Maputo — The Mozambican police have arrested 17 people accused of promoting disinformation campaigns about the origins of cholera, and of leading mobs which destroyed the homes of local officials in the Namicopo and Namutequeliua neighbourhoods in the northern city of Nampula.
Rumours were spread that block chiefs and secretaries of the ruling Frelimo Party were somehow responsible for outbreaks of cholera (although, in reality, no cases of cholera at all have been confirmed in Nampula so far this year).
According to a report in the Beira daily paper “Diario de Mocambique”, the disturbances began when a mother and her two children in Namicopo died between 8 and 13 February. They had been suffering from acute diarrhoea, and the relatives of the deceased jumped to the conclusion that these were cholera cases, and that the disease had been deliberately spread by the local authorities.
Youths were mobilized to attack the neighbourhood secretaries and other Frelimo and state officials. In attacks that occurred between 13 and 15 February, houses of at least three local Frelimo officials were destroyed. In the beatings that accompanied this vandalism, the wife of one of the Frelimo secretaries was seriously injured, when rioters thrust a stick into her vagina.
The spokesperson for the Nampula Provincial Police Command, Inacio Dina, claimed that only police intervention brought the situation under control. He said that police teams are now working in the city with staff of the Nampula health directorate to explain to the public the true origins of diarrhoeal diseases.
According to data from the Provincial Health Directorate, from the start of the year until the first week of February 6,029 cases of acute diarrhoea had been recorded, and eight of the victims had died.
None of these cases were diagnosed as cholera. A cholera outbreak is, however, under way in the neighbouring province of Cabo Delgado, and the Nampula Provincial Health Director, Mohamed Riaze, urged the public to take the hygiene measures necessary to prevent the spread of all diarrhoeal diseases.