Mozambique: Local People Urged to Help Control Border

Maputo — Bela Vista (Mozambique), 24 Jun (AIM) - The General Commander of the Mozambican police force, Bernadino Rafael, on Saturday asked for the collaboration of the population of the country's southernmost district, Matutuine, in controlling the border with the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal.

He made the request at a meeting he addressed in the district capital, Bela Vista. This was one of a series of meetings Rafael has been holding in recent days in border areas.

"In addition to the Frontier Guards we are, all of us, policemen", Rafael told the crowd. "We have to watch over our border so that it is not violated. Violation of the border is forbidden and is a crime. We cannot let anybody violate the border and cross over to our side".

It was not just the police who should guard the border, he insisted, "but it's also the responsibility of the communities. Don't let anybody violate our border".

Rafael's visit to Matutuine was already programmed as part of his tour of border areas. But he brought it forward because of the incident of 16 June, when South African soldiers crossed the border, near the resort of Ponta de Ouro, and shot dead two members of the Frontier Guards. So far, the South African authorities have given no explanation for what the soldiers were doing on Mozambican soil, and why they opened fire.

Shortly after his arrival in Bela Vista, Rafael met with the district authorities, headed by the Matutuine district administrator, Artur Rodrigues.

They informed him of how the local communities deal with various problems, including stock theft. Cattle is stolen from farmers in Matutine, and then taken across the border into South Africa.

Rafael was told that the cattle thief set up transit pens where they hold the stolen animals near the border. Two of these pens have been identified and destroyed.

Rafael said the district authorities told him that vehicles stolen in South Africa cross the border, "but some South Africans pretend their vehicle has been stolen. Then they take it into Mozambique, sell it and return to South Africa where they claim on their insurance, and so receive compensation for the supposed theft. Don't buy vehicles from these people!"

Rafael also told the meeting that local people should take part in protecting Mozambique's marine, forestry and wild life resources. Some of these resources were being stolen and trafficked into South Africa. At risk were protected species in the two conservation areas in Matutuine, the Maputo Special Reserve and the Ponta de Ouro Partial Marine Reserve.

"Let us be vigilant against those who take our goods from the sea", Rafael urged. "They take prohibited species of fish to other countries. Don't allow armed individuals to slaughter animals in the Maputo Special Reserve. People who keep guns in their houses should be denounced, because they are ruining the wealth of this country".

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