Maputo — The governor of the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, Victor Borges, has returned to his official residence after spending weeks in a hotel because of an infestation of mice in the residence.
On Tuesday, Borges held a press conference in Nampula city to announce that he had returned to the residence on Saturday, and would pay all the hotel bills out of his own pocket.
He apologised for his behaviour, and admitted that fleeing to the Nampula Grand Plaza Hotel, with his wife and two children, had been "an exaggeration".
The story became public knowledge, thanks to articles published in the Nampula electronic paper "Ikweli". The paper said that Borges and his family had been living in the hotel for three months, but the governor said it had only been 33 days.
That is still very expensive. According to "Ikweli"'s sources in the hotel, the cost of board and lodging for Borges and his family is more than 40,000 meticais (about 635 US dollars) a day. The sources said that, so far, the Nampula provincial government had not paid any of the bills.
"The government says it hasn't got any money", they told the paper. "Probably the bill can be paid as soon as he leaves the hotel".
The reaction to a governor fleeing his residence because of a plague of mice was largely hostile, including from social media commentators who are usually pro-government. Indeed, they even published indignantly a letter from the governor's office, dated 9 April, promising that the government would pay the hotel expenses.
It was almost certainly because of the expose in "Ikweli" that Borges has now left the hotel. Indeed, at the press conference he had the grace to thank the media. "Those who published the story did well", he said. "My attention was drawn to the matter, and on the same day that I became aware of the problem, when it appeared in social media (i.e. 11 May), I returned to the residence".
He said he respected the comments in the media, and made no attempt to defend himself. "The person who wrote the story didn't do anything wrong", he said. "That's what the press is, it's for good things and bad things too".
He also said it was "not fair" that the public treasury should pay for his hotel bills, and he had already informed his office that he would pay the bill out of his own pocket, and, if necessary, would resort to a bank loan. By the time he left the hotel, the total bill had risen to 1.3 million meticais.
In an interview with the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", Borges said "the mice were too much. They wandered through the entire residence and all the rooms. They came in from the garden through huge holes in the back".
He said there were also snakes in the residence. "I can't stand snakes. I flee from them like the Devil from the cross", he told the paper. "We didn't see any other way out. The situation was unsustainable. I had to leave the residence because of the mice and the snakes".
He added that he had tried to use poison against the mice, "but every day there seemed to be more of them".
Borges said he had a clear conscience about moving to the hotel. "I feared for my safety", he said. "It was normal to sit in the living room with my family and see the mice and snakes moving around. It was a difficult situation and very scary".
In his absence, some repairs have been made to the residence, including filling in holes in the walls. "I decided to rehabilitate the residence with my own money", he said. "It's being done by a private company which I hired, because I could see no alternative".
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