23.10.2009 - 24.10.2009
We had left around 2am to get a 3am bus. Though legally buses can't leave so early, it is normal in Mozambique. Finding buses that leave after 8 or 9 am can be impossible, especially in the North and 4am type departures are routine. And, even more unlikely, they actually leave on time: Our bus was on the road by 2.50: Mozambique certainly does transport a bit differently - An early bus in the rest of Africa means that it leaves less than an hour after its scheduled time. Even more surrealy, a Chilean guy we had met, Ignacio, had attempted to leave northbound early the previous morning, only to return a few hours later having been told that the bus was canceled due to insufficient passengers. That really is a new one!
It was back passing through Maxixe that it finally happened: I saw my first Renamo poster and car sticker. Mozambique was in the grip of election fever – the election was held 2 days after we left – and all of the papers and TV were full of it. Virtually every other vehicle and house (and even some rocks) were sporting political adverts, and there were also many T-Shirts being worn with slogans on. However, every single one that we had seen to that point (and would see again) belonged to Armando Emilio Guebuza ruling Frelimo party.
Frelimo were a Liberation group that took over at independence and have held power ever since: close to 35years. They were not the only party in the election, and indeed in Beira (Mozambique's second city) amongst others, they didn't even hold power [in Beira, Renamo are the main group]. However in the south, and country in general, they were really the only party. I would have loved to know the official rules on party political campaigning, or to speak enough Portuguese be able to ask questions about opposition advertising (or intimidation), but I couldn't.
One of the larger Frelimo ads that we saw, in Maputo. Normally they had lots of identical (or just in 2 different colours) A4 sized ads posted together. And these ads were – and doubtless still are - everywhere
I was just happy I saw a single house and advert (doubtless that of a candidate or the party) of one other party. The election itself was a foregone conclusion, and was essentially a referendum on Frelimo: They were not fighting other parties, only the population itself and its turn out. Naturally, Guebuza kept power with 75% of the vote from a turn out of about 45%, which i not great but is pretty respectable.
For us, however, it was an uneventful journey. An afternoon back in Maputo doing a few chores, having another of the worlds best brownies, talking to the excellent Tino and Luis in the hostel and trying to avoid the group of 17teenage Finns who had invaded the hostel: listening to Maarets many threats on what she would do to me if I happened to let slip that she was Finnish was actually quite funny. Against that, the bl**dy Finns left at 4.30am and made a heck of a racket. The next day on route to Swaziland, the border crossing at Goba was the quietest and least painful that I have ever done in Africa, even if a few KM down the road at a customs check, a bottle of Jamesons changed hands...
A few people have asked about Fred – Well, i'm happy to announce that though still fragile, he has recovered from the vicious attack in Tofo. Here he is on his homecoming (note the new black mark on his nose). Fred lives, though he has been wounded for life