A sign post for the town of Palma in the restive Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique. Picture: Club of Mozambique/Twitter
A sign post for the town of Palma in the restive Cabo Delgado province in Mozambique. Picture: Club of Mozambique/Twitter

Local businesses under threat amid terror in Mozambique

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Mar 30, 2021

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DURBAN - SOUTH African business interests in Mozambique are under threat after the outbreak of violence and a siege of the strife-torn town of Palma, where at least seven people have been killed.

This was the view of Professor Irrshad Kaseeram, a lecturer on economics and international political economy, who said yesterday that the latest chapter of the perpetual invasion of terrorists into the Cabo Delgado province would result “in major uncertainties and deep losses” for local businesses.

While the largest concentration of the Total LNG natural gas would be compromised, a number of local private investors in cheap real estate and other projects would be adversely affected, the University of Zululand-based economist said.

“The implications for South Africa are an inflow of displaced people, and a longer wait at a higher price for the gas supply. All related (business) deals and projects involving South African-based companies will now be delayed (thus having a major knock-on effect on the local economy),” said Kaseeram.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) said poverty and unemployment were among the challenges facing Mozambique that were being used by the insurgents as stimulus to garner support.

Uncertainty still surrounds the number of people killed – including a Durban man – in last week’s attacks in the northern region, with Mozambique putting the death toll at seven.

Durban resident Adrian Nel, 40, died in an ambush while in a getaway vehicle with his brother and father as they tried to leave the Amarula Lodge Hotel.

The ISS’s Martin Ewi said the al-Shabaab militia group had claimed to be fighting to force the government to fast-track poverty alleviation and youth unemployment programmes.

However, the real root cause of the violence, which he described as terrorism, was to pursue an ideological movement related to Islamic fundamentalism.

Their modus operandi had been seen in other African states, including by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Allied Democratic Force in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Somalia, he said.

“These militia groups often take advantage of the challenges facing the public. These may include drugs, crime, poverty, marginalisation and unemployment. They then pronounce that they are fighting to pressure a government that is uncaring about these challenges. This they say to try to solicit support from society for their actions, whose underlying foundation is simply to destabilise governments,” said Ewi, who added that the violence-ravaged province was characterised by high poverty and unemployment levels.

Kaseeram described the violence as a typical scenario in most underdeveloped regions of the world.

“Cabo Delgado is one of the most neglected areas where poverty is extreme and most social development indicators are among the lowest. This creates a breeding ground for organised crime, political elites and extremist religious groups to take root and fulfil their own agendas. The region is well known for the smuggling of precious stones, wildlife poaching and drug trafficking,” said Kaseeram.

Amid mounting pressure for South Africa and the rest of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene, Ewi said the issue of sovereignty was sacrosanct among the SADC and other African countries, and that it would impede any wish to deploy the military at the Distrito de Palma town under the control of the militia.

“So unless there is a request or consent by Mozambique for help, a military rescue mission is not as yet likely to happen.

“The Mozambican government is still treating this issue as a domestic matter that they can address,” Ewi said.

In a statement, Mozambique emphasised the issue of its sovereignty, insisting it was capable of handling the insurgents.

“The Defence and Security Forces (SDS) have the mission of defending territorial integrity, sovereignty, national unity and protecting citizens’ lives and assets, always in strict compliance with human rights,” stated the Ministry of Defence.

“The SDS reaffirm its tenacity to defend territorial integrity as well as protect citizens and national interests, under the leadership of its Commander-in-Chief, President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi.

“The main objective of this cowardly incursion on the part of the terrorists was to terrorise the population and to threaten the development of infrastructure that will improve living conditions in the country,” a statement read.

Kobus Marais, the DA’s spokesperson on defence, called for a troop surge comprising SADC member countries.

International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) spokesperson Clayton Monyela said: “A decision on the issue of military involvement can only be taken by the SADC. At the moment, the government there indicates they are in control,” Monyela said.

THE MERCURY

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