Mozambique: Beira Businesses Protest Against Kidnappings

Maputo — A group of business people from the central Mozambican city of Beira has denounced the failure of the Mozambican state to protect citizens against the wave of kidnappings in the major cities.

In a statement issued at a Beira press conference on Thursday, the business people declared "We are citizens who pay taxes to the state, but, at the same time, in an involuntary and violent way, we pay for the kidnapping industry. We pay the State's taxes, but we are also obliged to pay huge sums in ransoms to the kidnapping networks and those who protect them. This situation is unsustainable and unacceptable".

They point out that kidnap gangs are thriving "without facing any obstacles and at the cost of the physical, psychological, economic and social destruction of business people, their families and their companies".

The statement warns that this crime "is gradually destroying the country's economy". Because of the kidnappings, "several companies have closed or are about to close. Countless numbers of workers have lost, or will lose, their jobs. Hundreds of Mozambican businessmen have left the country to live abroad. Billions of meticais have ceased to be invested and to circulate in the formal economy, and instead circulate in the economy of organised crime".

"For each successful kidnapping - and almost all of them have been successful - there is a family psychologically destroyed by fear, by panic, by the constant feeling of insecurity", the statement added. "Families are forcibly separated because of the kidnappings, in situations where the entrepreneur stays in Mozambique and tries to look after his businesses, while the family lives outside the country, somewhere safer".

Each successful kidnapping "undermines trust in the country, holds back national and foreign investment, destroys viable businesses, brings discredit to the state and its agents and empowers crime and criminals - not only those who commit these crimes directly, but those who order them, and those who guarantee the impunity of the kidnappers".

There is no doubt, the statement continues, that it s the duty of the Mozambican state to prevent and fight against the kidnappings, "but this duty is not being fulfilled", and this failure "has made the crime of kidnapping an endemic reality".

These crimes happen in broad daylight, in streets full of passers-by, and "the bold and confident way the kidnappers act show they do not fear that anything might go wrong".

The Beira business people deny the claim that kidnap victims and their relatives do not cooperate with the police. "It's not true", they declared. "At least here in Beira we have certified that most of the kidnap victims have collaborated with the police, providing them with information they believe important for helping in the investigation, even with all the risks this implies in the current situation. But no results appear".

Some businesses have provided resources to help the police, but there are still "no palpable results".

"We want to state here that we have done our part, and we are prepared to go on doing it, but so far this collaboration has been in vain", they said. The State was "failing systematically" to do its job, and this failing by the state "is strengthening the kidnapping industry".

This group of Beira business people pledge that they will not leave Mozambique, but they demand that the state comply with its essential duty to protect citizens.

In addition to the press conference and its public statement they warn that they will shut down their businesses for three consecutive days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) "as a passive measure of protest against this criminal situation which seems to be out of any control".

They hope that such measures "will be sufficient to persuade the Mozambican State and Government to obtain concrete results in preventing and fighting the kidnappings".

But, if the kidnappers continue to act with impunity, "we reserve the right to meet again to decide new collective forms of demonstration".

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