British Firm Agrees to Pay £5.8m to Victims of Abuse in Mozambique

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Rubies mined by Gemfields in Mozambique (businesslive.co.za)

This is a first, and I had to share the article. The precious gemstones miner Gemfields has agreed to pay £5.8 million (about $7.8 million) to community members residing near its Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique, in a “no admission of liability” move that settles a claim of human rights abuses brought against it by locals. Security forces employed by the miner had shot, beat and subjected its clients to humiliating treatment and sexual abuse. I applaud this outcome for the communities and the work of the law firm who fought this, and I also wonder, given that Mozambique gems are now gaining ground because of their higher quality compared to the usual providers (Rise of the Mozambican Ruby), what will be the effect on the gems’ price in Mozambique? how many times have you seen a European firm settle victims in Africa?  For the full article, go to: Mining.com and Journal du Cameroun.

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The United Kingdom mining firm, Gemfields, has agreed to pay £5.8 million to 273 Mozambicans who alleged they were victims of human rights violations at its Montepuez ruby mine in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, APA can report on Wednesday. Gemfields, which is the majority shareholder in Montepuez Ruby Mining Ltd (MRM) has settled the claim on a “no-admission-of-liability basis” and acknowledged that “in the past, instances of violence have occurred on and around the MRM licence area, both before and after Gemfields’ arrival in Montepuez”.

The British legal company Leigh Day, which represented the 273 people in a class action, also recognised that “Gemfields has taken the claimant’s allegations seriously and has been proactive and constructive in addressing the wider issues raised by local communities through this case”.

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Montepuez is an open-pit mine, considered the world’s most lucrative ruby operation. (Image courtesy of Gemfields. Mining.com)

Last February, Gemfields noted that the claim alleges that Gemfields and MRM are liable for human rights abuses including the deaths and mistreatment of artisanal miners and the seizure of land without due process.

… In addition to settling the claim through mediation, Gemfields has agreed to provide half a million pounds to establish further community projects to improve the long-term agricultural productivity and livelihoods of residents of Ntoro and Namucho.

It also agreed to establish an independent grievance mechanism for people to obtain a timely response to complaints.

This will be overseen by international experts.

Gemfields’ chief executive Sean Gilbertson stressed that “we wish to ensure that we are regarded as trusted and transparent partners to members of our local communities, rather than legal adversaries”.

According to Leigh Day’s Daniel Leader, the settlement “provides significant redress to our clients and importantly puts in place a credible and independent mechanism for providing remedy to those we have been unable to represent. 

These incidents should never have happened. However, we commend Gemfields for engaging constructively to resolve this case promptly and for putting in place an independent grievance mechanism”. …

Gungunyane: the Lion of Gaza or the Last African King of Mozambique

Gungunyane, the Lion of Gaza
Gungunyane, the Lion of Gaza

Today, we will talk about one of the greatest chief in Mozambique‘s modern history: the Shangaan king Gungunyane, of the Gaza Empire.  He governed a region which encompassed parts of eastern Rhodesia (in modern day Zimbabwe), and southern Mozambique.  He was known as the Lion of Gaza.

So who was Gungunyane?  Born Mdungazwe (which means ‘one who confuses the people’ in Zulu) around 1850, he will change his name from Mdungazwe to Gungunyane upon his ascension to the throne in 1884. Gungunyane was born on the Gaza territory, which extended from the rivers Zambezi and Incomati, to the Limpopo river, and would go all the way into modern-day Zimbabwe.  He was the son of Mzila, who reigned from 1861 to 1884.  He was also the grandson of Soshangane, the founder of the Nguni or Gaza empire, after his defeat at the hands of Shaka Zulu in 1820 in Zululand during the Battle of Mhlatuze river.  In its initial stages, the Gaza empire expanded over 56,000 km2 (22,000 sq mi) of land, with its capital being Chaimite.  At the death of his father Mzila, Gungunyane ascended the throne after a fratricidal battle with his other brothers.

Picture of a Vatua-Shangaan warrior, taken at the end of the 19th century (Source: 'Les Africains', Vol.3, P.182, Ed. J.A. 1977)
Picture of a Vatua-Shangaan warrior, taken at the end of the 19th century (Source: ‘Les Africains’, Vol.3, P.182, Ed. J.A. 1977)

At his ascension, the Portuguese sent him emissaries in 1885 who tried to have him sign treaties to recognize Portugal’s sovereignty in the region promising: to give his territory to no other than Portugal, to allow that a Portuguese agent reside with him as advisor, to have Portugal’s colors raised over his kraals, to allow Portuguese subjects to circulate freely in his territory, to allow only Portuguese to exploit his mines, to allow the establishment of schools and churches, etc.  For which Gungunyane would retain full jurisdiction over the Gaza territory with the right to administer it, and to raise taxes.  This was unacceptable to Gungunyane who refused to sign.

