Portuguese Ultra-Colonialism in Mozambique


by Franz J. T. Lee

Article in

“Review of International Affairs”, Vol. XV, No. 334, Belgrade, March 5, 1964

Pandemonium Electronic Publications, Mérida, Venezuela, 1999

Historical Background


The Portuguese colonisation of Mozambique started at the beginning of the 16th century. In 1505, on his voyage to India, Almeida set up a factory at Sofala on the east coast of Africa. He also built a fortress at Kilwa. In 1507 a fortress and factory were built on Mozambique island. In 1531 and 1544 Sena and Quelimane were founded, respectively. Portugal hoped to discover important sources of gold and silver in the African interior. However, neither metal was ever found in substantial quantities, hence Portuguese penetration of the hinterland was limited and superficial.


By 1700 only the Zambesi valley as far as Tete had been occupied. Portuguese population along the coast did not exceed 1,000. With the collapse of the spice trade and the Asian empire, the Portuguese lost interest in the East Coast. The whole area declined, the interior and the coast of Sofala became deserted. By 1810 the Portuguese coastal occupation was the same as in 1600, consisting of forts and trading posts from Ibo to Lourence Marques.


Only in 1885 - scarcely 80 years ago - with the „Great Push for Africa“ by the great imperialist European powers did Portugal become seriously interested in Mozambique again. Below, we analyze what happened in the 80 years thereafter and the events that led to the present terror and slavery.


From 1895 to 1896 a campaign under Antonio Enes and Mousinho de Albuquerque reduced Gazaland in Southern Mozambique. In 1897 Coutinho occupied the coastal area north of Quelimane. In 1902 to 1904 the Zambesia Company „pacified“ the area from Tete to Nyasaland frontier. In 1906 the northern sector opposite Mozambique Island was subdued. In a series of campaigns from 1908 to 1912 the Yao tribes off Lake Nyasa were brought under control. This ended the period of military conquest.



The Chartered Companies


Up to 1890, the major victor of the new imperialism, the chartered company, was almost non-existent in Portuguese Africa, although from 1891 onwards concessionary companies did exist in Mozambique. By 1900 the Mozambique Company (1891), the Nyassa Company (1891-1893) and the Zambesia Company, between them controlled two-thirds of Mozambique’s economy. These companies were very small in comparison with their English or German counterparts in Africa. At this time the Portuguese economy was archaic and bankrupt. It was scarcely touched by the commercial and industrial expansion of Western Europe in the 19th century. It could not convert an extractive to a transformer imperialism. This factor is the root determination of the structure of the present Portuguese colonies.





About 1930, the white and mestizo population of Mozambique were 17,800 and 8,350 respectively. The total population was about 3,500,000. From 1940 onwards emigration figures began to show a major increase: 1940, 27,500; 1950, 48,000; 1960, 80,000.


From 1950 onwards some 5,000 families have been settled at Guiga in the Limpopo valley. These settlers received up to a total of 10 acres per family and some 60 acres of non-irrigated land for grazing purposes from the Government, in order to raise the living standard of the Europeans. At present there are about 12,000,000 Africans in Mozambique.



Missionary Activity


Missionary activity was carried on mainly by Portuguese Dominicans. Despite intensive campaigns, proselytisation was wholly ineffective and impermanent. In 1825 there were just 10 priests and of these 7 were Goans. By 1850 there were just four along the coast and not a single missionary in the interior. About 1900 there was an iflux of foreign missionaries - mainly German friars, French Montfort and Salesian fathers, and Italian Consolate friars. These missionaries were supported by Portugal in their campaign of bringing the Christian religion to the natives and „barbaric races“. The African had to be civilized to become an obedient slave, at the same time making sure that he did not become competent or initiative. Today the Salazar regime, under the official rubric of „Faith, Family, Toil“, is intensely Catholic.


In 1950 Mozambique had 210,000 Catholics and 60,000 Protestants (census figures). A third of the Christian community is thus heretical, despite the non-existence of any Protestant minority in Portugal. In 1957 there were 310 Catholic and 200 Protestant priests (or ministers).


Missionary activity is a symptom of a wider élan. At the dawn of European Imperialism Vasco de Gama said: „I seek Christians and spices“. Ever since, missionary activity has always been one dimension of the total colonial enterprise and as such suggestive of all the others.





