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Some fear that Carlos Cardoso's murder might never be fully investigated as 'many more crimes' would be uncovered. It has been more than three months since the assassination of Mozambique's leading investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.

Mozambique's Downward Spiral

Mail and Guardian (Johannesburg)

March 23, 2001
Posted to the web March 22, 2001

Rehad Desai

Some fear that Carlos Cardoso's murder might never be fully investigated as 'many more crimes' would be uncovered. It has been more than three months since the assassination of Mozambique's leading investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso.

Last week the minister of police announced he had captured the hit men responsible. The announcement was followed shortly by the arrest of those suspected to have ordered the killing: brothers Mamade Abdul Satar and Ayob Abdul Satar and Vincent Ramaya.

The three suspects had been named in 1998 by investigating attorney Albana Silva, in connection with a $14-million fraud two years earlier involving the parastatal Banco Commercial of Mozambique (BCM). In 1999 Silva narrowly escaped an attempt on his life when his car was riddled with bullets. It was the same method used in Cardoso's murder.

The case has never come to court. Evidence went missing and essential papers were disorganised.The state attorney's office seems to have botched up the case, with allegations of corruption among some of the attorneys involved, notably Diamantino dos Santos " now on the run, after a warrant was issued for his arrest in January this year.

Now the state attorney's office claims its case against Ramaya, the Satar brothers and their alleged confederates is back on track. It has taken the state a full three years to piece its case together again. In this time Silva has nearly lost his life and the country's leading journalist has been brutally murdered for repeatedly asking why these men had not been arrested.

One wonders why it took a murder investigation to have these arrested.

President Joachim Chissano's son, recently reported as having been arrested for the second time for possession of large amounts of cocaine, is believed to be an acquaintence of the Satar brothers and has regularly been seen at their house in Maputo.

There are many concerned people in Mozambique convinced that Cardoso's death was a result of his unflinching disregard for those politicians who have enriched themselves from their links with organised crime. He and he alone tested the limits of freedom of expression in this respect. No one was spared criticism when it came to the development of Mozambique and the abuse of power.

At the time of his death he was investigating why the BCM was short of $110- million. He suspected huge amounts had been given to leading Frelimo figures as loans. An hour before his death he was set to launch the Movement for Peace and Democracy following the death of 80 Renamo prisoners in Monte Puez. He hoped this would form the beginning of a political alternative to Frelimo and other parties.

Fernando Lima, a leading Mozambican journalist, has written that Cardoso would often state to those close to him that he would not be surprised if he became the victim of a hit.

Mia Couto, a leading writer with former affiliations to Frelimo, argues that Cardoso's murder will not be investigated, as "many more crimes" would be uncovered. For Couto, "Cardoso's murder is part of a pattern that is part of the wider murder of Mozambique and this is something that cannot be investigated".

Mozambique's "miracle economic growth and transition to democracy" is extremely superficial. Its growth rates are, firstly, set on an extremely low base of economic activity. The country has no manufacturing to speak of.

Its democracy is very fragile; the fear of being silenced is very real.

The fear of losing your job by speaking out is widespread. Part of this is the legacy of a one-party state; more worrying is that it continues for other reasons in the free market economy.

Access to business opportunities is circumscribed by one's links to one of the several leading families. Cardoso called this recent trend clannic economic development. Such opportunities for Mozambicans usually involve little more than steering applicants through the corridors of state departments, greasing the machinery of the bureaucracy along the way.

Moreover, democracy does not mean much where the World Bank determines economic policy that has, among other things, led to the destruction of the reemergent cashew industry and the near ruin of the nascent sugar industry through demanding tariffs be decreased. The sugar industry was able to survive because most of its investors were international and the International Monetary Fund therefore backed down on its insistence on removing tariff control.

Corruption is not only limited to the top of the governmental hierarchy.

According to Paul Favet, editor of Mozambique News, parents are often forced to pay teachers to ensure their children pass their exams.

Patients are often forced to pay nurses to ensure that they are serviced adequately in hospital. It is true that government is trying to address this problem through increasing wage levels " but to deal with it at the top would spell the end of Frelimo's rule.

The newly established Mozambican South African Friendship Society, founded with the assistance of Deputy President Jacob Zuma, cannot allow itself to continue to go along with the rest of the international community in turning a blind eye to the erosion of the moral fabric of Mozambican society. To do so indirectly supports the spiral downward into lawlessness akin to the Wild West of America 150 years ago.

It seems the country's rapid reintegration into the Southern African and international economy has led to a scramble of those in power or with access to influence for the crumbs from multimillion-dollar investments that are being made from the sale and privatisation of national assets and services.

Whoever gets in the way, as in America's expansion westward, is likely to face the same fate as Cardoso.

Rehad Desai is currently directing a documentary on Carlos Cardoso