The Mozambican government’s propaganda tools appear to be increasingly on a war footing, vilifying the rebel group Renamo. But as Mozambique Politics & Security illustrates, it is not clear whether the state has any real authority when making the claims it does about Renamo’s acts.
The state-owned Noticias newspaper reported on the ‘cruel’ conditions Renamo’s militia are kept in, under threat of execution if they think about deserting – which more than 100 of them did over the last fortnight, the government claims. Renamo says the so-called deserters are nothing of the sort, but are merely trying to take advantage of a government pay-out.
Some of the deserters presented to the media are clearly too young to have fought before the 1992 Rome peace accord. The government claims this is further evidence that Renamo has been illegally increasing its forces rather than demobilising, as required under the peace deal.
The government’s biggest propaganda coup in recent days has been the killing of a tractor driver in Chigubo, the Gaza district that is suffering the most severe effects of the drought assailing southern Mozambique. The tractor driver was in the area to deliver water to suffering communities, when he was mistaken for a government soldier by Renamo attackers, Gaza’s police chief claims.
Renamo bandits killing Mozambican humanitarians in drought-hit Gaza is clearly a great story for the government side – which must be why Renamo spokesman Antonio Muchanga made an unusual public denial of his party’s involvement. ‘It’s a lie’, he told Portuguese news agency Lusa.
At the weekly police press briefing in Maputo on 2 February, police spokesman Inacio Dina was asked, why, if the police knew that it was Renamo men from the Funhalouro base who killed the tractor driver, they didn’t arrest them? Dina replied that Renamo attackers tended to melt into the local population, and that it was therefore it becomes hard to tell them apart.
In that case, asked another journalist, how sure were the police that the killers were Renamo agents? Dina said the police know Renamo have arms in that area, and that it’s an area with a lot of Renamo sympathisers.
In other words, the police are, as ever, in the dark about who carried out the shooting, but the incident was too good for the propagandists to pass up. As for Dina’s confusion, his boss – national police chief Jorge Khalau – has since clarified that the police have no trouble at all in identifying Renamo attackers. No one is convinced.