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Popular support of Mozambique’s liberation party FRELIMO has declined over its 40-year rule. The newly eleceted President Nyusi has a huge task before him of addresssing malpractices of fraud and self-enrichment within the party, growing security concerns and mass poverty in the country.

Mozambique’s newly elected president, Filipe Jacinto Nyusi [1], may be the very last opportunity for the liberation party Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO) to retain its grip on power. Nyusi was elected under a dark cloud of FRELIMO’s declining popularity, the prospect of a civil war, of social tensions (e.g. kidnappings) and, more importantly, of accusations of enormous generalized electoral fraud. Although FRELIMO managed to secure the presidential post and a parliamentary majority, closer scrutiny shows that the ruling party (since independence in 1975) was in fact the major loser of the 15 October 2014 general elections. The results reveal that the major winners were the long-standing opposition party Resistência Nacional de Moçambique (RENAMO) and its presidential candidate Afonso Dhlakama followed by the newly created Movimento Democrático de Moçambique (MDM) led by Daviz Simango.

FRELIMO was once again crowned the victor in the 2014 general elections with official results for the party at 55.68%, followed by RENAMO with 32.95% and finally MDM with 8.40%. Nyusi won the presidential post with 57%, followed by Afonso Dhlakama and Daviz Simango with 36,6% and 6.4% respectively. In terms of the 250 parliamentary seats FRELIMO won 144, RENAMO 89 and MDM 17 [2]. This new parliamentary distribution denotes a loss of 47 seats for FRELIMO and a considerable increase for RENAMO and MDM as they captured 38 and 9 additional seats respectively.

My argument is that only if internal and external dynamics are properly addressed during Nyusi’s term of office will FRELIMO be able to reverse the current trend and continue dominating Mozambique politically and economically. Internal dynamics refer to FRELIMO’s inner party power relations and control and its willingness to share the country’s wealth. External dynamics relate to FRELIMO’s, and particularly Nyusi’s, capacity to respond positively to the country’s current political and socioeconomic challenges such as peace and political stability, poverty, employment and the housing crisis.

FRELIMO’s electoral support has been declining more visibly since the 2013 municipal election which was boycotted by RENAMO. While in global terms, in 2013 municipal elections, the ruling party managed to secure 49 out of the 53 contested municipalities, it saw its future under serious threat and its power over strategic urban municipalities confined to the capital city of Maputo and to the industrial municipality of Matola. In the central city of Beira, MDM candidate and party leader, Daviz Simango, obtained 70.44% of the vote in the mayoral race, while his party won 67.58% for the local parliament. In Quelimane, MDM’s Manuel de Araújo won the mayoral vote with 68.21% with MDM securing 65.59% of the parliamentary vote. In Nampula, MDM candidate Mamudo Amurane obtained 54% of the mayoral vote, while the party attained 52% of the parliamentary vote.

More alarming to the ruling party, however, were the official results in Maputo where its support was under enormous threat by MDM. While FRELIMO managed to obtain 56.42% of the mayoral vote, MDM obtained 40.53%. Out of the 64 Maputo’s parliamentary seats FRELIMO obtained 37 and MDM 27 (CNE 2013). These results were historical as they were never previously recorded in Mozambique.


Nyusi’s first and biggest challenge is to get full control over the party’s domain. While he managed to win the country’s elections, the party apparatus still firmly resides with Guebuza and his inner circle. Although widely regarded as par for the course with the ruling party, unlike Chissano who is said to have “voluntarily” handed over the seat to Guebuza a mere month after leaving office, judging by recent moves, Guebuza appears reluctant to pass the baton of power to Nyusi [3].

Prior to the recent general elections, Guebuza scurried to populate FRELIMO’s central political structures with his own political allies. He did this by influencing the election of members to the most relevant central structures immediately below Congress, such as the Central Committee, the Political Committee and the Secretariat of the Central Committee. His daughter, Valentina Guebuza, for example, is listed as member number 128 of the Central Committee [4]. According to FRELIMO’s statutes, the Central Committee is the most important party structure outside Congress [5]. Congress is the party’s primary structure. This attitude may signify that either Guebuza is unwilling to be replaced by Nyusi as the party’s president (soon to be proven right or wrong), or he wants to continue controlling FRELIMO’s policy apparatus and decision-making processes by overseeing the party’s effective power mechanisms. Even to some FRELIMO stalwarts, Guebuza’s withdrawal from his position of president seems so unlikely that they can only “hope” he will have the same attitude as Chissano who graciously stepped aside [6].

However, this too may present a grave risk to Nyusi’s presidential manoeuvres. In Mozambique, because of the partization of the state and the economy, Guebuza being FRELIMO’s president or controlling the party’s decision making structures may continue being the deciding political and economic voice. Rumours abound that high and medium-ranking government and state candidates/appointees (ministers; deputy-minsters; provincial governors; army and police high-ranking officers, supreme court judges; public university chancellors; etc.) are vetted and approved by the Political Committee that may remain under Guebuza’s indirect control even after he vacates the presidential seat. If this is true, Nyusi’s status could be reduced to a mere figurehead.

