Maputo — About 400 tourists on board a cruise ship were unable to visit Maputo on Sunday because of the negligence of the Mozambican immigration officials who should have dealt with their passports, according to a report in Thursday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
Cruise ships stop regularly at Maputo port, and tourists are encouraged to spend a few hours in central Maputo, before the ship sets off again. But this depends on the efficiency of the immigration services.
On this occasion the immigration staff showed up late, and said that the machines needed to recognise passports and issue visas had broken down.
The ship's staff could do nothing but tell the tourists that they would be unable to visit Maputo, and the ship would carry on to its next port of call, the South African port of Durban, en route to Cape Town.
This is not the first time that inflexible attitudes by immigration staff at Maputo port have sabotaged the government's attempts to attract tourists. According to a report carried by the electronic paper “A Verdade”, a few weeks ago, tourists simply gave up rather than wait in an apparently unending line for their visas.
Only two immigration staff were present, and would take up to 30 minutes to process a simple tourist visa.
Speaking at last week's Tourism Forum in Maputo, the general manager of Maputo Port, Osorio Lucas, said that many tourists on board cruise ships preferred to stay in the luxury of their cabins, or enjoy the facilities of the ships, rather than pass through immigration and venture into the city.
Lucas pointed out that it was not merely immigration problems - the authorities seemed to be making no attempt to welcome the tourists. “Lack of security, the negative image of the city, the failure to offer tourist routes and contents that could attract tourists”, he said, were among the reasons why the 20,000 visitors to the port last year were not transformed into 20,000 tourists.
Contacted by “Mediafax”, the spokesperson for the immigration services (SENAMI), Cira Fernandes, admitted that last Sunday's cruise ship had been forced to cut short its stay in Maputo. It had arrived at 10.00 and was not scheduled to leave until 19.00 - but the immigration problems meant that it left at 13.00.
She recognised that the immigration staff on duty had been negligent, since at no time had they reported the alleged breakdown in the equipment they were using to process the passports. She said an investigation was under way to ascertain why the tourists had not disembarked.
The slovenly attitude of the Maputo port immigration service has costs. Each tourist (except those from countries of the Southern African Development Community, SADC) should have paid 50 dollars for an entry visa. If only half the tourists on board the ship were from outside the SADC region, the state lost 10,000 dollars, thanks to this act of negligence.
Also significant is the money the tourists would have spent buying food, drink, handicrafts and other souvenirs while in Maputo. If each of the 400 tourists only spent 20 dollars during their stay, that is 8,000 dollars that did not go into the Maputo economy.