Social Policy in Mozambique

Types of social policies and their history

About 1700 years ago, the eastern Bantu migrating from the north joined the indigenous people living from hunting and fishing (San and Khoi-Khoi) and settled gradually in the territory of today’s Mozambique in the river basins of the coasts, on the fertile slopes and on the plateaus of the interior. This was part of the great Bantu migration. The immigrants revolutionized the way of production by farming and cattle breeding and by mastering iron technology. As settled farmers, they built wooden houses and began to cultivate various types of grain. Hunting and fishing remained over the centuries the necessary contribution of men to family nutrition. At the same time, pottery, weaving and metallurgy developed at a relatively high level and led in some territories to specialisations which established themselves alongside agriculture. Where there was a surplus in craftsmanship and agricultural production, local and long-distance trade developed, increasingly with ivory, hides, skins and ores. In the Bantu society, agriculture retained its dominant function, exercised by the village community, which was based on blood affinity and existed south of the Zambezi in patrilineal and north in matrilineal form. In the end, the group product was divided among the participants according to the rules of customary law. The technical and social division of labour was based on gender and age. Women, as the majority of agricultural workers, were individually free persons whose task was to provide for the extended family. In individual cases, the existence of house slaves was also proven in pre-colonial society. As producers, the women had a certain authority and control over the granaries, but were fundamentally excluded from owning the most valuable good, cattle. The social life of the clans (Linhagens) or extended families (Famílias alargadas) was shaped by a boss endowed with political, legal and religious power and the advice of the elderly. Depending on the region, they were transferred from the eldest brother to the next in terms of age, or from father to son or (north of the Zambezi) from uncle on the mother’s side to nephew.

With the establishment of the Bantu, two forms of society developed: developed states (such as the Monomotapa, which extended into the present-day province of Tete) and (known from later Portuguese historiography as) chieftains, simple political entities headed by a CHEFE.

With the activities of Persian and above all Arab traders, who settled in the littoral, firmly established settlements, an independent culture was formed on the coast of the Indian Ocean through the mixing with native ethnic groups: the Swahili. The expansion of trade activities and the inevitable spread of Islam with the growing number of Arab immigrants promoted newly emerging political and social structures, which manifested themselves in the founding of sheikdoms (Sancul; Quitangonha; Sangage) and sultanates (Angoxe). When the Portuguese settled on the Mozambican Indian coast at the beginning of the 16th century, their mercantile interests met those of the Swahili Arabs, who had previously controlled and dominated trade on the east coast of Africa down to Sofala. First the Portuguese settled in Sofala (1505) and on the Ilha de Moçambique (1507). Portugal, then a rising world power, was looking for gold to buy expensive spices in Asia and sell them profitably in Europe. They displaced the Swahili Arabs from their ancestral (trading) places and began to invade the interior. Since 1530 they advanced with military expeditions into the Zambezi Valley, founded settlements (Tete and Sena 1530, Quelimane 1544).

In order to keep conquered territories permanently, they brought Portuguese settlers into the country in the 17th and 18th centuries. Because it was difficult to persuade Portuguese people to settle in Africa under the conditions prevailing at the time, the Portuguese crown passed a law allowing criminals sentenced to the death penalty (murderers, politically convicted, deserted ex-soldiers) to go to Mozambique as Prazeiros. The land (Prazo) transferred to them in the Zambezi Valley originally covered 5 square miles. In 1765 a document stated the existence of 100 Prazos. In Mozambique’s historiography they are considered the first forms of colonial exploitation to be imposed in an extreme manner. Portuguese influence increased with the expansion of the trading posts. A migration of peoples (Mfecane) brought about on South African territory by Shaka Zulu (1818-28) and his successors changed Mozambique. The Changanes settled in the south, and between the Baia de Maputo and the Zambezi the Nguni state Gaza arose, which prevented the Portuguese and Boers from Transvaal from penetrating further inland. Portuguese coastal trade continued to flourish. At first gold remained the main commodity. This main phase (gold phase) began in 1505 and ended with the revolt against the Portuguese organized by Changamire Dombo in 1693. This was followed by the period of intense ivory trade from the end of the 17th to the middle of the 18th century. The lucrative slave trade determined the third phase of trading activity from around 1750 to the official ban on the slave trade in 1836 and 1869. However, in practice, human trafficking lasted until the end of the 19th century.

