Maputo — Rioting broke out in the northern Mozambican port city of Nacala on Wednesday when the local authorities tried to ban motor-cycle taxis, according to a report in Thursday's issue of the Maputo daily "Noticias".
The ban was a joint decision of the Nacala district government and of the Nacala Port Municipal Council. It was in line with the ban on the use of bicycles or motorbikes as taxis announced last week by the central government, under the state of emergency. The justification for the ban is that the close proximity between the cyclist and his passenger facilitates transmission of the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
On Wednesday morning, the Nacala Municipal Police seized two motor-bikes and motorbike taxi drivers reacted with protests, erecting barricades and blocking the main road through the city. Some of the rioters looted market stalls and shops.
A trader in the Juma market, Damimo Amade, told the paper that "those behind the riots are people of bad faith. Two shops owned by Chinese citizens were looted by people who just took advantage of the situation".
The police used tear gas and fired into the air to disperse the protestors. The spokesperson for the Nacala District Police Command told reporters that 11 people, believed to be ringleaders in the rioting had been arrested.
Nobody in Nacala knew that the government was about to lift the ban on bicycle and motorbike taxis. That decision was announced in Maputo late on Wednesday afternoon. These forms of transport suddenly became legal again, provided both the cyclist and his passenger wear face masks.