Appointed chief by the Portuguese in the early 1970s
Macacho Marceta Dhlakama, the 91 year old father of Afonso Dhlakama, the late leader of Renamo, Mozambique’s largest opposition party, was finally recognized, on Monday, by the Mozambican State as a traditional ruler, 50 years after he was legitimized by the local community.
Dhlakama senior was appointed traditional leader under Portuguese colonial rule in 1970, when he was only 39 years old, according to the customs for assuming traditional leaderships.
He became “regulo” (chief) in the locality of Mangunde, in Chibabava district, in the central province of Sofala.
After Mozambican independence in 1975, Dhlakama’s authority was not recognized by the Mozambican State, although from 1994, after the first multiparty elections in Mozambique, he started to be part of local events organized by the Government.
The ceremony of solemn recognition of the ruler by the Government took place in the Chibabava locality of Toronga.
Renamo did not allow him to be recognized as chief
Dhlakama told reporters that his non-recognition by the state was never something that he had wanted, but was due to the historical, political, and military past of his sons, mainly Afonso, who was appointed leader of Renamo by the South African apartheid regime in 1979.
Dhlakama outlived apartheid, dying of diabetes in 2018.
“I never refused to be recognized, and there was never a lack of will on the part of the state either. The problem is that I was subject to another command, which did not allow me to be recognized”, Mangunde explained, quoted by the independent television station, STV.
The “other command” was clearly that of Renamo.
He added that this was “a command that did not allow me to wear the uniform and put on the insignias, but allowed me to lead my community and even maintain contacts with the government for the development of the population”.
Government urges community to respect Dhlakama
The ritual of recognition, after the traditional leader was formally dressed as a chief, followed the placing of the insignias and the handing over of the national flag, an act directed by the local administrator.
The Chibabava district administrator, Paulo Majacunene, asked the community of Mangunde and the other chiefs to continue to respect Dhlakama “because he needs our motivation to lead us as he has always done since 1970.”
The daughter of the late Renamo leader, Marta Dhlakama, said that she was very happy, “because, taking into account my grandfather’s age and his already weakened health, I never believed that one day he would be recognized as a leader. It is a well-deserved act and this fact fills us with pride.”