Maputo — Unidentified gunmen have assassinated Jeremias Pondeca, a former member of parliament from the rebel movement Renamo, and a member of the Joint Commission set up between the government and Renamo to prepare a face-to-face meeting between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama.
Renamo national spokesperson Antonio Muchanga told AIM on Sunday that Pondeca was shot dead on Maputo’s Costa do Sol beach on Saturday morning.
Pondeca habitually exercised on the beach, and he was assassinated during this daily exercise routine. He was not carrying any identification documents, and his body was not immediately identified.
Muchanga said Pondeca’s family informed Renamo on Sunday morning that he was missing. A check revealed that a murder had occurred on the beach, and the body had been taken to the Maputo morgue. Renamo confirmed that it was indeed Pondeca.
Pondeca was a prominent Renamo parliamentary deputy between 1995 and 2004. He was a member of the Council of State, an advisory body to the President of the Republic, and earlier this year Renamo appointed him as one of its members on the government/Renamo Joint Commission. Pondeca headed the Renamo team on the sub-commission tasked with drafting new or amended legislation in the area of decentralization.
Pondeca’s murder comes just before the Joint Commission is due to resume its work. The last meeting of the Commission was on 30 September, and the coordinator of the international mediating team, the Italian Mario Raffaelli, then announced that the talks were being suspended until 10 October in order to allow the government and Renamo delegations time to establish the methodology to be used in future discussions, in an attempt to achieve consensus as quickly as possible.
Despite holding 20 meetings, the Joint Commission has so far reached no definitive agreement on any of the matters on its agenda, which includes Renamo’s demand for six provincial governors, a cessation of hostilities, the inclusion of members of the Renamo militia in the army and police, and the disarming of Renamo.
Although the whole rationale for setting up the Commission was to prepare the way for a meeting between Nyusi and Dhlakama, there has been no advance towards such a meeting, and in an interview in the latest issue of the weekly paper “Savana”, Dhlakama said he had no interest in meeting Nyusi before signing a final agreement.
Raffaelli had hoped that “When we resume the discussion, on 10 October, it could be more constructive and rapid”. But the assassination of Pondeca now casts a long shadow over such hopes.