In order to obtain gold, ivory and slaves, merchants made use of the ruling classes and chieftains, which led to armed conflicts, trade rivalries and the decline of the chieftains and kingdoms. In order to better exploit the colony, the Portuguese founded large economic enterprises (Companhias Majestáticas) with the participation of international donors, some of which expanded territorially by military force. After the Berlin Conference of 1884/85, Portugal intensified its seizure of Mozambique and finally settled in the south with the smashing of the Gaza state in 1895. The colonial state transformed simple agricultural small producers into forced laborers. In 1899, under the authorship of António Enes, he created a labor law (Código de Trabalho), and occupied the chieftain’s functions with the colonial power’s subservient vassals. The colonial act (Acto Colonial) published in 1930 aimed to “civilize the indigenous population” and at the same time conjured up “moral and political ties” between the metropolis and the colony and “a natural community and solidarity on the basis of their economy”. However, this included the payment of a native tax (Imposto Indígena), such as the compulsory cultivation of cotton and rice. The previous house tax (Imposto de palhota) became the poll tax (Imposto de capitação). Mondlane distinguishes the following colonial forms of exploitation: Penal labour; forced labour to be performed six months a year for large companies or public institutions; contract labour imposed on wage earners under the Código do Trabalho Rural if they did not fulfil their obligations; voluntary labour (domestic workers in towns); forced cultivation (Cúltivo forçado) for low wages; export of labour abroad, for which the Portuguese government received payments. /1/

The official statistics showed a population of 6.6 million people, of whom 94% were farmers living in the subsistence economy regime. Beneficiaries of the colonial system were members of privileged subgroups /2/: Whites, Orientals, Indians, Mulattos and Assimilated. With the latter group, Portugal tried to counter the accusation of racism in its colony. The assimilated Africans (Assimilados) were to demonstrate the possibility of the locals’ access to the group of ruling whites and the use of their educational and developmental standards. The position of the assimilated, however, was tied to conditions which remained unattainable for the mass of applicants, which meant that the number of assimilados never exceeded 5000. Although in 1951 Portugal elevated its colonies to overseas provinces and its inhabitants to Portuguese citizens, it failed to prevent the establishment of liberation movements: UDENAMO (National Democratic Union of Mozambique, 1960), UNAMI (National African Union of Mozambique, 1961), MANU (African Union of Mozambique, 1961). In 1962, Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane united these movements into the FRELIMO (Mozambique Liberation Front), which defined itself as “a mass organization of all Mozambicans, regardless of gender, ethnic origin, religious belief or place of residence”. /3/ At its 1st Congress, it defined its objectives: “Complete liquidation of foreign rule, all traces of colonialism and imperialism, conquest of immediate and complete independence, construction of a developed, modern, prosperous and strong Mozambique”. /4/ On September 25, 1964 FRELIMO started the armed liberation struggle. With the fall of the Caetano government in April 1974, the proclamation of the Portuguese colonies’ right to self-determination (27 July 1974) and the military successes of FRELIMO, the conditions for a transitional government (1974) in Mozambique were created. On 25 June 1975, the country achieved full independence as the People’s Republic of Mozambique. The state was headed by Samora Moises Machel, who, after the murder of FRELIMO founder Mondlane in 1969, had taken over the leadership of the movement, which had already been recognised by the UN in 1972. In the Declaration of Independence, Machel declared: “The … People’s Republic is a state of people’s democracy in which, under the leadership of the Alliance of Peasants and Workers, all patriotic strata participate in the struggle for the elimination of the consequences of colonialism and imperialist dependence, for the elimination of the system of human exploitation, for the construction of the material, ideological, political-cultural, social and administrative basis of the new society. /In the politically and ideologically divided world, FRELIMO joined the bloc of its previous supporters, professed Marxism-Leninism and transformed itself at its 3rd Congress in 1977 from the national liberation movement to the Frelimo Party, which set itself socialism as a long-term goal. In order to implement this plan, a new state apparatus was set up, an extensive state economic sector was created, hunger, tribalism and housing misery were combated and a people-oriented health system was envisaged. The constitution declared land and mineral resources as state property. /6/ One focus was the fight against illiteracy and the creation of an education system that would provide all children of the people with access to school education. Education Minister Graça Machel stated on 16 February 1983: “The introduction of the national education system, which … comprises three subsystems, is a process which is directed towards the creation of the new human being in content, form and methods. The National Educational System is the strategy, the plan of struggle to free our country from illiteracy, ignorance and superstition”. /7/ It set the task to educate Homem Novo (New Man) for socialist construction. The Sistema Nacional de Educação (SNE; National Education System) laid down the rules for this. The legacy of colonialism was that more than 90% of the population was illiterate.

