Two world’s collide.

It was already 6 pm, we were late. We were racing down the sandy track and were anxious to set up camp as quickly as possible. Kids were yelling for dinner and an ominous grey cloud had consumed the starry night. The mist enveloped us and spat droplets of water at our window screen.  Mangrove trees appeared and disappeared like ghostly beings playing tricks on our eyes.  After an 8 hour drive, we reached the camp site and swung open the car doors, eager to erect our tent and settle the children in as quickly as possible. We’d finally arrived at our favourite beach destination in Mozambique and despite the cold and dark atmosphere, we were looking forward to cracking open that first cold 2M beer and to start the holiday we were so looking forward to! But we could never have anticipated what would happen next…

Paradise disguised

Our friend, who had arrived a few days earlier, came bolting through the thick mist on our arrival, eyes frantic and sweat dripping down his face.  He’d just been attacked; narrowly missed being stabbed with a knife and for a few long seconds, fought for his life.

Earlier that day, word got out that a thief had escaped the local prison yet again. Previously, he’d stolen chickens and clothes from neighbouring communities and they had caught him taking their meager belongings not once, but twice. And today, he had escaped from his prison cell once again. But this time he had been warned. If he escaped again and was caught, he would be dealt with.

Pomene Random 2 297

That morning our friend intercepted the thief attempting to steal his running shoes from the camp. The authorities were alerted and the local village took charge; heading a manhunt that would go on all day – that scoured the thick mangrove swamps, the dunes and the bush. Unbelievably, that early evening, the thief returned to the camp site and attempted to steal the same shoes yet again.  A struggle took place and this time they caught him.

As we climbed out of our stuffy car, a wave of coldness slapped our faces and the angry sound of shouting, anguished howling and the repeated blows of a blunt weapon, then silence.

Minutes later, a group of men came thundering through the mist. They pulled a rope. My eyes followed the rope for a few metres until I saw him. It was a body of a bloodied man. A dead man being dragged by the neck through the sand, noosed and beaten, past my children and into the darkness.

The leader of the group, consumed with rage and adrenalin, turned to us and shouted, “Now you can have a happy holiday.”

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   “Vengeance, retaliation, retribution, revenge are deceitful brothers; vile, beguiling demons promising justifiable compensation to a pained soul for his losses. Yet in truth they craftily fester away all else of worth remaining.”

– Richelle E. Goodrich

17 Replies to “Two world’s collide.”

  1. The corrosive power of poverty and inequality. The poor and the marginalized end up fighting amongst themselves for what little they have, while the powerful-wealthy individuals & institutions feel it is their right to accumulate as much as possible.

    Your choice of images work very effectively with this post – stark images to carry a stark emotional tone. A powerful & creative-poetic combination of words and images. 🙂

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    1. Thank you once again for your thoughtful comments. You’ve summed it up perfectly, also applying to the tragic and unacceptable xenophobic attacks happening in South Africa right now.

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  2. Hi Leanne, As usual you get to the character and feel of what you see. We share much the same places and so do many others but few can get the reality out there. Unfortunately this is often not particularly pleasant but we have to put things in perspective and look at the big picture…….not meaning to condone. The reality is that we….people with access to modern, 1st world facilities and standards……see thing very differently to isolated old world circumstances. The problem is that we have very different perspectives from our background of easy, comfortable situations, structured accountability and orderly managed lives compared to the general population of Africa who are on their own with no support or back-up structure.
    We should be careful about condemning or criticizing too easily and unfortunately also about our perspective of giving help.

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    1. Thank you Stuart. You make an important point, that our conclusions and solutions about events such as this are often influenced by our own realities, by a modern world of ‘structured accountability and order’ and far off from this world we stumbled upon that early evening. I personally struggled to come up with any clear cut conclusions other than that regardless of which world we are familiar with or that influences us, it was brutal. My initial reaction to this event was, ‘Jeez, that’s a little harsh don’t you think?!’ I spoke to the camp staff the following day, in an attempt to understand how and why this happened like it did. Their response was that ‘that man’ was like an animal. Once a thief, always a thief, only the crimes will get bigger and bigger over time. Then to help me understand their thinking, they added that a man like that will not hesitate to steal your children, to kill them and sell their body parts. That a man like that was like a rabid animal on his own destructive path and ending.

      I have many conflicting feelings about what happened. And it’s easy to forget that things could have ended very differently for our friend too. I think what was possibly the saddest thing for me to witness was when the wife from the neighbouring community arrived at the scene to see where her husband’s body had been buried, to absorb what had had happened, to say goodbye and to come to terms with what was perhaps the inevitable. There is no neat little box to wrap this story up in. But you are very right, it’s a world far from ours – and these people have this system in place because there is no support or back up structure. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

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  3. Certainly not the way one would want to start a family holiday! I can’t imagine how long it took to settle your kids after witnessing this?

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    1. Thankfully our kids were very young when this happened and have no memory of it or understanding of what really happened that early evening. For the adults though, it’s a grizzly memory that hasn’t faded. It’s been quite a long time since it happened but the experience speaks volumes about so many issues – poverty, justice, cultural differences, survival and brutality.

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  4. I so love reading your beautiful Africa blog! Even in the moments that touch the far edges of humanity, you share the real Africa with your readers.
    I miss being there and am back living in the USA right now. I remember being at a stunning estuary on the southern KZN coast and seeing the shattered window of a Mercedes in the parking lot. I remember the story of my friend being stabbed in the Transkei. I remember living in Durban and the ‘unofficial’ night watch man who lived in the carriage house who sometimes moonlit as a car guard with his sjambok stuffed into the back of his shorts under his yellow vest. He was almost giggling when he proudly showed me “I always carry my sjambok”.

    As crazy as it is sometimes, I am grateful I never once lived the “Lion King” when living there. I lived the real deal and it was one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. Thank you for sharing all of your experiences and photography!

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    1. Thank you 🙂 This blog has not only been a creative outlet for me, it has been a means to process the experiences and things we see on this beautiful continent that are not always ‘happy,’ but often ugly and conflicting. It seems many people like yourself have a story/stories to tell that add to the complexity of Africa. Thank you for reading 🙂

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    1. It was indeed! This is something that I wrote about and that happened over a year ago when we still lived in Mozambique. Thankfully the children have no memory of it and were still too young to fully understand what had transpired.

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  5. The messages I am getting from Africa nowadays are not pretty. Sadly, there is a malignant poison that has spread widely as, indeed, it has in many other places such as the middle east. The politics of fear and hatred are far too prevalent and very little room allowed for reconciliation, it seems. Poverty versus extreme wealth begats much of this. But it is often attributed to politics. It is particularly sad in the light of Africa’s natural beauty which is often seen as an indulgence for the privileged while the povo struggle to survive, killing wildlife and cutting trees for fuel and food and money.

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    1. It’s an experience that raises many issues. I think it happens often in Africa, where communities take matters into their own hands because no-one else will. Regardless of what the ‘right’ way was for the community to deal with this situation, as you say, it shouts out ‘poverty’ and a lack of government support. And with many, many African countries – there always seems to be poverty where politics has become more about winning than serving the people.

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  6. Oh my goodness. Makes you rethink quickly what you are grateful for. I hope the rest of the holiday was a little less dramatic. Must have been hard to settle down after that and relax though? Happier holidays in the future, Cheryl

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    1. We were in shock for the first few days and of course had many questions. It’s a memory that is here to stay. Being from the world I know, I sympathise with the thief. But, I also know how little people have in Mozambique. A chicken for us is valued much less than a chicken for a Mozambican.

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