The government of Mozambique began to decentralize in the early 1990s as the country emerged from 16 years of civil war. The minister of state administration, Aguiar Mazula, pushed for greater citizen involvement at local levels of government, an agenda that opened the sensitive issue of what role would be played by traditional leaders, or chiefs, who wielded strong community influence. Because many chiefs had cooperated with the country’s former colonial powers, the ruling party sidelined traditional leaders and played down related customs when it came to power in 1975. Mazula faced stern political opposition to his belief that the state should recognize the role of traditional interests at a local level. He built diverse support for his ideas, and his successors at the ministry reached a compromise between groups that wanted to involve traditional authorities and factions that regarded the chiefs with suspicion. The move reversed the state’s history of opposition to the chiefs while limiting the chiefs’ influence over local government.
Tumi Makgetla drafted this case study on the basis of interviews conducted in Maputo, Mozambique, in January 2010.
Associated Interview(s): Alfred Gamito
Balancing the Central and Local
Country of Reform