As the corruption trial of the decade if not the century enters its fifth day in a Mozambique court, guest commentator Marcelo Mosse, editor and publisher of the independent online outlet Carta de Mozambique, notes that the presence in the courtroom of a very large elephant remains unremarked. During the first days of the trial, witnesses have identified those responsible for a scheme saddling one of the world’s poorest nations with $2.1 billion of debt and driving millions into poverty. Mosse explains that the culprits have been identified by name and by the office held when the scheme was hatched and executed. With one exception. His own translation of his commentary from Carta de Mozambique on the significance of that exception is below.
Almost 20 years ago, at the time of the trial of the murder of journalist Carlos Cardoso, Mozambican society witnessed a judicial process that hit the presidential family to the core, due to the suspected involvement of Nyimpine Chissano [son of the then president] in the crime. This involvement was never proven. However, incriminating “nuances” of various kinds remained engraved in the imagination of the Mozambicans.
In addition, the trial was conducted within a tacit agreement among the interveners: everything was acceptable, except directly tweaking [then president] Joaquim Chissano. Bringing his name out at the hearings was like striking at the heart of the State, shattering our Mozambicanity, emptying the last stronghold of the beloved homeland, draining out its blood. Although the son ended up somewhat hit by the unraveling of his calls, the father, Joaquim, came out unscathed. Mozambicans would not be the ones to bury their own Father, even if hostile forces wanted to. Moreover, the administration of Justice was able to achieve this desideratum.
Twenty years later, history repeats itself, with the due distinctions of circumstance. The first four days of the trial of the “hidden debts” showed that we are facing the same tacit understanding: no one has yet mentioned Filipe Nyusi‘s name, but everyone mentions the Minister of Defense at the time. However, nobody asked for the name of the Minister at the time. Neither Judge Baptista nor the prosecutor Sheila Marrengula. Much less the Bar Association [participating in the case as assistant to the prosecution].
The Bar Association demanded that the former Minister of Finance, Manuel Chang, be required to come and testify as a declarant. The request followed several mentions made by the defendants Cipriano Mutota and Teófilo Nhangumele about his presence in decision-making meetings on the coastal protection project for which some of the debt was incurred.
However, just as Chang’s name was mentioned, the Minister of Defense was also mentioned several times, but never by name. We emphasize: no one wanted to know the name of this minister, much less his role in the various meetings where he would have been invested with his decision-making power on the subject. Several ministers of the time were addressed by name; the former President of the Republic, Armando Guebuza, was as well.
Why has no one mentioned Nyusi by name? Neither the judge nor the prosecutor asks about the role of this so-called Minister of defense. Why? That is the question.
The trial is still in its beginning stages. And our assertion may be refuted as the days go by, especially with the long awaited testimony of Antonio do Rosário, the second “mastermind” of the default. It is very likely that he will call a spade a spade. However, this taboo regarding Filipe Nyusi’s name shows that ultimately, and as we wrote a few days ago, we are facing the ultimate trial of Guebuzaism. And Nyusi will probably get off without being tweaked. Nyusi is still the President of Mozambique.
Editor’s note: The trial is live streaming on Mozambican public television. Links here and (Facebook link) here. Excerpts can viewed on YouTube by searching “television moçambique dividas ocultas.”