Mozambique Maputo (Portuguese pronunciation: known as Lourenço Marques before independence, is the capital and largest city of Mozambique. It is known as the City of Acacias, in reference to acacia trees commonly found along its avenues, and the Pearl of the Indian Ocean. Today, it is a port city, with its economy centered on the harbor. According to the 2007 census, the population is 1,766,184. Cotton, sugar, chromite, sisal, copra, and hardwood are the chief exports. The city manufactures cement, pottery, furniture, shoes, and rubber. The city is surrounded by Maputo Province, but is administered as its own province.
On the northern bank of Espírito Santo Estuary of Delagoa Bay, an inlet of the Indian Ocean, Lourenço Marques was named after the Portuguese navigator who, with António Caldeira, was sent in 1544 by the governor of Mozambique on a voyage of exploration. They explored the lower courses of the rivers emptying their waters into Delagoa Bay, notably the Espírito Santo. The forts and trading stations that the Portuguese established, abandoned and reoccupied on the north bank of the river, were all called Lourenço Marques. The existing town dates from about 1850, the previous settlement having been entirely destroyed by the natives. The town developed around a Portuguese fortress completed in 1787.
On the 9th of December 1876, Lourenço Marques was elevated to the category of village and on the 10th of November 1887 it became a city. The Luso-British conflict for the possession of Lourenço Marques ends on the 24th of July 1875 with the ruling by the French President Patrice Mac-Mahon in favor of Portugal.
In 1871, the town was described as a poor place, with narrow streets, fairly good flat-roofed houses, grass huts, decayed forts, and a rusty cannon, enclosed by a recently erected wall 1.8 metres (6 ft) high and protected by bastions at intervals. The growing importance of the Transvaal led, however, to greater interest being taken back in Portugal in the development of a port. 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 A city since 1887, it superseded the Island of Mozambique as the capital of Mozambique in 1898.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, construction of a railroad to Pretoria, South Africa, caused the city’s population to grow. The Witwatersrand Gold Rush, which began in 1886, further increased the economic development of the city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as Lourenço Marques served as the closest seaport for the export of gold from South Africa.
In the early 20th century, with a well equipped seaport, with piers, quays, landing sheds and electric cranes, enabling large vessels to discharge cargoes direct into the railway trucks, Lourenço Marques developed under Portuguese rule and achieved great importance as a lively cosmopolitan city. It was served by British, Portuguese, and German liners, and the majority of its imported goods were shipped at Southampton, Lisbon, and Hamburg.
With the continuous growth of the city’s population and its expanding economy centered on the seaport, from the 1940s, Portugal’s administration built a network of primary and secondary schools, industrial and commercial schools as well as the first university in the region — the University of Lourenço Marques, opened in 1962. Portuguese, Islamic (including Ismailis), Indian (including from Portuguese India) and Chinese (including Macanese) communities managed to achieve great prosperity — but not the unskilled African majority — by developing the industrial and commercial sectors of the city. Urban areas of Mozambique grew quickly in this period due to the lack of restriction on the internal migration of indigenous Mozambicans, a situation that differed to the apartheid policies of neighboring South Africa. Before Mozambique’s independence in 1975, thousands of tourists from South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) frequented the city and its scenic beaches, high-quality hotels, restaurants, casinos, and brothels.
The Mozambique Liberation Front, or FRELIMO, formed in Tanzania in 1962 and led by Eduardo Mondlane, fought for independence from Portuguese rule. The Mozambican War of Independence lasted over 10 years, ending only in 1974 when the Estado Novo regime was overthrown in Lisbon by a leftist military coup — the Carnation Revolution. The new government of Portugal granted independence to almost all Portuguese overseas territories (except for Timor Leste and Macau).
The words “Aqui é Portugal” (Here is Portugal) were once inscribed on the walkway of its municipal building.
After Mozambique’s independence from Portugal
The People’s Republic of Mozambique was proclaimed on 25 June 1975 in accordance with the Lusaka Accord signed in September 1974. A parade and a state banquet completed the independence festivities in the capital, which was expected to be renamed Can Phumo, or “Place of Phumo,” after a Shangaan chief who lived in the area before the Portuguese navigator Lourenço Marques first visited the site in 1545 and gave his name to it. However, after independence, the city’s name was changed (in February 1976) to Maputo. Maputo’s name reputedly has its origin in the Maputo River: in fact, this river, which marks the border with South Africa in the far South of Mozambique, had become symbolic during the FRELIMO-led armed struggle against Portuguese sovereignty, after the motto «Viva Moçambique unido, do Rovuma ao Maputo», that is, Hail Mozambique, united from Rovuma down to Maputo (Rovuma is the river which marks the border with Tanzania in the far North).
After the independence, the statues to Portuguese heroes in the capital city were removed and most were stored at the fortress. Black soldiers carrying Russian rifles replaced Portuguese Army soldiers (both black and white) with western arms in city barracks and on the streets. Most of the city’s streets, originally named for Portuguese heroes or important dates in Portuguese history, had their names changed to African languages, revolutionary figures, or pre-colonial historical names.
After the Carnation Revolution in Lisbon, over 250,000 ethnic Portuguese pulled out virtually overnight, leaving Mozambique’s economy and administration unmanageable. With the exodus of trained Portuguese personnel, the newly independent country had no time to allocate resources to maintain its well-developed infrastructure. In addition, authoritarian Stalinist policies and bureaucratic central planning made the newly independent country slip into an extremely precarious condition since the beginning, and so the economy plummeted. FRELIMO, now the governing party, turned to the communist governments of the Soviet Union and East Germany for help. By the early 1980s the country was bankrupt. Money was worthless and shops were empty. Starting shortly after independence, the country was plagued by the Mozambican Civil War, a long and violent struggle between FRELIMO and RENAMO, which lasted from 1977 to 1992. The war adversely affected economic activity and political stability in the city. “Operation Production” (Operação Produção) was inaugurated in 1983 by the ruling FRELIMO party to deal with the economic crisis. Undocumented residents of Maputo, the “parasitic” urban population, as well as individuals who displayed criminal behavior, were forcibly transferred to state-owned communal farms and villages in the rural north of Mozambique.
Since the peace agreement ending the civil war, which was signed in 1992, the country and the city has returned to its pre-independence levels of political stability. This stability is an encouraging sign that makes Mozambique a promising country for foreign investment.