Chic African Culture Africa Factbook

Scattering of Southern African of Nations

Scattering of Southern African Nations during the Difaqane.

Difaqane migration of the Nguni-speaking peoples of Southern Africa was characterized by conflicts, conquest, displacement, and the reshuffling of ethnic groups across Southern Africa. In the 19th century, Mozambique underwent significant changes due to the movements of many African groups who spoke Nguni languages in Southern Africa.

The Nguni-speaking peoples of Southern Africa include the Zulu, Xhosa, Nhlangwini, Mpondo, Ndebele, and Swazi. They are primarily found in the southeastern regions of Africa, including parts of South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. 

These migrations, which happened between the 1820s and 1850s, greatly impacted Mozambique and Africa as a whole, as they were disruptive and often violent events unfolding during this period. These migrations of people were known as the Difaqane migrations. Difaqane is derived from the Sotho language and translated as the scattering or forced migration.

Chiefs and Kings of the Difaqane Migrations

Chiefs and Kings of the Difaqane Migrations

At the beginning of the century, Mthethwa King Dingiswayo, Shaka Zulu's mentor, ruled over a group of Nguni-speaking tribes in Natal, South Africa. However, when Shaka Zulu, the legendary general from the Zulu clan, became the leader, he launched a campaign of conquest that reshaped the ethnic groups in Southern Africa. This period, known as the Difaqan, Mfecane, or the crushing, saw tribes absorbed, displaced, or trying to escape Shaka's rule.

One of these groups, the Ngoni, led by different chiefs, migrated to southern Mozambique around 1820. The Gaza Ngoni, later known as the Shangaan under Soshangana Nxumalo's leadership, settled in the Limpopo basin and created Gazaland.

Another Ngoni chief, Zwangendaba Jere, continued across the Limpopo River and sacked Great Zimbabwe in 1835, disrupting the Changamire kingdom. Zwangendaba's Ngoni eventually established a kingdom near Lake Nyasa, while some segments of his group remained in the Zambezi region and raided Portuguese settlements.

These nonconformist groups sustained themselves through raiding, taking women and livestock from other groups, and recruiting young men. Over time, under Soshangana's leadership, the Gaza Ngoni adopted a hierarchical and heavily militarized social structure and gradually became predominantly Tsonga in ethnicity.

The Portuguese in Mozambique

The Portuguese had established colonies and trading posts along the southeastern coast of Africa, including areas in what is now modern-day Mozambique. They were engaged in various economic activities in this region, including trade in goods such as ivory and slaves.

Initially, the Portuguese saw the presence of the Gaza Ngoni as advantageous because of the significant ivory they received from conquered tribes, which flowed through ports like Lourenço Marques, now known as Maputo, the capital and largest city of Mozambique, and Inhambane, also known as Terra de Boa Gente. 

However, as General Soshangana expanded his control, conflicts arose as he encroached on Portuguese-held coastal territory. In 1843, his warriors even overran the garrison at Inhambane.

As a result of these conflicts and challenges, the Portuguese found it increasingly difficult to maintain their control over the coastal territories of southern Mozambique. The migrating groups disrupted their established presence and economic activities in the region.

Mozambique Kingdoms are in Disarray

Mozambique Kingdoms are in Disarray

In 1833, a Zulu war party led by Shaka's brother Dingane captured the fort at Lourenço Marques. It massacred the garrison when the Portuguese governor general refused their demand for firearms and ammunition. The Zulu remained in control of the southern shore of Delagoa Bay until their defeat by the British in Natal in 1879. During this time, the potential threat from the Gaza Ngoni and the Zulu left southern Mozambique exposed to both British and Afrikaner republics.

General Soshangana also had conflicts with Ngoni rebels. One group migrated north, overcame tribes along the Save River, and became a powerful force in the hinterland of Sofala. In 1836, these rebels attacked the Portuguese at Sofala but were subdued by Soshangana two years later, and their conquests became part of his domain.

Alongside Zwangendaba's Ngoni, who crossed the Zambezi upstream from Tete in 1835, they caused significant disruption to the Maravi chiefdoms and supplied captives to the Swahili slave markets. After Zwangendaba's death, many of the Ngoni who had followed him went their separate ways, forming new kingdoms to the north.

The period after 1850 marked a critical phase in Mozambique's history.

After 1850, the Portuguese began a concerted effort to extend their colonial presence after recognizing the strategic importance of the Tete region and northern Mozambique. They aimed to fill the void left by the departing Ngoni groups and reestablish control over these territories. This marked the continued expansion of Portuguese colonial rule in Mozambique, shaping the region's future.

Concurrently, General Soshangana, the leader of the Gaza Ngoni, consolidated his authority among the Tsonga people in the interior. He imposed a hierarchical structure and collected tribute from African subjects and Portuguese settlers. Additionally, Soshangana's warriors continued to raid the Zambezi prazos, which were Portuguese estates or settlements. This ongoing conflict and resistance against Portuguese control in certain regions contributed to a complex dynamic between local populations and colonial authorities.

The actions and policies of the Portuguese during this period laid the foundation for the colonial legacy in Mozambique. This legacy included the imposition of colonial administration, economic exploitation, and social hierarchies. These effects persisted even after Mozambique gained independence from Portugal in 1975.

Did you know?

Lourenço Marques, now known as Maputo, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique, a country located in southeastern Africa. The city is situated along the country's southern coastline, bordering the Indian Ocean. Lourenço Marques was used during the colonial period when Mozambique was under Portuguese rule. Lourenço Marques was named after the Portuguese explorer Lourenço Marques, who arrived in the area in the late 16th century. 

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