Maputo — Criminals kidnapped 44 people in Mozambique last year, according to Justice Minister Benvinda Levi.
Speaking at the opening of a seminar organised by the Ministry of the Interior, Levi said that 31 of these cases happened in Maputo City, nine in the neighbouring city of Matola, three in Beira and one in the northern city of Nampula.
20 cases have been sent to court, she said, and so far 14 have come to trial. 12 kidnappers have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging between two and 24 years.
Outside the meeting, reporters asked the General Commander of the police, Jorge Khalau, what was going wrong in the struggle against crime - and he claimed that nothing was.
"Nothing is failing. We are combatting crime", he declared. "We are on the ground all the time".
He said that the strategy for fighting crime which is now being drafted will make a major contribution. "This strategy will contribute to the work that the police are doing on the ground, in fighting against the criminals", he added. "The Ministry of the Interior has invited several personalities so that we can hear their opinions. These are contributions that might help enrich this draft".
Despite Khalau's optimism, it is no secret that some members of the police have been deeply involved in the kidnap gangs. Among those tried last year were three policemen, who were sentenced to jail terms of between 15 and 17 years.