Right before the situation degenerated, I was taking photos of the area in front of Beira city hall where the mayor, Daviz Simango (MDM) was supposed to make his electoral speech. The moment he appeared on the podium, there was a very large explosion that caused a huge panic in the crowd. People started running in every direction, trying to push and shove their way out.
An elite police squad, known as the Rapid Intervention Force (FIR), escalated the situation. The police officers were in charge of escorting a Frelimo convoy close to where the MPM rally was taking place. They were very nervous and began to arrest the opposition supporters they ran into on their way, fearing that they would try to block the road. These arrests made locals very angry and they started throwing rocks at the officers, who responded with tear gas and real bullets. According to a woman I spoke with, these gunshots killed three babies carried on their mothers’ backs at the time of the shooting. But the Beira central hospital stated that there were no such reported deaths on that day.
Beira is known for being a rebellious city, in which the opposition party typically has its best results. There is no other part of the country that yields such low electoral results for Frelimo. The type of violence that took place on Saturday is likely to occur again on election day, on November 20, when electoral tensions will be at their peak. MDM supporters are convinced that Frelimo will try to ignite an already tense situation, or that they will find some excuse to cancel the election. For this reason, some people are speaking of camping out at the polling stations in order to ensure they will be able to vote on election day.