Excursions or even the shuttle into town, start early in the day, as early as 8.00 AM in this case. A tourist visa to visit Mozambique costs U.S. 169. - Per person. Lucky for us it was part of our package when we negotiated the cruise. Still, we found a sheet of paper left in the stateroom that asked us to sign and pay for the visa separately. It took 2 trips to the Registration Desk and an additional email to Sara, our travel agent, to clear up this confusion. The ship had not received the negotiated terms from their headquarters. The attitude at the Registration Desk was not very pleasing to put it mildly. According to them I was wrong and their computer was correct. It took several days for the message from Headquarters to reach the computer on board the ship. After the cruise line found their errors we received 3 phone messages from the ships personal with profuse apologies in each message.
I do not like it when these mistakes happen; these errors create a rift and spoil the vacation mood I am in, especially when I am absolutely certain that I am in the right yet the bureaucracy does not agree with me and tries to fight me. No apology later will make up for the feelings I have while in the “fighting” mode. It also leaves a residual feeling of the incompetence of the cruise line in my mind. This is only intensified when the personnel on board show an attitude. I never had the feeling of being “helped” but was shown an aggressive “my computer shows you as wrong”, end of story, attitude. Go away! Even typing this now again raises my hackles and aggravation, never mind their apologies later.
I need to go back to the excursion into Maputo, the topic of this blog. The day started off as a hot day. There was no shelter from the sun while we waited at the pier for the shuttle to come and drive us into town. After waiting about 20 minutes, Carol gave up
to the ship, not being able to handle the intense heat. Ross Copas, just
recovering from a bout of food poisoning, did the same and returned to the
satisfying AC interior of the Nautica. Jean Copas and I braved the trip into
|Waiting in the Sun for the Shuttle to Town|
The shuttle took us to an artisan exhibit. An area set up by the city to display and sell souvenirs. Stalls with African items that appeared to be mass produced, were set up under canvas awnings and shade trees. Most vendors had the same
articles; carved masks, figurines or
animals carved either from black wood or other woods and then polished with
shoe polish to make them look black and shiny, bead work and leather straps,
printed cotton cloth and mass produced pictures depicting “African” scenes. It
was cheap stuff and their prices were high. Jean looked at two, hand painted post cards to send to her grandchildren.
The seller wanted 6 US dollars for the 2 cards and would not reduce her asking
price. Jean walked away but asked me to go back and buy them. Having found no
other comparable cards I bought them for 4 dollars later. The cards were hand
painted small huts on plain white paper. Nothing too special, four dollars
seemed a lot especially for a country where half the population make no more
than US $1000 - per year.
Yes, you read correctly, many earn even less than that per year. I read about families living on 2 dollars a day. Well maybe not in Maputo, since this is the Capital of Mozambique but certainly in the countryside. It is not that the people are stupid, many we met speak 3 or more languages, and it is definitely the politics and bureaucracy, coupled with bribery that keeps the masses from reaching their full potential. I see it over and over, again and again, how much the corruption and greed
of some hurts so many. The sellers in those shops or stalls don’t even own the merchandise. I saw it a bit later while waiting for the shuttle to pick us up and take us back to the ship again. Jean and I were just milling around on the side of the road, waiting for the bus. We waited about 45 minutes and during this time I (we) watched the goings on around us. Sitting on an upside down plastic pail, sipping a Fanta, nibbling on locally grown roasted peanuts, we almost blended in with the locals. At least we did not get hustled with buy this, buy that from individuals around us. We just sat and observed.
A small, older looking, plain clothed Indian man was approached by many and they gave him money. He wrote something in his small book, and then gave them some money back. All the people that approached this Indian fellow came from the vendors’ stalls or tents. Now, either he was a bookie or a money lender or owned the stalls and tents where the sellers paid immediate commission on the sales they made when they sold an article for him. Jean and I talked about it and agreed that this Indian man was the actual owner of all the stalls and the money he gave them back was their actual earnings. So, the 4 dollars paid for the postcards went to this Indian fellow and the lady who was reluctant to sell at a cheaper price to us (those were not her cards) received maybe 10%, or 40 cents on her sale as pure income. I can not be sure about those details but that is what I observed. She might have been paid 20% but I doubt it. This Indian man, for sure, was the king pin of this “artist” exhibition. And looking at it with African eyes, he was also obligated to pay off someone above him to receive the right to own those stalls at this location.
The whole system, the whole economy and politics, is riddled with corruption and kickbacks. No wonder there isn’t any money; money to be used in the public sector. Nobody pays taxes. All the money is siphoned off before it can be taxed. It is a wonder that the roads are in an ok state; that police get paid, that the bridges don't collapse or the harbor does not silt over. Well, I might not have seen exquisite art in Maputo or was impressed with the city, but I received a first hand lesson on the economic state of affairs sitting like a local under a shade tree by the side of the road.
Mozambique is a poor country. Well not really, but for sure it is very corrupt. The natural gas and oil wells in Mozambique have given it a good income. This income is still coming in daily but the money never makes it to the people. Too many hands are being greased, too much is siphoned off. There is no answer until someone takes the reins to lead and if he/she does do that, then that person must be very careful not to get assassinated. The system, as it is now, is so deeply ingrained that change can only come through education of the young, the new generation. But I don't even believe this will happen, since Mozambique, for the last 500 years has educated their young with the help of the Portuguese, the Arabs, the British and today by the world. The lure of greed exists, I don't have the answer, and I just notice the problem. Still, education of the young is the only hope for the masses to live better.