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Mozambique: Reactions to an Everyday Urban Tragedy

Last week, Mozambican readers of the newspaper @Verdade reacted to the tragic and all-too-normal story of a man whose needless death was recounted by reporter Victor Bulande (@VictorBulande). He heard of the story on his way to work on Monday November 21, 2011, in Maputo and stopped in the Alto Maé neighborhood, where he live-tweeted his reporting on the case:

@VictorBulande: #policia leva mais de 24 horas para socorrer um indivíduo que perdeu sentidos na via publica. Isso deu-se a menos de 200m de duas esquadras.

@VictorBulande: #police took more than 24 hours to come to the assistance of a man who passed out on the street. This happened less than 200m from two police stations.
Flip flop carnage in a market in Maputo. Photo by KimMaxPhoto on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Flip flop carnage in a market in Maputo. Photo by KimMaxPhoto on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

@VictorBulande: Cidadãos participaram o caso a policia varias vezes e esta dizia que estava a caminho, desde ontem. @verdademz

@VictorBulande: Citizens took the case numerous times to the police, who said they were on their way, since yesterday [Sunday, November 20]. @verdademz

@VictorBulande: “Passaram por aqui vários carros da policia mas não paravam, e nos não podíamos mexer nele. Tivemos medo”, dizem testemunhas. @verdademz

@VictorBulande: “A number of times police cars passed by here but did not stop, and we couldn't move him. We were scared,” said witnesses. @verdademz

@VictorBulande: O indivíduo acaba de perder a vida. Nem deu tempo de ser observado pela equipa médica. Foi levado a Morgue do HCM. @verdademz

@VictorBulande: The individual has just died. There was not even time for him to be attended to by medics. He was taken to the Morgue of the Central Hospital. @verdademz

@Verdade reporter Bulande published a story on the incident, in which he explains that the deceased did not carry identification and that he was not known to people in the market or in the neighborhood.

It was assumed that “João Ninguém” (literally “John Nobody”), a man roughly 40 years old, had been drinking potent alcoholic drinks known as “bebidas secas” which are essentially unregulated doses sold in small bottles or plastic pouches.

Two empty sachets of "Power's No1" pure cane spirit. Photo by John Duffel on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Two empty sachets of "Power's No1" pure cane spirit. Photo by John Duffel on Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The police, when interviewed, said they did not respond because they “do not work on weekends” and they had an obligatory training exercise in the early hours of that Monday.

As Bulande originally tweeted:

@VictorBulande: A policia so começou a movimentar-se quando viu a nossa equipa de reportagem. Foram pedir ajuda a um “chapa 100″.

@VictorBulande: The police only started to get moving when they saw us here reporting. They went to get help from a minibus.

One outraged reader called Neuson commented on the newspaper's website [pt]:

Lamento bastante mas o nosso pais esta podre,tanto de corruptos bem como de pessoas sem coracao.Qual foi a sansacao aplicada aos policias que tiveram conhecimento do caso e nada fizeram?Um final de semana de descanso enquanto ca fora as pessoas vao morrendo.E lamentavel.

I regret to say it, but our country is rotten, with so many corrupt and heartless people. What was the sanction applied to the police who knew of the case and did nothing? A weekend's rest while out here people are dying. It's unfortunate.

The story really moved readers, as it was shared more on Facebook 27 times, more than most local news of this kind. Some commented on the story on the newspaper's Facebook wall [pt].

Reader Abudo Domingos wrote accusingly:

epa k notic ma sera k a polic nao pdia ajudar da 7 xquard afinal elex servc pra k? Sou pra roubar sou

Geez horrible newz could it be that police cldnt help from Esquadron7 what r they 4 anyways? Only to steal.

Another reader asked why the police do not do more to control the sale of “bebidas secas”.

One reader asked why an ambulance was not called and why the police was responsible. Others asked what consequences a Good Samaritan could face if for some reason the police or others decided to blame them for the man's death.

We are all complicit”

On Facebook [pt], reader Antonio Jamisse wrote:

SOMOS TODOS CÚMPLICES! Só terá algo connosco quando formos nós!

WE ARE ALL COMPLICIT! It will only have something to do with us when it's our turn!

Jamisse was reacting to the newspaper's strong editorial on the story Somos todos cúmplices (We are all complicit) [pt], which provoked many responses. @Bedylicious quoted the editorial [pt] in her tweet:

Vivemos demasiadamente concentrados nas nossas “vidinhas”, nas nossas “guerrinhas” e no nosso desejo de ascensão social que ignoramos que nada somos nada sem os outros

We live too concentrated on our “little lives” and our “little wars” and our desire for social advancement that we ignore that we are nothing without others.

Ridwan Nabi responded on Facebook [pt], referring to the infamous case of a hit and run in China:

Li uma historia parecida a algum tempo atras sobre uma situacao parecida na China, uma crianca foi atropelada e deixada na rua, com gente a passar sem fazer nada.

I read about a similar situation in China a while ago, a child that was run over and left in the street, with people passing by without doing anything.

Gledson Simão Jacinto Guambe also commented on Facebook [pt]:

Infelizmente essa atitude reflecte o nosso respeito pela vida humana, é fácil culpar a policia, mas ela não é mais que o nosso próprio espelho… a nossa sociedade está doente…

Unfortunately this reflects our respect for human life, it's easy to blame the police, but the police is nothing more than our mirror… our society is sick…

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