Maputo — Mozambique’s Minister of Tourism, Carvalho Muaria, on Monday warned tourism operators that he will be implacable in taking measures to end abuses that occur in this area.
At a meeting with operators from Maputo city and province, Muaria said that, over the past few months, he has visited over 100 tourist establishments, not as a minister, but as a citizen, and had noted a series of irregularities, including instances of racism, that should be immediately corrected.
The Minister said he was concerned to find that children under the age of 18 were buying alcohol and cigarettes in tourist establishments, and that the managers were allowing minors to attend night clubs.
“There is a trend not to comply with the rules established in the country”, he said. “You go into a restaurant and you don’t see the list of workers with their health cards. In hotels and restaurants you don’t see the list of prices, though it is a legal obligation to display the prices. In these places there are no signs saying that it is forbidden to serve alcohol and tobacco to minors”.
“There are signs of racism”, Muaria added. “There is preferential service for some people to the detriment of others. I ask myself why is it that when somebody with a lighter skin comes in, this person is served ahead of me, although I arrived first. Is it because I am black?”
Some restaurants flagrantly defy the law on smoking. In general smoking is not permitted in bars and restaurants, but there can be a separate area for smokers, provided it has its own ventilation.
Muaria said he had gone into a restaurant on Julius Nyerere Avenue, in central Maputo, “and I was told there was no area for non-smokers, and if I didn’t like it, I could leave and never come back again”.
He had also found restaurants that did not sell Mozambican products. “I went into one restaurant and one of the workers told me there was no Mozambican mineral water because nobody drinks it. They didn’t even have Mozambican beer on sale”.
“I ask – who is killing Mozambican industry?”, said Muaria. “When we don’t prefer national products, we are damaging national industry. That’s not what we expect when we open our doors to foreigners. We are not saying you shouldn’t import products, but you should show preference for Mozambican goods”.
Muaria said these anomalies would not be tolerated, and he warned of tough measures against tourist operators who continued to break Mozambican laws.
The operators present at the meeting recognised the concerns expressed by the Minister and called for more active inspection by the Ministry. The chairperson of the Mozambican Federation of Hotels and Tourism (FEMATUR), Quessanias Matlombe, said the problem lay in the weakness of the institutions which should ensure compliance with the law.
“All that the Minister said is true”, Matlombe admitted, “and we thank him for the frontal way he has posed the questions. The problem is that when there are rules, but nobody ensures compliance with them, then people do whatever they like. The state institutions which should ensure that the law is respected do not do their job, and that’s where the weakness is”.
“What is happening in our industry is that for years the authorities took no measures and each operator imposed his own rules”, he added. When abuses were reported in the press, “nothing happens”.
Manuel Cabinda, who runs an establishment in the southernmost district of Matutuine, tried to evade responsibility for selling alcohol and cigarettes to minors. He blamed the parents instead.
“The great problem is that often the parents allow their children to go to night clubs. They send their children out to buy alcoholic drinks and tobacco, and at the end of the day only the operator is penalized”, he said. “We ask that these parents should also be punished. Society should be educated to have a preventive attitude and to comply with the law”.
Among other questions posed by the businessmen were the poor roads that make it difficult for clients to reach some tourist establishments, the poor quality of electricity supply in parts of Maputo province, the proliferation of heaps of garbage in Maputo city, and the behaviour of the police in extorting money from foreign tourists.