Maputo — The Mozambican traffic police on Wednesday seized around 100 bicycles in the central city of Quelimane, allegedly on safety grounds.
Cyclists cited in Friday’s issue of the independent daily “O Pais” said the police, who swooped between 18.00 and 20.00, were checking brakes on both the front and rear wheels, insisted that the bicycles should have functioning lights, and demanded that the cyclists wear helmets.
Bicycles are a very popular mode of transport in Quelimane. The flat terrain of the city makes it ideal for cyclists, and there are even “bicycle-taxis” that carry paying passengers.
Quelimane Municipal Council regarded the seizures as illegal, since the transport police did not consult the municipal authorities in advance. It is the City Council that regulates the circulation of bicycles, regarded as critically important for the transport of people and goods in Quelimane.
The city councillor in charge of transport, Lucas Lenco, claimed that the transport police were carrying out instructions given by the Frelimo Party. While Frelimo is the ruling party nationally, in Quelimane it has been in opposition since December 2011, when a mayoral by-election was won by Manuel de Araujo, candidate of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM).
The bicycles were returned to their owners on Thursday, but the taxi-cyclists in particular were angered by the police attitude. They said that, instead of regulating Quelimane traffic and preventing accidents, the police had seized the equipment which provides a vital source of income for many households.
Lenco claimed that Frelimo was annoyed with the cyclists because, on 30 December, Manual de Araujo had led a parade of more than 300 bicycles in a triumphal tour of Quelimane neighbourhoods.