Maputo — The Mozambican police force has suspended all the policemen stationed in the tourist resort of Ponto de Ouro, in the far south of the country, after local residents accused them of extorting money from tourists.
It is feared that corrupt behaviour by the police may be one reason for a decline of tourism in Ponta de Ouro. This area borders the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal, and tourists from South Africa are key to the local economy.
Speaking on Tuesday at the weekly police press briefing in Maputo, the spokesperson for the General Command of the police, Claudio Langa, said "The Command has decided to remove the entire police unit stationed in Ponta de Ouro until the truth of the complaints raised by the public is established. Meanwhile, another unit will be placed there".
The General Command's decision came after an amateur video, showing the moment when an angry crowd blocked a police vehicle, circulated widely on social media. The crowd intervened to rescue a tourist who was about to be dragged to a local police station, where they feared money would be extorted from him.
Langa explained that the incident occurred when the car used by a group of tourists became stuck in a sandy Ponta de Ouro road. The police saw that the car was obstructing the road, and demanded to see the driver's documents. The tourist presented the legally required documents - but nonetheless, the police demanded that he accompany them to the station.
At this stage, the crowd intervened and physically prevented the police from taking the tourist with them.
Langa added "the public say that the police treat tourists badly.
Tourists don't visit places where the police mistreat them. When tourists who are badly treated go back to their home countries, they tell their colleagues that Mozambique is not a good place for tourism".
This is far from the first case in which video evidence has been used against corrupt police officers. In the recent past, videos shot on cell phones have shown members of the traffic police extorting money from motorists. When these policemen can be identified, they have been expelled from the police force.