Mozambique: Spurious Claims About Prime Minister’s Nationality

Published: 8/May/2008
Source: AIM (Mozambique)

By Paul Fauvet Maputo — Wednesday and Thursday saw the Mozambican government submitted to questioning in the country’s parliament, the Assembly of the Republic – but some of the opposition deputies, rather than asking relevant questions about the government’s compliance with its five year programme, approved by the Assembly in 2005, demanded to know whether Prime Minister Luisa Diogo is really a Mozambican.

Thus Antonio Muchanga of the former rebel movement Renamo demanded “clarifications” about Diogo’s nationality, and Francisco Maingue proclaimed solemnly that Diogo’s nationality is “doubtful”.

At first sight, these deputies seemed to have taken leave of these senses. How could a black Mozambican woman, born in Tete province to indisputably Mozambican parents, possibly be regarded as “not a Mozambican” ?

But no – Muchanga and Maingue had not gone temporarily insane. They had merely made the mistake of taking seriously the right-wing weekly “Zambeze”, whose front page headline last week asked “Is the Prime Minister Mozambican ?”

“Zambeze” published Diogo’s 1981 marriage certificate which shows that her husband is Antonio Albano Silva. It then published Silva’s birth certificate which shows that he was born in Mirandela, in northern Portugal, in 1950. This is not exactly hot news. The marriage between Diogo and Silva is hardly a secret, and Silva has never hidden his Portuguese origins.

But “Zambeze” also unearthed the 1975 nationality law. A singularly repulsive clause in this law stated that any Mozambican woman who, after independence, married a foreigner would lose her nationality. This was blatantly discriminatory, since there was no clause stripping Mozambican men who married foreign women of their nationality. Arguably this clause was always unconstitutional, but it was never tested in the courts.

The “Zambeze” argument is that Diogo lost her Mozambican nationality when she married Silva in 1981, and never made any attempt to re-acquire it later. Ergo, the Prime Minister is not Mozambican. This whole argument depends on the false premise that Albano Silva is not a Mozambican citizen.

AIM, however, has seen photocopies of the documents which prove that Silva applied for Mozambican nationality on 15 September 1975, less than two months after the country’s independence on 25 June 1975. Article 6 of the nationality law stated that anyone born outside the country who had lived more than half his life in Mozambique could acquire Mozambican citizenship.

The 24 year old Silva, who had moved to Mozambique when he was a child, met the conditions, and applied. The Mozambican bureaucracy moves slowly, and it was not until September 1977 that the relevant Mozambican registry office issued “Nationality Record no. 387”, which stated that Silva had indeed been granted Mozambican nationality. But even before then, on 30 January 1976, Silva was issued with a Mozambican identity card: the accompanying declaration stated that the card was issued because he had deposited the requisite documents for acquiring Mozambican nationality with the central registry office, and met all the conditions.

So Silva is a Mozambican citizen and has been one since 1977 – four years before he married Luisa Diogo. The “Zambeze” story, and hence the Renamo insinuations based on it, thus collapses. As for the idea that Luisa Diogo has become a Portuguese citizen, merely because Silva also registered the marriage in Portugal, this is quite absurd.

Nonetheless, once it became clear that “Zambeze” intended to challenge Diogo’s nationality, a request was sent to the Lisbon Central Registry office: had a woman named Luisa Dias Diogo, born in Mozambique’s Tete province, ever been granted Portuguese nationality ? And back came the answer: no. Or to give the reply in full: “no record of her acquiring Portuguese nationality has been located, or any request for Portuguese nationality, either recently or in the past, based on her marriage to Antonio Albano Silva, or for any other reason”.

The question of dual nationality is a separate issue. The current Mozambican constitution (approved in November 2004) permits dual nationality (though the 1975 law did not). It states, however, that people who are Mozambican citizens cannot, within Mozambique, use any other nationality they may possess. (So a Mozambican cannot avoid paying Mozambican taxes, or avoid Mozambican military service, by claiming the protection of some other nationality.)

The contorted and clumsy attempt to “prove” that Diogo is not Mozambican is hardly an isolated incident. “Zambeze” has been running a vendetta against Albano Silva and his family for years. Silva is currently suing “Zambeze” for a story which claimed that he and Diogo had used money from the Mozambican treasury to buy a flat in Lisbon.

The “Zambeze” campaign extends to spreading crass falsehoods about court cases. Thus this week’s issue of the paper carries a front page claim that Silva has no proof that there was ever any attempt against his life.

In making this allegation, “Zambeze” is merely acting as a faithful echo chamber for Momad Assife Abdul Satar (“Nini”) and his brother Ayob Abdul Satar, the two businessmen accused of ordering the 1999 failed assassination of Silva. On trial before the Maputo City Court, the two brothers suggested that Silva had invented the assassination attempt.

But last Friday two witnesses (the journalists Marcelino Alves and Jaime Cuambe) testified that they had seen the bullet hole in the window of Silva’s car, and that after the attack the lawyer was in a state of shock and panic. Because their version of events does not chime with the claims of the Satar brothers, “Zambeze” simply suppresses these two witnesses, and thus deliberately misleads its readers.

This week’s “Zambeze” also carries a paid advert from Ayob Satar, spread over almost two pages, denouncing alleged inaccuracies in the trial reporting by the daily paper “Noticias” and its sister Sunday paper “Domingo”.

In this aberration, however, “Zambeze” is not alone – other private papers also find nothing wrong in printing publicity for convicted criminals under the guise of advertising. For Ayob Satar is one of the six men convicted in January 2003 of the murder of Mozambique’s foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, a verdict that was upheld by the Supreme Court in February 2007. This verdict should have slammed media doors shut against phoney adverts taken out by the Satar brothers. But it seems that some newspapers do not care where their advertising revenue comes from.

Read on AllAfrica website.

Themes: Nationality of Politicians
Regions: Mozambique
Year: 2008