Making sense of Modern Mozambique

mozman created the topic: Making sense of Modern Mozambique

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My own first experience of Mozambique was during 1984 when a group of us from the Wits University Exploration Society took a VW bus from Johannesburg through Zimbabwe and Mozambique to Malawi. Moz was then deep in a civil war and the Nyamapanda - Tete - Zobue corridor was quite correctly called the "Gun-Run". We were escourted by Zimbabwean armoured cars along a road that had not been maintained in 15 years and had landmine and pothole craters deep enough to hide a truck and big enough to swim in. Our little wheels could not drive through them and so our maximim speed was about 20kph. Every other vehicle in the convoy was a large truck and they all just hammered through most of the holes and we couldn't keep up.

We got to Tete which was almost deserted except for hollow-eyed street-kids, drunk weaponless soldiers (they sold their AK's to buy booze), and incongruous army advisors in full military regalia, apparently from the USA strutting around like stiff *rseholes. Wrecked Russion tanks littered the roadside and the only things on sale were sex and alcohol. No electricity, running water, phones or fuel.

We crossed the creaking suspension bridge over the Zambezi and decided to carry on to Malawi without the convoy. We drove through the tunnel of trees a sitting duck for any ambushers as the VW bus managed only walking pace up the Zambezi valley escarpment to the highlands of Malawi. Just 10km from Zobue border town (Mwanza is the Malawi side), a half-naked madman jumped from a ruined house and waved his AK, before firing a shot in our general direction. This guy obviously had ammo and as we had no option we stopped and were mobbed by what (luckily?) turned out to be a Frelimo army patrol confused as to why we were not with the convoy. Nasty situation but resolved by bringing out that weapon of mass-distraction, the soccer-ball.

In Zobue the Zimbabwe colonel arrested us for ignoring the convoy, and confiscated our passports. Pretty suspicious in those days was the fact that we were a group of young whites of army-going age, but perhaps the presence of girls with us made him decide to release us before the border closed.

It still amazes me that the soldiers who had stopped us were actually agitated not because we were a possible invasion of white mercenaries (very common in Africa during the 80's and beyond), but were worried about us being attacked by enemy Renamo guerillas.

And so to Mozambique of today, so much has and is changing (coal, gas, rare-earth, heavy sands, flourite, gold to name but a few reasons), and complicated to describe the contrasts and ironies but fortunately Shaun Swingler has done it so much better than I could (without a sweat...)

"The Mozambique of my youth, happening now. Shaun Swingler. 20 July 2012 03:54 (South Africa)
Mozambique, once the poorest country in the world, is slowly climbing its way back up the ladder. But it remains stained by desperation. Still, if you can find your way past the ‘buy now’ tourist experience into the heart of the country’s people, there’s a generosity that defies reason."

Mike Slater


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