Beira - Mozambicans will cast their ballots in local
elections on Wednesday, amid concerns that an upsurge in political violence
will mar voting.
Opposition party Renamo have denied allegations they plan to
disrupt the vote after months of deadly clashes between supporters and
"Renamo is not a party of violence. We as Renamo party
never sat down to plan any kind of violence," a spokesperson for the
party, Fernando Mazanga told AFP on the eve of the vote.
Since late October guerrillas from Renamo's military wing
have been fighting a low-level insurgency against government forces in the
central province of Sofala.
The party has not registered for Wednesday's polls saying
the election laws must first be overhauled to ensure it has equal
representation on election bodies to stop the ruling party stealing the vote.
Over the past year, Renamo repeatedly vowed to stop
elections going ahead.
However, when asked whether people would vote without fear
of violence Mazanga alleged that "other political or social forces"
could take action.
"This cannot be attributed to Renamo," he said.
"If it [the election] goes well or it goes badly, it is
not the responsibility of Renamo."
Voters in the district worst affected by recent fighting
between government forces and Renamo rebels said they feared leaving home to
cast their ballots.
"We don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. I
think I will be home, I won't try to put my health in doubt, " a resident
of Gorongosa village, Joao Rosario told AFP on Tuesday.
"No one knows what will happen"
The village is just 30km from Satunjira, where government
troops over-ran the former military command of Renamo's leader, Afonso Dhlakama
in late October.
Many of Dhlakama’s fighters fled into nearby mountains.
Dhalkama’s whereabouts are unknown, adding to the climate of uncertainty.
"Renamo is up there. Perhaps they will come and disturb
the elections," Rosario said.
Election authorities have vowed to go ahead with the polls,
which are seen as a crucial indicator of the ruling, Frelimo party's grip on
"No one knows what will happen," election spokesperson
Lucas Jose told AFP. "At any moment they could attack but we have the
obligation to open the voting stations," he said.
Voters are to elect mayors and local assembly members in 53
municipalities on Wednesday. Presidential polls are planned next October.
In 2008 Frelimo won all but one municipality. With Renamo
boycotting these polls, opposition group, the Mozambique Democratic Movement,
MDM (which already controls two towns) wants to collect the spoils, and plans
to field candidates in all 53 municipalities.
Abstention levels are traditionally high among Mozambican
voters, particularly in municipal polls, held a year in advance of national and
presidential elections. In 2008 less than half the number of registered voters
turned up to vote.
This time voters are more concerned about seeing the
government come to a political agreement with its former civil war enemy, than
going to the polls analysts say.
"The lack of progress by both parties towards a
concrete peace deal makes people not so enthusiastic about local
elections," Mozambican political analyst, Egidio Vaz told AFP.
"Everyone is really interested in making sure this
country is not being dragged to war again," he added.