Addressing interwovenness or deepening divides?

Photo © Jon Crel/ Flickr
A luta continua' (the struggle continues) was the rallying cry of the FRELIMO movement during Mozambique’s war for independence. Today Mozambique faces new struggles, including the close relationship between party, state and business.

In Mozambique, interwovenness between political party, state and business has been a concern for a number of years.

The crux of the issue lies with the overlapping of Mozambique’s ruling party, Frente de Libertação de Moçambique (FRELIMO), and the state. On 5 February 2016, the party hosted an extraordinary summit of its central committee. This summit was convened to restructure the FRELIMO secretariat, after the party adopted a new internal directive, stating that no officeholder within an internal structure may concurrently serve on provincial or national assemblies.

The extraordinary summit therefore resulted in six positions being filled by newly elected representatives. Four high-ranking members of the FRELIMO secretariat were required to step down, as they were simultaneously serving as members of parliament. Additionally, two other ministers resigned from their positions in the secretariat.

Mozambique’s President Felipe Nyusi stated that the new directive is an attempt to ensure that office bearers within FRELIMO structures are dedicated to their positions and duties within the party. It is intended to prevent external distractions from interfering with the functioning of internal party structures.

Many critics view the reshuffling as an attempt by President Nyusi to leave his imprint on the party’s secretariat through cleansing the body of FRELIMO members loyal to Nyusi’s predecessor, Armando Guebuza. This is reflected in the fact that the four secretaries that were asked to resign are seen to be aligned with Guebuza. At a time when there is internal unrest in FRELIMO (as divided factions within the party battle for control), the reshuffling can be interpreted as an attempt by Nyusi to shore up his power within the party.

Although Mozambique – like many African countries – is saturated with anti-corruption initiatives, these are often poorly implemented and enforced.

However, others consider this a step in the right direction towards minimising party and state interwovenness; which has become structural in nature, with senior Frelimo officials controlling the state, its structures, and its interests. A new paper on the issue, ‘I Didn’t Struggle to be Poor’: The Interwovenness of Party, State and Business in Mozambique, discusses interwovenness and additional measures that are currently in place to combat the issue in the country.

According to the Mozambique Country Review Report, ‘the government does not frown on, but rather encourages, public servants to own and operate businesses to supplement their incomes’

Currently, the impact that this directive will have on interwovenness remains speculative. The official line states that it is a part of the initiative to strengthen party structures and functions. While not explicitly aimed at minimising interwovenness, it has the potential to do so, along a number of other recently-introduced initiatives.

The crucial ingredient is political will, which can be in short supply when political and economic interests converge.

16 Feb 2016