Moz PM Axed in Surprise Reshuffle
Maputo – Mozambican President Armando Guebuza has dismissed Prime Minister Aires Bonifacio Ali and replaced him with Alberto Clementina Vaquina.
Vaquina was recently elected to the Frelimo Political Commission at the party’s congress in Pemba amid uncertainty over who would be the country´s next President come 2014, The Southern Times is exclusively informed.
Little known Vaquina is a doctor trained in Portugal, specialising in tropical medicine and is former governor of the northern Tete province ‑ home to a massive coal mining investment boom.
Ali was widely tipped to be the next presidential candidate in the 2014 general polls.
Guebuza’s axe also claimed the scalps of four other ministers, some of who were moved to other portfolios.
“The government is unshakably committed to the struggle against red tape; against the spirit of apathy and drift; against corruption and crime; and against the other obstacles to our development. The government is also firmly committed to the promotion of self-esteem, national unity and the culture of peace, and to other actions of good governance,” Guebuza said at the swearing in ceremony on Tuesday.
Guebuza also appointed former provincial governor of Sofala, Carvalho Muaria ‑ who was also elected to the Political Commission as Minister of Tourism.
Fernando Sumbana Jr has been moved from Minister of Tourism to Minister of Youth and Sport to replace Pedrito Caetano who has been dismissed. Education Vice-Minister Augusto Jone has been promoted to Minister, replacing Zeferino Martins who was also ejected.
Venâncio Massinga has been dismissed as Minister of Science and Technology and replaced by Louis Augusto Mutomene Pelembe ‑ a food scientist and professor at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane.
Mozambique´s ruling party has been heavily criticised recently for not yielding the benefits of its vast coal and gas deposits, leaving most Mozambicans to scrape by on an average US$400 a year despite annual economic growth of around 7 percent in the last five years.
However, Vaquina's northern origins will also count in his favour when Frelimo chooses its presidential candidate. The party is keen to dispel aspersions that it is a movement of the economically powerful south, hoping to appeal to the majority of voters, who are in the north.
“The government’s five-year programme is under implementation,” he said. “I shall continue the work, and ask for collaboration, both from my predecessor and from my colleagues. I shall urge all Mozambicans to commit themselves to the struggle against poverty,” Vaquina told reporters at the swearing-in ceremony last Tuesday.
The north-south division was one of the causes of the 16-year civil war, which started soon after independence in 1975 and ended 20 years ago ‑ leaving a million people dead and the economy in ashes.
The surprise reshuffle in the secretive state is the first major change in government since anti-government food riots in September 2010, which left at least 14 people dead.
Though he was once considered the favourite to replace Guebuza as president, Aires Ali's exit follows his failure to win a spot on the politburo during last month´s party congress.
“I´m leaving the Prime Minister’s office with my head high and with a sense of mission accomplished,” Ali said.
As for his future, he said he was available for any task that Frelimo might wish him to undertake. “This is my mission, I have carried out various tasks and I always did my best,” said Ali.
“I remain available, and I shall always receive the tasks that the party thinks are best for the Mozambican people and for the country,” he added.
Aires Ali had been the President's second-in-command and was being groomed to succeed Guebuza as President after
the 2014 election. But his aspirations were crushed when the southern African nation's Frelimo ruling party ousted him from its powerful Political Committee last month.
Guebuza came into power in 2004 and was re-elected five years later.