Simango was elected mayor of Beira, widely regarded as Mozambique’s second city and center of opposition support, in 2003 and remained its leader until his death.
He was popular and known for running an effective municipal government. Educated as an engineer, he supported the construction of a system of flood channels to help the low-lying Indian Ocean port of 500,000 people flood from annual cyclones.
When Cyclone Idai destroyed Beira in 2019, Simango was often out on the streets, helping to establish feeding centers and emergency clinics. He was also an outspoken campaign against global warming, which he blamed for the rising sea levels affecting Beira.
Simango was first elected mayor of Beira in an electoral coalition with Renamo, Mozambique’s largest opposition party. Five years later, however, Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama refused to let him run for re-election. So he ran and won as an independent and then established the democratic movement in Mozambique. His brother, Lutero Simango, is the party’s vice president and its leader in the national parliament.
Simango ran as president of Mozambique in 2009, 2014 and 2019 and came in third each time after candidates from the ruling Frelimo party and Renamo. His best result was in 2009, when he won 8.59% of the vote.
His party, MDM, at one time ruled four cities – including the largest city in the north of the country, Nampula, as well as Quelimane, the capital of the province of Zambezia and the smaller city of Gurue. At the time of his death, however, Beira was the party’s only electoral possession.
Simango was born in what is now Tanzania, the son of Uria Simango, the exiled deputy leader of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, known as Frelimo, the movement that fought against Portuguese colonial rule. However, his father was eventually alienated from the party.
Frelimo came to power when Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975, and Simango’s father was a critic of the ruling party.
journalist Tom Bowker in Uzes, France, contributed.