In 1956 out of a total population of 6.000.000 (census figures, although this figure was probably much higher) only 284,000 (including whites) received education. In 1954 there were 183,092 pupils in rudimentary schools, being reserved almost exclusively for Africans. Of these only 3,595 took the final examination (after three years) and of them 2,774 passed. In 1955 there were 212,428 pupils in Catholic rudimentary schools; of these only 2,761 passed to continue their education in the primary schools. In 1954 there were 120 Africans in commercial, industrial and secondary schools in the whole of Mozambique. In the elite Liceu - the preparatory school for university level - there were 5 Africans and 800 (eight hundred) white students; no African has ever completed the whole Liceu course. There is no university in Portuguese Africa. All higher education has to be acquired in Portugal or in other countries. The outcome is that less than 1% of the Africans are officially reckoned to be literate (1950 census). This is an important factor in explaining why political organization and revolutionary work are of such a low level in Mozambique (see later).



Social Practice


Any observer can attest the most flagrant and classic type of discrimination in Mozambique. Hospitals have black and white wards; restaurants have notices stating: „Admission Reserved“; the hotels employ an all-white staff; in buses and trains, in parks and gardens, all over there is strict discrimination. A bus-ride in Lourenco Marques costs the quarter of an African daily wage. Pricelevels seal Africans off from white commercial, social and entertainment centres. Specially designed rents impose separate white and African townships. In Lourenco Marques, just like in Cape Town or Johannesburg, there is a permanent curfew for Africans after nine o’clock in the evening. The African is forced to carry a pass - a „cadernato“ - in order that he can be controlled and efficiently enslaved. One sees the whole Apartheid and Baasskap policy of the Herrenvolk of South Africa here at work.



Foreign Monopoly


The panorama of foreign capital in Mozambique is impressive, but there is a lack of ‘truthful’ figures and inadequate research on this matter by modern writers. The following may suffice to give us a picture of this „covert condominium“.


In 1959-60, Mozambique exported mainly cotton, cashew nuts, tea, sugar, copra and sisal. British capital owns two of the large sugar concessions (the third is Portuguese), including the famous Sena states. The Matola Oil Refinery, Procon, is controlled by England and the United States. In 1948 the petroleum concession was given to the Mozambique Gulf Oil Company. At Maotize coal is mined; the industry is chiefly financed by Belgium. 60% of the capital of the Compagnie de Charbons de Mozambique is held by the Societe Miniere et Geologique Belge, 30% by the Mozambique Company, and the remaining 10% by the Government. Of the three banks in Mozambique, only the Banco Nacional Ultramarino is Portuguese, the other two are Barclay’s Bank, D.C.O. and the Standard Bank of South Africa. Nine out of the twenty-three insurance companies are Portuguese. 80% of life-insurance is still in the hands of foreign companies. Lately the Lourenco Marques Oil Refinery was established by the Sociedade Nacional de Refinazao de Petroleo (SONAREP) - a Franco-Portuguese syndicate. In the sisal plantations Swiss capital is invested. In copra concerns, a combination of Portuguese, Swiss and French capital is invested.


Judged from the above, it is quite clear what a stake most of the countries of the „free world“ have in the continuation of exploitation and oppression of the millions of toiling African masses under Portuguese slavery.





The Freedom Fighter (Ghana newspaper) of November 21, 1963, published the following: „People are being drowned alive; people are being buried alive; people are being burnt alive; people are being skinned alive; - all in the 20th century, in Mozambique! Slavery is Rampant.“ To show that this is no exaggeration. I wish to repeat the acts of which the Liberian delegate at the United Nations accused Portugal lately: (1) Drowning Africans in her territories, (2) Burying Africans up to their shoulders in the ground and crushing their heads with bulldozers. Africa or Southern Rhodesia are being kidnapped and Southern Rhodesia at 2 pounds sterling a head. She produced first hand evidence that 10,000 African workers were being sold each year to South Africa. And Portugal is a member of NATO!


Mozambican freedom fighters who have fled to South Africa or Southern Rhodesia are being kidnapped and maltreated by the Portuguese secret police (PIDE) with the assistance of Welensky and Werwoerd, and vice versa. Some examples are: the kidnapping of Edward Ngubeni and Philip Sebral from South Africa, and of Jaime Sigauke from Salisbury, in April 1962, and their return to Mozambique. Lately Filipe Madzodzere and Alfred Amargo were kidnapped.