(This is a third of a series of on the ground reports I have posted from Maputo since the beginning of the Revolta Popular sparked by the increased in the price of bread. I will be posting here again in advance and after the Mozambique versus Libya African Nations qualifier.)
Angela is mopping the again floor at Milanos. The Revolta Popular appears to have ran its course. A closer inspection reveals although most folk want to believe it is over..."more or less", they say. The reality maybe somewhat different.
Angela made it to work, but many others have not. Some shops are open, but many are not. The schools are closed. The roads are not congested. A few Chappas (mini buses) work their regular routes. Spacious rides with extra leg room today.
I traversed as much of the city as I could in the past five hours. What I mean by "the city" is that which makes the cut on most of the tourist maps of Maputo, not including the predictably safe Embassy area of Sommerchield and the more exclusive Polana district, save for a visit to Maputo Central Hospital and the Josina Machel Secondary School. Here is what I heard and saw and felt from folks along the way.
The hospital is busy, but it is not a scene. In the space of fifteen minutes, I saw three different women on crutches with fresh plaster casts on their lower legs. My enquiries suggested they had each been caught up in the trouble.
The hospital also allowed me the time to be a tourist again. The Department de Cinecologia e Obstretretrica proving the busiest and most beautiful scene of all. Located in a grand "Art Deco" building that in any other city, save for Mogadishu, would have been turned into high priced Condos or a Boutique Hotel, the department provides a grand first glimpse of the world for many of Maputo's children. Outside expectant fathers paced up and down. Other family members of the family sat on flattened cardboard. Mothers, sisters and aunts, all there to provide support. Uncles and nephews leaned up against their cars ready to take the newest member of the family home. The man selling fried eggs in the Coca Cola shack across the street was doing good business (as was the farm from where the eggs came in Swaziland).
Some shoe sales were back on. Maputo's sidewalks offer the finest range of ladies shoes I have seen anywhere. Mozambique women here class, but that is all other story. My visit to the Josina Machel Secondary School was two fold. Yes, the school was closed, but how many buses and chappas would be congregating at Rua dos Lusidas, a bus terminus and makeshift Chappas space? I had only a seen two Chappas all morning, when normally the streets would be swimming in them. Museo to Benfica and Museo to Malhazine, both half empty. Rua dos Lusidas would usually be a good place to find a Papaya or maybe a back issue of The Economist, but no sales today. The 23 Maferdene via Jardim pulled out with a handful of passengers. Only 3 Chappas were parked up.
I ran into Belmira, a lady who had been working at a fancy hotel since Wednesday morning. She had been trapped and was enjoying the chance to promenade down the Avenida en route to being picked up by her "'unreliable brother"'. We chatted about the birds and bees, annoying and overweight South Africans, the existence of God and the Revolta Popular. Belmira provided the first clue that all may not be as "esta calmo" as folks earlier had wanted me to believe. She knew of an SMS that was promising a return to hostilities at Noon. Soon enough, I met her unreliable brother. Good cat. I told him I wanted to marry his sister and he promised to blow my brains out! A few of his boys were in toe and I hooked up with them for a spin around town. They were disappointed that Friday night may not be Friday night. They were angry that real grievances were being hijacked by dudes who just want rob folk. Numbers were exchanged. I was promised we would all go out and do a different kind of damage, if the Maputo pitch passed a late inspection.
Once back on foot on Avenida Alberto Luthuli I managed to make the sacred pilgrimage on to the Ferrovarios pitch. Founded in 1924. The team of the railroad workers. The Penarol of Mozambique. It was a magical football moment and reminded me that I did not have the equipment (stolen long ago in South Africa) to provide colour to these reports. If only I could share the sights and sounds of this mind blowing city.
Again, I was a tourist. But not for long. I met a man who was for Desportivo de Maputo. He told me trouble was being promised for 5 pm. I met another woman walking on the street. Was it true there will be trouble again today? Yes, 5 pm, they are saying.
Now I was far from the so called safe areas. And to weight to the rumours I saw two truck loads of heavy set, heavily armed riot police, tear gas canisters up to the gills, heading toward what I can best assume was the Chammanculo area of town. I was then in what they Alta Mae district. Various characters suggested I not keep in the direction I was going. "Problemo", they say. I was then on Avendia da Zambia heading up to Avenida de Angola. Avendia de Angola, nao, they said. I retreated.
And yet again, I was tourist. The Jummid Mosque calling for prayers. I listened and wondered what I would be like if I had diplomatic relations with God. Close by, graffiti called for an end to prostitution. Next, the main Maputo Mercado was the attraction. It was open, but not its bustling self. Maybe two thirds of the shutters were closed. This can probably be best explained by the call to prayers, but I was not sure all of the said vendors were of the muslim faith. I could still find a fantastic piece of Peixe for dinner.
I quickly shuttled down and across to the main Maputo shopping mall. It proved even less accommodating. Most shops were closed. It was now about 1pm, but the Western style Supermercado was half full. They had just closed their shutters. No more customers. They were closing early. If there was going to be trouble, they were not going to have the "Shoprite" experience. The rumours in the mall were that Shoprite (somewhere in Alta Mae) was having troubles. It would explain the convoy of riot police that whizzed past me an hour or so before.
I have omitted to speak of Matola. I suppose you could say the Brooklyn of Maputo. A stand alone city in its own right, but part of the greater metropolis of the capital. Much of the rioting has occurred there in the past two days. Locals I spoke to in the mall said it was as bad in Matola right now as it had been at any time since violence. I cannot verify this.
Who knows? I am back where I started the day. There is the Lebanese place. The Moroccan place. The Portuguese place. The South African place. You get the picture. There is a less than an hour of daylight and who knows what the night will bring. You want to believe "esta calmo"', but the tension suggests maybe "mais problemo".
Finally, I managed to secure a ticket for Sunday's African Nations Qualifier in Maputo. Mozambique are hosting Libya. The tickets were selling at the kiosk outside the old movie theatre on Avenida 25 September. The most expensive tickets were 200 Metacais (little over US$5) and 100 Metacais. There was takers, and I waited my turn. I asked the grey haired vendor if the Revolta Popular Continua...Domingo? ''Futebol nao tem problemo!" Porque, I asked. "Porque gostam de Futebol!"
I will be comparing the price of loaves and goals next.