After connecting through Johannesburg (plus a great meal on the plane), I arrived in Maputo and got in the Visa On Arrival line. It was a bit disorganized and slow, but they accepted cards (no need for local cash, which is hard to have at arrival), got my visa, and met the guy my AirBNB host had arranged to pick me up.
Just from the drive to the apartment, I should’ve seen the foreshadowing of things to come. We were stopped, the police wanted to see my passport, and the driver said they were probably trying for a bribe, but he had luckily gone to primary school with one of the guys, and we were sent on our way.
The apartment was nice and had a great view.
I was really confused by the elevator buttons, though.
I enjoyed the walk out to the coast and walking along Avenida Julis Nyerere.
That night, I met up with a fellow traveler on the quest for every country, and we had Indian food for dinner. In fact, we had dinner again the next night and went to Kwetu, a restaurant I’d seen on Happy Cow. I was super pumped that they had feijoada on the menu. We talked about the ups and downs of Maputo, since he’s there often for work, the police corruption, and things I should make sure to check out while there.
A great tip I got was to check out the Vila Algarve, which had been a secret police prison/torture site during the independence struggle against Portugal.
It’s rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of those tortured here, such that the homeless won’t even sleep here. It’s now owned by the government, with plans to do…something…with it, but no one can decide what to do. Creepy!
Next, I caught a taxi down to the main train station and figured I’d start exploring that area.
I walked past the port and fishery and then came across the old fort.
From here, I saw some awesome buildings en route to the central market
I bargained on some gifts and was happy with my wares, so I set off again.
Remember all of that foreshadowing?
At the independence square, there’s this giant statue (pic 1), a church to the right (pic 2), and then this smaller statue to the side, near the botanical garden and tourist info center. I went halfway up the steps to that statue to read the plaque and take a picture. A police car pulled up and motioned for me to get down. As I was descending, they pulled around and yelled for me to come over.
It turns out their ‘motion to get down’ was supposed to mean ‘come here,’ and they were mad I hadn’t obeyed. They were even more mad that I didn’t have my passport on me and wanted to see proof of when I’d arrived/when I was leaving. Showing them my US driver’s license didn’t count as ID. Showing them a pic of my passport didn’t count. Showing them my flight itinerary on my phone didn’t count. No matter what they asked for, it wasn’t good enough. “Get in the car.” Why? I tried and tried to de-escalate the situation, asked them to apply logic, etc. Nope. “Get in the car” was all they could say. They needed to take me to headquarters to make sure I wasn’t in the country illegally.
When I kept delaying, 2 of them finally got out and said, “We are authorized to use force, including deadly force, if you don’t comply.” They pulled out their billy clubs and waved them in my face. “5…4…3…2…” Reluctantly, and with a push on my back making the final decision for me, I was in the backseat of the car. Great.
Wouldn’t you know it, we didn’t go to the police station. We started slloooowwwlllyyyy driving down deserted streets while they told me about how many laws I was breaking, inventing laws like ‘being too close to the statue’ and telling me (what I learned later may be a real law) that I could go to prison for 5 years for not having my passport on me. Of course, if I gave the 3 of them $500 US each, they’d look the other way.
“Are you in condition to pay? If not, we can help you change your mind.” More waving of the billy clubs.
At a red light, I jumped out and ran for my fucking life. I knew that corrupt cops trying to shake down tourists didn’t want a crowd (and I knew that being in the car alone with them was the least safe space possible), so I ran for the crowded botanical garden and discovered the tourism office I’d not noticed when I first passed. I ran there shouting “Ajuda me! Ajuda me!” Help me! Help me! in Portuguese.
The staff at the tourism office was sad but not surprised about what had happened. They helped me call the US Embassy, I took off the long sleeve shirt and hat I’d been wearing, so I wouldn’t look so identifiable from far away, and I headed out of the area, back to where my AirBNB was.
There, I recounted the full story to security at the US Embassy over the phone, who basically said, “We will report this, and we’re sorry, but we are 0% surprised.” Something to that effect. Mozambique seems like it could be great, and your average person in Maputo seems awesome, but the police there are awful.
Every person I know who has been to Maputo in 2018 has had a problem.
- Robbery at gunpoint by the police for friend 1.
- Theft of credit cards and fraudulent charges of $10,000 for friend 2.
- Police masturbating / gesturing at female tourist for friend 3.
Don’t go to Maputo. I’ve heard the national parks on the other side of the country are great.
I stayed indoors until time for my ride to the airport very early the next morning and just hoped against hope we wouldn’t get shaken down on the drive back.
I hope Maputo falls into the sea and drags down its police force with it.This entry was posted in Africa