Mozambique readies for polls amid tensions

Parliamentary elections to be held on November 20 but there is little to suggest the opposition will participate.

We cross the border into Mozambique from Mutare in Zimbabwe.

There are three of us in the team. Cyrus Nhara, the producer, Austin Gundani, the cameraman, and me.

A very tired customs official looks at the three of us and says, “Are you not scared to drive alone on the road in Mozambique? It’s not safe. I won’t even do it.”

We were in Mozambique two weeks earlier and we had a few narrow escapes going through checkpoints and people shooting outside our hotel in Gorongosa.

We have come back and so far so good.

The main road to Chimoio, Gondola and other towns is busy. Long-distance trucks are going up town and there are lots of campaign posters along the road.

Local elections will be held on November 20. I see lots of t-shirts and flags from the Frelimo party, a few from a newly formed party, the MDM, but nothing yet from Renamo, the opposition party whose fighters have been blamed for sporadic attacks on the main north-south highway after an assault on the base of their leader, Afonso Dhlakama.

Then about 100km from the town of Muxungue things get quieter. There’s hardly anything to show an election is taking place soon, and there are fewer cars on the road.

At one stage we were the only car on the road for a while.

No safety

We eventually get to Muxungue and the road is blocked. Two policemen sitting under a tree tell us we can’t go any further because the road is not safe.

They say Renamo fighters usually attack trucks, buses and motorists 20km from where we are. They normally take food but sometimes people have been killed.

Sleeping in Muxungue means we will lose a day of filming so we try to hustle and see if any of the soldiers would be willing to escort us some of the way before it gets dark.

The answer is “NO”, for our own safety.

They recommend somewhere for us to sleep and tell us to be ready by 7am because that’s when the only military escort of the day will leave Muxungue.

This is one of those times when we really have no choice in the matter. People in the town go about their business. But strangely there are election posters here.

A boy who looks about 10 years old asks me if I have any empty plastic water bottles to give him.

He wants to sell them to truck drivers.

I hand him the few that I have and he says, “It’s good the soldiers stopped you from driving on, a truck driver was killed a few days ago. I sold him a bottle of water before he left.”

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