Maputo — The fire that broke out at on 13 December at the grain terminal in the port of Matola during an abortive attempt to steal fuel from a pipeline running past the terminal caused damage estimated at 2.4 million US dollars, the government spokesperson Deputy Health Minister Mouzinho Saide, announced on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a session of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet), Saide said the theft and fire were caused “by the vulnerability of the place, since security measures were not taken with due rigour, notably access to the port installations by land and by sea, which has proven to be very fragile”.
This was no accident, since police and private security staff were involved in the theft. “The most elementary security norms were not observed, and that was deliberate”, said Saide.
Summarising the conclusions of the report from the commission of inquiry set up to investigate the fire, Saide revealed that the management of the grain terminal has been suspended, and a number of arrests have been made. He did not give a number.
Investigations were facilitated by the closed circuit television in the port, which provided images of the raid.
The theft was clearly well organized, involving a flotilla of fishing boats attacking the terminal by sea, while vehicles driven by thieves entered from the land ward side. But it all went terribly wrong when the thieves were siphoning fuel out of the pipeline. In the darkness, one of the thieves apparently lit a candle, and the result was an explosion and a massive blaze.
Most of the fishing boats used by the thieves to enter the port were destroyed, and severe damage was done to the terminal.
17 people lost their lives in the fire.
Asked about the current state of port security, Saide said it is now being improved with restrictions on access to and circulation of people within the area of the grain terminal.
The Council of Ministers also approved a bill that will create three new districts in the southern province of Gaza. The bill establishes the boundaries of the new districts of Chonguene, Limpopo and Mapai, and will now go before the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, for approval.
These places are currently all administrative posts (the next rung down the ladder of the public administration from districts), and are now being upgraded. If the bill is passed, it will bring the total number of districts in the country to 154.
“The creation of these three districts strengthens the presence of the state at local level, and makes the administration of the territory more effective”, said Saide. “It also brings the services of the public administration closer to citizens”.
But he said nothing about how much the new districts will cost. Each district must have its own government and support staff, its own buildings and its own vehicles. Even if some of these can be taken from existing districts, additional expenditure is inevitable.