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Mozambique 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Mozambique; Africa > Mozambique > Maputo

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Maputo does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MAPUTO AS BEING A CRITICAL- THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Mozambique webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Mozambique, a country in southern Africa, is neighbored by Tanzania to the north; Swaziland and South Africa to the south; the Indian ocean to the east; and Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to the west. All borders, including the eastern coast and airports, are porous and facilitate trafficking drugs, humans, and illicit wildlife products. While lack of opportunity prevents most illegal traffickers from settling in Mozambique, the constant flux of people and goods brings with it nefarious elements and businesses.

Mozambique is a developing country that has been steadily rebuilding its economy and civic institutions since the 16-year civil war ended in 1992. The country stabilized following Mozambique's first multi-party elections in October 1994, and the current president was elected in October 2014. Despite high economic growth rates in recent years, in 2016 GDP growth fell to a 15-year low and is expected to remain between 4% and 5% in 2017 -- well below the 7% average of the last decade. Mozambique remains among the world's poorest countries, with a gross national income (GNI) of approximately U.S.$590 per capita. Ranked near the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, poverty is endemic. High unemployment rates, weak investment in employment-generating industries, and low incomes associated with work in the informal sector create conditions of gross economic hardship. The 2016 revelation of $1.4 billion in previously undisclosed, state-backed debt and Mozambique’s inability to service these loans, helped fuel a devaluation of the metical (MZN) by 33% against the dollar and inflation rates of 25%. High inflation rates and a depreciating currency dramatically increased the costs of goods for Mozambicans who depend on imports for much of their consumption. The difficult economic forecast for Mozambique could lead to a significant rise in crime in 2017. The official language is Portuguese, although English is also spoken in some tourist areas. Within rural areas, people speak a wide variety of local languages.

Crime Threats

The number of violent crimes is comparable to most other African countries. Assailants occasionally use forceful tactics, operate in organized groups, and carry weapons that increase the possibility of physical harm. Expatriates are frequent targets due to their perceived wealth.  

The majority of crimes against Americans and expatriates alike are non-violent crimes of opportunity (pickpocketing, theft of unattended possessions, vehicular break-ins, bag snatching). Thieves often attempt to distract a victim by asking questions, begging for money, bumping/jostling the individual, or offering to sell items. While the victim is distracted, an accomplice may take a piece of luggage or pick the victim’s pocket or purse. People walking the streets alone, especially at night, with purses, bags, or backpacks are frequently targeted, especially for electronics that are easily sold on the black market.

In 2016, Mozambique experienced a steady level of robberies and thefts as in previous years. The most frequent types of robberies generally involve several assailants who brandish weapons (knives, machetes, firearms). In most cases, assailants break contact with the victim after receiving cash/cell phone. During December and January, these types of crimes increase in frequency. If the economic downturn persists, the level of violent crime will likely rise.

Porous borders, endemic poverty, and proximity to South African markets make Mozambique vulnerable to organized criminal elements. Narco-trafficking, human smuggling, and trade in illicit/endangered animal products represents a growing threat to stability and security in Mozambique and the region.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybersecurity is still developing. The National Institute of Communications is working to improve the cybersecurity infrastructure, and banks and other public institutions are beginning to modernize and digitize their information. Instances of credit/debit card cloning are on the rise, but remain fairly low. Incidents of financial fraud and identity theft are increasing slightly, as is the use of counterfeit currency. 

Other Areas of Concern

Walking alone after dark is strongly discouraged. Do not walk on the beach at night.

Violent conflict between government forces and armed elements of the major opposition party rose dramatically in 2016, mostly in the four central provinces (Sofala, Manica, Tete, Zambezia) but with occasional reports of conflict in Niassa, Nampula, and Inhambane provinces. Attacks on civilian vehicles, military convoys, and commercial railway transportation as well as politically-motivated assassinations, kidnappings, and escort convoys for highway traffic occurred in these provinces. The U.S. Embassy and many other Western missions in Maputo restricted travel to several provinces during most of 2016. A cease-fire was announced in late December 2016, extended in January 2017 for 60 days, and (as of March 2017) is still in effect. The cease-fire is an important development in negotiations between the government and opposition elements, but only time will tell if the cease-fire evolves into a longer-term pause in the violence and if acceptable terms will be agreed to by both sides. 

