Mozambique: Police Protect Old Man Accused of Sorcery

Maputo — A 70 year old man has been forced to seek refuge in a police station in Dombe, in the central province of Manica, because his neighbours believe he is a sorcerer who controls the local crocodiles and snakes.

The river Lucite, which runs through Dombe, is infested with crocodiles. The most recent victim was a 13 year old boy seized by a crocodile about ten days ago. There have been five crocodile attacks so far this year, resulting in two deaths and three injuries.

People living in the Magueda area of Dombe are convinced that the old man (whom the police have not named) "owns" the crocodiles, and also a snake which supposedly causes terror in the area.

The father of the boy killed by the crocodile claimed that the old man asked him for the biscuits and soft drink he had just bought at a local stall for his teacher. He refused to hand them over and, according to the father, "that old man promised they were the last biscuits and drink he would ever take in his life, because he would die. The next day he went to the river, and he really did die".

A 17 year old youth, Mazeu Timoteo, told AIM that he had been injured by a crocodile, but he survived because his mother drove the reptile away. He blamed the old man - he said "that granddad asked me to fetch water for him. I delayed, and when I returned he got angry with me, and made threats".

The local rumour mill claims the old man not only feeds the crocodiles, but carries out rituals at the river, in which he remains under water for an hour.

"We're in trouble here because of that old man's crocodiles", a youth named Simbanai Machanga told AIM. "We don't want that citizen in our area any more".

The local police told AIM they are protecting the old man. An angry mob has already destroyed his home, and the police fear that, if he returns to Magueda, he will be lynched.

"He is waiting to see if we can find him somewhere where he can restart his life", said one police spokesperson. "If he goes back to Magueda, he'll be killed. The people there have destroyed all his property. He has nothing. He hasn't committed any crime, and he's under police protection".

The head of the Dombe administrative post, Tomas Razao said "we're making contacts so that he can go and live somewhere else. While he is at the police post, we have to protect him until he leaves Dombe".

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