Simango was elected mayor of Beira in 2003, considered Mozambique’s second city and center of opposition support, and remained its leader until his death.
He was popular and known for leading an efficient municipal government. Trained as an engineer, he supported the construction of a system of flood canals that will help the low port in the Indian Ocean of 500,000 people to cope with the floods from the annual cyclones.
When Cyclone Idai devastated Beira in 2019, Simango often took to the streets, helping to establish feeding centers and emergency health clinics. He was also an outspoken supporter against global warming, which he blamed for rising sea levels affecting Beir.
Simango was first elected mayor of Beira in an electoral coalition with Renam, Mozambique’s main opposition party. However, five years later, Renam leader Afonso Dhlakama refused to allow him to run for re-election. So he ran and won as an independent and then founded the Mozambique Democratic Movement. His brother, Lutero Simango, is the party’s vice president and its leader in the national parliament.
Simango ran for president of Mozambique in 2009, 2014 and 2019, each coming in third place after candidates from the ruling Frelimo and Renama party. His best result was in 2009, when he won 8.59% of the vote.
His party, MDM, once ruled four cities – including the largest city in the north, Nampulu, as well as Quelimane, the capital of the province of Zambezia, and the smaller city of Guru. Until the time of his death, Beira was the sole electoral property of the party.
Simango was born in present-day Tanzania, the son of Uriah Simango, the exiled deputy head of the Mozambican Liberation Front, known as Frelimo, a movement that fought against Portuguese colonial rule. However, his father eventually alienated himself from the party.
Frelimo came to power when Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and Simang’s father was a critic of the ruling party.
AP journalist Tom Bowker from Uzes, France, contributed.
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