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A contribution for the understanding of the legislation on repatriation on Southern Africa

1. Brief historical resumй of migrancy between the target countries

The starting point on which this paper builds is that migrancy, specially illegal migrancy, and repatriation are the two faces of the same coin. In order to contextualise the problem we propose to provide a short description of its genesis so as to demonstrate that it is a deep rooted issue in the region. The selected countries for this study are South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. The other countries that share borders with Mozambique, namely Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania are not included in this study as the repatriations they engage in do not have a significant impact on Mozambique.

1.1 Migrancy between Mozambique and South Africa

Migration of Mozambicans to South Africa is an old phenomenon. References about these movements date back to XIX Century when Mozambicans migrated to the South African plantations and then to the diamonds mines of Kimbeley. More recently migrations have been to the gold mines of Witwatersrand.

On the second half of the XIX Century a significant number of Mozambicans working in South Africa had been recorded. Indeed, in 1879 there were about 15,000 Mozambicans working in different places and taking on different jobs in South Africa. In 1897, just the gold mines of Transvaal employed about 60,000 Mozambicans ( Covane 1997).

The local chiefdoms profited from the earnings of these migrant workers. For example, the kings of the Kingdom of Gaza charged taxes in Pounds which the workers brought back with them. Where repatriation is concerned, it seems that there was no agreement between these chiefdoms and South Africa.

With the establishment of de jure Portuguese colonial administration, after the defeat of the last spot of resistance in Southern Mozambique, in 1897, Portugal started contacts with the authorities in Transvaal aimed at obtaining at negotiation a legal instrument which would regulate the migration flow to that region. Indeed, Portugal had understood, quite early, that she had no mechanisms to stop this migrancy and the best way forward was to try and profit from it. As a result of these contacts, the two parties signed an agreement which contained the rules and regulations for engaging the natives in the Republic of South Africa.

The start of the Anglo- Boer war greatly affected the mining industry. The negative impact of this war on the industry was also felt in Mozambique. According to the Chamber of Mines, in this period 80,000 Mozambicans were repatriated. It was, indeed, the first great repatriation of Mozambicans. It must be mentioned, in passing, that there was no repatriation agreement between Portugal and South Africa.

1.2 Migrancy between Mozambique and Zimbabwe

The delimitation of the Mashonaland border, in 1890, broke up a vast ethno linguistic group, the Shona. In Mozambique and in Southern Rhodesia the monoculture plantation economies were thriving. In Mozambique there was the Companhia de Mozambique and in Southern Rhodesia the British South African Company (B.S.A.C).

The dynamics brought about by B.S.A.C. brought a great deal of pressure on the local labour. At the same time, the conditions offered to workers were from far better than those offered to Mozambicans working on Companhia de Moзambique and other similar enterprises in Mozambique. These differences became a factor in the competition and Mozambicans begun to be attracted to cross the border illegally to work in Southern Rhodesia.

In 1913, Portugal signed an agreement with B.S.A.C. aimed at regulating the use of Mozambican labour. On the main, the agreement was aimed at curbing illegal migrancy. Subsequent efforts were made by the Rhodesian Native Labour Bureau (R.N.L.B.) to implement this agreement when it started recruiting Mozambican labour in 1915. As Joel das Neves makes the point, until 1916, that company had managed to recruit 2,707 workers, against 4.000 who had left the country illegally (Neves 1990). According to the same author, “ the fight to stop clandestine migrancy did not yield the expected results as there were no mechanisms to prevent it” (Neves 1990).

It is interesting to note that while Portugal made efforts to stop illegal migrancy, Southern Rhodesia took a much relaxed stance as it was to its advantage since this would as had been a source of cheap labour. Indeed, the Barwe rebellion, in 1917-20, led to an exodus of about 5,000-11,000 Mozambicans. When the Southern Rhodesian authorities were contacted to bring the situation back to normal, they refused alleging that these migrants were mere refugees. However, they charged them Native Tax (Neves 1990). Clandestine migrancy continued to be key until the independence of Zimbabwe. Table 1 shows the trends in the second half of the 1950’s: about 110,707 of the workers who migrated from 1955 to 1959, about 90% where clandestine migrants.

Table 1: Comparison between illegal and legal migrancy

Year Recruited Percentage Clandestine Percentage
1955 2.152 7% 27.976 93%
1956 2.552 10% 24.137 90%
1957 3.240 23% 10.560 77%
1958 2.288 13% 15.096 78%
1959 878 3% 21.828 97%
Total 11.110 10% 99.597 90%

Source: Based on Joel das Neves, 1990.

1.3 Migrancy between Mozambique and Swaziland

The relations between Mozambique and Swaziland are also prior to the settlement of the colonial authorities in each of these countries. The fact that the two economies have been equally underdeveloped may explain why there was not much flow of migrancy between the two.

However, the establishment of monoculture plantation in Swaziland led to the clandestine migrancy into that country. To our knowledge, there were no agreements between Portugal and Britain or Swaziland.

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