Mozambique: Police Attack Protesting Workers

On the 6th of April, officials of a branch of the Police of the Republic of Mozambique (PRM) – the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR)  – used violence to put an end to a protest by the employees of the private security firm Group Four Security (G4S).

Allegedly [pt] G4S has been illegally discounting employees’ salaries, and they were now complaining about an worsening situation since June 2010. At the demonstration, workers appealed for payment of unreasonable discounted pay by the employer, as well as for the payment of holiday bonuses and overtime.

Screenshot from the video featuring FIRs violent intervention. Available on Youtube by verdadetruth.

Screenshot from the video featuring FIRs violent intervention. Available on Youtube by verdadetruth.

On Facebook, the jurist Hbro Chipas says that the workers strike was illegal, for not having been convened according to “what the law calls for”. Chipas analyses the case, claiming that there are “two perspectives” [pt] on the attack:

a da violência gratuita protagonizada pelos agentes da FIR, e a outra, os estragos perpetrados pelos seguranças

that of the gratuitous violence by the Rapid Intervention Force agents, and the other, of the damage done by the security guards

In a comment on the Facebook page of the newspaper @Verdade, photographer Hugo Costa corroborates Chipas’ observation.

Uns acham que “fazer greve” significa que têm o direito de agir como selvagens e vandalizarem tudo o que encontram pela frente destruindo propriedade privada e agredindo quem não tem nada a ver com o que reivindicam; e os outros acham que “intervenção policial” significa ter luz verde para demonstrações de violência gratuita e abuso de autoridade gozando de plena imunidade!!

Some think that to go on strike means that you have the right to act like wild men and vandalize everything before them destroying private property that has nothing to do with their complaint; and others think that “police intervention” means a green light for demonstrations of gratuitous violence and abuse of authority enjoying full immunity!!

Independent of the “two perspectives” presented, Chipas found the police action against the strikers to be brutal and added:

espero que as autoridades competentes nao fiquem impávidas e serenas perante essa situação deveras chocante. Aquele senhor  nao constituía nenhum perigo futuro nem iminente, não fornecendo qualquer tipo de resistência.

I hope that the competent authorities do not remain unmoved and silent faced with this truly shocking situation. That guy did not constitute any future or imminent danger, not putting up any kind of resistance.

In one video of TVM, one sees the violent reaction of the officers of the Rapid Intervention Force who set upon a G4S security guard who has already been subdued and put into the police truck.

The video unleashed a number of reactions of disgust in the citizen media, and it was principally via Facebook that numerous Mozambicans, and foreigners, showed their indignation with such acts of violence.

Referring to the statement [pdf] of the Liga Moçambicana de Direitos Humanos (LDH) [Human Rights League] – that demands the investigation into those responsible for the attack and the firing of the commander of the Rapid Intervention Force, General Binda – psychologist Linette Olofsson wrote:

inaceitável num Estado de Direito! Faz-me lembrar dos tempos da ditadura em Moçambique, 1975-1994 onde não se respeitava os Direitos Humanos; (ainda hoje são violados com se vê) O comandante da FIR deve ser demitido imediatamente. Segundo a LDH, este mesmo Comandante fez estragos na Província de Nampula. O nosso Estado ainda é dominado por militaristas camuflados de democratas! São horríveis estas cenas.

It is unacceptable under the rule of law! It makes me remember the time of the dictatorship in Mozambique, 1975-1994 where human rights were not respected; (even today they are being violence as we see). The commander of the Rapid Intervention Force should be fired immediately. According to the LDH, this same Commander did damage in Nampula. Our State is still dominated by militarists camouflaged as democrats! These are horrible scenes.
Relatório da Amnistia Internacional "Licença Para Matar - Responsabilização da Polícia em Moçambique" (2008) .pdf

"People are more scared of the police than of criminals", Amnesty International report "License to Kill – Holding the Police Responsible in Mozambique" (2008) .pdf

In Mozambique violence by police officers who should be upholding law and order is nothing new, as showed a report published in 2008 by Amnesty International – License to Kill. A year later, in 2009, another report by Amnesty – I don't Believe in Justice Anymore (Já não acredito na Justiça [Pt])- documents various “cases of homicide committed by the police in Mozambique”.