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

One of the greatest personal safety threats is motor vehicles. Exercise extreme caution when near any road or motor vehicle traffic. Driving is often a challenging and dangerous activity. Maputo's streets are narrow, crowded, and in constant disrepair, despite recent road improvement projects. The lack of street lights, stop signs, traffic signals, sidewalks, and guardrails, combined with potholes and unpaved road surfaces increases the risk of injury or death for drivers and pedestrians. Local drivers may exhibit little consideration for pedestrians, other motorists’ right-of-way, and general safe driving practices. Motorbikes weave in/out of traffic, will drive on any flat surface or section of the road, and rarely adhere to traffic rules. Drinking and driving is a continuing concern that poses a significant risk.

During the rainy season, mud, deep puddles, flooding, glare from oncoming headlights, and occasional near-zero visibility present even greater challenges. Roads and bridges, especially outside Maputo, frequently wash out during the rainy season. Depending upon the destination, several hours of travel time may be added to an overland trip. During the dry season, dusty conditions can also impair visibility.

Always keep adequate space between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, to ensure you can maneuver in the event of a situation requiring escape from the area. Be aware of what is taking place outside of the vehicle. Always park in secure, illuminated locations. Do not hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers.

If you are involved in a vehicular accident, a large crowd may gather and may become hostile and aggressive. If this happens, get away from the scene and contact local police or Embassy personnel as you are able.

Traffic law enforcement consists of stationary traffic police on foot, typically wearing a white, short-sleeve shirt, randomly flagging down vehicles to inspect vehicle and identification documents and ensuring vehicles have required safety vests and emergency/warning triangles. Stationary traffic officers increasingly use speedometers. The number of documents and safety items required to be carried in the vehicle is extensive and constantly changing; the Embassy recommends that you keep abreast of these requirements and ensure that your vehicle has what is required. Lack of proper documentation can lead to bribe attempts from police, trips to the police station, and in some cases, the impounding of the vehicle.

The Marginal (coastal) Road in Maputo (south of the new Chinese-owned AFECC Gloria Hotel) and the green space above it winding up the hill is an area of increased violent criminal activity, and presence in this popular area requires constant vigilance. Roads outside of Maputo are poorly illuminated, poorly maintained, and can be hazardous to drive. Fuel stations and police assistance, especially outside of Maputo, are rare. The risk to drivers outside Maputo is heightened due to locals driving at high speeds and the presence of disabled vehicles in the road. U.S. Embassy personnel are prohibited from driving outside of Maputo (and other major cities) during the hours of darkness. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Maputo enjoys a new, Western-style airport facility. Although security procedures and passenger screening precautions at the Maputo International Airport are improving, they remain well below first-world standards. Outside Maputo, airport conditions deteriorate. LAM, the national airline, is not up to Western standards but is improving and has many expatriate pilots and mechanics, making air travel relatively safe. 

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MAPUTO AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

The local terrorism threat has remained unchanged over the last several years. There have been no known terrorist attacks against U.S. or Western interests inside of Mozambique. The regional and international terrorist threat, however, is growing. The expansion of al-Shabaab in eastern Africa, coupled with the recent rise of ISIS throughout the globe is of growing concern. Loose security protocols, lack of capacity, and corruption-related issues in the security services exacerbate these threats. 

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

There were no instances of political violence or terrorism directed against Americans in 2016. There is no known organization targeting American citizens or interests. There is little anti-American sentiment.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MAPUTO AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Regular violent clashes between government security forces and armed elements of major opposition party RENAMO in the central and northern provinces (Sofala, Manica, Tete, Zambezia) increased in 2016 and resulted in significant injuries and deaths on both sides. The government increased its security presence in these regions and in key towns/villages near RENAMO strongholds. These incidents occurred mostly in rural areas, but several clashes along major thoroughfares occurred, garnering attention from the public, media, and international community. The threat of violence has affected the tourism industry, specifically for wildlife parks. As of December 2016, a cease-fire was announced, was extended for 60 days in January 2017, and remains in effect. Negotiations between the government and RENAMO are expected to continue.

Visitors are cautioned to avoid any large crowds, public gatherings, or demonstrations. These scenarios have the potential of becoming unruly, which could result in serious physical injury.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Maputo is seasonally beset by torrential rains and lacks the drainage infrastructure to accommodate storm water runoff. As a result, low-lying parts of Maputo and major vehicle thoroughfares experience flashfloods during the rainy season (November-April). Overland travel using a 4x4 vehicle is recommended.

