The Mozambican police on Friday announced that it has recovered some of the ballot papers that were stolen from a truck in the area of Inchope, in the central province of Manica, on the night of 30 September.
A truck hired by the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) was taking material for next Wednesday's general elections to Zambezia province and decided to stay overnight in Inchope, violating the security rules which state that trucks full of election material can only be parked at police premises.
During the night somebody broke into the truck and stole 26 boxes of ballot papers for the Zambezia provincial assembly election - 25 intended for Pebane district, and one for Namacurra.
The spokesperson for the Manica provincial police command, Belmiro Mutadiua, told reporters that three boxes of ballot papers had been recovered, apparently abandoned in a citizen's yard, in Bengo village, Gondola district, about 20 kilometres from the provincial capital, Chimoio.
Mutadiua said the Bengo community leader had informed the police about the ballot papers on Friday morning, after he had been alerted by the guard of the property where they had been left.
“We went to the place immediately”, he said, “and we confirmed the existence of some election materials, namely ballot papers intended for Zambezia”.
The guard, Rui Tafura, said “I always come here to look after the eucalyptus trees, and when I came on Wednesday, at 04.00, I saw white things. When I approached and opened the packages I found they were ballot papers”.
Tafura said he hid, and waited for the people who had stolen the ballot papers to come back, but they never appeared. He returned on Thursday and found that the ballot papers were still there. On Friday, he decided to contact the community leader because he feared that, if it rained, “government material might be damaged”.
“So I took some of the documents and showed them to the community leader, and then he rang up the provincial police command”, said Tafura.
Asked why he had let 48 hours pass before alerting the authorities, Tafura said that he is a member of the community police, and whenever he finds something irregular he informs the police. But this time he could not ring because his mobile phone was out of order. He used a colleague's phone to send a text message to the police head of sector, but never received a reply. He later found that this officer had changed his phone number.
Mutadiua said that investigations are under way to discover who stole the ballot papers. The material recovered in Benga will be sent to STAE.
Asked about the truck driver and the two policemen who were accompanying the truck, he said they are still under detention, and their case “is following normal procedures for matters of this nature”.