MAPUTO, April 18 — Mozambican workers in Inhambane and Tete province have retaliated against the wave of anti-foreigner riots in South Africa by attempting to expel South African workers from the country.
At Temane, in Inhambane, demonstrators demanded that South African workers leave the natural gas processing plant operated by the South African petro-chemical giant Sasol.
According to a report in the independent newssheet “Mediafax”, the demonstrators threw up barricades, preventing access to the factory.
They wanted all South Africans, whether employed directly by Sasol, or by sub-contracted companies to leave. Protestors interviewed by reporters said that, if Mozambicans were not welcome in South Africa, then neither should South Africans be welcome in Mozambique.
Local police had to request back-up from the district capital, Inhassoro. “There are lots of demonstrators”, one police source said. “The local police are unable to hold them back”.
All work at the factory stopped, “Mediafax” reported. The South Africans left the plant, and by the afternoon they had gone to the nearby town of Vilankulo.
“They are mistreating our brothers in their country, and we shouldn’t tolerate that”, said one demonstrator, Alberto Zafo. “We don’t need to see any South Africans in this district. We’re tired of being humiliated”.
Inhambane provincial governor Agostinho Trinta had to abandon a planned visit to Inharrime district, in the south of the province, and went to Temane to talk to the protestors instead. He urged the workers to show a spirit of forgiveness, but this was met with shouts of “no!” The governor insisted that they should not resort to practices of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.
Sasol downplayed the disturbances. A Sasol statement claimed that only the work of a company sub-contracted to assemble new compressors was affected. “The operations of the Central Processing Unit are continuing normally”, it said, “but the activities of the low pressure gas compression project are being interrupted for some time”.
There were also protests at the presence of South Africans at the coal mine run by the Brazilian company Vale at Moatize, in Tete province. These South Africans were working for Kentz, an engineering company that provides services for Vale.
There was no violence against these South Africans, and Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi later told reporters they had been “evacuated to a safe place”. That “safe place” was in South Africa – two planeloads of South Africans, carrying over 400 people, were reported to have flown from Tete to Johannesburg.
The number of Mozambican victims of the pogroms in Durban, who now want to return to Mozambique, has risen to 450, according to the Mozambican High Commissioner in South Africa, Fernando Fazenda. They are concentrated in three accommodation centres on the outskirts of Durban.
The first group, of about 90 Mozambicans, left Durban in two buses on Thursday morning. The Mozambican authorities are accommodating them in a provisional transit centre in Boane, about 30 kilometres west of Maputo.
“We have about 450 people in the accommodation centres ready to leave”, said Fazenda. “We’ve had to hire immediately a further six buses to continue evacuating people”.
Deputy Interior Minister Jose Coimbra is in South Africa working with the Mozambican teams already on the ground assisting the victims, and maintaining contacts with the South African authorities.
At a Maputo press conference, Baloi urged that there should be no reprisals against South Africans resident in Mozambique. “We have every right to be indignant”, he said, “but we do not have the right to take the law into our own hands”.