Thursday, December 20, 2007

Marvellous Seafood and Police Corruption

Corruption in the Mozambique Police
In the evening, I head to Milano’s for beer, olives and more Tilman, before meeting Edma and heading off to Costa do Sol, Maputo’s most famous seafood restaurant, several miles round the bay. As we get close, we are flagged down by a police check. The chap dealing with us looks like a really nasty piece of work. By all accounts, Mozambique police think their job is to find infractions that might earn them bribe money, and my first experience did seem to bear this out. It is approaching Xmas after all, bonus time for police!

This guy first asked our driver for his paperwork, flicked through that in a rather derisory manner, then asked Edma what I (the obvious foreigner) was doing and whether I had my passport. Luckily I had the notarised copy, though the general advice is to have this available anyway and never surrender your passport without being taken to a police station. The guy took my copies, and poured over them with a torch, looking especially at the visa page and the validity dates, presumably hoping something was out of order for which he could suggest an appropriate payoff. One would have thought he was an immigration official. Nothing, which seemed to make him all the more grumpy. He didn’t bother to ask for Edma’s ID, as presumably locals would pay less in the way of bribes anyway, hardly worth his effort.

It does always make me nervous when you can’t rely on law enforcement to be honest, and Mozambique seems pretty bad, similar to South Africa (though SA police never venture out of the station in my experience!). Guidebooks and online advice is full of stories of corruption in the force here. And their national speed limit? 80km per hour! That’s just asking for trouble! Or more realistically, asking everyone to walk (drive) their way into fines. It seems to me the way this can be resolved is for special police types to occasionally do spot checks - deliberately drive fast through speed traps and see whether the officers will accept bribes. They do, they get disciplined. Why is this not done?

Incidentally, I’ve had another theory as to why the pavements are so atrocious – trees. Most streets here are tree-lined, but there are plenty where for whatever reason some of the trees are missing. Perhaps they’ve been uprooted where they’ve destroyed the sidewalk. Either way, I don’t think a new slab has been laid for at least twenty years!

Costa do Sol

Costa do Sol is possible *the* seafood restaurant in Maputo, an Art Deco place a few miles out of town. By all accounts it’s a nice place to stay too, and there is a recommended backpacker lodge nearby (as well as the fish market). We pull up, and head in, choosing to sit outside. It’s cool and breezy, really quite pleasant. Of course, we check out the specials board as we head in.

I notice that there don’t seem to be many black people here, just large tables of Portuguese whites. Then I realise that all the blacks are inside, it’s far too cold for them out here, hehe! I’m hungry, so it doesn’t take long to choose. We go for 500g of Garroupinha, or Baby Rock Cod, grilled with chips, and Caril de Camarao, Prawn Curry, with rice.

The fish

The prawns

Both dishes are marvellous, though there’s too much having not eaten anything all day. We wash them down with our respective beers, Dois M for me and Laurentina for Edma. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera, so apologies for the bad photos, but I figured I’ll be back here before long! I send a text message to Malebogo to make her jealous!

Edma tucks in

Back into town, we head to Che Vincente, a cinema and bar, but as we’re about to go in, I stop Edma. There’s a live band playing, and it’s terrible. I have no interest in going in, not even for a single drink. Let’s just call it a night!

Time to Move
Back at Andalucia, the receptionist tells me it’s his birthday, and wants me to buy him a drink! I find that it’s noisy with my window open, so finally shut it in the morning. Shortly afterwards, I’m disturbed as a cleaning women bangs on door. When I have the “Do not disturb” sign hanging!!! Unforgiveable! I immediately call Pensao Martins and book a room there. It’s a nuisance to move, but I have limits. First though, breakfast, which turns out to be very limited. Eventually they make an omelette for me, which to be fair isn’t bad compared with yesterday’s offerings at Zambese. Amusingly, the chap asks me whether I’d like cheese and ham? Yes. So along comes my omelette with one slice each of ham and plastic cheese at the side of the plate!

So to Pensao Martins, where for 45US$ per night I have a reasonable sized room, a hot shower (unlike Andalucia), a fridge (might come in handy for Xmas festivities if I can find a local supplier of Hansa Marzen Gold) and best of all, free internet downstairs, which frankly I’d always pay a fair bit more for! Free internet everywhere, come on! Blog will be up to date on a regular basis for the next week, and I of course will be receiving all of my BBC podcasts. I use it first to do some research about my route home. Seat61 has a site talking about London to Jordan by train, exactly what I’m doing in reverse. I’ll probably fly Addis Ababa to Amman, pop in to see Petra, then start home. See you all at Waterloo!

Next, off to the Tanzanian Embassy to pick up my passport. I’m told it’s closed today. So why did they say I should come back today then?! “No se!”. Sigh, more paciencia required as usual. It has brought me back to one of my favourite cafés though!

Mozambique: A Potted History
Stolen from Lonely Planet as usual..

From the 9th Century, Mozambique was busy trading with the East, with ivory, slaves, gold and spices sought by merchants from India, Persia and Arabia. The Portuguese turned up in the 15th century, but it was not until the 19th, fearing other European powers, that they locked the country down. The country was so wild though, that they leased large parts of the country to private firms, who inflicted all sorts of abuses on their workers. The resistance movement against the Portuguese stirred in the 60s after a brutal massacre of civilians by troops, and independence was finally declared on 25th June 1975, but not before the troops pulling out had sabotaged infrastructure.

The country swung towards communism, and for a while seemed to be doing well, until a combination of bankruptcy and destabilisation efforts by governments of South Africa and Rhodesia almost lead to civil war. This improved in 1986 with a more moderate government coming into power, and capitalism replacing communism. A formal peace agreement was signed in 1992. Mozambique held their first democratic elections in 1994, and again in 1999, with some rioting afterwards. Since then, things have settled down.

In December 2004, Armando Guebuza was elected with a large majority, and despite some scandals, a large bank fraud and the murder of an investigative journalist, the country is peaceful and developing. Mozambique (Mozi), with a population of about 20 million, is generally considered one of the rising stars of Africa.

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