Staking Their Claims: Land Disputes in Southern Mozambique

Staking Their Claims: Land Disputes in Southern Mozambique

Conflicting interests in land and resource use emerged in postwar Mozambique, giving rise to multiple layers of dispute. This article explores the disputes occurring between 1992 and 1995 in two districts which are notable for the severity of competition over land by virtue of their proximity to Maputo, namely, Matutuíne and Namaacha. Although private sector claims were beginning to be staked with the potential for displacing people occupying the same land, other conflicts still predominated. Some accompanied the contradictory, complex, and unstable peacetime population movements—people were dispersing into areas abandoned during the war, leaving overcrowded government wartime accommodation centers, and returning from neighboring countries. But, at the same time, insecurity and competition over land contributed to a new process of settlement concentration. In the context of severe drought, high unemployment, and contracting opportunity in South Africa, unemployed labor migrants, urban youth, and demobilized soldiers were attracted to the burgeoning and largely unregulated trades of charcoal-burning, fishing, hunting, and palm-wine tapping. These immigrants came into conflict with returning locals in bitter clashes which often focused primarily on trees, fish, and game rather than on land per se. Attempts to regulate resource exploitation were constrained by the inadequacy and corruptibility of fiscal controls, by armed groups, and by the crisis of authority at local level which characterized both government- and Renamo-administered areas. [author]

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