violence, including the invasion of district administrations, and police stations".

Tome said this was why the police had allowed some of the Renamo demonstrations, although they were illegal, to go ahead when no violence was threatened.

President cancels overseas trip

President Joaquim Chissano has cancelled a visit he was to have made to Qatar, in the United Arab Emirates, to attend a summit of the Islamic Conference Organisation.

Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao, who will now represent the President at the summit, told reporters that the president had decided to remain in Mozambique because of the tense situation arising from the violent clashes between Renamo and the police.

Police lacking anti-riot equipment

President Joaquim Chissano admitted on 11 November that the country's police force does not have adequate crowd control equipment.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the Socialist International Council meeting held in Maputo, President Chissano was asked why the police had not used non-lethal methods, such as tear gas, to deal with the riots.

President Chissano said that the police were still undergoing restructuring, which included new training and "the acquisition of the necessary equipment".

"While we don't have that equipment, the police must use the methods they have", he said.

He insisted that the police fired into the air first, in an attempt to disperse the rioters, but when, as in the northern town of Montepuez, a force "came from outside the town and directly attacked the police, the reaction of the police is to defend themselves".

President Chissano noted that, in theory, the police should have dispersed all the Renamo demonstrations, since they were all illegal. However, they allowed peaceful marches, such as the one in Maputo, to go ahead, even though they violated the 1991 law governing freedom of assembly.

But when demonstrators put barricades of tree-trunks on the roads, as happened in Nacala, or when they tried to prevent other people going about their lawful business, as in Beira, "that cannot be tolerated", the President said.

Asked if there was any danger of a slide back to war, President Chissano replied "We hope that Renamo will stick to its word that they don't want to start a new war".

The government and the ruling Frelimo Party "will never provoke any war", he pledged. "We mobilise people to be peaceful. There were no organised mobs on the Frelimo side".

Asked about the possibility of fresh negotiations with Dhlakama, as the Renamo leader had suggested in an interview on 10 November, President Chissano revealed that he had invited Dhlakama for talks weeks ago. "He has had an invitation from me for a meeting for a long time", said the President. "I am still waiting for a reply".

South African police detained for brutality

The South African Security Minister, Steve Tshwete, has ordered the immediate detention of the six South African police officers who used detained Mozambican illegal migrants as "bait" for dog training.

The detention order followed the broadcast, by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), of a video tape showing horrifying scenes of such activities.

The SABC "Special Assignment" programme on 7 November showed footage of six white police officers setting dogs on three immigrants in the Springs Police dog training camp, about 30 kilometres from Johannesburg.

The footage contained scenes of shocking violence as the white policemen concerned repeatedly set their dogs on the helpless black immigrants. The dogs mauled and tore at the flesh of the suffering migrants, who were screaming for mercy. Every now and then one of the policemen would join in, striking or kicking the captives.

According to rumour circulating in the Mozambican community in South Africa, one of them died.

Meeting on maternal mortality

Health officials and NGO representatives began meeting in Maputo on 8 November to discuss means of reducing Mozambique's shockingly high maternal mortality rate. Currently for every 100,000 births, 1,500 mothers die.

Health Minister Francisco Songane told the opening session that improving this situation does not depend exclusively on his ministry. He called for a multi-sector strategy, that would also involve the Ministries of Education, Finance, Agriculture and Public Works.

Among the reasons for the high mortality rate, he said, was the fact that only 40 per cent of births take place in the presence of a qualified health worker. Furthermore, many health units do not possess the necessary equipment to deal with complications during childbirth.

Lack of transport to take women to hospitals, the high illiteracy rate among women, and pregnancies at a very early age are other problems.

Songane said his ministry is concerned to improve the rural health posts where many births occur, and which are currently staffed with midwives who only have elementary training. These midwives can attend to up to 80 births a day.

Manica governor to replace local administrator

The governor of the central province of Manica, Soares Nhaca, has promised residents of Dombe that he will soon appoint a new administrator to replace Jose Dramujane, who is accused of discriminating against supporters of the opposition, reports "Noticias" on 6 November.

Nhaca was speaking during a rally, where the residents complained that Dramujane is "arrogant", and discriminates in favour of sympathisers of the ruling Frelimo party. (Dombe is a Remano stronghold.) They said that he has poor relations with nearly all the other civil servants working in Dombe, and refuses to receive anybody in audience. When it came to distribute emergency aid to the victims of the February floods, Dramujane is said to have favoured Frelimo sympathisers.

Nhaca said that he has already selected somebody, who will live up to people's expectations, to replace Dramujane, though he could not make his name public immediately.

Limpopo line reopened

The Limpopo railway line, between Maputo and Zimbabwe, reopened to traffic on 9 November after the completion of emergency repair work budgeted at $7.5 million.

No trains between Maputo and Zimbabwe have run along the line since February, when it was seriously damaged in the catastrophic flooding of that month.

The reopening ceremony, presided over by Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, took place at Macarretane, 22 kilometres north of the town of Chokwe, in Gaza province.

After the first train had passed over the rebuilt bridge at the Macarretane dam, Prime Minister Mocumbi praised the efforts of local people to reconstruct their lives after the February disaster.

No-one should sit back with arms folded and just watch the effects of a natural disaster such as a flood. "The capacity of Mozambicans for hard work is always remarkable", he declared.

The repair of the line makes it possible to supply by rail from Maputo food deficit areas in the northern part of Gaza, such as Guija, Mabalane and Chicualacuala districts. Moving food to these areas by road is nightmarish, since much of the Gaza road network has not recovered from the floods and is still impassable. The railway is also important for the Zimbabwean economy, since it provides the most convenient outlet to the sea for southern Zimbabwe.

Rui Fonseca, chairman of the board of directors of Mozambique's publicly owned ports and railway company, CFM, told the crowd that a Zimbabwean train was already at the border town of Chicualacuala, loaded with Zimbabwean exports, and he expected it to make the journey to Maputo port later in the day.

Fonseca told AIM that the eight months of paralysis of the Limpopo line had cost the country about $26 million.

He said that the emergency repairs would allow at least five trains a day to use the line. Full rehabilitation of the railway is to be funded by the United States, to the tune of more than $50 million, and will be undertaken next year.

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