Just as international companies are preparing to invest colossal sums of money in gas reserves in the province of Cabo Delgado, a handful of retired generals, who come from this northern region and belong, for the most part, to the Maconde ethnic group, are counting on their support for President Filipe Nyusi to boost their private business interests. Alberto Joaquim Chipande and Raimundo Domingos Pachinuapa, two of the key figures in this fast-expanding lobby group, are members of the Frelimo political commission, the ruling party’s highest decision-making body. Around them, there is a larger group of former generals, including defence minister Atanasio Salvador Mtumuke, former army chief of staff Ladis “Lagos” Lidimu and former deputy security minister Salesio Teodoro Nalyambipano, who all have common business interests. Despite the populist, nationalist ideology to which they claim to subscribe, these long-standing Frelimo stalwarts switched their battle dress for briefcases a long time ago. Now unashamed capitalists, they consider that their past roles in the national liberation struggle give them a right of access to the country’s wealth by whatever means they choose. Several of them started their businesses thanks to government loans they never repaid or by simply taking over state resources with total impunity. With little real ability to become captains of industry, they content themselves with selling access to their contacts and political influence to foreign investors.
They were hampered for a time in their money-making efforts by the high-octane business ambitions of former president Armando Guebuza and his family. As a result, they distanced themselves from him and gave all their support to Nyusi in the October 2014 presidential elections. Since then, they have been looking to capitalize on their support for the head of state by claiming access to the rewards available from mining and gas contracts. They are not all equally successful in this but clearly model themselves on the MPLA generals who got their hands on Angola’s oil and mining spoils. This way of accumulating wealth is not proper to these former nationalist generals but, in Maputo as in Luanda, they are a key part of the governing class.
In addition to this inner circle of Maconde generals, two other figures have close links with President Nyusi: Jose Muaria Mateus Katupha, who comes from northern Mozambique but belongs to the Macua ethnic group, and transport minister Carlos Mesquita, who is a childhood friend of the head of state. Both have extensive business interests.