Police confront protestors at S.A. border

Mozambican workers in Ressano Garcia, on the border with South Africa, on Friday expelled South Africans from their workplaces, and barricaded the road to the frontier.

Infuriated by the attacks against foreign workers in South Africa, the Mozambican workers in the companies WBO, Wartsila and Gigawatt demanded that the South Africans leave. They did not resort to violence against their South African colleagues.

“Today we decided to expel these insensitive South Africans”, said one of the Mozambican demonstrators, Asher Quive. “They work here, but they don’t want our brothers to work in South Africa. If that’s the case, let them get out of here. We don’t want them.

The improvised barricades were supposed to prevent vehicles with South African number plates from entering Mozambique. “We don’t want the South Africans to come into our country, just as they don’t want us there”, said Quive.

Quive said the police moved quickly to dismantle the barricades, and briefly detained him as the supposed leader of the unrest. “The police released me when my colleagues demanded that they let me go”, Quive told reporters.

The disturbances effectively closed the border for several hours. The police fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators, and they replied by throwing stones at the police. One of the demonstrators, named only as Mavumane, was arrested.

When traffic across the border resumed the police escorted South African vehicles. But by late afternoon the situation at the border had returned to normal.

Some of the bus companies that ply the Maputo-Johannesburg complained that they had suffered heavy losses. Some of the morning buses turned back rather than attempt to cross the border, and the fares paid by the passengers had to be repaid. The companies also reported anxious would-be passengers phoning up to cancel tickets.

In Maputo, Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario told reporters on Friday evening that, despite indignation at the anti-foreigner pogroms, Mozambicans should not retaliate

“We are continuing to monitor the situation, in order to save the lives of Mozambicans resident in South Africa”, he said, “but all of us, we mustn’t retaliate to situations like this”.

He urged both Mozambicans and foreigners living in Mozambique to stay calm “because the Mozambican government is handling the situation adequately”.

Rosario repeated the same message on Saturday morning at a ceremony in the southern city of Matola, where he was launching a national sanitation campaign organized by the Health Ministry. Retaliation, he said, would only worsen the wave of violence

“We cannot repeat the bad actions of the South Africans here in our country”, he said. “If we retaliate, we will be generating more violence here, which will also be repeated in South Africa, and so the violence will never end”.

Furthermore, expelling South African workers from companies would have a damaging effect on the Mozambican economy, leading to increased unemployment.

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