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Mozambique opposition cries foul as Frelimo demands voter cards

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Mozambique’s ruling Frelimo party appears to be carrying out a systematic campaign to create a parallel register of voters for this year’s municipal elections, in what its opponents suspect is a scheme to carry out electoral fraud or manipulate the electorate.

Witnesses have told Zitamar News of staff at ministries and public institutions, such as schools and courts, requiring staff to hand over their voter cards to be photocopied by the party’s provincial secretary, and then returned.

One lawyer working for the state-owned legal aid institute, IPAJ told Zitamar News that staff from the human resources department – accompanied by a member of staff from the Frelimo provincial secretariat – had demanded voter cards, and refused to explain why.

“They said the provincial secretary needed it,” the lawyer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I asked why? They didn’t tell me, they just said I had to hand it over. I refused, but all my other colleagues complied.” The cards were later returned after they had been photocopied.

The lawyer said the same was happening at ministries including health, justice, and education, both at the central level in Maputo, and at provincial offices.

A teacher at the Nhacoongo secondary school in Inharrime district, Inhambane province, also reported cases of electoral data being collected.

“They came twice,” he told Zitamar. “First they collected some data, and since not all of us were registered they came again to complete,” he said. “They are people of the Frelimo party.”

The phenomenon has also been reported in neighbourhoods, where party members are registered by an official circulating with a form with an official Frelimo stamp, collecting employees’ voter card numbers, along with the voters’ names, and where they registered.

Domingos Gundana, Renamo’s deputy head of mobilisation, told Zitamar of one episode in the Namacula neighborhood of Lichinga, capital of Niassa province, where the neighbourhood party secretary was caught with a list of 100 voters and five voter cards.

The Mozambique Political Process Bulletin, produced by journalist Joseph Hanlon in collaboration with Mozambican transparency NGO CIP, reported on an instance in Gaza province where a Frelimo MP, aided by local council workers, collected at least 60 cards in a neighbourhood of Chibuto. A local party official told the Bulletin that the cards were being collected on instructions of the Frelimo district first secretary.

Weekly newspaper Canal de Moçambique reported similar cases in Maputo province last month, specifically in the education and health ministries’ provincial directorates, and in three administrative posts of the Matola Municipal Council.

Alleged fraud

It is unclear what effect the parallel registration can have in practice, but Renamo’s Gundana sees potential for fraud.

Combining the information from the voter cards with the copies of the electoral rolls to which the parties are entitled, Frelimo “can find ways to send someone else to go to vote, and the real voter gets there to find that someone has already voted for him,” Gundana said – adding that such a scenario may seem far-fetched, but is possible thanks to what he alleged is collusion from the electoral authorities.

Manuel de Araujo, mayor of Quelimane and a member of opposition party MDM, agreed that the electoral authorities work with Frelimo to defraud elections.

“During the electoral census, for example, STAE [Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration] itself facilitated the census of people coming from other areas that were not part of the municipal perimeter,” Araújo said. “Whenever we catch these people and take them to police stations, rather than taking action against the offenders, the police end up frightening the people who submitted the complaints. Of course they all work together,” he said.

But Caifadine Manasses, Frelimo’s party spokesman, told Zitamar that these accusations are nothing more than “delaying manoeuvres” of the people trying to create a “bad environment unnecessarily”. According to Caifadine, “there is no party guidance for collecting the cards. It is not Frelimo’s strategy to work with other people’s data.”

‘Could cause conflict’

Election experts told Zitamar they are puzzled as to what Frelimo could be planning to do with the data. But Mozambican political analyst and university professor Alberto Ferreira said that whatever is behind the alleged campaign, it could have negative consequences for peace talks between the government and Renamo.

“Mozambique is a clear example of post-electoral conflicts and the question of fraud has always dominated the disagreements,” Ferreira told Zitamar. “This supposed campaign could create an idea that any municipality that Frelimo won was due to fraud,” he said. “It’s a situation that could cause another cycle of conflict, nullifying current efforts to achieve effective peace in the country.”

Joseph Hanlon, who has monitored all of Mozambique’s elections since the start of democracy in 1994, told Zitamar the practice of parallel registration is “totally unacceptable,” saying he has reported on several instances of it.

“Collecting cards shows power,” he said – but added that any practical difference it makes is “probably only psychologically, in areas where Frelimo is in power.”

© 2018, Zitamar Ltd. Reproduction and dissemination prohibited without written permission.

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