The crisis caused by the undisclosed government guaranteed loans of over a billion US dollars, dating from the period when Armando Guebuza was Mozambican President, could lead to a split in the ruling Frelimo Party, former information minister Jorge Rebelo admitted, in an interview published in Friday’s issue of the independent weekly “Savana”.
Rebelo, a close comrade of the country’s first President, Samora Machel, was once head of the Frelimo ideology department, and one of the most powerful men in the country in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He no longer holds any formal position in Frelimo but is generally recognized as a man of great integrity whose opinions are taken seriously.
In just two years (2013-14) the Guebuza government added twenty per cent (over two billion dollars) to the country’s foreign debt, in the shape of government guaranteed loans to three state or quasi-state companies. At the time only one of these was publicly known – a loan of 850 million dollars raised on the Eurobond market by the Mozambique Tuna Company (EMATUM) supposedly to buy 24 fishing boats and six patrol vessels.
Two other loans were concealed from the Mozambican public, and from the country’s foreign partners, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These were 622 million dollars for Proindicus, a company set up for purposes of maritime security, and 535 million for Mozambique Asset Management (MAM), which will supposedly provide repair and maintenance services for the boats of EMATUM and Proindicus and other shipping in the Mozambique Channel.
When the loans became known in April, the IMF suspended the second instalment of a loan from its Standby Credit Facility (SCF), and the group of 14 partners who provide direct support to the Mozambican budget also suspended financial assistance.
Asked what might happen if Guebuza were to be held responsible for this dramatic rise in the public debt, Rebelo predicted a split “because Guebuza has many supporters at various levels of governance whom he put there and who benefitted from their links with him. I think this is why the current government is taking responsibility for the abuses of the Guebuza government, and refuses to hold him responsible”.
“My opinion is: if a split happens, then let it come”, declared Rebelo. “Let us prepare to face it. We are the majority, a conscious, committed majority, not compromised with sordid interests”.
He said he was intrigued by the question “how was it possible for a comrade who gave proof of his nationalism and patriotism to allow himself to be dominated by greed, and to bring misfortune on his country and people? Did these attitudes already exist when he was involved in the struggle, or did they appear later? I don’t know the answer. But to some extent we are responsible, because we did not react when we began to detect this behaviour”.
“Out of fear we were always praising him, and considering everything he did as correct. We even encouraged him”, said Rebelo. He recalled that the flattery went to such extremes as to transmit live, on public television, Guebuza’s 70th birthday party “to feed the inflated ego of the chief”.
Some people, Rebelo warned, are doing the same with his successor, President Filipe Nyusi. The same exaggerated praises were being heard, and “any human being, on hearing praise constantly repeated, tends to believe it and thinks he is infallible. He becomes arrogant and does not accept criticism. I hope that President Nyusi has the good sense not to let himself be influenced by this”.
He recalled that Samora Machel “used to say that the chief must know how to use the gavel, must know how to exercise power. He must consult, but must not be tied to the opinion of others”. Rebelo saw signs of Nyusi following this advice “and trying to impose his authority as head of state, trying to free himself from manipulative influences”.
Asked how he assesses today’s Frelimo, Rebelo said that as an apparatus it is effective, and efficient, allowing the party to win elections. But as an organization ruled by just principles and values, and identified with the longings of the people, “it has greatly deteriorated” – which was why some people said “if Samora were to be resurrected today, he would immediately die again of a broken heart”.
Rebelo recalled that he has been a member of Frelimo for 53 years “and so I have some responsibility for its mistakes and its defects. For some time, when I have the opportunity, I have been criticizing what I regard as wrong, but with few results”.
The problem was that Frelimo tends to fall in behind its leadership. “When we have a good leader, such as Samora, Frelimo takes up just values, wins the trust of the people and becomes strong”, said Rebelo. “When the leader is mediocre or bad, Frelimo becomes discredited, because these leaders are switched off from the interests of the people, appropriate the riches of the country, close themselves off from discordant opinions, and repress those who denounce them”.
As for Frelimo’s current ideology, “I don’t know what that is”, said Rebelo. “The Party’s statutes say that Frelimo fights in defence of the interests of the Mozambican people. Let us be content with this”.
Rebelo was sure there were grounds for criminal proceedings against those who contracted ruinous and illegal debts, and if Mozambican judges and prosecutors do not have the courage to pursue such cases “then those who head the institutions of justice should resign, and make way for those less compromised with power, less fearful and more honest”.
Since it is widely believed that much of the undisclosed debt had found its way into somebody’s private pocket, “Savana” asked Rebelo who that might be.
“Everybody knows”, he replied.
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