The southern region of Mozambique was a penetration road for the Portuguese who had been arming vassals of the Shangaan.  Thus in 1888, Gungunyane and his advisors decided to move their kraals from the Rhodesian plateau to the shores of the Limpopo river. This decision will end up costing them a lot, as 40,000 to 100,000 people made the move.  Several fractions left in april 1889, while the king himself moved from Mount Selinda on 15 June 1889.  This decision was motivated by the desire of Gungunyane to settle an old score with chief Speranhana (who was armed by the Portuguese) of the Chopi people from between the Limpopo and Inharrime, and the need to recover his father’s land in the region of Bilene.  In 1889, the Lion of Gaza invaded the Chopi territory, and installed a kraal in Manjacaze.  However, the battle against the Chopi will last until the end of his reign, and will greatly weaken the Shangaan.

Throughout his reign, Gungunyane never signed any treaties, because he never trusted neither the Portuguese nor the translator (even if the translator was his own son).  He was a skilled negotiator, and would always try to settle everything diplomatically.  He played well the British and Portuguese interests in the region… this might have been his downfall in the end.

In 1890, Gungunyane prohibited the sale of alcohol by Portuguese merchants on Gaza territory.  In 1891, the Portuguese adopted a decree to ban the sale of alcohol on Gazaland, and agreed to work with Gungunyane to implement this… but as we all know the Portuguese never stopped selling alcohol in the region (this seems like a century old practice from Europeans selling cheap alcohol in Africa, and turning Africans into drunkards).

Picture of captured Gungunyane on board the ship 'Africa' from the Diario Ilustrado - 15 March 1896
Picture of captured Gungunyane on board the ship ‘Africa’ from the Diario Ilustrado – 15 March 1896

The Portuguese never stopped trying to control Gungunyane who never stopped wanting more independence (it was his land after all).  They kept enforcing treaties.  In 1893, the conflict in Matabeleland between the British and Lobengula forced several Ndebele to seek refuge in the Gaza territory (one of Gungunyane’s sister was married to Lobengula) creating confusion.  In 1894, the Portuguese used a succession quarrel between Ronga chiefs to attack Gungunyane.  No proof was found of Gungunyane’s involvement into the hostilities.  On 22 August 1894, war started, when the Ronga troops defeated the Afro-Portuguese troops with Ronga chiefs Mahazul and Matibejana of Zixaxa attacking Lourenço Marques.  However, the Ronga chiefs were defeated by the Portuguese during the battle of Marracuene on 2 February 1895.  The Ronga chiefs thus sought refuge into Gungunyane’s kingdom.  Gungunyane kept negotiating, but now the sine qua non condition to any negotiation was the surrender of the Ronga chiefs, with other clauses such as the full control of his territory by the Portuguese, the installation of military bases, the payment

Picture of Gungunyane's children on board the ship 'Africa'- from the Diario Ilustrado -15 March 1896
Picture of Gungunyane’s children on board the ship ‘Africa’- from the Diario Ilustrado -15 March 1896

of an annual tax of 10,000 pounds, etc.  For the Lion of Gaza, this meant the end of his independence.  Negotiations were still ongoing, but by September, the Portuguese had invaded the territory of Cossine which was an integral part of the Gaza kingdom.  On 7 November 1895, on lake Coolela, not far from Manjacaze, the Portuguese crushed 8 Shangaan regiments.  Coolela became the Waterloo of Gungunyane.  The Lion gathered his treasures and took off.  For almost a month, Portuguese kept looking for him thinking that he had sought refuge in Transvaal.  However, Gungunyane had sought refuge in Chaimite, the sacred village of the Shangaan people.  While many of his dignitaries, and sons managed to escape into the Transvaal, the Lion never left Chaimite, and on 28 December 1895, he was captured there by Mousinho de Albuquerque, the Portuguese military governor of Gaza.  Gungunyane was first sent to Lisbon, and then later to the island of Terceira on the Portuguese Azores, with his son Godide, some of his wives, and dignitaries. He will die there on 23 December 1906.

In exile in Acores, from l to r: Zixaxa, Molungo, Godide, and Gungunyane
In exile in Acores, from l to r (top): Zixaxa, Molungo, Godide, and Gungunyane
Gungunyane and his wives in exile in Acores
Gungunyane and his wives in exile in Acores

Under Gungunyane, the Shangaan empire grew more powerful compared to his father’s years.  The Shangaan system expanded at a time when Mozambique was at the center of European greed and attacks.  Portuguese who had arrived in the area in 1891, were amazed by Gungunyane’s power, and wrote that the Gaza empire was “the biggest empire that the negro race had created in oriental Africa.”  Many were quite skeptical when they learnt of the Lion of Gaza’s defeat.  A contemporary Portuguese wrote in 1910 that: “the king of the Vatua [Shangaan] empire was a fine diplomat who, knowing that we did not have the military strength to counter his power, managed to turn us [the Portuguese] into docile vassals.” To learn more, check out the book ‘Les Africains, Vol. 3, C. Julien, editions J.A. 1977’, as well as VidasLusoFonas, and the book Gungunhana no seu Reino by Maria da Conceicao Vilhena.

