"People would rather have solutions than promises"

KAS E-Lection Bridge Interview with Daviz Simango

Also available in Deutsch

On the way to the Universidade Catolica de Mocambique in Beira, Lutero Simango takes an extra tour for the visitors. The chairman of the “Movimento Democratico de Mocambique (MDM) proudly shows off the new cultural park and current construction projects. The bustling city is obviously in transition, which is political communication in practice. After all, the MDM governs this second-largest municipality in the country and the mayor is none other than his brother Daviz M. Simango – who also serves as our latest interview partner for the E-lection Bridge Africa website. I meet the mayor, aptly enough, in “Beira Hall” at the Catholic University at a KAS seminar. It is coffee break, but the energetic Daviz Simango leaves the sandwich he ordered untouched. He would rather take us straightaway on a ramble through politics in Mozambique.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: Mr. Simango, you are not only the mayor of the coastal city, Beira, but also the chairman of the MDM, the third political power in Mozambique behind the governing party Frelimo and also Renamo. What kind of challenges do you face countrywide in the field of political communication?

DAVIZ SIMANGO: Let me say it straight: Our biggest problem is the media. The state, or rather the governing party, controls the public media, especially television and radio. Even the privately operated media belongs largely to the rulers. Therefore, we have to create our own media and explore new paths. I’m thinking, for instance, of the internet and instruments such as web-TV. After all, we must let the people know what we stand for and what we are working on.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: We are meeting in Beira, the MDM stronghold. Is communication easier on a local level?

DAVIZ SIMANGO: Absolutely, because we are a lot closer to the people. Here we can meet people week after week, for example at a football match in the neighbourhood. Then we sit down next to the people on a bench and talk. You can transport a message a minute that way. Let me give you another example of communication and marketing locally. Funerals play an important role in our society, and our party provides vehicles. Thus we can show how much we really care for the people.

Daviz Simango
Daviz Simango was born in 1964 and first completed studies in Engineering before he rose to one of the leading actors in politics in Mozambique. The chairman of the democratic opposition party, “Movimento Democratico de Mocambique “(MDM) is simultaneously the mayor of the harbour city, Beira. During the 2009 presidential election he ran as one of three candidates on short notice and achieved respectable results. His brother, Lutero, is also politically active and represented the MDM at the KAS E-lection Bridge Africa in the spring of 2011 in Accra, Ghana.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: At the workshop we just saw impressive pictures of your campaign events, with tens of thousands of spectators. That looks like a powerful instrument of communication.

DAVIZ SIMANGO: I get goose bumps every time at these events. So many people have come to hear you speak and you simply can’t disappoint them, under no circumstances! I ask myself beforehand: What do they want to hear from me? Less is often more so I place three, or at most four, messages. And I am very, very careful with promises. The people would rather have solutions.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: On the table in front of us are two mobile phones. What role does the cell phone play in communication in Mozambique?

DAVIZ SIMANGO: Our communications department works continually on identifying topics we can react to by SMS. We then take a stand on issues such as price increases or unpaid teachers’ salaries. These messages are extremely compact, sometimes just five or six words. They reach up to 10,000 people, who hopefully then forward them on. Against the backdrop of a growing mobile communication it was very useful that our chairman, my brother Lutero, took part in a KAS E-lection Bridge in Ghana.

Movimento Democrático Moçambicano
The founding congress of the new party, Movimento Democratico Mocambicano (MDM), was held on March 6th and 7th in Beira, the second-largest city in Mozambique. As expected, the popular mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, was elected chairman. The symbol of the MDM is a rooster and its call is their rallying cry. Fittingly, Daviz Simango’s message is that the people of Mozambique have to wake up and believe in the possibility of achieving radical change in the country. The MDM ran for election to break through the ruling two-party system, made up of the government party Frelimo and the opposition party Renamo, and to establish itself as a third political power in Mozambique.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: What can political communicators in Germany learn from Mozambique?

DAVIZ SIMANGO: We work under the most difficult conditions. It is only possible with strong conviction. Therefore, volunteers are very, very important for us, especially in the local sphere. I believe that no instrument is stronger than mouth-to-mouth propaganda. Plus, don’t forget: We cannot lose sight of society’s weakest members, which for our communication means the illiterate.

KAS MEDIA AFRICA: The last question, as always at the E-lection Bridge: What is the next big thing?

DAVIZ SIMANGO: With a look toward the future, communication must be as affordable as possible so that even the poorest people have a part in it.