Paul, my brother had a perfectly good job and was living comfortably in Durban. He was offered a promotion, but that involved moving to Jo’burg. He resigned instead and bought a second-hand caravan, which he took to Mozambique.
“Couldn’t it have been a new caravan?” asked Mum when she was told of his plans, thinking of Lizzie, Paul’s long-suffering wife.
“I suppose,” was the answer, “but it would be bit of a waste of a new caravan if we were to be blown up by a landmine.”
She wished she hadn’t asked the question.
He knew the risks. The Mozambican army at that stage were out of control, he was shot at, at least once after ignoring his own advice and going through the border between South Africa and Mozambique just before dusk. For a number of years Lizzie sensibly travelled to and from South Africa by air. They swopped a secure situation in South Africa and went to live in the camp-site in Maputo for five years.
Why? you may well ask.
He didn’t want to live in a row. He wanted to do something for himself. Were the best answers anyone got out of him.
They ran a number of businesses from the camp site, which by the time we got to see it consisted of four caravans, surrounded by a sturdy fence and protected by a couple of fearsome Rottweilers. The most successful of the businesses was obtaining visas for people wishing to visit Mozambique, mainly South Africans. He and Lizzie both learnt to speak Portuguese, which is the commonly used language in the country.
After about five years the Mozambique Government put them out of business by opening consulates in Durban, Jo’burg and Cape Town and insisting that all applications for visas were to be processed through those offices.
Not to be out done, Paulie somehow managed to get a one hundred year ‘right of occupation’ on a 100-hectare piece of land, in a small village called Boboli, about 60 km north of Maputo. The only condition was that he develop the place. No problem for him, his plan was to build a motel, which he did.
He had to get permission from the local chief to occupy the land. It poured with rain when he went into the meeting, an auspicious event. So, occupation was no problem.
We saw the piece of land in 1996 and that is all it was. Paulie showed us where he had drilled a borehole and indicated where the main buildings were to be situated.
Paulie knew that water was a critical resource for the local population, and having established a very good water source, he placed water points at various points round the property and told the local population to help themselves, which much better than laboriously collecting water from the nearby polluted Komati River. Also, they employed many members of the local population. The police were provided with forty litres of diesel each week, so they could patrol. Not that there was much of a security problem, since the motel and the way that he and Lizzie had cooperated with the local population, really ensured their security.
South African visitors, started to holiday again in Mozambique at about that time. The Mozambique channel had not been fished much, for the previous thirty years because of the security situation, so many of the visitors had elaborate entourages of caravans and sea going fishing boats. The motel provided one of the few really secure places in Mozambique for people on their way to the fishing grounds in the north.
When we first saw the village of Boboli, there was almost nothing there – certainly no shops or any such thing. On our last visit in 2011, it was a thriving little place, with some small shops and cafes selling the basics. Without doubt the advent of the motel was the catalyst for all the other development.
To crown it all in 2016 Paulie heard that Heineken, the global brewing company were looking for a site to build a brewery in or around Maputo, so he took the initiative and to cut a long story short, they sold the operation to Heineken who are now in the process of building a brewery there.
Paul and Lizzie, due to their drive initiative and hard work certainly gained something from the twenty-five or so years they spent in Mozambique. Maybe the people of Boboli gained just as much or more.