Mozambicans demand justice on government debt scandal

Judgment of the former Minister of Finance of Mozambique in South Africa | used with permission from the Public Integrity Center

In December 2018, a new chapter of Mozambique's ‘hidden debt’ scandal unfolded when former Finance Minister Manuel Chang was arrested in South Africa after authorities fulfilled an international arrest warrant issued by the United States.

The ‘hidden debt’ scandal refers to money borrowed by former president Armando Guebuza without permission from Parliament. In 2015, the international press revealed the existence of an undeclared debt by the government.

In total, the debts amount to two billion US dollars. Officially, they were borrowed to fund three security projects. This situation left Mozambique without budget support from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which demanded an independent investigation about the debts and also supported an international audit in 2017.

A year after an investigation began, four people have been arrested on international warrants issued by the United States — besides former Guebuza's Finance Minister Manuel Chang, three former executives of the bank Credit Suisse were also detained. Chang was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and money laundering.

The United States is involved in the investigation because the transactions were made in US dollars and through electronic devices from the United States’ territory.

There are a lot of reactions highlighting the desire to see those guilty to be punished in the US.

Mozambicans want extradition of Manuel Chang to the US

Elvino Dias noted:


Uma das notícias que marcou a imprensa nacional e internacional ontem foi a de que as autoridades de Moçambique pediram à África do Sul a Extradição de Manuel Chang, ou seja, para se julgarem entre bradas.

Na solidão da minha pocilga, pesquisei para analisar se tal facto era possível ou não, tendo em atenção que os EUA também pretendem a extradição do mesmo INDIVÍDUO. Da pesquisa obtive as seguintes respostas: NA EXTRADIÇÃO VIGORA O PRINCIPIO DA PRIORIDADE, ou seja atende-se ao pedido do Estado que solicitou em primeiro. Os EUA solicitaram em primeiro.


One of the news that marked the national and international press yesterday was that the Mozambican authorities asked South Africa for the extradition of Manuel Chang so that he is tried in Mozambique.

In the loneliness of my pigsty, I have researched whether or not this was possible since the United States also intends to request extradition of the same INDIVIDUAL. From the research, I have obtained the following answers: IN EXTRADITION RULES THE PRINCIPLE OF PRIORITY, that is, the State that requested it first should be the one fulfilled. The US has asked first.

University Professor and activist Adriano Nuvunga shares the same opinion:

A extradição de Chang é importante para compreendermos os contornos da dívida ilegal; responsabilização criminal dos lesa-pátrias; recuperação dos activos do odioso calote e, fundamentalmente, a Assembleia da República anular as leis que legalizam as dividas ilegais que oneram o nosso povo e empurram a nossa juventude para o desemprego e marginalidade.

Chang's extradition is important for us to understand the features of the illegal debt; criminal liability for treason; recovery of the assets of the abhorrent default and, fundamentally, for the Assembly of the Republic to annul the laws that legalize the illegal debts that burden our people and push our youth to unemployment and marginality.

An activist of the Youth Parliament of Mozambique, Socrates Mayer was more incisive:

O povo têm de se libertar de vermes nocivos (ladrões do povo) e apostar na esperança do bem-estar ( outra força partidária), porque aceitar os gatunos e lesa-pátria. E aceitar a ladroagem dos governantes. E caso Chang volte à Moçambique vamos caminhar até à ponta vermelha e retirar o empregado que viola os interesses do patrão. Digamos Chang em moz não…

The people have to free themselves from harmful worms (robbers of the people) and bet on the hope of well-being (another political party), because to accept the thieves is treason. And to accept the thievery of the government. And if Chang returns to Mozambique we will walk to the red tip and remove the employee who violates the interests of the boss. Let's say no to Chang in moz…

Under the hashtag  (#IDoNotPayHiddenDebts), the Center for Public Integrity, a local NGO, has launched a campaign on social media calling for Mozambicans to oppose the debt's payment.

Be a part of this campaign I DO NOT PAY HIDDEN DEBTS. Come get your t-shirt and make your video about the non-payment of hidden debts. #EuNaoPagoDividasOcultas. CIP is located in the Sommerschield neighborhood, Fernão Melo e Castro street, number 124

Mozambicans also reacted with humour: local comedian Txiobullet did a performance of Manuel Chang arriving in a US prison and the video amounted over nineteen thousand views on Instagram.

Other people asked for the matter to be resolved swiftly:

Os EUA entendem da matéria mas não tem o arguido. A RSA tem o arguido mas não entende da matéria. Moçambique não tem o arguido e nem entende da matéria. Questão a resolver: Para onde deve ir o arguido?

The US understands the matter but does not have Chang. RSA has Chang but does not understand the matter. Mozambique does not have Chang and does not understand the matter. Question to be answared: Where should Chang go?

On January 21, the police went to the CIP offices in Maputo and confiscated t-shirts from the public. Anyone leaving the CIP offices with a t-shirt was ordered to remove it, and bags and rucksacks were searched too. When asked why the policemen said that t-shirts could be used to “create agitation” and that they were following orders by superiors.

On February 1, the police banned the Youth Parliament of Mozambique from performing theatre pieces about the scandal. On February 5, Mozambican NGOs have called on Credit Suisse to write off the government's debt.

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