20 December 2002

MOÇAMBIQUE: Renamo disrupts parliament

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, closed its last sitting of the year on Tuesday, Dec 17, two days early, in the midst of uproar, as the deputies turned thugs of the Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition made every effort to sabotage proceedings.

This was the fifth day running that Renamo's contribution to the debates has consisted of blowing on whistles and hooters, banging on the tables and chanting slogans. Renamo posters displayed during the near riot read: "Mulembue (Eduardo Mulembue, the chairperson of the Assembly) we want our five seats".

The five seats concerned belong to Raul Domingos, Rashid Tayob, Jose Lopes, Almeida Tambara and Chico Francisco - deputies who have all left or been expelled from Renamo. Renamo demands that, since they were elected to parliament on a Renamo ticket, they must now give up their seats, which Renamo will fill with more pliable candidates. The majority Frelimo Party has argued that there is no legal basis for this demand: nothing in the law obliges a deputy to resign from parliament just because he is no longer in good standing with his political party.~

From Tuesday through to Thursday the Assembly should have debate the government's plan and budget for 2003. These documents were presented and passed their first reading on Monday. But no debate was possible with Renamo continually banging on the tables, and so the second reading became the Frelimo benches simply passing without discussion the plan and budget. It took less than 20 minutes for Mulembue to go through the two documents, article by article, asking if there were any objections, with the Frelimo deputies responding each time "It passes ! It passes !" The documents were passed by 128 votes to zero, since the Renamo deputies refused to take part in the vote. Mulembue then called for a half hour interval. But, as has become habitual, the interval dragged on for two and a half hours. He then returned to the plenary simply to announce the end of the plenary. Police were present in the Assembly chamber, encircling the Frelimo and Renamo benches. This did at least ensure that Renamo could not assault the rostrum - but the police made no move to throw the demonstrators out of the building and thus restore calm.

The Renamo riot poses some interesting financial questions. Since the Renamo parliamentarians have decided they prefer blowing on whistles and banging on tables to taking part in debate, why should they receive any more money from the Mozambican state? There is an unanswerable case for the government to halt all payments from the state budget to Renamo and its allies until the situation in the Assembly is normalised. (AIM)

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