Mozambique’s government has a maximum of three days to avert what could be the country’s biggest riots since 2012, as the clamour grows for members of the last administration to be held responsible for borrowing US$2 billion – more than 10% of Mozambique’s annual GDP – to spend on coastal defence for a stalled oil and gas industry, a fishing project that has apparently gone nowhere, and nobody entirely knows what else.
A welcome sense of urgency was obvious in the government’s public statement on the afternoon of Tuesday, 26 April. Deputy health minister and government spokesman Mouzinho Saíde gave journalists a relatively thorough dissection of the different loans, when they were taken out, and what they were used for. It seems, though, that the government is seeking to publicly justify the loans – saying that Mozambique needs to protect its coastline, and that the decisions were taken at a time when Somali piracy was a clear and present danger.
At the same time, however, the government is keen to remind everyone that it was its predecessor administration which took out the loans. And it is the previous administration, under the leadership of former president Armando Guebuza, that most people want to see paying some kind of price for this scandal. But that remains unlikely.
The plans for protests have so far been disorganised, which raises hopes that nothing too serious will materialise. One message doing the rounds on popular messaging service WhatsApp talks of protests on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 April; another calls for a general strike to ‘paralyse the country’ for the whole week of 3-7 May. Yet another, today (27 April), says there will be protests on 1 May, a public holiday for Labour Day.
Nevertheless, the clamour for people to take responsibility is growing. The Centre for Public Integrity (CIP) made a predictable call for the main actors to be made known and held responsible, but a similar statement from the National Human Rights Commission, and then from the Law Association, were more exceptional.
There is absolutely no precedent within Frelimo, Mozambique’s ruling party, for senior members facing public charges for misdeeds of this nature. However there are one or two characteristics that might make this case an exception – although it remains unlikely.
One is that Mozambique Asset Management (MAM), the latest company to come to light, may have been hidden even from the top echelons of Frelimo, according to a source involved in the recent revelations, speaking to Mozambique Politics & Security.
MAM was established after EMATUM and ProIndicus (see Mozambique Politics & Security – 13.04.16), and borrowed US$535 million in 2014 to build two shipyards, one in Maputo and one in Pemba, to service the EMATUM and ProIndicus fleets, and commercial shipping – and even to build boats for domestic and international buyers.
Some reports have tied MAM to Alberto Chipande, the former defence minister and senior Frelimo official who is reputed to have insisted on Filipe Nyusi, a fellow native of north-eastern province Cabo Delgado, being selected as the next president in 2014.
MAM does share a CEO with EMATUM and ProIndicus, however, in the shape of António Carlos do Rosário – described by our source close to the IMF negotiations as ‘by far the smartest guy’ involved from the Mozambican side.
MAM recently launched a new security company, which it registered in Maputo at the end of February. MAM owns 85% of the company, and ProIndicus is another share-holder with 5%. A holding company called GIPS owns 10%. GIPS is reportedly owned by members of Mozambique’s security services, and is a major shareholder in EMATUM.