The first inhabitants of Mozambique were of the Khoisani people, viz. San hunter gatherers.
The Nguni (Bantu) people migrated southwards, starting perhaps as early as the 3rd century AD, from the north and west of Africa, crossing the Zambezi River valley basin, which was a major barrier, and down the coastal plain.
For an interesting article on further research about IRON AGE INHABITANTS IN THE ZAMBESI RIVER BASIN see this presentation by
Hilario Madiquida , Professor, Archaeology and Anthropology Mozambique.
They then gradually spread into the plateau and coastal areas of South Eastern Africa.
They introduced the cultivation of some grain crops, along with the knowledge of root and tree crops into the region.
This migration was mainly confined to the east of the 600mm rainfall line and they were farmers and herders as well being of the iron age, using metal tools and implements.
Today most of Mozambique's indigenous peoples are of this Nguni origin, and the tribal character of the people that developed in this region was largely influenced and governed by geography.
The Chopi, Tonga, and Tsonga were grouped in to chiefdoms in the southern regions.
Around the Zambezi River, in the central region, lived, the Barue, Maravi,
Macua-Lomue, Shona, as well as some Tonga .
These Nguni groups were not homogenous, as one would be led to believe.
The Maravi, comprised of a number of small scattered kingdoms.
The Macua-Lomue were gathered into clans ruled by chiefs.
Mozambique had an established Arab presence by the 10th century evidenced by the first written record of Mozambique by an Arab writer, Al-Mas'udi, when he mentioned the town of Sofala, - 45 km south of Beira. His report mentions the
Wak Wak people who used iron.
Coastal trade was at first dominated by Arabs and Persians, who had established settlements as far south as MOZAMBIQUE ISLAND.
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Mozambique was in fact named after the Arab sheik on Mozambique Island called "Musa Bin Biki" when Vasco de Gama first landed there in 1498.
The first European to reach Mozambique was Vasco da Gama after he had rounded the Southern tip of Africa in 1498.
He had thus opened up the trade route from Europe to India.
There is much more to this than a person at first realises, let me give some ideas for consideration.
When Vasco da Gama reached the Indian port of Calicut, It was only a few weeks before
Christopher Columbus, after his 3rd voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, made his first landing on the American mainland.
Nearly eleven months after de Gama had left Lisbon, he landed at Calicut.
This voyage when taken into comparison was much more difficult and much longer than Columbus' voyage. There was a history of exploration of the route down the west coast of Africa to the successfull rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. This is historically recorded as being the successful voyage by Bartolemew, Diaz when after rounding the southern tip of Africa, was forced to turn back because of a threatened mutiny by his crew.
Vasco de Gama had after his trip proved that there was a practical and profitable
route to Asia and the East, for trade with spices and this route was around the southern tip of Africa.
In 1505 the Portuguese occupied Sofala, establishing a fort and installing a friendly Arab ruler there.
Columbus's failed to find a direct route across the Atlantic to the riches of the East and the spice trade of the Indian Ocean.
For several centuries, Arab commercial and slave trading had existed along the coast and outlying islands.
The Arabs traded mainly, ceramic pottery, cloth, glass, beads, salt and metal goods with these Bantu-speaking people, in exchange for gold, palm oil, rhino horn, amber, hides & skins and ivory.
With the cooperation of the African chiefs, this trade expanded. supplied by goods from the kingdoms in the interior hinterland.
In time intermarriage between these two groups gave rise to the Swahili culture which is still dominant in the Eastern African coastal areas down to northern Mozambique.
One of the oldest and most southerly of these trading groups, was a settlement called Mapungubwe. It is thought to have started during the 10th century in the upper reaches of the Limpopo River, based on groups of villages under a chief, known as the "Nyika system". It is the earliest known settlement featuring stone enclosures, or "Zimbabwes".
During the 13th -15th century (1200 - 1400 AD) the Kingdom of Mwene Mutapa (Monomatapo) with it's capital at Great
Zimbabwe, was established.
These are the ancestors of the Shona people. Mozambique existed as numerous small black kingdoms
The name Mutapa means "the conquered lands". The mwene (bantu term for "lord", particularly a conquering king) was
the title giving rise to the state being referred to as Mwene Mutapa.
This phrase has been preserved in documents as Munhu mu tapa, Manhumutapa and the Portuguese Monomotapa.
It has also been translated to mean "master pillager" or "lord of the conquered mines".
The Zambezi and Limpopo rivers were two big natural boundaries, with the area north of Zambezi river dominated
by the kingdoms of Makua, Yao, Maravi and other less integrated sub-groups.