Critical Infrastructure

Weak regulation and law enforcement, large geography, dilapidated infrastructure, lack of capacity/resources, and widespread corruption (including alleged involvement of government officials) make trafficking of illicit wildlife products, illegal logging, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing major concerns. Rhinos were declared extinct in Mozambique in 2013 for the second time, and there is rampant elephant poaching in the Niassa National Reserve in the north. Rhino horns are trafficked from South Africa to Maputo, and ivory is taken from Cabo Delgado and Niassa to Tanzania or Pemba, bound for international destinations. Unregulated and illegal logging and fishing are serious in Niassa, Cabo Delgado, and along the 1,430 mile coastline. Purchase of rhino horns, ivory, and other animal products is illegal, but corruption makes criminal investigations and prosecutions difficult.

Economic Concerns

Authorities generally recognize the importance of a working intellectual property rights (IPR) protection regime for economic development and creation of wealth, but they struggle to identify and enforce IPR violations. With a small domestic market, limited manufacturing capacity, high transportation costs, and limited transportation infrastructure, Mozambique has limited potential as a gateway for the production or distribution of counterfeit goods into the region. 

Personal Identity Concerns

The government decriminalized consensual homosexual acts in 2015 but has not ruled on the registration application for a prominent LGBTI organization.

Drug-related Crimes

Narco-trafficking is a major, ongoing problem. Continued narcotics trafficking through Mozambique, with links to international organized crime syndicates and terrorist organizations, is an ongoing trend. The considerable wealth associated with the drug trade, aided by corruption and involvement of some government officials, destabilizes security. 

Kidnapping Threat

In recent years, kidnappings have targeted affluent persons of South Asian descent. The number of kidnapping incidents in 2016 rose slightly above those in 2015. Some kidnappings presumably go unreported, as suspicions of police involvement have, in at least a few cases, been proven true. The goal of kidnappers generally is a ransom payment for the victim’s release. Frequently, families pay, and their family member is released. In some cases, wealthy families have taken their children out of school and have fled after threats were made or out of fear of being victimized. In some cases, bank employees may have been involved in identifying and targeting wealthy individuals. To date, U.S. citizens have not been targeted.

There has also been a rise in extortion attempts. SMS messages and phone calls from unknown numbers claiming to have kidnapped family members are common. 

Police Response

The Mozambique Police Force (PRM) suffers from limited resources, lack of human capacity, and widespread corruption. Police are under-funded, under-staffed, poorly trained, and poorly equipped. Most PRM officers lack conventional police equipment (two-way radios, restraints, defensive weapons, flashlights), impeding their ability to be effective. While the abilities of the PRM are similar to those of police elsewhere in Africa, they do not compare to a U.S. police force. Police response is often slow and unreliable, and the quality of service declines as one moves farther from Maputo. 

The investigative law enforcement (PIC) arm of the PRM is equally under-funded and under-trained. Cases under PIC jurisdiction are often left unsolved. PIC cases often require constant pressure and inquiries in order to affect progress. PIC, as well as PRM generally, relies heavily on paper documentation, with little usage of modern computer systems, online databases, or electronic archived information.

Corruption is a problem throughout the ranks of the PRM. Tolerance of corruption encourages complacency. Police officers are often guilty of economic crimes against foreigners and those perceived as wealthy. With the economic downturn, some government employees were not paid full salaries. As a result, police seek to supplement their lost income be extorting drivers and pedestrians by threatening fines, detention, and the confiscation of identity documents or vehicles, if fines or bribes are not paid on the spot. Low wages and morale create an environment in which even bribes of a few dollars can make allegations disappear. All persons should attempt to cooperate and follow the instructions of police at checkpoints to avoid problems.

Always ask permission before taking a photograph. Do not photograph government buildings, embassies, military installations, airports, harbors or other locations/items of a possible security or intelligence interest. Cameras and film can be confiscated. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

It is not recommended to pay bribes or on-the-spot fines. If threatened with a fine, indicate your willingness to accept a ticket and pay the fine and apologize for any wrong-doing (even if you have not done anything wrong), and report the incident to the Embassy. OSAC constituents have reported being detained for up to eight hours when these fines/bribes are not paid. Remind the police that it is illegal in Mozambique to bribe officers and that you do not want to break the law. The Embassy does not recommend paying bribes to police.

