On Monday, 7 October 2019, Anastácio Matável, Executive Director of the Gaza Province NGO Forum – FONGA, lost his life in the city of Xai-Xai, a victim of murder.
Anastácio Matável, who was also a member and focal point of the joint electoral observation platform “Sala da Paz”, was shot point-blank 10 times as he emerged from an election observation training in which he had given the opening address. Matavel was shot around 11 am and succumbed to his injuries two hours later at Gaza Provincial Hospital.
Matavel was committed to activism, and he advocated for environmental causes and biodiversity conservation for over two decades, striving equally for social justice and the protection and defense of the rights of local communities. That’s how, since 2011, Justiça Ambiental has been cooperating and working with him in close partnership in various cases of environmental and social injustice, especially the fight against the usurpation of community land (land grabbing) in Xai-xai by the Chinese rice production company, WAMBAO.
All of this has happened 8 days before the presidential elections to be held all over the country on the 15th of October. The campaigning for these elections have been marked by violence in all parts of the country, and particularly in Gaza province, where opposition parties have suffered aggression at the hands of the members of the ruling party. It is believed that this will be the most violent election campaign in the history of Mozambique. It should be recalled that Gaza province stood out for its manipulation of the voter registration process, which led to confusion between the CNE and INE, Mozambican election agencies, and there was lack of compliance with the number of registered voters and potential voters entitled to vote on October 15th.
Based on previous experiences of similar murder cases, Mozambican society does not doubt that Anastácio Matavel was murdered by the death squads, which for some years have been claiming the lives of people who oppose or criticize the regime’s performance. Death squads are believed to act under the regime’s orders to safeguard the interests of the ruling party as a way of intimidating and / or removing people who in one way or another try to rouse the people about environmental issues, human rights and bad governance in the country.
Unlike other cases, this time the killers were identified after being involved in a violent car accident in which two of them lost their lives on the scene, one was hospitalized and another is being held in police cells in Gaza. At the same time as the accident took place, a fifth member of the group managed to escape and so far is in an uncertain place. The police would later confirm that four of the alleged killers are in fact members of the police assigned to the Special Operations Group.
Justiça Ambiental wants through this press release to show solidarity with the family and colleagues of our fellow activist Anastácio Matavel, as well as vehemently denounce this barbaric act that took his life. Likewise, we denounce all forms of violence against activists, journalists, academics, political parties and all citizens in general, as no one has the right to violate or take another person’s life. We also denounce the violent acts that have been characterizing this election campaign at all levels.
It is important to remember that these are not the first cases of violence, attacks and murders of anyone who thinks differently from the regime and freely expresses his/her opinion, as this has been characteristic in the country in the past years, especially in election years, as we could testify it around the period of the 2014 elections.
It is not enough just to dismiss some “police chiefs” and set up alleged committees of inquiry, which never give us plausible and credible answers and explanations.
We demand that these crimes are clarified, including their motivations, as well as that those responsible are brought to court and punished for their acts.
The Mozambican people need to feel free and secure and that we are really live in a state governed by the democratic rule of law.
“n the aftermath of our last general elections in 2014, JA!, along with other organizations, raised serious concerns about the irregularities in the election process, you can see our blog from 2014 here describing the irregularities. But now in this elections, activists are being killed even before the elections take place, the undermining of democracy is getting scary!”