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Key findings
  • Almost six in 10 Mozambicans say they felt unsafe while walking in their neighbourhood (59%) and feared crime in their home (56%) at least once during the year preceding the survey. Experiences of insecurity have increased over the past decade and are particularly common among poor citizens.
  • About one in 10 Mozambicans (9%) say they requested assistance from the police during the previous year. Almost half (48%) encountered the police in other situations, such as at checkpoints, during identity checks or traffic stops, or during an investigation. o Among citizens who requested assistance from the police, 60% say it was easy to get the help they needed. But 51% say they had to pay a bribe. o Similarly, 47% of respondents who encountered the police in other situations say they had to pay a bribe to avoid problems.
  • More than half (55%) of Mozambicans say “most” or “all” police officials are corrupt, the worst rating among 11 institutions and leaders the survey asked about.
  • A slim majority (52%) of citizens say they trust the police “somewhat” or “a lot.” ▪ Substantial minorities say the police “often” or “always” stop drivers without good reason (45%), engage in criminal activities (39%), and use excessive force on suspected criminals (37%) and protesters (34%). In addition, about three in 10 respondents say the police “sometimes” do these things.
  • Only 29% of citizens say the police “often” or “always” operate in a professional manner and respect all citizens’ rights. o However, 68% consider it likely that the police will take reports of gender-based violence seriously.
  • Only one-third (34%) of Mozambicans say the government is doing a good job of reducing crime.

The police are often the closest government authority in local communities, tasked with  maintaining public safety and order, enforcing the law, and preventing and investigating  criminal activities (Modise, Taylor, & Raga, 2022; Wiatrowski & Goldstone, 2010). They are the  first point of contact whenever citizens are faced with any form of danger. In democracies,  police are expected to be professional, impartial, accessible, and proactive, and to uphold  the highest standards of integrity (Modise, 2022).  

In Mozambique, the police have often come under criticism for falling well short of  professional standards. In addition to media reports highlighting abuses by individual officers (allAfrica, 2022; Mouahidi, 2023), the police have been accused of extrajudicial executions,  torture, extortion, and other human-rights violations in their response to insurgents in the  North, who have repeatedly targeted police stations with their attacks (Jentzsch, 2022;  Amnesty International, 2021; Cheatham, Long, & Sheehy, 2022). 

In March, the police drew widespread condemnation for their violent repression of peaceful  demonstrations in remembrance of the late musician Azagaia (Amnesty International, 2023). 

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9  (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Mozambicans’ experiences and assessments of police  professionalism. 

Survey findings show that a growing share of citizens report feeling insecure or fearful, and  few approve of the government’s performance against crime. 

While a slim majority say they trust the police at least “somewhat,” almost half of those who  interacted with the police during the previous year say they had to pay a bribe, and the  police are more widely seen as corrupt than any other institution the survey asked about. 

In substantial numbers, Mozambicans complain that police officers engage in illegal  activities, use excessive force, and stop drivers without good reason, and few respondents  vouch for officers’ professionalism and respect for citizens’ rights. 

Richard Kweitsu

Richard Kweitsu is a PhD student in political science at the University of Florida.