Monday, 8 December 2014

Mozambican Democracy: A Possible Model For Zambia

Campaign posters on a street in Mozambique
By Paul Shalala in Maputo, Mozambique

Mozambique may have emerged from two decades of war, but its way ahead in its path of strengthening its democratic institutions.

This southern African country gained its independence from Portugal in 1975 but it soon descended into a brutal war which only came to an end in 1992.

Since then, Mozambique has held democratic elections at local government and parliamentary level as well as electing three Presidents so far.

My one week stay in the Mozambican districts of Bilene, Manhica and Maputo in late November showed me how democracy is flourishing in this emerging gas producer.

Election officials in Mozambique
All across the 200 kilometers stretch of the Maputo-Bilene road are posters of major political parties that took part in the 15 October, 2014 General Elections where ruling party candidate Felipe Nyusi emerged victorious as the country's new President.

Zambia may have had many years of multi-party politics but its still lagging behind in a number of ways that Mozambiaque has become a shining example.

Below are some of the progressive democratic institutions and laws that Zambia is still trying to establish which Mozambique has already institutionalised:

1. Constitutional Court:

In the Final Draft Constitution released by the Zambian government on 24 October, 2014, a Constitutional Court has been proposed to determine many constitutional issues.
Supporters of opposition candidate Daviz Simango

One of these issues is the determination of elections and the overall winner of presidential elections.

This court also hears and determines all electoral petitions and disputes.

Mozambique already has a constitutional court and according to that country's constitution, this court has a 45 day period from the day the Mozambican Electoral Commission announces the election results to the day it is supposed to officially announce the winner.

2. Transition Period

In Zambia, a winning Presidential candidate is supposed to be sworn in within 24 hours after being declared victorious.

Many observers say 24 hours is too short a time for swearing in a president due to the many irregularities and petitions that may arise after the election.

But in Mozambique, their constitution has a 45 day transition period from the day the Electoral Commission announces the result to the day the new president is sworn in.
Renamo Presidential candidate Afonso Dhlakama

This period helps the out-going government to hand over to the new government and it allows the new team to be oriented into the affairs of the nation.

Currently, the ruling party FRELIMO's Filipe Nyusi is within the 45 day period where he is waiting for the Mozambican Constitutional Court to declare him winner following the declaration of his 15 October victory by the Electoral Commission.

During this time, Nyusi is being taken through the day to day running of the country and he is also constituting his own Cabinet which he will only announce after he is sworn in.

A local journalist jokingly told me that during this time, ruling party officials keep their phones on in case Nyusi phones them for a place in his government and others are busy issuing statements on TV so that Nyusi can notice their "hardwork."

A campaign poster for FRELIMO candidate Felipe Nyusi
3. Freedom of Information Law

In the last week of November 2014, the Mozambican parliament passed the Freedom of Information Law which has been hailed by several stakeholders as progressive.

This law was pushed by civil society and media bodies in the country.

In Zambia, the Access to Information Bill has been shelved for 14 years following its withdrawal from parliament in 2002.

Activists and media organisations argue that once Zambia enacts this bill into law, the public will have power to question the authorities on issues they need clarity.

They argue that in the absence of such a law, transparency and accountability are hard to be ascertained.

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