Defence Minister Filipe Nyussi was selected tonight by the Frelimo Central Committee as its presidential candidate for the 15 October national election. After repeated criticism, Filipe Paunde resigned as party secretary-general.
Paude and the party Political Commission tried to restrict the list of possible candidates to three allied to current President Armando Guebuza: Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina, Agriculture Minister Jose Pacheco and Nyussi. An old guard anti-Guebuza campaign led by Graca Machel and Joaquim Chissano, forced two former prime ministers onto the list, Luisa Diogo and Aires Ali.
In an impassioned speech, Graca Machel also forced Guebuza to allow former members of the Political Commission who are no longer on the Central Committee, including former President Chissano, to attend and speak (but not vote). (Contrary to earlier reports, Eduardo Mulembwe did not stand.)
In the first round tonight, Nyussi gained 46% and Diogo 23%. In a second round between those two, Nyussi was selected, with 135 votes (68%) against 61 (31%) for Diogo.
Filipe Nyussi is Macondi and was born 9 February 1959, in Namaua, Mueda, Cabo Delgado. He was the only one of the candidates to have a liberation war link, having attended the Frelimo school in Tunduru, Tanzania before independence. He was a surprise appointment as Defence Minister in 2008.
He completed his Mechanical Engineering degree at the Military Academy in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1990, just before the end of socialism. He joined the northern railways Caminhos de Ferro de Mocambique (CFM) in 1992 as assistant head of maintenance, moving up to be executive director 1995-2007.
President Armando Guebuza has always had business links in ports and transport, dating from his time as transport minister 1986-90, so it is likely that Guebuza came to know Nyussi in this way. Unlike Guebuza, Nyussi is not a businessman; his only recorded business interest dates back to his time in CFM when he became one of many owners of a stevedoring company, SOMOESTIVA – Sociedade Mocambicana de Estiva.
Indeed, during his campaign for the position, in January in Inhambane, he was applauded for a call for redistribution of wealth through the tax system and for increasing productive investment (CanalMoz, 12 Jan 14).
Of the five possible candidates, Nyussi is the least known nationally and within the party. The spelling of the candidate’s name is not consistent, sometimes Nyussi and sometimes Nyusi, even in official documents.