This political development in Mozambique and South Africa tried to prevent South Africa’s apartheid regime with an undeclared war against the People’s Republic. At the same time, it supported the rebel movement RENAMO (National Mozambican Resistance), which had been active since 1976 and triggered a civil war. South African attacks as well as the RENAMO gangs murdering under their leader Afonso Dhlakama destroyed the infrastructure and triggered an enormous flight movement in one of the poorest countries of the world.

With the end of the West-East conflict and the collapse of the socialist world system, the 5th Frelimo Congress bid farewell to Marxism-Leninism as a state doctrine in 1989 and enacted a new constitution in 1990. Since the 6th Frelimo Congress the new ideological world view of Frelimo has been called “Democratic Socialism” and includes a commitment to the market economy. On October 4, 1992, President Chissano and RENAMO leader Dhlakama signed a peace agreement in Rome that ended the 16-year civil war that had cost the lives of more than 600,000 people and uprooted millions of refugees. Dhlakama transformed RENAMO into a political party. Since then, he himself has failed in all presidential elections, while Frelimo, despite the diversity of its parties, remains the dominant political force to this day, dominating the parliament and appointing the president.


Subgroups of the Mozambican population 1950:

white67 485
orientals1 956
indians15 188
mulattos29 507
assimilated (african)4 555

(From: Eduardo Mondlane: Lutar por Moçambique, Lisboa 1977, p. 35)

Agricultural income in Mozambique 1964:

groupAnnual income in Escudos
white 47 723
mestizos23 269
assimilated (african)5 478
Unassimilated (african)1 404

(From: Eduardo Mondlane: Lutar por Moçambique, Lisboa 1977, p. 40)

The Millennium Development Goals as a concept until 2015

In 2000, 189 countries of the United Nations adopted the Millennium Declaration on the Organization of International Relations in the 21st Century in the fields of peace, security, disarmament and development policy, among others. By the year 2015, 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are to be achieved in terms of development and poverty reduction.

This also applies to Mozambique:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The number of people who are hungry or live on less than one dollar a day is to be halved by 2015.
  • Ensure basic education for all by 2015.
  • Promote gender equality and the political, economic and social participation of women: Eliminate discrimination against girls in all areas of education by 2015.
  • Reduce the mortality rate of children under five by two thirds by 2015.
  • Strengthening maternal health: Reduce the maternal mortality rate by three quarters by 2015.
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases.
  • Ensure sustainable protection of the environment.
  • Build a global partnership for development.

Participating countries prepare annual progress reports.

