Former Maputo mayor Artur Canana has defended his controversial decision to allow the Brazilian evangelical sect, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD), to build a cathedral on the Julius Nyerere Avenue, in the plush suburb of Polana.
Canana took this decision on 30 January, just as he was about to leave office. His successor as mayor, Eneas Comiche, backed up by the newly-elected Municipal Assembly, has reversed Canana’s decision, and slapped an embargo on building work.
Cited in Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, Canana argued that Comiche has no right to condemn him, and claimed that he was within his powers to grant IURD its building licence.
Comiche challenged his decision on the grounds that the area concerned is exclusively reserved for housing, and that building a church there, with capacity for almost 4,000 worshippers, would complicate traffic, particularly during rush hours.
But Canana now retorts that a residential area presupposes the existence of social infrastructures, including health units, schools, and churches to serve the residents.
“A residential area also caters for social infrastructures. Residents in any given area must have schools, playgrounds, churches and, when they cater for that, legislators are facilitating life for the residents”, said Canana. “If we look at that area, we will find that there are churches, for instance the Polana (Catholic) church, there is a cinema, there are schools. We call all that social infrastructures, and we took it into account before we decided to approve that project”.
The new Municipal Assembly also argues that the decision was taken after Canana’s term of office had expired. Canana was elected in the country’s first municipal elections, in July 1998, and took office, for a five year term, the following month. So was everything Canana did after August 2003 illegal ? The former mayor vigorously denies such claims.
“It is wrong to say that after five years in office one should not take any decisions”, he said. “In the six months after the end of my term of office, in August 2003, we took many other decisions on various matters. I am not a lawyer, but the law says that a municipal mandate only ends with the swearing in of a new mayor, thus, we took that decision (on the IURD cathedral) in the full exercise of our powers”.
The Maputo Municipal Assembly is to produce, by 29 June, an opinion from its specialised commissions on a proposal to invalidate the approval granted by the previous municipal authorities for the building of the cathedral.