High police presence in Maputo following riots

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pretoria - There is a high police presence in Mozambique following Wednesday's violent riots in the capital Maputo.

Chaos broke out when rioters blockaded the route to South Africa and set fire to a petrol station in the Matola suburb, between Maputo and its border. They also set alight tyres and blocked major roads to the airport.

Protestors were up in arms over rising food and fuel prices.

Trying to control the unruly crowd, police then opened fire, killing up to seven people and wounding about 27.

About 400 South Africans in the city were stuck in their hotels rooms as violent scenes played out on the streets outside.

The South African government closed its embassy in Mozambique as a result, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said.

"There have been sporadic incidents of stoning and blockaded of roads in the vicinity of Maputo including the airport ... the embassy has been temporarily closed as a result," reported High Commissioner to Mozambique Dikgang Moopeloa in a statement.

He advised that the N4 between Maputo and Matola should be avoided by anyone travelling into the country.

Flights into Maputo by both South African Airways (SAA) and local airline LAN were also cancelled on Wednesday. Travellers using other airlines were urged to check whether flights were still planned.

On Thursday, SAA was reported as saying that it was assessing the situation on the ground in Maputo before deciding whether flights will resume as normal.

South African citizens requesting information may contact the SA High Commission in Maputo on 00-258-21-49-1614 or 00-258-21-49-0059 or 00-258-84-304-4600.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation's consular services can be reached on 012 351-1249 or 012 351-1924 or 012 351-0160.

Mozambican Interior Minister Jose Pacheco condemned the riots, saying the protest was illegal. The Constitution gives rights to all citizens to protest, the minister said, deploring the fact that no one made the request to do so to the authorities.

He appealed to the people to collaborate with the police to establish tranquillity in Maputo.

In vindicating the police action, Pacheco said the officers were deployed at focal points to prevent chaos. If otherwise, the situation would have been worse, he added.

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