MAPUTO (Bernama) – Mozambique’s Attorney-General, Beatriz Buchili, has opened an investigation into the mass poisoning last weekend which led to the deaths of at least 69 people in Chitima, capital of Cahora Bassa district in the western province of Tete.
As of Monday, 35 other people were still hospitalised in the Chitima Health Centre and in the nearby Songo Rural Hospital. Seven of them were in serious condition.
The victims had been drinking a traditional alcoholic brew called phombe, made out of sorghum, maize bran and sugar. Claims have been made that something else was added to the drink which caused the poisoning.
Tuesday’s issue of the Maputo daily, Noticias, quoted Buchili as saying that her office’s inquiries were being co-ordinated with the Criminal Investigation Police (PIC) and with the health authorities, which are in charge of the autopsies.
She added that the prosecutors were awaiting the autopsy reports which should ascertain the nature of the substance which caused the poisoning.
“So far there are no clues. The Attorney-General’s Office and PIC, in co-ordination with other institutions, are working on all fronts to discover the causes and the type of product used to contaminate the drink. After this, if it is proven that there was a criminal act, we shall hold its authors responsible,” she said.
The person who brewed the phombe, Olivia Olocane, cannot help with the inquiries, since she was one of the first to die from the poisoning.
Health Minister Alexandre Manguele met with the families of the victims on Monday to comfort them and explain the work underway to save the lives of those still in hospital. He assured journalists that samples of the drink had been sent to Maputo for laboratory analysis.