Mozambique, February 13, 2018: Constitutional amendment proposes limited decentralization in ‘unitary state’

A 14 page set of constitutional amendments has been submitted to parliament, setting out the decentralization agreement struck between President Filipe Nyusi and Renamo head Afonso Dhlakama. It follows closely Nyusi’s statement last week, confirming the end of mayoral elections, but also makes clear decentralization will be limited. The full text is on

The ending of the election of the mayor (municipal president) is justified as “having the advantage of simplifying the municipal electoral process, meaning that there will be only a single vote, for municipal assembly.” Another “advantage”, according to the background document (fundamentacao), is that it will avoid having to run second rounds in mayoral contests and by-elections (as is happening now in Nampula).

The amendment is presented as an urgent one which can be approved by parliament. As we noted in the last bulletin, some lawyers have questioned if the mayoral election can be abolished without a referendum. The proposal tries to bypass the issue by amending article 135 on elections to say that only the President of the Republic and the four assemblies (national, provincial, district, and municipal) are elected by “universal suffrage.”

Under an entire new section of the constitution, there will be three levels of decentralization, with elected provincial, district, and municipal assemblies. Provincial and municipal assemblies already exist, the district assemblies will only be elected for the first time in 2024. Parties, coalitions, and citizens lists will be able to context all of these three lower assemblies. (Citizen’s lists cannot stand for national parliament.) At each level, “the political party, coalition of political parties or groups of citizens which obtained a majority of votes in the elections” chooses one it is elected members to the most senior post. The President of Mozambique then formally names the governor and the Minister of State Administration names the district administrator; the municipal mayor is formally named by the speaker of the municipal assembly. (In some provinces no single party received a majority of votes in provincial assemblies in 2009, so this requirement will force coalitions.)

These senior figures – governor, district administrator and mayor – can be dismissed by their own assembly, or by the President of Mozambique (who must consult both the Constitutional Council and the Council of State).

There is to be a “representative of the state” at all three decentralised levels; at provincial level it will be a Secretary of State. Laws must be passed to define the division of powers between central and decentralised bodies.

Limited powers

The provincial and district assemblies will have only limited powers, in some ways less than municipalities. Nothing is said in the constitutional amendment about taxation and finance, whereas municipalities have limited taxing powers.

Provincial assemblies must approve the provincial annual plan and budget and “inspect and monitor” their implementation, but this is their only power. They can also have formal opinions on a range of issues.

District assemblies can only approve the annual plan, and inspect and monitor its implementation.

They both can be given additional powers through legislation.

Division of powers

The background paper stresses “the principle that national interest prevails and that the political unity of the state must be maintained” and thus there are a long list of issues which are considered national issues because they are about sovereignty. These include defence, security and public order, minerals and energy, natural resources, and inland water and the sea.

Decentralised powers can include: Agriculture, fishing, forestry.
Land management Local roads and public transport Conservation and tourism Primary health care and primary and technical education Rural and community development Water and sanitation (Mozambique Political Process Bulletin
, Maputo)