The Embassy recommends maintaining certified copies of all important documents and remaining calm, firm, and polite with police. The Embassy recommends against turning over official documents, as they are sometimes held for ransom. The originals should be shown to police but kept in your possession.

The most important rule when being detained by police is to remain courteous but firm. Keep copies of all important identity documents on you and provide as much documentation as possible when asked. Remain calm and ensure to have contact numbers of friends, co-workers, and the Embassy. If police continue to detain you for an inordinate amount of time, advise them that you have to contact your Embassy and advise them that you are doing so. Remain courteous and calm but firm. 

Crime Victim Assistance

Receiving police assistance can be especially difficult for Americans for several reasons:

(1) local police stations do not have consistently working landline telephones.

(2) most police officers rely on private cell phones for communication, and these numbers are not publicized.

(3) police rarely understand/speak English.

(4) the police frequently lack transportation to respond to the scene of an incident. When transportation is available, fuel often is not, especially outside of Maputo.

The U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Officer (RSO) and American Citizen Services (ACS) are available to render assistance to American citizens requiring local police services. Both can be reached at (258) 21 49 2797. Outside normal business hours, U.S. citizens may call the 24 hour duty phone at (258) 84 306 6480. 

Police/Security Agencies

Contact information for police is not always publicized or easy to locate. In Maputo, police squadrons are divided by geographical boundaries, and which squadron responds depends on your location. The best course of action is to contact the Embassy, provide your location, and ask for assistance. Local businesses may also be able to provide additional assistance in contacting police.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities fall critically short of U.S. standards, and care is inconsistent. People with serious medical conditions that require medications or frequent treatment are discouraged from traveling to Mozambique.

Ambulances include:

  • Aeromed Ambulance (Av. Marginal, 4115); Tel: 21 48 4914; Cell: 82 300 1568 or 84 55 55 911
  • Vida Plus (Rua Pereira Marinho 15, Bairo da Sommerschield); Tel: 21 48 6322 or 84 124 or 82 124


Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Despite the advancements in local facilities, many expatriates still travel by road to Nelspruit, South Africa (or fly to Johannesburg, South Africa) for treatment of most medical issues.

 

Instituto Do Coracao

Av. Kenneth Kaunda, 1111

21 41 4761/3

2141 1000

Hospital Privado Do Maputo

Rua do Campo de Golfe (opposite Portuguese school)

21 48 3905

 

Clinica da Sommerschield

Rua Pereira do Lago, 52

21 49 3924/5

Lab: 21 49 4278

Hospital Central

Av. Eduardo Mondlane/Av. Agostinho Neto

21 32 0011/8

21 30 7136

Lab 2130 6961

Available Air Ambulance Services

International SOS Assistance Inc. 3600 Horizon Blvd., Suite 300 Trevose, PA 19053, Phone: 267-716-241. Web: www.internationalsos.com

Europ Assistance. The 24/7 number is: Toll free: 1-877-710-4082.  ops@europassistance-usa.com logistics@europassistance-usa.com  

Insurance Guidance

All travelers are advised to purchase insurance to cover medical evacuation in case of a serious accident, injury, or illness. Medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the situation, so all travelers should ensure their policies provide sufficient coverage.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Malaria is endemic, and malaria prophylaxis and mosquito bite precautions are strongly recommended year-round.

HIV and TB are endemic.

Travelers are advised to see a physician prior to travelling to ensure that appropriate immunizations and precautions are taken, including medications for malaria prophylaxis and yellow fever vaccination (which is recommended for entry into the country and may be required for entry into other, neighboring countries).

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Mozambique.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Maputo Country Council currently meets quarterly and has approximately 120 members. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Av. Kenneth Kaunda, 193; Maputo, Mozambique

Hours: Monday – Thursday 0730 – 1730; Friday 0730 – 1230; Closed Saturday/Sunday

Embassy Contact Numbers

Embassy switchboard at: (258) 21 492 797 from overseas or (84) 312-8290 if dialing locally

Embassy Operator: (258) 21 49 2797

Duty Officer for after-hours American Citizen Services +258 84 306 6480

Post One: (258) 21 49 0723 or (84) 310 7190

Regional Security Officer: (258) 21 49 2797 ext. 3600

Consular Section: MaputoConsular@state.gov

Website: http://maputo.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

All Americans in Mozambique are recommended to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The U.S. Embassy maintains liaison with local law enforcement officials and is available to assist American citizens during their stay. 

Additional Resources

Mozambique Country Information Sheet