Crime on the rise in Mozambique

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Crime in Mozambique is on the increase, according to Attorney-General Augusto Paulino. In his annual report Tuesday to the country’s parliament, Paulino said the number of crimes recorded rose from 36,257 in 2006 to 41,902 in 2007 – an increase of 16 per cent.

Crime is at its worst in the capital. Maputo city and Maputo province (essentially the city of Matola) accounted for 17,676 recorded crimes in 2007 – or 42 per cent of the total.

But the sharpest rise in reported crime came from the central province of Manica, with an increase of 84 per cent – from 621 crimes in 2006 to 1,140 in 2007.

It is followed by the northern province of Cabo Delgado with a 53 per cent rise (from 639 to 1,977 crimes). It is hard to know whether this represents a real rise in crime, or merely better reporting.

But despite the jump in the number of reported crimes, Manica remained the provi nce with the least crime in the country (less than 3 per cent of the total).

Most crimes reported in 2007 (26,350 – 63 per cent) were crimes against property. There were 10,161 crimes against persons (24 per cent), and 5,391crimes against public order (13 per cent).

Paulino noted that a sharp rise was reported in the number of cases where people took laws into their own hands — . In 2006, there were 17 cases where people believed to be criminals were lynched by mobs. But in 2007, the number of lynchings rose to 31, and in the first quarter of 2008, 19 cases were reported.

Matters would have been worse without police intervention. In the central province of Sofala alone, between January 2007 and March 2008, a further 24 alleged criminals were rescued from lynch mobs by the police.

Some of those responsible for mob justice are being arraigned before the courts – Paulino said that 15 people have been arrested in connection with the early 2008 lynchings. Paulino stressed the serious nature of thefts of electrical, communications and railway materials which have cost the state large sums of money.

In addition to clandestine electrical connections, thieves stole both overhead and underground copper and aluminium cables, as well as fuses, metallic parts of pylons, and even oil from transformer posts.

The fibre-optic cables installed by the state telecommunications company TDM, to guarantee modern communication between the provincial capitals, have not escaped the attention of thieves, who dug up the cables to cut them into pieces and sell them. There were 10 such acts of sabotage in 2007.

Railway tracks and other railway equipment were also ripped up (often for sale to scrap merchants). The total losses to the Mozambican rail company CFM in 2007 was over 82.7 million meticais (about US$ 3.4 million).

Paulino suggested that, to deal with such sabotage, cases involving this type of theft should be speeded up and the law should be changed to introduce more severe penalties. He also called for a better relation between the police and prosecutors as well as the electricity, telecommunications and rail companies.

As for the highly publicised case of the arrest of a truck 29 January in Manica, carrying 40 children, Paulino said investigations showed this was not a case of trafficking in minors.

The children really had been travelling, with the knowledge of their parents, to madrassas (koranic schools) in Maputo, Matola and Tete to continue “religious studies”.

But this did not mean that no crime had been committed. The conditions under which the children were transported were “deplorable”, said Paulino, even though their parents had paid for the journey. Nor was there any sign that the madrassas concerned had actually accepted the 40 children or granted them scholarships.

The adults accompanying the truck are therefore still in detention, and face charges of corruption, and falsification of documents.

Furthermore, Paulino noted that the madrassas prioritise religious matters “at the expense of the programmes of the National Education System”, thus violating the article in the Constitution which states that education is a right and a duty of all Mozambican citizens.

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