Maputo - Mozambican hotel and resort owners are calling for calm after a brutal raid on a Maputo guest house in which patrons were robbed and a woman was gang-raped on Tuesday.
A Hillcrest couple and their daughter narrowly escaped the attack, which saw a group of 20 men armed with automatic rifles storm the Casa Lisa lodge north of Maputo, holding international guests at gunpoint and ransacking cars and trailers.
The Hayward family fled the lodge under automatic gunfire after they were woken by screams from other guests begging for their lives.
They drove frantically to a main road where they hailed South African minibus taxis for aid, and have since relocated to another lodge close to the border for the remainder of their holiday.
In November, the Sunday Tribune published a special report on Mozambique, detailing a spate of rampant kidnappings in Maputo and an escalation in political violence in the centre and north of the country. Several gangs of violent kidnappers had targeted affluent families and snatched children for ransom.
In one incident, a 13-year-old boy was tortured and killed after his parents called the police, against the instructions of the kidnappers.
The mineral-rich country teetered on the brink of renewed civil war during local elections, as sporadic skirmishes between government forces and Renamo rebels continued in the north, characterised by guerrilla-like ambushes on civilian and army convoys.
International mining giant Rio Tinto evacuated families of employees at the height of the violence.
Casa Lisa owner Bruce Buckland broke his silence on the issue and said that visitors to the country had no cause for alarm.
“It is an isolated incident, and it is a very rare occurrence and, that said, it is something expected to never happen again,” he said.
“We are having meetings with police and the local tourism department, and we are certainly not letting this thing lie. We are getting hold of the government to try to avoid this happening in future,” Buckland added.
He said that he had run the lodge for 13 years without incident.
“We feel that it is an isolated incident, and we don’t know where these people have come from, and I don’t think people should be afraid of travelling to Mozambique,” he said.
Blue Anchor Inn owner Paul Hallowes said the attack was an isolated incident.
“They (Casa Lisa) are actually our next-door neighbours, and there is only a thin hedge dividing our properties.
“On the night in question, it was our security guards who raised the alarm by pressing a panic button which set off a siren and strobe light that sent the gang running,” he said.
Hallowes said the incident had been sensationalised in the press.
“I think people are just blowing this incident out of proportion, and really that is not necessary. This incident is extremely isolated, and I know nothing of any marauding gang that has been reported,” he added.
“A lot of Mozambicans learn their trade (crime) in South Africa, and they bring it back over to this country when they cross the border.
“I have no doubt that they will flood back into South Africa looking for work in the new year,” he said.
He said he had employed a good security contingent because of opportunistic criminals, and because it was a norm of the hospitality industry.
“An incident of this escalated violence stands out, because we seldom have occurrences like it. We have security in place because of opportunistic criminals, because the gap between the haves and have-nots is so large. The people are hungry in this country,” Hallowes said.
He moved to allay fears, saying that tourists did not need to stay away from the lush tropical paradise.
“There is no need to panic and no need to stay away. Despite inaccurate reports, the police responded promptly and have even posted two armed policemen at the lodge round the clock, so as to make sure that nothing like this happens again,” he said.
“There was a similar robbery in Cape Town on the same night, and I don’t see that anywhere in the papers,” he added.
Clayson Monyela, spokesman for the Department of International Relations and Co-operation, said the attack on South African nationals had not been reported to the country’s embassy in Maputo.
“I know nothing about this incident, and in fact this is the first I am hearing of it,” he said.
He added that no calls for consular assistance had been made, but if it was required, the department would intervene.