This section of the website is dedicated to expressing the stories, testimonies and opinions of Mozambicans from various walks of life. The idea is to interview individuals and transpose what is said directly to this page with as little interference from the editor (myself) as possible. In doing so I hope to both faithfully convey the original meaning of the contributor and provide the reader with a relatively unadulterated picture of Mozambican life.
Interview with AMAC Legal Assistant Isaque Bonga
Welcome Isaque and thank you very much for agreeing to do this interview. To start with could you please tell people who don’t know you a little about yourself?
Thank you Damien. It is an honour to be with you and to share a little bit about me and about AMAC. My name is Isaque Bonga and I am a Mozambican. I’m 27 years old. I was born here in Beira, into a Christian family. My father was a pastor and he led me to Christ. Today, I am born-again and I am very happy to be a Christian and follow Jesus.
Could you tell us a little about AMAC
AMAC is a not-for-profit organisation which survives by contributions from its members and from other Christians. It was founded in 2012 with a group of 10 lawyers in Maputo, our capital city. Today, AMAC has more than 20 members and we also work with three missionaries who are Damien (Miller), Annet (Ttendo) and Kathy (Russell). It is a pleasure to be a part of AMAC. The meaning of AMAC is Associação Moçambicana dos Advogados Cristãos in Portuguese. This means Mozambican Association of Christian Lawyers. So, we work together as Christian lawyers to provide access to justice for the poor.
What is your role within AMAC?
I am a Legal Assistant. My role is to attend clients, those who are unable to afford a lawyer, clients with low income. So, my role is to assist those clients from the beginning to the end. I attend them, then I take the case to the court. Sometimes I assist them at the police station or some other area that involves justice. Also my role is to organise fellowship. Fellowship is held once a month. We meet with different lawyers, we pray together and we share about justice in the Bible. My role is also to share with lawyers about AMAC and about Christ. I also have a role within community legal education. I make contact with different churches to see if we can talk about AMAC and about justice.
“As I kept studying I felt that as a Christian I had to do something for my society and for my people. That is why I became passionate about justice.”
I do not only give legal assistance to the client, I also help to lead them to the right place. For example, I had a case of a young lady who was raped, so I helped her to find a victim centre for her to receive care and a psychological assessment to follow-up.
How did you become interested in law and justice?
Since childhood, my dream was to become a lawyer. I was born into a very poor family so my goal was to become a lawyer to change the situation of my family. As I kept studying I felt that as a Christian I had to do something for my society and for my people. That is why I became passionate about justice. I want to bring justice to help my people, not just thinking about myself and thinking about money but also thinking about other people. From that moment, I started to think about how I could bring justice for poor people. Then I met AMAC.
How does your Christian faith influence your role as a lawyer?
The lawyer profession has a lot of problems. In our society the people think that being a lawyer is being a liar and our goal is just to make money. So we are trying hard to change this. What they think is if you are a Christian, you cannot be a lawyer. We have to change that way of thinking and show in our practice that we believe in one God and to try to bring the real justice of the Bible. So, each day is like preaching the justice of the Bible because what society needs to see is the justice from the Bible. Some lawyers become Christians quickly and some take a lot of time because they are very academic people but slowly they understand the meaning of being a Christian and following God.
What type of people is AMAC helping and what type of cases do you deal with on a daily basis?
We have been working on domestic violence cases, rape, and problems with inheritance. These are the kind of things we face daily. We had a domestic violence case where the woman was being beaten by the husband and was chased out by the husband. We also had a case of rape. A young girl was raped and now we are trying to follow up this case. With orphans cases, when the parents die they do not know how to get the property that the parents left them. Sometimes there are issues with the family because they want to take it, so we try hard to protect the children and the property. This also happens to widows. Most of the time when a widow loses her husband the family want to take over the property. So also we try to protect the property and protect her. All of our clients are poor, they cannot afford a lawyer and sometimes they cannot afford court fees.
What are the different problems that prevent poor people from accessing justice here in Mozambique?
Court fees is a very big problem. We try hard to help these poor people by taking them to court and to the police station and places where they can access justice but when their case comes to court they have to pay a fee and they cannot afford this. First they cannot afford a lawyer, and then they cannot afford court fees. Sometimes the case will just stop because there is no way to pay court fees.
“People also don’t know their rights. We need to change this situation. We need to take legal education into the community. We need to tell them their rights.”
Another problem is people with money going to the police station first to pay the police. If this person pays, nothing will happen. The case will be left. This is why people avoid taking their cases to police and to the court.
People also don’t know their rights. We need to change this situation. We need to take legal education into the community. We need to tell them their rights. They don’t know the right place where to make a complaint. This prevents them from accessing justice.
How can Christians in both Mozambique and the UK support the work of AMAC?
Any kind of help is more than welcome. First of all we need prayer. We get tired. We need constant prayer and words of encouragement. It is good for pastors and Christians to come and encourage us and give a word or open the Bible and pray with us. Also to open the door to their churches for AMAC is very good. AMAC needs churches to help. We also need financial help. We have a plan to build a bigger office because this office is so small. We are working with four different departments all in one office. We all work in one room and this makes it difficult for clients to open up and have confidentiality.