A similar case to that at the G4S workers protest occurred in April 2009, when a policeman fired on striking construction workers [Pt]. 

Also during the popular revolt of September 1 and 2 of 2010 (reported by Global Voices) the police fired against protesters, killing 11 people, according to a report [Pt] by the Center for Public Integrity.

Oflia Macie, a student, commented:

Estes polícias pensam que podem fazer o que quiserem e nada é feito por eles…eu pessoalmente ja vi 2 polícias em Tete agora em fevereiro batendo em dois miudos dos seus 12 e 13 anos de idade so porque não tinham BI, aí sairam chapadas, murros, pontapés e ate bateram-lhes com a própria AKM, quando viram que os miudos ja estavam a sangrar levaram-nos para a 1ª Esquadra… eu pergunto eles estao para proteger, fazer justiça? ou para pôr terror a população?? E estes da FIR são os piores selvagens!!

These police think that they can do whatever they want and nothing will be done to them… I personally saw 2 police in Tete in February beating two 12 and 13 year old kids just because they didn't have their identity cards, so they were left to be hit, punched, kicked and they even beat them with their AK rifles, and when they saw the kids were bleeding, they took them to the police station… I ask if they are there to protect, or mete out justice? Or to terrorize the population? And these FIR are worse than savages!!

During the police intervention against the G4S workers, 24 protesters were detained and are imprisoned in the cells of the 18th precinct of the Police. Unconfirmed reports [Pt] indicate that one G4S worker lost his life during the violent blows he suffered during the brutal intervention. To date, all of the FIR officers remain free.

On the presumed death of the firm's security guard, on Facebook Inusso Mario Jojo Mutambe appealed to a mobilization

toda G4S a nível nacional deveria fazer uma marcha atê a FIR

All of the G4S [employees] at a national level should march on the FIR

Communications and marketing specialist Celso Miguel shared his indignation

até quando teremos de viver com essas impunidades??? uma vida se foi, uma mulher ficou viúva, crianças ficaram sem pai, o país perdeu um cidadão… esses polícias se esquecem que os impostos que aquele indivíduo descontava, todo santo mês, servia também para pagar o salário dele??? nunca soube! sinceramente, quem se responsabiliza????? QUEM????… é revoltante ver uma coisa destas acontecer no nosso país!!!! Quem nos devia defender é quem nos mata!!!!

How long must we live with this impunity??? A life is lost, a woman has been made widow, children are left without a father, the country lost a citizen… these police forget that the taxes that man paid, every blessed month, also paid their salaries??? never knew! Sincerely, who will take responsibility???? WHO????… it is revolting to see this kind of thing in our country!!!! Those who should protect us are those who kill us!!!!

For Ivone Gonçalves there are still “many barriers” to the implementation of human rights in Mozambique. Pessimist in what relates to justice, she laments:

Infelizmente o Ministro do Interior nada vai fazer para punir os agressores e como sempre vão ficar impunes porque não existe justiça no nosso País. A justiça só funciona para o ladrão de galinha!

Unfortunately the Ministry of the Interior will do nothing to punish the aggressors and as always they will enjoy impunity because there is no justice in our Country. Justice only works against chicken thieves!

To conclude, Boa Matule appeals to unity against intimidation:

Isto é resultado de uma força politizada e cujo único objectivo é intimidar as pessoas! Mas a verdade é que nós somos maiores que eles! Unidos podemos revolutionar Moz [Moçambique].

This is the result of a politicized force whose only objective is to intimidate people! But the truth is we are greater than they are! Together we can revolutionize Moz[ambique].

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