William Mapote has only just managed to join the rest of the AfricaVox team after an eventful journey that nearly ended with him back in Mozambique.
It was five o’clock in the morning. The plane had arrived in Frankfurt after ten long hours, and I was ready to stretch my legs while waiting for the connecting flight to Hamburg.
I presented my passport to the airport police, expecting the usual quick glance. But instead there followed a stream of questions: “Where are you coming from? What are going to do here? For how long are you expecting to stay?”
Before I’d had a chance to answer I was taken off to the airport police station. Again they asked me the same list of questions.
I showed them the documents confirming my accreditation as a G8 journalist, where I would be staying and my financial support, together with mobile phone numbers for the people waiting for me. All my papers were in order. But my arguments were clearly unacceptable.
At least four different agents shouted the same questions at me, and the result was the same each time. Apparently, what they really wanted to see was a wad of cash that would support my stay in the country. They took absolutely no notice of the documents I’d shown them.
After three hours under arrest, they began to file the paperwork to send me back to Maputo. I asked to speak with the senior officer in charge. To my surprise he gave me the benefit of the doubt and agreed to call one of the numbers I’d given to his colleagues to confirm my story.
Eventually he appeared in person, told me I was booked onto the next flight to Hamburg, and added: “You’re free, have a nice stay.”
I’d been detained for several hours, missed my flight, worried the people who were expecting me, and put back my reporting schedule by a day.
I wondered if it happened because I’m African, but prefer to believe that wasn’t the reason. Maybe the senior officer let me go because I’m a journalist. I’ll never know for sure.
What I do know is how relieved I am to have made it. As I left the interview rooms, a Nigerian woman and two Asian men were being ordered onto the next flights back to where they had come from…