Mozambique News Agency
Maputo, 3 Sept (AIM) – Despite threats of a third day of rioting, Maputo was calm on Friday, and by mid-morning there was no sign of further disturbances.
On Thursday night, there were still barricades of rubble and burning tyres in some outlying neighbourhoods. In the neighbourhood of Hulene, the independent television station STV interviewed rioters, some of whom were clearly drunk, who boasted that the disturbances would continue on Friday.
The rioters interviewed made no specific demands, but merely complained about the high cost of living. Implicit in this, perhaps, is a call for the government to subsidise basic foodstuffs.
However, the government – which is already subsidising fuel – has ruled out any further blanket subsidies. Several of the recent price rises are beyond the government’s control – the strength of the South African currency, the rand, has dictated a rise in prices denominated in the Mozambican currency, the metical, for all goods imported from South Africa.
The rise in the price of bread is the inevitable result of the relative shortage of wheat on the word market. Among the factors pushing up the price of wheat were the catastrophic fires in Russia, which led the Russian government to impose a ban on wheat exports.
Electricity and water prices, however, are controlled by the government. But the increases follow a period of over two years in which these prices were frozen. Furthermore, only a small minority of the Mozambican population have electricity and piped water in their homes.
According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Energy, only about 14 per cent of the population has access to electricity. Even in Maputo, many houses are not connected to the electricity grid. The electricity price would thus be a most unconvincing excuse for a riot.
Although there were no further disturbances, life in Maputo was far from normal on Friday morning. Schools remained shut, although some banks and shops reopened. The publicly-owned bus company, TPM, resumed operations on some of its routes, but very few of the private minibuses (known colloquially as “chapas”), which provide much of the city’s passenger transport, ventured onto the streets.
The riots also shut down the southern Mozambican rail network. Following the looting on Wednesday of wagons containing maize and cement at a station in the city of Matola, the rail and port company, CFM, announced the suspension of all passenger and goods trains in and out of Maputo.
A CFM spokesperson told AIM on Friday that the suspension will remain in force until CFM brigades have checked all the rail infrastructure in Maputo and Matola to ensure that it is safe.
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