Flights between South Africa and Mozambique resumed on a tentative basis yesterday, as Mozambican security forces kept a tight rein over the capital of Maputo.South African Airways (SAA) resumed flights at about 7am following an assessment of the situation on the ground by an SAA team based in Maputo, said spokesman Fanie Zulu.
SAA runs two flights to Maputo and back every day (four flights in total), and was not increasing the number of flights but it was using larger airplanes to accommodate passengers stranded in Wednesday’s riots.
Word from Maputo was that it was finally safe for passengers to travel between the airport and the city centre, and that there was a heavy police and military presence on the streets throughout the day.
On Wednesday the South African embassy in Mozambique was forced to close and nervous South Africans barricaded inside hotel rooms spoke of gunfire moving into the CBD.
“We have been advised not to go out, and the police are unable to give us an escort to the airport because they have their hands full,” SA businessman Grant Reid said. “They (the protestors) were burning tyres and blocking roads, and a BP service station was burnt down …”
There have been conflicting casualty reports, some putting the death toll at 13, but according to Mozambican television station S-TV at least seven people have definitely died in the clashes with police, including one 12-year-old. Scores of others had been admitted to hospital with injuries, and Mozambican authorities say two police officers died after they were assaulted by the crowds.
The violence was sparked by dramatic increases in the price of basic essentials like bread, water and electricity. The increases will see an escalation of over 25% in the price of bread and a 30% electricity tariff rate hike.