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Violence and social change in a border economy: war in the Maputo hinterland, 1984-1992

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 19:58 authored by JoAnn McGregorJoAnn McGregor
This article contributes to the growing historiography of Mozambique's devastating recent war through a study of the borderlands of the Maputo hinterland. I focus on the districts of Matutuíne and Namaacha where the war was profoundly shaped by the dual influences of the international borders and the capital city. Though the intensity of the government's military response prevented rebel control of sizeable populations inside the country, the borders allowed Renamo to develop crucial international networks of support in South Africa and Swaziland: this strategy and the social networks upon which it relied, meant that Renamo's relationship with civilians and alliances with chiefs were significantly different from those described in the existing literature. I show Renamo's social base in the so-called 'zones of destruction' to be more complex than hitherto understood, particularly in so far as the rebels were able to - or tried to - win a constituency other than youth. Stereotypes in the existing literature of a wartime social and spatial polarisation between rural, traditionalist Renamo communities living in isolation from the market and modern, urban society loyal to the government are inadequate and misleading: not only were Renamo soldiers and allied civilians deeply imbricated in the cross border economy, but soldiers of both sides had common interests in controlling movement and wartime trade. As the capital's fuel needs soared during the war, groups of young men left the capital and moved into the city's hinterland to burn charcoal. Replacing local communities displaced by the war, these government controlled charcoal burning settlements were dominated by uneducated male youth who cut to get quick profits, gained a reputation for violence, and brought about an increasingly predatory relationship between the capital city and its hinterland. © 1998 Journal of Southern African Studies.


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Journal of Southern African Studies




Taylor & Francis





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