Filipe Jacinto Nyusi (also spelled Nyussi) is the fourth President of Mozambique. He has been in office since 2015 and was re-elected for a second term in elections in October 2019. He is a member of Frelimo, the party that has ruled Mozambique since its independence from Portugal in 1975. Prior to becoming president, he was Minister of Defence from 2008 to 2014.
“The eyes of the World will be on Nyusi as he starts his second term. Will he deliver, or will corruption, at almost every level of Mozambique society, continue to triumph?”
Nyusi’s first term in office was dominated by an economic crisis caused by a $2 billion corruption scandal. Companies set up by the country’s secret services borrowed $2 billion, with the help of then finance minister Manuel Chang, to set up maritime projects that have not been fully implemented, but which allegedly enriched a range of local and foreign players. Chang is currently jailed in South Africa resisting extradition to face trial in New York in connection with the scandal. Mozambique is now trying to legally disavow part of the debt and restructure another part which the country will be repaying for years to come. The debts have triggered a range of economic problems felt by the population at large.
The deals were initiated before Nyusi became president — but while he was defence minister. And it stretches reasonable credulity that he knew nothing about them. How could the Minister of Defence not be aware of around 50 patrol boats arriving, and ports being developed?
The recent election tested Frelimo electorally as never before. An angry electorate frustrated at widespread delivery failings and the loans scandal resulted in significant numbers of voters wanting change.
Nyusi’s supporters point to his success in signing a peace deal with Renamo, but the longed-for “definitive peace” still seems elusive. A group of Renamo rebels who reject Momade’s leadership threaten violence in Mozambique’s center. Since the peace deal was signed in August, there have been a number of attacks believed to be by the self-styled Renamo Military Junta, although it has not claimed responsibility.
Nyusi can also claim credit for the $25 billion Mozambique Liquid Natural Gas project controlled by France’s Total. But a bloody insurgency in Cabo Delgado, the northern province where the gas is located, overshadows any optimism there and has contributed to a delay in a final decision on a nearby larger gas projects by ExxonMobil and ENI.
Frustrated by the West’s continued anti-corruption drive he has turned increasingly to China, and more recently to Russia, with two visits to that country in the second half of 2019.
The eyes of the World will be on Nyusi as he starts his second term. Will he deliver, or will corruption, at almost every level of Mozambique society, continue to triumph?
He was born in Namau in Mueda District, Cabo Delgado Province in Northern Mzambique on 9 February 1959 and belongs to the Makonde ethnic group. Both his parents, were veterans of the liberation movement, Frelimo. At the start of the Mozambican War of Independence, he was taken across the Ruvuma River to neighbouring Tanzania, where he was educated at Frelimo Primary School in Tunduru. He pursued his secondary education at the Frelimo school at Mariri in Cabo Delgado and at Samora Machel Secondary School in Beira.
In 1973, he joined Frelimo at the age of fourteen and received political and military training at Nachingwea in Tanzania.
In 1990, he completed his mechanical engineering degree at Antonín Zápotocký Military Academy (VAAZ) in Brno, in what was then called Czechoslovakia. He also studied a postgraduate degree management at what is now called the University of Manchester in England.
Prior to his appointment to the cabinet by President Armando Guebuza, Nyusi worked for the state-owned Mozambique Ports and Railways authority (CFM), joining in 1992 as assistant head of maintenance, and moving up to be executive director 1995-2007. He joined the company’s board of directors in 2007.
From 1993 to 2002, Nyusi served as President of Clube Ferroviário de Nampula, a top-division football club based in Nampula. He is also a lecturer at the Nampula campus of the Universidade Pedagógica, a fellow of the Africa Leadership Initiative, and a member of the National Committee of Fighters of the National Liberation Struggle (Comité Nacional dos Combatentes da Luta de Libertação Nacional). He received further training in management in India, South Africa, Swaziland, and the USA.
Becomes a minister
Nyusi was appointed as Minister of Defence on 27 March 2008, a surprise choice to succeed Tobias Joaquim Dai, who was forced out almost exactly one year after a fire and resulting explosions of munitions at the Malhazine armoury in Maputo killed more than 100 people and destroyed 14,000 homes. He was a protegee of then President Armando Guebuza. He had 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 Nyusi in this way.
In September 2012, Nyusi was elected to the Central Committee of Frelimo, the ruling party, at its 10th congress.
In March 2014, Nyusi was selected as the party’s candidate for the 2014 presidential election by the Frelimo Central Committee. Although Nyusi was regarded as relatively obscure compared to the other candidates, he was the candidate most closely identified with President Guebuza. It was generally believed that the selection of Nyusi as Frelimo’s candidate would enable Guebuza, who was required to step down due to term limits, to retain substantial power after leaving office. Diogo, the defeated candidate, was associated with opposition to Guebuza within the party, led by Graça Machel, former First Lady of Mozambique, and famously widow of both the first Mozambican President Samora Machel and South African President Nelson Mandela.
He is married to Isaura Nyusi and has four children, Jacinto, Florindo, Claudia and Angelino.