Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 32, October 2009
Guebuza: To defeat poverty we must believe in ourselves

President Armando Guebuza, who is seeking re-election in Mozambique, says his greatest achievement in the first term of office is "the fact that I was able to begin to persuade Mozambicans that it is possible to eradicate poverty."

During a break in his campaign, he told the national news agency, AIM, that

"there is nothing great that a people can achieve without first having the faith or the conviction that success is possible."

Using the lessons of the struggle for independence from Portuguese colonial rule to illustrate his point, he said that nationalist leaders such as Eduardo Mondlane, the founder and first President of Frelimo, led Mozambicans to overcome the idea that they were somehow inferior to their colonial masters.

"Everything starts with self-esteem," Guebuza said. "That leads us to believe that we can do things. The first great step to take so that we can defeat poverty is to believe in ourselves, and to be sure that we can eradicate it."

Speaking in the small town of Chai, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado where the first shots were fired in the independence war, Guebuza recalled that "when the struggle began, what Mozambicans really had was not guns but the will to fight to victory or to death rather than go on living under colonialism."

He told the news agency that he sees signs that Mozambicans are gradually reaping the benefits of the fight against poverty.

He said that, after his election as Frelimo General Secretary in 2003, he began to tour the country and found that most rural dwellers had next to no purchasing power. They could scarcely clothe themselves decently or afford a pair of shoes.

"But today they are all more or less well dressed, albeit with basic clothes, and a fair number can buy other goods which are not so basic, such as bicycles or even motorbikes," he said. "This is a clear sign that people are beginning to emerge from poverty."

"Some people donít want to remember this," President Guebuza added, "and try to make us believe that Frelimo has done nothing in 34 years of independence."

"They do everything for us not to remember that, although our independence was 34 years ago, it suffered a brutal interruption of 16 years, until 1992, when we had to restart," he said.

Guebuza declined to claim responsibility for all progress since the end of the war of destabilization, for himself or even for Frelimo, stressing repeatedly that the gains made are the fruits of hard work by all Mozambicans, and what Frelimo has done is to provide leadership.

His main election promise is that he will continue this leadership role. But success in the fight against poverty will only come "with the hard work of each and every Mozambican."

Sooner rather than later, the day will come when poverty, like colonialism, will only be spoken of in the past tense, Guebuza said, and Mozambicans will say "we used to be poor."

Mozambicans go to the polls on 28 October to elect their President, national assembly and, for the first time, provincial assemblies.

Afonso Dhlakama, the leader and presidential candidate of the main opposition party, Renamo, is also on the campaign trail, where he said he will not reply to "the childrenís games" of the ruling Frelimo Party, or "the country will burn."

Dhlakama repeated his claim that Frelimo had stolen last Novemberís municipal elections by trucking in people from outside the municipal areas who had no right to vote, an accusation that has been denied by both the electoral commission and the Frelimo party. Dhlakama was speaking in the northern port of Nacala.

"I donít reply to crazy people, I donít reply to children, I donít reply to those who donít have the support of the people, because if the ruling party had popular support, it would not have to arrest people and tie them up," he said.

According to the Mozambique news agency, AIM, Dhlakama may have been referring to the arrest of 19 Renamo members in various parts of Nampula province since the election campaign started in mid-September, accused of tearing down Frelimo posters and other electoral offences.

"With Dhlakama all the suffering will end," he promised. "Everything depends on you. Itís enough that you vote for Afonso Dhlakama and vote for Renamo. Thatís the only way to end the abuses, injustices, unemployment and suffering caused by the communists."

As for the policies of a Renamo government, Dhlakama said it would defend the rule of law, concentrate on agriculture, and reduce dependence on external support.

"The first thing I shall do is end hunger," he declared. "In my government in Mozambique there will be no hunger. No one will die because they didnít have enough to eat. This happens because the economic policies of the others are bad."

A new opposition party, the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) is still disputing the disqualification of some of its proposed candidates by the National Elections Commission (CNE). The MDM was formed at a conference in March and has just started setting up its structures in provinces and districts.

A CNE representative said the party showed great disorganization in the way it handled its paperwork, but the MDM accused the CNE of stealing its documents, which the Commission says is "absolutely false".

The CNE ruled in early September that the MDM had provided valid documents for its lists of candidates in only four of the 13 parliamentary constituencies.

The MDM appealed to the Constitutional Council, which found that the CNE was correct. In particular, it found that three dozen of the MDM candidates lacked any file of documents at all.

The MDM waited for the last possible moment to deliver its lists of candidates. In this it was not alone, according to the Mozambique news agency, because 28 parties and coalitions delivered their nominations on the last day. The ruling Frelimo party submitted its lists only one day earlier.

Parties were delivering lists for 250 seats in the 13 parliamentary constituencies, but also for the first elections to ten provincial assemblies with a total of 812 seats.

To stand for any of the constituencies or assemblies, parties must also provide supplementary reserves. Taking the reserves into account, a party that wished to stand in all constituencies and for all provincial assemblies had to provide lists with 1,507 names.

Some minor parties did not bother with the provincial assemblies, but presented valid lists of parliamentary candidates. The Mozambican Green Party (PVM) had lists approved for eight constituencies, while the Democratic Alliance of Veterans for Development (ADACD) is standing in six constituencies.

Mozambique uses an electoral system of Proportional Representation with the provinces and main urban areas defined as parliamentary constituencies at national level.

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