April 7 is a public holiday, Mozambican Women's Day. So the mood in Maputo yesterday morning was quiet and relaxed – until 9:20, when a loud explosion shattered the calm of the residential area, of Polana.
The victim of the explosion was exiled South African lawyer Albie Sachs, 53, a veteran African National Congress activist. He had been on his way to the beach, where he frequently went at weekends and on holidays, and so was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt.
But when he turned the key in the lock on the door of his Honda car, the vehicle exploded. The blast woke a professional Mozambican photographer, Jose Cabral, who lives nearby. His pictures show Sachs lying on the street covered in blood, his right arm destroyed, but he is still conscious and trying to prop himself up. In great pain, he was carried to a vehicle belonging to Mozambique television and driven to hospital.
The studios are near Sachs's flat on the same road as the Polana Hotel and opposite the SA Trade Mission. At least two other people were injured in the blast. One was a child playing nearby and the other was a Mozambican motorist who drove past at the time of the explosion and was hit by shrapnel. The blast reduced Sachs's car to a heap of tangled metal and shattered most of the windows in the apartment block it was parked outside. Some windows in the neighbouring Portuguese embassy were also destroyed.
Sachs, a tireless and effective speaker for the ANC, has worked in Mozambique since 1977. His fluency in Portuguese and English meant he was called upon as a translator at political meetings. Two days before the explosion, he translated at the world premiere of Safari, an Austrian/Mozambican film production.
Sachs, a soft-spoken and gentle man, is well-known and liked here. In Maputo, the attack is being linked to Iast week's SA Defence Force raid into Botswana and to the murder of the ANC representative in Paris, Dulcie September
*Mozambique's Minister of Justice Ousmane Ali Dauto has been at the hospital since Sachs was admitted. Sachs was reported last night to be in grave condition. He had lost his right arm and one eye had been badly damaged. There were also massive injuries to his lungs and liver.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.