However, given normal party practice and the repercussions of not doing so would create within FRELIMO [7] in all likelihood at least the symbolic power over the party will very soon be transferred to Nyusi. Despite this certainty, from an analytical point of view, the following three scenarios could play out with the future FRELIMO presidency. Firstly, Guebuza, for some reason, immediately decides to voluntarily resign foiling the most sceptical expectations about his willingness to do so. This would give him the opportunity to clear up his image as a man bent on clinging to power indefinitely within and outside FRELIMO. It would simultaneously eliminate an internal power struggle with Nyusi. Secondly, some pro-Nyusi members of the current Political Committee campaign could call for an emergency meeting of the Central Committee to force Guebuza out [8]. If this initiative succeeds, it could leave Guebuza in an extremely uncomfortable position with Nyusi, the new members of the resulting committee and the public. Thirdly, for the first time in the history of FRELIMO and Mozambique, there could be two parallel powers, one within the ruling party and the other within the state and government, the consequences of which are entirely unpredictable.

Meanwhile, any major and pressing reforms that Nyusi wishes to advance depend on his capacity and tenacity to manipulate or make internal decisions. One important issue which Nyusi should immediately address is the party’s attitude towards the extractive industry. Although the close ties between FRELIMO loyalists and their stake in the country’s major business opportunities can be traced back to Chissano’s time, they gained notable impetus during Guebuza’s term in office. Nyusi must show that he is able to halt the indiscriminate scramble for a share in the recently discovered natural resources (mainly coal and gas) by FRELIMO’s top officials who use their strategic positions and easy access to privileged information within the party, the state and the government to illegally secure prospect and exploration permits [9].

This clambering for privilege and wealth creates or stimulates conflict between different factions within the ruling party with the potential of weakening the party’s cohesion - a factor crucial for its continued effective functioning [10]. If not properly addressed, it will see FRELIMO enter the next electoral processes internally divided. Of greater importance is the negative message that this frenzy sends to the general public. For the average Mozambicans it will be a clear sign that the party is guided by self-interest only as it corrals the benefits of the country’s wealth for its top echelons.


Nyusi has inherited a country with hot political, social and economic issues. On the political front, Nyusi faces the challenge of giving proper direction to the subject of the so-called “political dialogue” between the government and RENAMO. Although a ceasefire agreement was reached in 2014, disagreements on the model of integration by RENAMO military forces into the national army and police still prevail [11]. RENAMO has demonstrated how capable it is of determining the state of war and peace in Mozambique. Nyusi’s predecessor’s approach to RENAMO was publicly criticised for threatening 20 years of relative peace and stability [12].

Another political challenge for Nyusi is the threat of RENAMO’s “State of Centre and Northern Mozambique”. Following the announcement of the provisional electoral results that were promptly rejected by RENAMO and the MDM, FRELIMO was accused of overwhelming fraud [13]. Although both parties rejected the official electoral results, only RENAMO MP’s did not take their seats in the national and provincial parliaments. Added to this, RENAMO has threatened to establish its own government in the provinces where the party allegedly obtained the majority of votes and Dhlakama would become its president. These provinces are Sofala, Manica, Tete, Nampula, Zambézia and Niassa [14].

RENAMO’s plan to “divide” Mozambique is not new. During the civil war in the 80’s and with Malawian support, RENAMO was planning to declare the province of Zambézia an independent state named ROMBÉZIA (Republic of Zambézia). However, the plan failed to materialise because the territory was recaptured by the government [15]. At the start of multiparty elections in 1994, whenever the party lost an election Dhlakama threatened to establish a RENAMO government where the party obtained the majority support. As in the past this plan might, however, soon be abandoned, i.e. until the next electoral “defeat”.

However, RENAMO’s threat should not be judged only on its military, political and financial capacity to effectively materialise. Instead it should be seen as a potential threat to the country’s continuous and dire need for nation building which is a crucial element of state building. This gains greater import when considering the potential that the discovery of mineral resources has to trigger separatist or autonomist sentiments, especially in a context of pervasive poverty, inequality and the fragile colonially-defined geographic borders. Dhlakama’s seemingly inoffensive message may trigger such sentiments.

On the socioeconomic front, Nyusi is faced with the challenge of properly addressing poverty, employment and housing. Guebuza’s 10 year tenure produced insignificant poverty reduction despite a consistent economic growth of around 7% per annum since 1994. Official government data reveal that 11.8 out of 21.5 million Mozambicans live below the poverty line (MPD 2010) [16]. United Nations figures about the Human Development Index (HDI) place Mozambique at position 185 out of 187 countries. In this ranking, Mozambique is amongst the four countries of the African Continent with the highest poverty incidence in the world - only better than Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo (UNDP 2013) [17]. The country’s overall unemployment rate stands at 27%. The formal economy is largely urban in nature and accounts for only 32% of all employment. Estimates indicate 300 000 new entrants into the labour market every year and an annual population growth of 2.8% [18]. The average annual urban and rural population growth rate is estimated at 3.3% and 2.1%, respectively. Like other developing countries this growth rate is posing great challenges to housing with most of the urban population living in informal settlements with no access to basic services [19].

