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Criminal gangs are looting fuel and merchandise from trucks leaving the central Mozambican port of Beira, according to a report carried by the independent television station STV.
The thefts are organized, and the criminals not only live near the port, but also keep the stolen fuel in informal deposits at their homes. This is an extremely dangerous practice, and about two years ago one of these informal fuel deposits burst into flames, killing three people.
This disaster resulted in short-lived attempts by the police, in coordination with the publicly-owned port and rail company, CFM, to halt the thefts, but the thieves have returned in force, and users of Beira port complain that they must be receiving some protection.
One transport operator complained “at the entrance to Beira port, the criminals operate in groups of five to ten individuals and nobody resists. Where is our police force?”
Transport Minister Carlos Mesquita,some of the participants said that dishonest businessmen and drivers were also involved in the thefts. A clear example of this was the Malawian driver who cooperated in the theft of fuel from the tanker truck he was driving from Beira to Malawi.
This truck was diverted from the main road to the locality of Caphiridzange, in Moatize district, in Tete province. During the theft of the fuel, the tanker exploded, and 104 people died of the burns they received in this tragedy.
There was a whole criminal network that distributed stolen fuel, accused one transporter, Pedro Duarte. “We are dealing with individuals who have the financial capacity to buy trucks and tanks just to move stolen fuel”, he warned.
Elcidio Madeira, representing the Sofala Association of Transport Operators, told the meeting that the association was drawing up a register of all drivers employed in road transport. “Currently, we have drivers whose wages are being docked, because they were caught selling fuel on the roads”, he said.
Madeira added that the penalties will be increased, and such drivers will now lose their jobs, and will not be employed by any transporter in Sofala province.
One truck driver, Raice Eduardo, told STV, “we are being assaulted everyday, morning, afternoon and night. These youths who attack us, they live here in this Beira neighbourhood. They are youths we know. We know who they are and where they live. The authorities also know, but nothing happens to them”.
“They move around in gangs”, said Eduardo. “Some Mozambican and foreign drivers prefer to strike up friendships with them. They offer them money or other goods in order not to be assaulted. Those who won’t collaborate with them are frequently assaulted and our lives are at risk. Even when the truck is moving they climb up and threaten us”.
The sense of impunity is such that some of the thieves had no problem being filmed by STV and boasted openly of their crimes. One of these youths, Abuchamo Andrigo, said “yes, we do assault vehicles. We are seeking to survive. We were born and grew up here in this neighbourhood, and we don’t have any source of income. It hurts to see truckloads of products entering and leaving the port, and driving past our homes”.
He justified the thefts on the grounds that they had been unable to obtain jobs at CFM, or in companies that work in the port.
Mesquita told an inter-ministerial commission has been set up, headed by the Ministry of the Interior, to halt the theft of fuel and other merchandise. This work, he insisted, had to involve not only government ministries, but also the transport operators, the fuel distributors, the provincial governments and the public at large “in order to control the criminals”.Source: AIM
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