Mozambique’s Economic & Political History I


Mozambique is a country on the south-eastern seaboard of Africa, and a tropical paradise with a somewhat turbulent history.  Given its geography Mozambique is the gateway to Southern Africa and a major transportation network to transport goods into Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia.

When the Europeans explorers first came to Africa they came to Mozambique in the 1400s. Mozambique then became a Portuguese colony known as Portuguese East Africa, and for more than five centuries Mozambique’s indigenous people: the Sena, Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Shangane were under imperial rule. Mozambique’s first inhabitants were San hunter and gatherers, ancestors of the Khoisan people. Between the first and fourth centuries AD, waves of Bantu-speaking people migrated from the north through the Zambezi River valley and then gradually into the plateau and coastal areas. These Bantu people were farmers and iron workers.

When Portuguese explorers reached Mozambique in 1498, Arab trading settlements already existed along the coast and outlying islands for several centuries. However, from about 1500, Portuguese trading posts and forts became regular ports of call on the new route to the East. Later, traders and prospectors penetrated the interior regions, seeking gold and slaves. Although Portuguese influence gradually expanded, its power was limited and exercised through individual settlers who were granted extensive autonomy. As a result, investment lagged while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East even to the colonization of Brazil.

By the early 20th century, the Portuguese had shifted the administration of much of the country to large private companies, controlled and financed mostly by the British, which established railroad lines to neighboring countries and supplied cheap, often forced African labor to the mines and plantations of the nearby British colonies and South Africa. Because policies were designed to benefit white settlers and the Portuguese homeland, little attention was paid to Mozambique’s national integration, its economic infrastructure, or the skills of its population.

After World War II, while many European nations were granting independence to their colonies, Portugal clung to the concept that Mozambique and other Portuguese possessions were overseas provinces of the mother country, and emigration to the colonies soared. Mozambique’s Portuguese population at the time of independence was about 250,000. The drive for Mozambican independence developed apace, and in 1962 several anti-colonial political groups formed the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), which initiated an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule in September 1964. After 10 years of sporadic warfare and major political changes in Portugal, Mozambique became independent on June 25, 1975.

From the mid-1970s, Mozambique’s history reflected political developments elsewhere in the 20th century. Following the April 1974 coup in Lisbon, Portuguese colonialism collapsed. In Mozambique, the military decision to withdraw occurred within the context of a decade of armed anti-colonial struggle, initially led by American-educated Eduardo Mondlane, who was assassinated in 1969. When independence was achieved in 1975, the leaders of Frelimo’s military campaign rapidly established a one-party state allied to the Soviet bloc and outlawed rival political activity. Frelimo eliminated political pluralism, religious educational institutions, and the role of traditional authorities.

Between September 1974 and June 1975 there was an exodus of Europeans and African collaborators. More than 200,000 Europeans fled from Mozambique and many left a trail of destruction. Ironically, since the financial crisis in 2008, many Portuguese continue to return to Mozambique in search of opportunities.

After, Mozambique achieved Independence, the new government provided shelter and support to South African (ANC) and Zimbabwean (ZANU) liberation movements while the governments of first Rhodesia and later apartheid South Africa fostered and financed an armed rebel movement in central Mozambique called the Mozambican National Resistance (Renamo). The civil war and sabotage from neighboring states (such as apartheid South Africa) led to economic turmoil and eventually the assassination of Samora Machel in 1986.




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