Why the name: Maputo?

Modern day Maputo
Modern day Maputo

I was always intrigued by the name Maputo.  Maputo is the capital of Mozambique.  It used to be known as Lourenço Marques.  I once had a Mozambican friend who would refer to Maputo as Lourenço Marques and I always wondered why the name change and what it meant?

Maputo is known as the City of Acacias (because many of its streets are bordered by acacias) or the Pearl of the Indian Ocean; it is located 77 km from the South African border.  The city was built on the northern bank of the Esturio do Esprito Santo, an estuary which leads to the Maputo Bay on the West.  Prior to the arrival of the Europeans in the area in the 1500s, the area was known as an exchange place between Arabs and Africans, and was known as Catembe, on the southern bank of the estuary.  In 1502, the Portuguese Antonio de Campos was the first European to get to Maputo Bay, but it was the navigator Lourenço Marques who explored it truly for the first time in 1544.  Initially, the bay was known as Delagoa bay, as it was the first maritime transit from Goa.  It was a village whose main economy was based on the Ivory trade.  It is only in 1876, that the city became known as Lourenço Marques, after the navigator.  A commission was sent by the Portuguese government in 1876 to drain the marshy land near the settlement, to plant the blue gum tree, and to build a hospital and a church.  A city since 1887, it superseded the Island of Mozambique as the capital of Mozambique in 1898.  In 1895, the construction of a railroad to Pretoria in South Africa, caused the city’s population to grow.

Lourenco Marque (Maputo) ca 1905
Lourenco Marques (Maputo) ca 1905

In February of 1976, after briefly claiming back its pre-colonial name of Cam Phumo (1975-1976), named after a Shangaan chief who lived in the area before the arrival of Lourenço Marques), Lourenço Marques was renamed Maputo, with its origin in the Maputo river which flows into the Esturio do Esprito Santo, also renamed Maputo bay.  During the liberation war of FRELIMO against Portugal (1964 – 1974), the Maputo river, which marks the southern border of Mozambique with South Africa, became symbolic with the slogan Viva Moambique unido do Rovuma ao Maputo, i.e. Long-live the united Mozambique from Rovuma to Maputo, the Ruvuma river being the northern border of Mozambique with Tanzania.  All symbols of colonial times were erased: the names of streets which carried the names of Portuguese heroes or important days, and Portuguese history, etc, were replaced to reflect Mozambican history, African revolutionary figures, and Mozambican choices.

 Today, Maputo is a melting pot of several cultures dominated by the Bantu and Portuguese, but also influenced by Arab, Indian, and Chinese cultures (brought in from Goa and Macao).  It is also very well-known for its beautiful style colonial architecture.

Mozambique’s First Gold Medal, and World Greatest 800m Runner: Maria Mutola

Maria Mutola winning gold in Sydney
Maria Mutola winning gold in Sydney

With the olympics fast approaching, I have decided to feature one African athlete per week to keep us in Olympics mood. Today, I would like to talk about an athlete hailing from Mozambique: Maria Mutola.

Maria de Lurdes Mutola was born in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, and was running so fast that she was nicknamed ‘The Maputo Express’.  She specialized in 800 m, and is the 4th athlete to have competed in 6 olympic games (imagine that: the olympic games happen every 4 years… thus it took a total of 24 years of intense competition at the highest level, as a world class athlete).  As a young girl, she excelled in football(soccer), and played with boys.  Later on, she was encouraged by the great

Maria Mutola defeating Kelly Holmes at World Championships
Maria Mutola defeating Kelly Holmes at World Championships

Mozambican writer Jose Craveirinha to pursue track and field.  Her very first olympic was in 1988 at the Seoul Games, at the age of 15.  She finished last, but this made her even stronger.  After that, she dominated the 800 m distance, winning the gold medal at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in 1993 and 1995, and the Stuttgart 1993 IAAF World Championships.  She won the bronze medal in 1996 at the Atlanta Olympic games, and finally won a sweet Gold medal at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.  Mutola retired from track and field at the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she sadly finished 5th, after being in contention for a medal.  Mutola is often ranked as the greatest female 800 m runner of all time, since her consistency, her record at major championships and her ability to compete at the highest levels of the sport for well over a decade are unmatched.

Maria Mutola raising the flag of Mozambique
Maria Mutola raising the flag of Mozambique

As a sports fan, I watched Maria at the 1995 World indoor games in Barcelona.  The year 2000 was so special, as we all saw Maria finally lift the Olympic gold medal for Mozambique, at the Sydney games.  In 2003, she became the sole winner of the IAAF $1million Golden league title, for being undefeated throughout that year at all major competitions.  I have always been a big fan of hers, even though I always thought that she had too much of a ‘male’ physique.  With that physique, she ran with power and grace, and raised the flag of Mozambique with pride.  Greatness to you Maria, you’ve made us proud!