I refer to the recent article concerning the arrest, imprisonment and death of Andre Hanekom. I am surprised that such a tragic incident has not occurred sooner in Mozambique and wonder how many other people have narrowly escaped a similar fate in Africa, in general, and in Mozambique in particular.
I have visited Mozambique twice in the past three years on hunting trips — one to Marromeu via Beira and the other to northern Mozambique via Pemba. Each time my paperwork was in order and yet each time I was harassed on entry and exit from the country. On the last occasion, the head of police at Beira airport accused me of exporting armour-piercing ammunition from the country. I was surrounded by three policeman and six soldiers as my “meet and greet” person tried in vain to extricate me from an increasingly loud and threatening situation.
The ammunition in question consisted of four cartridges of clearly stamped .375 Norma hunting ammunition loaded with solid bullets in the original factory box along with 12 cartridges of .375 Norma hunting ammunition with soft-nosed bullets. I had shot only two animals on my 10-day hunt and they were the cartridges left over from the 20 I had originally imported and for which I had all the necessary permits.
What saved me was that the pilot of the charter plane on which I had flown from the hunting area to Beira saw what was happening, knew the chief of police in Beira, called him and got him to come to the airport and secure my release. But for this, I may well have ended up in a similar position to Hanekom whose only fault, I believe, was to have a few pangas, some gunpowder for reloading purposes and some air/sea rescue flares.
The opposition to the government in Mozambique has been steadily growing in recent years, as reflected in the increasing percentages of the vote won by opposition parties in recent national elections — particularly Renamo. The government has not been prepared to let the ballot box determine their fate and have used the forces under their control to try to stamp out the opposition.
On my visits to the country, including one during the most recent national elections, it became clear that the northern half of the country was solidly behind Renamo. I was shown a video on a mobile phone, purportedly of a convoy of new Nissan Patrol 4x4s apparently belonging to Renamo, which had been shot up by government forces and a large number of apparently dead people lying next to them. The person who showed me the video said he had taken it shortly after the attack. He is not connected to any political party in Mozambique and I believed he was speaking the truth as he had nothing to gain by lying.
Having said that, I am aware that allegations have been made that Hanekom may have been arrested, incarcerated and killed to enable people to acquire his valuable beachfront property in Pemba. If this is so, it will not be the first time the government in Mozambique has done such a thing. The late Adelino Pires and his son were taken prisoner, tortured, illegally incarcerated and flown to Tanzania by or with the collusion of the Mozambique government after being paid to do so by a South African who wanted to acquire their very successful safari outfitting business. An account of these events can be read in Winds of Havoc by Adelino Pires.
On the other hand, as someone who has managed businesses in nine African countries and travelled to 19 in total over the years, I can attest to the fact that it is increasingly difficult to obtain permission to travel and do business in Africa and that the level of inefficiency, bureaucracy and corruption make it ever more difficult and fraught when you do so.
In recent times I have had a gun barrel pressed into my chest while a drunken policeman screamed at me to give him money at a roadblock (Republic of Congo); had my guide arrested and thrown into jail on charges of murder after he was speared in the forearm and axed in the leg by nomads from Sudan who had illegally invaded a government-designated hunting area after paying a significant bribe to the provincial governor (Chad); and been kept waiting for hours at immigration because the official demanded “the other paper” in addition to my perfectly valid visa (Cameroon). I can go on and on.
I have a friend who says that the countries that most need tourism to make it the most difficult to go there. And, I would add, to leave there once you have visited. This applies to Africa in spades and, in my humble opinion, is getting worse.
Unfortunately, what happened to Hanekom is not an isolated incident. Ordinary, innocent people going about their ordinary day-to-day business in Africa increasingly suffer the same fate as Hanekom. The only difference is that, in Hanekom’s case, the tragic, awful and avoidable matter has been publicised. DM
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Peter Hamilton Flack is a South African lawyer, businessman and hunter. See his Wikipedia profile here.