Mozambican police and thieves are outperforming each other as they hunt down and rob Zimbabwean travelers in Chimoio and Manica. With thieves coming in as confidence tricksters the trauma is less severe than the brute demands of money by police who stop short of strip and search, as well as empty purses, counting every dime, for anything they can use against their prey under the premise of looking for illegal substances. Petronella Kwashira, who, together with her sister Melania, were last week robbed of 100 metical’s (about $3 US) after being force-marched to an unknown direction as the 3 officers claimed was towards a police station for possession of the Mozambican currency. “Though this isn’t much trauma is unnecessary and unbearable. These are the same people you would hope to protect you but are now at the fore of robbing Zimbabweans,” she said.
During a visit to the country last year this reporter was stopped just before reaching custom and immigration officials at the Mozambican border for possession of an amplifier which the police officer claimed was not allowed to leave his country for which he had to pay $3 US to earn the right to reach the border. “Their strategy is to either threaten you with the feared Mozambican jail if your papers are not in order or when you have all your documentation to frustrate you until you pay up,” observes Melania. Mozambican embassy staff in Zimbabwe’s eastern border city of Mutare who requested anonymity as they are not authorised to speak to the press said this was unacceptable and people should report such incidents to police stations as this is the work of a few corrupt officers.
A random street survey in Mutare revealed that many people are bitter at the treatment of Zimbabweans by Mozambican police saying locally their own police rarely even ask for travel documents from foreigners. “I have never seen a police detail stopping anyone to ask for travel documents even if we know there are many Mozambicans who come in illegally to sell shoes, clothes and even fish,” said James Femai a street vender said. Pamela Hanisi, a catering student said it was unfortunate that while Zimbabweans are a hospitable people they do not always have the favour returned as she pointed at deportation of Zimbabweans from Botswana and South Africa as well as xenophobic attacks in South Africa. “Mozambicans should honour reason. Fine, they supported us during our liberation struggle but we also helped them during their civil war in the eighties and during the nineties drought. Regardless, we are one people even our border communities are ruled by chiefs whose traditional jurisdiction spill across these colonial borders,” she fumed.
Another regular traveler Benjamin Murehwa said the practice was a hangover of the height of Zimbabwe’s economic crunch when Zimbabweans flocked to its easterly neighbour for food and clothes and there were lots of illegal immigrants which they preyed on for easy money. “The numbers of travelers have fallen and these rots are starving so they will try to force a dollar or two from everyone they meet,” he said. He said during the height of Zimbabwe’s economic woes people would go to Mozambique for everything from salt to household gadgets but currently are crossing the border for second-hand clothes and shoes the come as aid but is then sold on the streets. With Zimbabwe predominately a Shona speaking nation Chimoio and Manica use Manyika a Shona dialect. Chimoio is also of historic significance to Zimbabweans as it was the scene of the massacre of thousands of refugees to include women and children by the Smith regime during Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle. Most people flock to the two cities since Zimbabwe’s economic crush when it was hit by food shortages. As the situation improved less and less people continue to frequent the country for groceries and more and more for second hand clothes being shipped into the country as aid.
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