“Housing is one of those basic social conditions that determine the quality of life and welfare of people and places. Where homes are located, how well designed and built, and how well they are weaved into the environmental, social, cultural and economic fabric of communities are factors that, in a very real way, influence the daily lives of people, their health, security and wellbeing, and which, given the long life of dwellings as physical structures, affect both the present and future generations. Housing is therefore central to sustainable development.” [20]

There is little doubt that Nyusi and the current FRELIMO leadership’s capacity will also be judged on the ability to provide proper housing, especially by the so-called “emerging middle class”. After having secured education and employment, this group is now claiming its basic right to housing - a factor that might influence voting choices in the next elections, especially in urban municipalities where the support for the ruling party is already waning.


Only by addressing the issues above can Nyusi bring FRELIMO’s much needed honey – the formula to safeguarding its future. FRELIMO’s longevity will depend on Nyusi’s ability to deliver on internal and external issues such as peace and stability, poverty, unemployment and housing. However, he first needs to take firm control of the party’s decision-making structures and processes to devise an agenda for the party and the country. This control will give him license to discipline comrades who, forsaking all else, are determined to line their own pockets with the benefits of economic growth.

Contrary to President Armando Guebuza, Nyusi should not neglect RENAMO’s and Dhlakama’s capacity, even for political benefit, to dent his personal and party credibility by threating to disrupt the country’s much needed peace building process. Mozambicans have already shown, by way of public demonstrations against their own government for the first time since independence, how important they regard peace and security when they saw these critical elements under threat.

The translation of economic growth into an inclusive development by reducing poverty, unemployment and the housing crisis will send a very positive message to an electorate desperate for transformative solutions to their long-standing problems.

Peace, stability, economic development, employment and proper housing are the essentials expected from the honey bee.

* Fredson Guilengue works with Rosa Luxembourg Foundation Southern Africa.


[1] The name Nyusi means “bee” in Makonde or Kimakonde. Kimakonde is the language spoken by the Makonde, an ethnic group in Southeast Tanzania and Northern Mozambique (Nurse 2003). ; Retrieved 24 January 2015.
[2] Source: Conselho Constitucional. Acórdão n.º 21/CC/2014 de 29 de Dezembro Processo n.º 17/CC/2014 (Validação e Proclamação dos Resultados das Eleições Presidenciais, Legislativas e das Assembleias Provinciais de 15 de Outubro de 2014)
[3] Chissano renounced the party’s presidency in March 2005 after Guebuza was elected and abandoned his active political engagement since then. This was happening for the first time in the history of the Party given that since independence in 1975 FRELIMO’s president was simultaneously the head of the state. Before Chissano renounced the party’s presidency Guebuza was its General Secretary. Sources: ; ; Retrieved on 24th January 2015
[4] See: retrieved on 24th January 2015
[5] See: retrieved on 24th January 2015
[6] In an interview to the private television broadcaster STV, Sérgio Vieira, former combatant and FRELIMO member said not to understand the reason why President Nyusi was not as well the leader of the ruling party in Mozambique. He “believes that President Guebuza will have the same sensibility to this issue as Chissano did”. Source: retrieved the 25 January 2015.
[7] See the article on Sérgio Viera’s interview to STV. Source:
[8] Members like Alberto Joaquim Chipande; Margarida Talapa and possibly Verónica Macamo might advocate for Guebuza’s abdication to avoid confrontation with Nyusi.
[9] See: Insiders Mining: Decision makers’ business circle. Report published on December 16, 2013 by the editorial staff of Africa Mining intelligence. Relevant details about a Centro de Integridade Pública report refer to by the newspaper Opaís,
[10] FRELIMO Factions commonly referred to are Chissano and Guebuzas’ factions.
[11] While the government requires that RENAMO produces and gives it a complete list of its reserves to be integrated into the national army and policy RENAMO demands the adoption of the integration model first.
[12] See:, retrieved on the 26th January 2015.
[13] See: retrieved on 26th January 2015.
[14] Of the 6 provinces referred to by RENAMO, the official electoral results only give RENAMO victory in the provinces of Sofala with 47, 94% and Zambézia with 46, 71%. In the other provinces although the difference is minimum, FRELIMO is leading (STAE). Source: retrieved on 26 January 2015.
[15] See: Manjate, J. (2013). Análise estratégica da liderança da Guerra em moçambique: unidade de esforço na batalha de zambézia 1986 – 1992. Maputo: Diname. The author also refers to the origin of ROMBÉZIA.
[16] Ministério da Planificação e Desenvolvimento (MPD). Pobreza e bem-estar em Moçambique: terceira avaliação nacional. Maputo, 2010.
[17] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The rise of the south: human progress in a diverse world. Available at: . Retrieved on 31 October 2014.
[18] See: retrieved on 24th October 2014.
[19] See:
[20] ibid

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