If you stand with us and pray for these things we will be thankful. Not just AMAC but the clients also and the other people we work with. We also appreciate any offering or donation for AMAC.
Thank you very much for answering my questions Isaque. Is there anything else you would like to say before we close this interview?
I would like to say thank you to each and every one who is already helping AMAC through donation and prayers. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am not only saying thank you as part of AMAC, I am also saying thank you as a Mozambican. This is the time for Mozambicans to do something for our own people and with your help we can keep going and AMAC will grow, and Mozambique will change.
Interview with stone sculptor Fungai Basilio Chaiabande
Thank you for agreeing to this interview and for showing me your sculptures Fungai. Please tell us how you first learned to sculpt?
I first learned to sculpt from my passed away father when I was a child. So, I learned from him when he was still alive and he was teaching me how to do these things. Now I have more than 13 years as a sculptor.
Could you please tell me the story of your childhood and your family and what happened when you were growing up.
I was born here in Mozambique, in 1986, during the war. When I was still a baby I went with my family to Zimbabwe as a refugee because of the war. I grew up in Zimbabwe until I was 16 years and then my father thought to return to Mozambique because things were getting bad in Zimbabwe. So, we came back to Mozambique in 2002 but then my father fell sick that same year. He passed away on 29 January 2003.
“So I left everything and tried to make my own life with the tools my father had given me. Now God has started blessing me.”
When he passed away, things were very difficult. My father’s family wanted the property. They took the property of my father, they sold the house and they got all the money he left in the bank. They only left me the instruments that I need to sculpt. I had nothing when my father passed away. I suffered, the family refused me. They wanted to scare me because I am the only man and they wanted to take the property of my father. They needed to cheat me to take everything. So I left everything and tried to make my own life with the tools my father had given me. Now God has started blessing me. Something you never worked for is different to something you have earned, you can use it carelessly. You didn’t feel the pain needed to get it.
What happened then?
When he passed away I was only 16 years old and I didn’t manage to keep myself so I went to an Open Centre called the Messengeiro de Deus Centre. One pastor there looked after orphans, so I went to stay at that place. After two months I introduced pastor to my work. He gave me some small money and I went to Manica to buy some stone. Then I did an example and showed it to pastor and he liked it. I was given more money and then I went to Manica, got the stones and did more sculptures. Visitors used to come to the centre and when they came, I sold everything. My pastor liked this and wanted me to get me more stones, so he contacted one organisation called Africare and they helped me to get one tonne of stone. We started to work together and then things started to change. I was invited to fairs to show the art. Africare sponsored me for the materials and new tools that I needed. I also started to teach young boys at the Centre who were orphans like me to be artists too.
In 2005 some of my art was taken to the USA. I was sent a letter saying I was invited to the USA for an exhibition there. They ordered some pieces and asked that all the art be different to show what is happening in Africa. So I did that to show drought, suffering, HIV, malaria, orphans, education problems. The art was talking about those things. I sent them to the US and then after two months I followed there. I took with me my some of the young orphans I was teaching to do a workshop. I also had individual expositions in Maputo. Many people here, they work in wood so it is nice for people to see my work in stone because it is very different. In 2011 I did a collective exposition that included art by the famous artist Malangatana.
How do you create a sculpture from start to finish?
The process…I get a stone and I look at it. I can always see something in the stone. For example this one (points to a sculpture of a woman’s face), I look and see something that is there naturally. I use charcoal to draw what I see on the rock. I can see the design and then I use a tool called a punch hammer to take away the stone. Then I use the chisel and hammer. There are different classes of sandpaper I use to make the stone smooth. After that I wash it with water. For the last part I put it in the fire and put on the wax. That is how I do it.
How do you decide what to create from each stone?
I think it is something in me…I look at the stone and I see something. I don’t know why, I think that is my talent. I turn the stone so I can see what to make out of it. You can show me any stone and I will tell you what I see.
What type of stone do you use and where does it come from?
There are different types of stone and different qualities also. I use black or grey springstone, black or brown serpentine, green or brown verdite, opal and fruitstone. All these stones are very special stones. You can get a mix of colours. I also use soapstone but only for teaching, it is only to learn with. The other types of stone are harder than soapstone. I need to work with hard stone so it can give quality to my work. The stones come from far, from mines in Manica.
“I make my art to be like a flower in the house, to make it beautiful. The art is not for praying to like some people do. God is blessing my art all the time.”
How has your faith helped you?
God has helped me to do these things. He has helped me and I follow what the Bible says. When I get money I give a tenth part to the suffering people or to the church. He blesses what I do. I make my art to be like a flower in the house, to make it beautiful. The art is not for praying to like some people do. God is blessing my art all the time.
How would you like to inspire young artists here in Mozambique?
I was thinking to make an art museum here in Mozambique. It could be here in Beira or in Maputo or Manica, I don’t know, but a nice place. It would have my art and a history of art in Mozambique for people to see.