Samito’s mayoral contestation may spark revolution

After not being considered as the ruling Frelimo Party’s mayoral candidate of Maputo in Mozambique’s upcoming local elections, to be held on October 15, Samora Machel junior has decided to contest outside of the party.

He is the son of Samora Machel, the former head of Frelimo and the first president of Mozambique.

The younger Machel is a member of the Central Committee (CC) of Frelimo, the party’s highest structure in the interval between two congresses.

Roque Silva Samuel, the secretary-general of Frelimo, reacted to Machel’s decision, saying: “He is a citizen and as such, he has rights. Frelimo sees this as something normal.”

Machel, nicknamed Samito, is being supported by the Youth Association for the Development of Mozambique, a coalition which consists mainly of Frelimo members.

According to media reports, Samito’s candidature is also backed by three of Frelimo’s mass organisations: The Association of Combatants of the National Liberation Struggle, the Mozambican Women’s Organisation and the Mozambican Youth Organisation.

Samito’s decision to proceed outside Frelimo is seen in the country as the first ever sign of strong disunion, and even revolution, within Frelimo since achieving independence from Portuguese rule in 1975.

Addressing the media on Thursday, Graça Machel, the widow of the former president, and Samito’s stepmother, said she supported his decision.

“Before being a member of Frelimo, I am a mother. And, being a mother, I have to be with him [Samito]. Samora and Josina Machel [Samito’s mother] are not here and I do not, as a mother, have another choice,” she said. “He has been preparing his candidature for two years now.”

Samito, 48, told City Press on Friday that he was aware that Frelimo would convene a meeting at some point and might even decide to expel him, “but I do not have problems with that”.

“I will always be part of Frelimo and I will die as part of Frelimo, with or without a membership card. My main objective is to work for the people, especially the poor and marginalised,” he said. Samito’s membership of the CC makes expelling him difficult, given that the party’s constitution states that high-ranking members can only be fired by the CC itself.

Frelimo held its 2018 ordinary meeting in March. Expelling Samito this year would require the convening of an extraordinary meeting of its CC – seen as unlikely.

In a process described as non-transparent by Samito and other members, Frelimo chose Eneas Comiche (79) as its candidate. This is viewed as a clear sign that the party is not open to youthful candidates.

Comiche was mayor of Maputo from 2003 to 2008, and is a former finance minister and governor of the Bank of Mozambique. Analysts in Maputo familiar with Frelimo’s internal dynamics say that Samito is backed by influential party stalwarts.

His unprecedented move is seen as the first step towards an internal revolution, which may lead to further developments.