The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Wednesday passed the first reading of a government bill seeking to preserve the material heritage of the struggle for Mozambican independence.
The bill covers the archives of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), records in the possession of veterans of the independence war, the guerrilla bases of FRELIMO, and the FRELIMO schools, training camps and other installations in neighbouring countries.
It also seeks to preserve symbols of colonial oppression - records of the Portuguese colonial army, the main barracks of the colonial troops, and the political prisons operated by the Portuguese secret police, the PDE-DGS.
The bill defines this material heritage as "the inalienable property of the Mozambican state", and anybody who happens to be in possession of any of it, must inform the relevant authorities.
The bill instructs the government to identify all the significant sites related with the national liberation struggle, and put plaques or other markers there. They should be promoted as places of cultural and even tourist interest. Tourism of other economic activities involving former FRELIMO bases will enjoy tax exemptions.
State institutions are also instructed to promote research into the liberation struggle, and to ensure that the results of this research are published.
Introducing the bill, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Feliciano Gundana, stressed that the heritage of the independence war is scattered across Mozambique and abroad. "It is not known by most of the Mozambican people", he said, "because, ever since independence, this heritage of our collective memory has never been subjected to a consistent political and legal approach, seeking to value and preserve it".
This attempt to preserve a key part of modern Mozambican history should not have been remotely controversial. But the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union coalition set out to manufacture a controversy, by demanding that the bill be extended to cover the period since independence, and include the heritage from what Renamo calls "the struggle for democracy", but what the ruling Frelimo Party, the direct descendant of the liberation front, describes as wars of destabilisation against Mozambique waged by the Rhodesian and apartheid regime.
Frelimo deputies saw this as a clear attempt to posit an immoral equivalence between the struggle to free the country, and the later struggle to destroy it, between those who fought against foreign rule, and those who fought on behalf of foreign powers.
"National independence is the greatest conquest of the Mozambican people", declared Frelimo deputy, Carlos Silia, himself a veteran of the liberation struggle. "You should never imagine that there were two independences".
There could be no comparison, he declared, between the liberation struggle and the war imposed on Mozambique by the apartheid regime. The war waged by Renamo at the behest of apartheid was "a story of massacres, of destruction of the economy, destruction of hospitals and schools, a war against the independence of the country".
Renamo deputies claimed the bill was unconstitutional, because the constitution mentions not only the struggle for national liberation, but also "the defence of sovereignty and democracy". Renamo imagines that this refers to its own war, but Frelimo has never interpreted mentions of democracy in the constitution as referring to Renamo, and has always classified the wars that raged from 1977 to 1002 as "wars of destabilisation".
Renamo deputy Luis Boavida threatened that, if the Assembly passed the bill, Renamo would ask the Constitutional Council to strike it down as unconstitutional.
"It's a waste of time passing something that's unconstitutional", declared his colleague Ismail Mussa, who demanded to know under which article of the constitution the Assembly could pass this bill.
That question was simplicity itself. Ali Dauto, the Frelimo deputy who chairs the Assembly's legal affairs commission, said the bill would be passed, like most laws, under Article 179 of the Constitution which gives the Assembly the power "to legislate on basic questions of the internal and external policy of the country".
In any case, the law covered a specific period in the country's history, with a cut-off date of 1975 - two years before Renamo had even been created.
When the vote was taken, the Assembly divided on party lines with the 149 Frelimo deputies present voting in favour of the bill, and the 61 Renamo deputies voting against.
- Beaver Shaw
- Nairobi, Kenya
- I an ex member of both 7 and 8 Squadron's of the Rhodesian war spending most of my operational time on Seven Squadron as a K Car gunner. I was credited for shooting down a fixed wing aircraft from a K Car on the 9 August 1979. This blog is from articles for research on a book which I HAVE HANDED THIS MANUSCRIPT OVER TO MIMI CAWOOD WHO WILL BE HANDLING THE PUBLICATION OF THE BOOK OF WHICH THERE WILL BE VERY LIMITED COPIES AVAILABLE Contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org The latest news is that the Editing is now done and we can expect to start sales and deliveries by the end of April 2011
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