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Mozambique - People

Mozambique's major ethnic groups encompass numerous subgroups with diverse languages, dialects, cultures, and histories. Many are linked to similar ethnic groups living in neighboring countries. The north-central provinces of Zambezia and Nampula are the most populous, with about 45% of the population. The estimated 4 million Makhuwa are the dominant group in the northern part of the country. The Sena and Ndau are prominent in the Zambezi valley, and the Tsonga and Shangaan dominate in southern Mozambique.

Portuguese landowners held the highest status during the colonial era, followed by the mestizos, those of mixed African and Portuguese descent; and Africans. Ethnicity had no effect on social status. Most Portuguese left the country after Mozambique attained independence from Portugal. Today, there are two classes: the small ruling class and the poor. Social and economic standing is often reflected in dress and language. Urban residents and young people wear Western-style clothing. Rural women wear traditional clothing. Men wear pants with T-shirts and dashikis (brightly colored pullover shirts). Northern Muslims wear traditional robes and head coverings. The wealthy speak Portuguese, which is rarely spoken outside of cities.

Nearly all Mozambicans are African (99.7 percent). The remaining 0.3 percent consists of Europeans, Euro-Africans, and Indians. There are several major African ethnic groups — the largest of which are the Makua and the Tsonga. An estimated 4 million Makua live in the north central provinces of Zambezia, Cabo Delgado, Niassa, and Nampula and represent nearly 40 percent of the population. The Sena and Ndau are prominent in the Zambezi Valley, and 1.5 million Tsonga live in southern Mozambique.

The Shona-carangas live between the Zambezi and Save rivers and represent 9 percent of the population. Smaller groups include the Shangana, Chope, Manyika, and Sena; the Maravi in Tete; the Nguni in the south; the Makonde in the far north; and the Asians and Europeans, who control the formal economy. Data from the 2007 census for Maputo City shows that Africans make up more than 95 percent of the population, mestizos make up nearly 3 percent, Caucasians and Indians make up less than one percent each, and other groups make up 1.76 percent.

Population distribution is uneven. The greatest concentrations of people are in urban and coastal areas, due primarily to migration spurred by civil war and flooding. Mozambique has seen a general increase in urbanization. The 1997 census cited an annual rate of 20 percent, and the National Household Survey of 2002/2003 quoted 32 percent.

Despite the influence of Islamic coastal traders and European colonizers, the people of Mozambique have largely retained an indigenous culture based on small-scale agriculture. Mozambique's most highly developed art forms are wood sculpture, for which the Makonde in northern Mozambique are particularly renowned, and dance. The middle and upper classes continue to be heavily influenced by the Portuguese colonial and linguistic heritage.

Much of Mozambique’s urban infrastructure consists of what is left over from the Portuguese colonial era. In Maputo, the architecture is Mediterranean, and the streets are wide and tree lined. The downtown area is a busy port and commercial center where Portuguese-style buildings (with balconies and wrought iron balustrades) stand beside plain apartment blocks. Maputo has an international airport, railway, and harbor and is connected with South Africa and Swaziland by national roads. Both sides in the colonial and civil wars considered Maputo neutral territory, so the city remained free of damage; however, government mismanagement of funds, little investment, and a lack of skilled workers have lead to a dereliction of infrastructure.

Maputo also the only Mozambican city with a population over 1 million people. It is the largest urban center in Mozambique and is divided into seven urban districts, including Catembe (about 10 minutes by boat from the city) and the Island of Inhaka (about one hour by boat from the city). There are 49 run-down neighborhoods (bairros) in the five urban districts that cover 466 square kilometers (180 square miles) and have an estimated population of 1.3 million as of 2007 and an estimated population density of 2,790 inhabitants per square kilometer (1,077 per square mile). Most of the formal structures (aka cement city) are located in the southern part of the city. The other districts contain a mix of semiformal and informal bairros consisting of informal settlements, shantytowns, and slums.

Residential areas in urban centers have no basic urbanization, ambiguous land tenure rights, high population density, poor environmental conditions, poor building quality, and high crime rates. These conditions resulted from a lack of urban planning. When rural people migrated to urban areas, they settled in areas unintended for urbanization. There was no access to clean water or sanitation. Housing was meant to be temporary and was built out of cane, wood, or corrugated iron. Early attempts at urban planning were outpaced and overwhelmed by the rate of urbanization due to an influx of refugees and internally displaced people (1980 to 1991). Despite the large number of cities with populations above 100,000, nearly 70 percent of Mozambicans live in rural areas.

During the colonial era, Christian missionaries were active in Mozambique, and many foreign clergy remain in the country. Under the colonial regime, educational opportunities for black Mozambicans were limited, and 93% of that population was illiterate. Most of today's political leaders were educated in missionary schools. After independence, the government placed a high priority on expanding education, which reduced the illiteracy rate to about two-thirds of the population, as primary school enrollment increased. In recent years, school construction and teacher training enrollments have not kept up with population growth. With post-war enrollments reaching all-time highs, the quality of education has suffered.

In the south of Mozambique, proximity to South Africa has made male labor migration to that country a major source of livelihood for local families. The lineage system is patrilineal, with marriages typically contracted through transfer of bridewealth from the groom’s family to the bride’s family. Marriages are typically virilocal and polygyny levels are relatively high. These dominant lineage and marriage systems have resulted in pervasive gender inequality, further cemented by men’s involvement in labor migration and the dependence of a large share of rural households on their remittances.

A 2003 survey indicated that Mozambicans feel they have more rights and freedoms now than they did under the one-party regime, even though most believe that elected representatives are not looking out for the interests of their constituents. Two-thirds of Mozambicans think the country is a full democracy and capable of solving most of the country’s problems. More than 60 percent of Mozambicans feel that unemployment is the most significant issue, followed by health care, education, poverty, and AIDS.

The family is a biological, social, and economic unit. Society places a high value on marriage and on having children. Family structure defines roles based on age and gender. Extended families are large and often live together for mutual support. Men are the head of the family and provide financial support. When a father dies, the oldest son takes over. Women raise children and oversee their education, although children may be disciplined by any adult family member. Women also maintain the household and the garden. Girls help with household chores, and boys tend cattle.

Polygamy, when practiced, requires that each wife has her own hut. Several wives may live close together and share household duties. The emancipation age for men and women is 18 years. The legal age for marriage is 14 for women and 16 for men.

The status of women in Mozambique is extremely low. Education and literacy levels are much lower for women than for men. Women remain discriminated against in terms of access to land and other natural resources, regardless of matrilineal or patrilineal lineage. Access to land and other natural resources is still granted by the husband or by the family. Mozambique’s constitution states that land is state property and cannot be sold; however, some still illegally charge large sums for a piece of land.

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Page last modified: 20-11-2017 19:52:26 ZULU