Mozambique: Stolen rails found in Chinese foundry

Maputo: Earlier this year the Mozambican police on found a large number of stolen rails and other railway material in a Chinese-owned foundry in the Ceramica neighbourhood of the central city of Beira, according to a report in the independent daily O Pais.

The police had difficulty accessing the interior of the foundry. Only after they had spent half an hour demanding entry, were the doors finally opened for them. Inside they found rails, bolts, and other metallic parts of railway tracks.

The rail director of the central division of the publicly owned port and railway company (CFM-Centro), Boaventura Mahave, said the material had been stolen from the lines linking the port of Beira to Zimbabwe, and to the Moatize coal basin in Tete province.

“In the last two years we have been accumulating enormous losses. We’ve been suffering thefts every day. These are thefts that one day will culminate in tragedy, because our railway lines are used by both passenger and goods trains. Any lack of attention on our part, and we will have a catastrophe,” he said.

It has long been believed that metallic parts stolen from CFM, like metallic parts of electricity pylons, are sold to foundries, which have sprung up recently in Beira and the neighbouring town of Dondo.

Mahave protested that some of the thieves and their vehicles have been caught, but the police released them.

According to O Pais, the lawyer for the Chinese company, Jose Capassura, has claimed it is too early to conclude that the metal rods produced by the foundry are made out of stolen materials. He also suggested that the foundry may have been deceived by its suppliers into purchasing what it had imagined was scrap metal, without knowing that it had been stolen.

His argument is absurd. Film of the interior of the foundry shows the rails piled up, and they cannot be mistaken for anything else. The only place the rails can possibly have come from is CFM.

The police have promised to investigate the case further, taking into account that the foundry acquired the raw material for making rods, at night.