Maputo — Mozambican Interior Minister Alberto Mondlane on Friday urged the people of Maputo and the neighbouring city of Matola to remain calm, and not to submit to panic following rumours of a mysterious criminal organisation calling itself the “G-20” (supposedly because it has 20 members).
Responsibility for a number of murders, rapes and burglaries in Matola neighbourhoods has been pinned on the G-20 - but the police have serious doubts as to whether such a group exists.
“I would like to ask Maputo and Matola residents to remain calm because this is a rumour”, declared Mondlane. He claimed that some people were deliberately spreading false alarms - presumably he was referring to leaflets that have appeared in some area, supposedly from the G-20, warning residents that their neighbourhood is next on the hit list.
Mondlane met with all Maputo and Matola police commanders and heads of operations on Friday morning to discuss the panic gripping the two cities. He said that none of the police officials could present any facts about the G-20.
The G-20 allegedly assaults its victims with domestic irons.
But the police only have records of one such case that occurred in July. That happened in the Sao Damaso neighbourhood when a gang of thieves broke into a house and threatened its owner with a hot iron to force her to reveal the PIN number of her bank card.
Mondlane said nothing justifies the current panic, since the police are guaranteeing public security and tranquillity.
But that is not the experience of many residents of outlying city neighbourhoods who complain of a complete lack of police patrols. As a result, people in several parts of the two cities have taken matters into their own hands by forming their own self-defence groups that organise patrols. On Wednesday a team from the independent television station STV accompanied and filmed some of these vigilantes, and saw no sign of the police.
The anonymous leaflets are also persuading people that they must take measures to protect their neighbourhoods. Thus in the outer Maputo neighburhood of Hulene B, one resident, 23 year old Anastacia Matusse, told AIM she had been so frightened by a leaflet threatening that the G-20 were coming to the area that she missed her usual night classes on Thursday and opted to join street patrols instead.
“I was afraid to go to school”, she said. “I prefer to stay at home and join the group of residents who are carrying out patrols”.
The perception of the police commanders is completely different. The Maputo city and Maputo Province Directors of Order and Security, Augusto Bobo and Antonio Mulungo, both claim that the crime situation is stable and under control.
Bobo said that the police had detained six members of a gang believed to be 15 strong who had raided a house in the Polano-Canico B neighbourhood. Two of them were seriously injured and are now in Maputo Central Hospital.
AIM was able to talk to one of the injured thieves who admitted that he had burgled two houses on the day of his arrest, but said he knew nothing of any G20.