More than a year after a CPJ mission to Mozambique found that the November 2000 murder of investigative reporter Carlos Cardoso had created “an atmosphere of fear” in the country’s newsrooms, the independent press corps there appears to have regained confidence in its ability to denounce corruption and other ills. In the weeks before the trial of six suspects in the murder began in November, journalists in the capital, Maputo, reported the explosive news that Nymphine Chissano, a son of President Joaquim Chissano, was suspected of involvement in the assassination.
Mozambican journalists, along with CPJ and other foreign critics, have long believed that the investigation was flawed. A September 27 story in the private weekly MediaFax steered suspicions toward Nymphine Chissano. According to MediaFax, a man identified only as “Opa,” or “Uapa,” had told investigators that Cardoso was slain at the behest of “o filho do galo” (the son of the rooster), a code name that Opa claimed referred to Nymphine Chissano.
A day after the story was published, a truckload of chickens was delivered to the home of Kok Nam, publisher of Savana newspaper, which is owned by MediaCoop, the same media cooperative that publishes MediaFax. The driver claimed that the chickens were a gift from the country’s first lady, Marcelina Chissano, to Nam and Fernando Lima, the author of the article. Later that day, other chicken-laden trucks attempted to make deliveries to the home of MediaFax editor Marcelo Mosse and to the offices of MediaCoop.
The first lady denied any involvement in the incidents, stressing that both she and the president want to see justice done in the Cardoso case. Soon after, judicial authorities subpoenaed Nymphine Chissano, asking him to testify as a material witness, not as a suspect.
At year’s end, it was not clear if the trial would solve the mysteries surrounding Cardoso’s murder. Complicating matters, Anibal dos Santos Junior (commonly known as Anibalzhino), the man believed to have led the death squad that killed the journalist, escaped from a Maputo maximum-security jail on September 1, allegedly after prison guards received “orders from above” to let him leave. According to his mother, Anibalzhino is now in London and will return to tell “the whole truth” only if authorities guarantee his safety. He is being tried in absentia.
Of the five suspects present in court, two have confessed their parts in the killing, and most have accused Nymphine Chissano of masterminding the crime. Chissano denies involvement in the murder, although by the end of 2002, prosecutors were seriously considering opening a new case file in which he will be an official suspect.
Meanwhile, in September, after a yearlong deadlock threatened to delay the summer 2004 general elections, the ruling FRELIMO and the opposition RENAMO parties agreed to amend the country’s election laws to allow the two parties to nominate 18 of the 19 members of the National Election Commission (CNE). The CNE chair will likely be an independent figure chosen by civil-society groups. With President Chissano not running for another term, the presidential contest will pit RENAMO leader Alfonso Dlakhama against Armando Gebuza, a hard-line FRELIMO nationalist who believes that the party has veered too far from its socialist roots.