(Following : Richard Brand: The Millennium Development Goals as a concept until 2015. In: Mozambique Newsletter No. 69, April 2006, p. 15/16)

On the state of achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Mozambique

Important government strategy papers are focused on their contribution to the achievement of the objectives. Poverty reduction programmes and their implementation formed the basis for debt relief by the IMF and the World Bank. In terms of Mozambique’s national budget, around 65% of the budget has been allocated to poverty-reducing areas in recent years. Education (21.8%), health (12%) and infrastructure (15.1%) benefited most from this. (According to: Anne Merklein: No trend reversal without action. In: Mozambique Newsletter No. 81, December 2010, p. 4)

“The targeted reduction in absolute poverty from 54.1% to 45% by 2009 was not achieved, but rather the proportion has risen to 54.7% of the population. As the population has grown, this means that the number of people living below the poverty line has risen from 9.9 million to 11.7 million. … The situation for people in rural areas is much worse than for those living in cities.” (Ebenda, p. 5)

Overall, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) rates the achievement of most of Mozambique’s targets in 2010 as “likely” and “possible”. The passage to achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment for all who need it by 2010 was characterised as “unlikely”. (Ebenda, p. 6)

Current policy in the social field

The more than 30 ethnic groups existing in Mozambique were not allowed to become an obstacle to the liberation movement and development in the post-colonial era. For this reason, the historical 1st Congress of FRELIMO aimed at achieving the unity of the movement /8/ and thus followed the demand of Mondlane.

In most of the speeches until his death in 1986, President Samora Machel tried to convey a national sense of identity to the Mozambicans. The civil war that flared up after independence proved “that Portuguese decolonisation was catastrophic”. /9/

The National Educational Policy (Política Nacional de Educação; PNE), launched in the 1990s, “was intended to revive the educational system, which had been sunk into agony by the civil war”. /10/ The educational strategy for the years 1999 to 2003 was specified in more detail in the Strategic Education Plan (Plano Estratégico de Educação; PEE) for primary schools. A “Proposal of the Government Programme for 2005 to 2009” (Proposta de Programa do Governo para 2005-2009) was published for the overall social development of the country. In April 2001, Mozambique’s Council of Ministers published the “Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty. Strategic Document and Action Plan for Poverty Reduction and Economic Growth” (PAPRA). Education and health are given priority (point 6). The achievement of the objectives is made dependent on two basic conditions: the maintenance of peace and socio-political stability.

Debt relief and rapid economic growth of between 6 and 12 percent since 2001 have not yet reduced poverty in Mozambique. 55 percent of Mozambicans are still considered poor. The upswing is due to a few mega-projects (e.g. the British-South African-Japanese aluminium smelter MOZAL; titanium mining Nampula; gas project Sasol; coal mining in Moatize by Brazilian companies) that operate with reduced profit taxes, “VAT and customs duties do not have to be paid by MOZAL at all”. /11/


/1/ Eduardo Mondlane: Lutar por Moçambique, Sá da Costa, Lisboa 1977, S. 95/96
/2/ Ebenda, S. 35
/3/ Samora Moises Machel: O processo da revolução democratica popular em Moçambique, Instituto Nacional do Livro e do Disco, Maputo 1980, S. 31
/4/ Ebenda, S. 31
/5/ Datas e documentos da história da FRELIMO, Edição da Imprensa Nacional 1975, S. 482
/6/ Vergl. Constituição da República Popular de Moçambique, Edição do Instituto Nacional do Livro e do Disco, Maputo 1978, Artigo 8, S. 20
/7/ Rainer Grajek: Berichte aus dem Morgengrauen. Als Entwicklungshelfer der DDR in Mosambik, Verlag Ute Vallentin 2005, S. 18
/8/ Vergl. História da FRELIMO, Edição do Departamento de Trabalho Ideológico FRELIMO, Maputo 1981, S. 7
/9/ Paul Collier: Gefährliche Wahl. Wie Demokratisierung in den ärmsten Ländern der Erde gelingen kann, Siedler Verlag München 2009, S. 138
/10/ Rainer Grajek, s. /7/, S. 271
/11/ Johannes Beck: Mosambik wächst, die Armut bleibt, Deutsche Welle vom 10. 01. 2011

Rainer Grajek: „Mosambik“, In: „Handbuch Sozialpolitiken der Welt“, Prof. Dr. Markus Porsche-Ludwig, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Gieler, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Bellers (Herausgeber), LIT Verlag 2013, pp. 413 – 419

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Last Updated on 2021-05-21