Maputo — The Mozambican government has categorically denied press reports that it has brought pressure to bear on the family of taxi-driver Mido Macia, murdered by South African policemen in late February, to persuade them to withdraw their complaint against the South African authorities and settle the matter outside of the courts.
The report seems to have started with a news item carried by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, which was then uncritically echoed in other media.
Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi told reporters on Wednesday "This is absolutely false".
The claim made no sense since the Mozambican government had denounced the murder, and made a lawyer available for the family. When the nine policemen charged with the murder applied for bail, so that they could await the trial in freedom, "our lawyer, together with the South African prosecution services, ensured that this did not happen".
After this, no serious government would try to persuade the family to drop the case, he declared.
"The government, in the light of the Vienna Convention, has the obligation to provide consular assistance to its citizens abroad", Baloi added. "And this is what the government has been doing in a coherent, consistent and determined manner".
He explained that people previously foreign to the case had persuaded Mido Macia's father to sign a document written in English, a language in which he is not fluent, and based on that document the lawyer hired by the Mozambican government was removed from the case.
Baloi said he had contacted Macia's family on Wednesday to try and understand what was happening. It transpired that they thought the document was about logistical support for the family and not to replace the lawyer.
It was therefore "absolutely false" that the Mozambican and South African governments were somehow in league to make light of the case. Mozambique's position, he insisted, remained that "the criminals should be tried and sentenced".
He recalled that the South African government had apologised, and Mozambique had accepted the apology. The claim that some deal was being made to withdraw the family's complement would be equivalent to asking the South African government to withdraw its apology.
"It doesn't make sense", Baloi said
He pledged that the government will continue to act in defence of Mozambican citizens. But if the family did eventually decide to hire new lawyers, the government could not prevent them from doing so.
Mido Macia was killed on 26 February in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg, after South African policemen had handcuffed him to the back of their vehicle and dragged him for several hundred metres along a tarred road.