Mozambique

Institutionalization of Ethnic Categories

Key Dates
Details/Documentation

Sources

Key Dates

  • 16th century: Portuguese settlement/occupation
  • 1975: Mozambique gains independence from Portugal

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Details/Documentation

Race

Race was strongly institutionalized in colonial Mozambique. In addition to the typical African/European divide, the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola institutionalized the mestiço class of mixed race citizens, and established an assimilado class. The small minority of natives who read and wrote Portuguese, rejected tribal customs, and were gainfully employed were classified as assimilados and were generally treated more like Europeans. The rest of the African population belonged to the indigenato category. Although it was theoretically possible to change categories, in reality it was rare and difficult (Isaacman 1983: 39). The Portuguese abolished the indigenato class in 1961, and in the year prior to this, those individuals thought to be in transition toward citizenship received identity cards that allowed them free movement in all of Mozambique (O’Laughlin 2000: 14).

The 1894 census was the first to record race, and race was also counted on the 1970, 1997, and 2007 censuses.

In 1917, a system of identity cards was established for Africans. This system differentiated between civilized and non-civilized Africans. The identity cards were designed to restrict natives’ movement; a native would need written authorization from administrative authorities for any change of residence; beginning in 1918, all natives were forbidden to appear in Maputo without a pass, violations were punished by penal labor, and starting in 1919, all native men over 14 were required to carry an identity card, required travel passes and entry into the city required registration. Beginning in 1926, all men had to carry a passbook (O’Laughlin 2000: 14)

Whites, mestiços, and assimilados were educated separately from Africans beginning with the passing of the Missionary Statute in 1941 and continuing through independence.  The government ran the school system that taught whites, mestiços and assimilados only. A separate 3-year “ensino de adaptação” program taught African students basic reading, writing, and arithmetic (Duffy 1961: 296-297).

An 1899 labor law required all Africans to work. All adults, excluding chiefs and those who produced crops for exports, were required to arrange labor contracts with an employer, or the state would arrange the contracts itself (Roberts 2008: 504). Forced labor requirements ended in 1961 with the end of the indigenato system.

In 1918, a land law established three categories of land: state land, private land, and native reserves (O’Laughlin 2000: 14). An exception was made in 1919 for civilizados, when a provision was made for demarcating African reserves and allowing the civilizados to acquire freeholds. In the early years, demand for land by whites or civilizados was limited, so this law was hardly acted upon before 1940 (Roberts 2008: 497).

Beginning in 1942, native men could move freely in the region where they paid taxes but needed special authorization to travel outside of that region (O’Laughlin 2000: 14).

Until the 1960s, laws and social conventions prohibited Africans from entering “white” restaurants, theaters and bathrooms. Assimilados had to show police proof of their privileged status before using these facilities (Isaacman 1983: 58).

The colonial government maintained separate legal systems for Europeans and indigenatos; and the indigenatos continued to follow their traditional legal systems (Isaacman 1983: 31). In 1973, the government loosened voting regulations to allow anyone who spoke or read simple Portuguese to vote (O’Laughlin 2000: 23).

The use of racial categories was discontinued at independence.

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Language

Language categories were weakly institutionalized in Mozambique. Language was enumerated on every census from 1940 to 1997.

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Religion

Religious categories were also weakly institutionalized. Religion was enumerated on every census, with the exception of the 1930 census.

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Caste

None found

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Indigenous

None found

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Other ethnic, including tribe

None found

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Sources

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