Mozambique News Agency


Central Committee opts for Guebuza

Maputo, 8 Jun (AIM) - The Central Committee of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party on Saturday voted overwhelmingly for Armando Guebuza, currently head of the Frelimo parliamentary group, to become the party's new secretary-general, and consequently its candidate in the presidential election scheduled for 2004.

President Joaquim Chissano announced last year that he would not be seeking a further term of office. However, Chissano will retain his post as President of Frelimo, and so in 2004, for the first time in the country's history, the posts of President of Frelimo and Head of State will be held by different people.

Last Tuesday, the Central Committee decided to upgrade the position of General Secretary. The party's new general secretary, taking over from the incumbent, Manuel Tome, will no longer simply be responsible for the smooth running of the party apparatus - he will also be the candidate for the 2004 elections, and hence will be a sort of president-in-waiting.

The Central Committee instructed the 15 member Political Commission to draw up a short list of between three and five candidates for secretary-general.

The Political Commission completed this task at a lengthy meeting on Saturday. The short list presented to the Central Committee contained the names of Guebuza, the chairman of the Mozambican parliament, Eduardo Mulembue, Agriculture Minister Helder Muteia, and the governors of Cabo Delgado and Zambezia provinces, respectively Jose Pacheco and Lucas Chomera. The list was soon reduced to four, however, since Mulembue withdrew his name for "personal reasons".

156 Central Committee members were present at Saturday's extraordinary meeting, which was called with the sole purpose of choosing a single candidate for the position of general secretary. According to the spokesman for the meeting, Bernardo Cherinda, 150 valid votes were cast, of which 109 (76 per cent) were for Guebuza. The second most voted candidate was Muteia with 18 votes.

Guebuza has been in the top leadership of Frelimo ever since the party's second congress, held in 1968 during the independence war. After independence he served in the governments of the country's first president, Samora Machel, as Minister of the Interior (twice), Minister-Resident in Sofala Province, and Minister without Portfolio.

It was during his second stint as Minister of the Interior that he was in operational charge of one of the worst abuses ever committed by the Frelimo government. This was "Operation Production", a bungled attempt to evacuate the unemployed from the cities, during which thousands of people were sent from Maputo to the northern province of Niassa in the middle of winter, with barely more than the clothes they stood up in.

After Samora Machel's death in 1986, Guebuza was appointed to head the government commission of inquiry looking into the causes of the plane crash that took the lives of Machel and 34 others. But the commission could never conclude its work because the South African apartheid regime, suspected of using electronic interference to lure Machel's plane away from its correct flight path, refused to cooperate.

Under Chissano's first government, Guebuza was Minister of Transport. But his key role was head of the government team that negotiated with the Renamo rebels for two years in Rome, finally producing the peace agreement of 4 October 1992.

Guebuza also headed the government side on the Supervision and Control Commission (CSC), the UN-chaired body which oversaw implementation of the peace agreement, and guided the country towards its first multi-party elections in 1994.

Guebuza was elected head of the Frelimo parliamentary group in late 1994, and re-elected after the 1999 elections. This position automatically gives him a seat on the parliament's governing board, its Standing Commission.

Guebuza is extremely popular within Frelimo. In the elections held at the Frelimo Seventh Congress in 1997 he was second in popularity only to Chissano, and picked up 92.6 per cent of the votes for the Central Committee.

The Saturday vote by the Central Committee does not mean that Guebuza automatically becomes secretary-general and hence the candidate for the 2004 elections.

This must still be confirmed by the Frelimo Eighth Congress which starts next Thursday. The Congress is the Party's highest body, and is free to reject any proposal put before it by the Central Committee. However, the opinion of the outgoing Central Committee carries considerable weight.

Cherinda told reporters "Right now we think it is Guebuza who will run for the Presidency in 2004". But he admitted there could be new political scenarios that would force Frelimo to change its mind.

Guebuza accepts his mission as presidential candidate

Maputo, 8 Jun (AIM) - Armando Guebuza, proposed on Saturday by the Central Committee of Mozambique's ruling Frelimo Party as its candidate for the 2004 presidential election, has told reporters that he accepts his new mission "even though I know it's a great responsibility".

Guebuza is currently head of the Frelimo parliamentary group. The vote on Saturday means that Guebuza is the man proposed by the outgoing Central Committee to the Party's Eighth Congress (which begins on Thursday) for the new Frelimo general secretary, and consequently its candidate for the presidency.

Speaking to journalists shortly after the vote, Guebuza said the fact that there were three other candidates "is perfectly normal, legal and acceptable" within Frelimo. He believed the decision was a "mature" one, and thought that it would be confirmed.

Should he indeed be confirmed as the Frelimo candidate, he would fight to be elected President of the Republic by a handsome majority over opposition candidates. "I am going to fight to win", he stressed.

As for those who describe him as a "hard-liner", Guebuza disagreed with this characterisation. "What I know and fully believe is that I want to have guarantees that the Frelimo Party is able to achieve its aspirations, that it can continue winning elections, and that it will be able not only to produce an acceptable and viable programme but will also be able to apply it", he said.

He recognised that between the Party and its government it was normal that there should be differences.

But he stressed the importance of harmonising positions so that the political line of the party triumphs, but without getting in the way of good governance.

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