The Shona Empire ruled between the two rivers.
The great stone structures of Great Zimbabwe, are testimony to the political and economic might, of the Great
Zimbabwe civilization's control over the region.
This empire extended south from the Zambezi River incorporating the Save River down to the Limpopo River, and
then eastwards to the coast.
The economy was based on cattle, with the grazing grounds extending from the Zimbabwe plateau down to the
Mozambican lowlands, as well as agriculture.
Local industries started developing incorporating the mining of gold, copper and iron, as well as the development
of saltpans and pottery industries.
This Monomatapo influence in southern Mozambique was evidenced by the settlement at Manekweni, about 50
kilometers from the Indian Ocean.
Manekweni was a settlement based on the eastern range of grazing for cattle, and gold trade during the 12th -
The main outlets to the sea were at Sofala south of Beira, - developed as a trade center for gold from the
interior - and at Mozambique Island further north.
At the beginning of the 16th century the Portuguese tried to advance into the interior of Mozambique, but were not numerically nor militarily strong enough to be successful in their endeavors.
The occupation of the lower Zambezi and the two garrisons and trading posts of Sena and Tete contributed little towards control of the country.
In spite of the Portuguese presence along the Zambezi, there were powerful chiefs, such as the, Karonga, Undi, Chipeta, Maravin and Nyassa who had established a strong and powerful prescence in the region north of the Zambezi River. South of the Zambezi River, trade, was under the control of the Shona people.
Portuguese power declined during the period when the crown of Portugal was combined with the crown of Spain (1580-1640).
The Portuguese African coastal settlements were ignored and fell into poorly maintained condition. This resulted in investment lagging while Lisbon devoted itself to the more lucrative trade with India and the Far East as well as the colonisation of Brazil.
At the Berlin Conference in 1884, Mozambique became a Portuguese colony,this resulted in a system of dividing the land into prazos (large agricultural estates)was established. This system resulted in land being rented to British and French companies, which set up plantations growing cash crops such as cotton, and tea. The result was that the natives cultivatied the land for the benefit of the European leaseholders, (Prazeros) who were also tax-collectors for each district and claimed the tax either in labour or produce. This system kept the sharecropping farmers in a state of serfdom.
Direct Portuguese influence was limited. mainly to the coast between several sea ports and Madagascar, where a large trade in slaves was carried on until 1877, supplying slaves for Arabia and the Ottomans.
European traders and prospectors barely penetrated the interior regions, until the Transvaal gold rush.
In 1917 there was a Shona rebellion and this became Mozambique's first major anti-colonial uprising.Many of the Portuguese military bases were overrun and it took 3 years for the authorities to restore order in Mozambique. Reforms which were long overdue were implemented in 1926 under a new dispensation in Portugal known as "Estado Novo".
After World War II, many European nations were granting independence to their colonies. Portugal however established Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and Angola as Portuguese 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. Neither Portuguese citizens nor Indigenous Mozambicans had political rights, although Portuguese citizens were in a privileged class of their own.
"Indigenas", who were indigenous Mozambique citizens, could by certain provisions being fulfilled, become an "Assimilado". This meant that they could become a Portuguese citizen. One of the main conditions to be met was proper education. Educational opportunities in Mozambique were limited and few and far between so there were not many "Indigenas" who became "Assimilados"
The aspirations of the Black Mozambicans to rule themselves without having to become "Black Europeans" was not met, causing increasing dissatisfaction amongst them.
The desire for Mozambican independence gained pace, and in 1962 an assortment of anti-colonial political groups, under the leadership of Dr Eduardo Mondlane (educated in America) formed the "Frente de Libertacao de Mozambique" (FRELIMO) on 25 June 1962. Frelimo, based in Tanzania, began an armed campaign against Portuguese colonial rule in September 1964,and was soon in control of large parts of Northern Mozambique.
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Dissension within Frelimo led to breakaway groups forming "Comite Revolucionario de Mozambique" (Coremo). In 1964. Mondlane was killed by a letter bomb in his offices in Dar es Salaam and in February 1969 Samora Machel took over as leader of Frelimo.
Ongoing guerilla wars began sapping Portugal's ability to maintain these costly wars. Following the 25 April 1974 coup in Lisbon, President Caetano fled to Brazil and a military junta under Gen. Antonio de Spinola became the government and Portuguese colonialism collapsed. This resulted in a peace agreement in Mozambique on 7 September 1974 and the installation of a provisional government. Frelimo's Joaquim Chissano, was installed as prime minister of Mozambique. Racial clashes occurred and resulted in a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens contributing to a major collapse of the economic infrastructure of Mozambique.