Terror of Maputo Jail

Eric Marsden,
Sunday Times, UK,
May 29, 1988

After four months in a Mozambique prison, a Nigerian businessman living in Britain has launched a crusade against the “unspeakable horrors” he claims are inflicted on prisoners there.

Peter Ighofose, 52, escaped on April 13 by bribing guards and with the help of fellow inmates, who asked him to tell the world about their plight.

Ighofose alleges that Mozambique prison officers force women prisoners and youths to have sexual relations with guards and police, operate a slave labour system and sell prison food to outsiders.

His story was brought to the attention of The Sunday Times by a British author with whom he has had business dealings, but who has asked not to be named.

Ighofose was a medical student at Edinburgh University in the 1960s and his wife is Scottish. He was running a deep-sea fishing business from Mombasa, Kenya, last year, when he sailed to fish in Mozambique waters. He was arrested after docking in Maputo for urgent repairs when his Norwegian captain allegedly tricked him by sailing from Maputo illegally.

After 14 days in Maputo’s civil prison, he was moved to the notorious Cadeia Central. “We were given one meal a day only, usually between 1am and 3am. It was a bowl of maizemeal porridge.”

The prison, built in colonial days, was intended for 500 occupants but now has 8,000, he claims. His cell, for 50 prisoners, was shared by 400, who slept on stone floors.

Ighofose alleges many prisoners have gone mad and died from malnutrition and torture. About 1,000 children between 10- and 15-years-old are in two big cells, used as homosexual brothels. About 2,000 women, many with babies, are held in the civil prison and some were sexually abused by police.

He also accuses the prisons directorate of running a slave trade by inviting farmers to choose prisoners to work for them.