|Portugal's African Wars (Tanzania Publishing House Dar Es Salam, 1974, 251 p.)|
There was something in this conquest that was even more ruinous of existing society than forced labour, fire-arms and the rest could ever be by themselves. This new factor was the expansive nature of European civilisation.66.
IN the final analysis, none of the colonial enterprises can be described as good. There is no colonial power which can boast of having fulfilled its 'ideal' and carried out its 'civilising mission'. Colonisation did not construct a new society, it did not 'civilise' Africa, did not modernise it as it would have become modernised without foreign influence. Naked commercialism wiped out the old values and traditions without putting anything in their place. A multitude of half-baked structures and systems was erected, only to be rejected today by the Europeans who invented them.
It is one of the tasks of this book to see what Portugal has contributed to her colonies and to reckon up, however briefly, the profits and losses of her achievement.
One per cent of Africans at School
In 1919, at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, a delegate from the Portuguese government declared:
The assimilation of the so-called inferior races, by cross-breeding, by means of the Christian religion, by the mixing of the most widely divergent elements; freedom of access to the highest offices of state, even in Europe - these are the principles which have always guided Portuguese colonisation in Asia, in Africa, in the Pacific, and previously in America.
We can consider this statement as a declaration of intent and see if, half a century later, the results have matched up to the promises. Salazar himself made a reckoning of sorts in 1964, when he said:
For Africa, independence was a catastrophe. The leaders fought each other with knives and pistols, while the population were once again reduced to famine, epidemics, and the lex talionis of the precolonial era. It is not enough for men to claim the right to freedom, they must also be capable of making proper use of it. And one is forced to observe that in Africa the result has been a total failure, because it was thought that blacks could replace whites everywhere. Now this is not true. Only the whites are capable of planning and organising an activity. One man had understood this, and that was Tshombe. I should not be accused of racialism just because I say that the blacks do not have the same capabilities as the whites. It is a self-evident observation, based on experience. The blacks need to be organised.67.
There is therefore little reason to expect that the Portuguese would have either wished, or known how, to educate and train the native organisers needed for the countries' development. Which brings us to the question of what system of education - if indeed there was a system - the Portuguese adopted in their Overseas Territories. Is it like the French system - excessively selective but offering the same curricula as in the metropolis? Or like the English and Belgium systems - with a very broad elementary basis, but differing considerably from that given at home ? The French system could be described as 'assimilationist' and the English and Belgian as 'popular', and in theory the Portuguese system, as laid down, should contain something of each.
In actual fact, on the one hand there is no application of the 'assimilationist' doctrine, and on the other hand the schooling rate is ridiculously low. There are two schooling systems in the colonies. The first is confined to Portuguese children and 'civilised' mestizos, and follows the same curricula as are taught in Lisbon. The second, known as 'adaptive education', is given out by the Catholic Church. It consists of four years' schooling only and is officially designated for Africans.
Another surprise is the proportion of the population who actually receive this education. In Guinea, less than 1 per cent of Africans were in African schools in 1960. Throughout the whole colonial period only fourteen Guineans have obtained a certificate of higher education.
In Angola, also in 1960, 60,000 Africans were receiving elementary education, which - bearing in mind the fact that 50 per cent of the population are under twenty-amounts to less than 3 per cent of the total. Less than 500 Africans were receiving elementary vocational training and the only teacher's training college for Africans contained less than 300 pupils. This college enables primary school classes to be started for 2,000 more pupils each year, but unfortunately this is not even enough to match the rise in population.
On the side of the Europeans and assimilated mestizos, 25,000 pupils are in school. Considering the total number of Portuguese in Angola, the schooling rate in this sector is higher than that of the metropolis, where nearly 50 per cent of the population are illiterate. Secondary education in grammar schools and technical colleges takes in nearly 8,000 students, the overwhelming majority of whom are metropolitan Portuguese in origin.
The figures for school attendance in Mozambique are of roughly the same order. In Guinea Bissao, there are two establishments on the Cape Verde Islands which are providing a first generation of teachers.
In order to appreciate the full significance of these figures, we must compare them with those supplied by the countries which have recently gained their independence. The ex-Belgian Congo, for instance, inherited a six-year primary education system taking in 1 ½ million African pupils, which in absolute terms is thirty times more than in Angola, and in proportion to the difference in population between the two countries represents ten times more children in school.
In the ex-British regions of Africa the average figures are almost as high as in the Congo. In countries which were colonised by the French the educational pyramid is generally somewhat narrower at the base. However, even in the most underprivileged countries - Niger and Upper Volta - the schooling rate is still twice that in the Portuguese colonies. The latter have produced practically no African teachers at university level.
One doctor to 18,000 inhabitants
Figures relating to the systems of hygiene in the three countries are hard to obtain. The only country about which we have relatively precise information is Angola. Here the frightening fact emerges that it was only in 1960 that Portugal took the step of inaugurating a proper medical system, and this consisted of 250 doctors and about 1,000 nurses and medical auxiliaries for the whole country - or one doctor for every 18,000 inhabitants. Most of these doctors reside in the towns and a number of them deal with Europeans only. Eighteen state hospitals and sixty-seven private hospitals or clinics provide a total of around 4,000 beds, or one bed for every 1,200 inhabitants. A direct result of this situation is that the infant mortality rate is the highest in the world. The average life expectancy is around thirty years and the population growth rate is less than 2.3.
To take another example, in 1954, Teixeira da Mota68 painted a particularly distressing picture of the situation in Portuguese Guinea. The great majority of the urban and rural population was suffering from ankylostomiasis, a parasitic disease caused by nematodes or hookworms and producing diarrhoea, anaemia and cardiac weakness. According to the same author the infant mortality rate was 600 in 1,000. Sleeping sickness was endemic in nearly 40 per cent of the villages, as was malaria and various forms of dysentery. Obviously the 'organisation' without which, according to Salazar, the blacks are incapable of doing anything, was sorely lacking in this instance.
The Contratado and the Worker
Lacking education and adequate medical care, the African worker fares no better when it comes to the organisation of labour.
Like practically all the colonialists, the Portuguese failed to integrate the working population into a national economy. Thus in Guinea, Angola and Mozambique, there are two separate methods of production, one traditional and the other capitalist. In the case of Portuguese colonisation, the traditional economy is more prevalent than elsewhere. In Guinea it is practically the only one in existence. In Angola, as in Mozambique, the capitalist sector is represented by the big plantations and mining concessions belonging to colonists or mostly to non-Portuguese foreign companies. The fruits of this type of production are destined exclusively for export. For example, 75 per cent of Angolan coffee, the country's chief export which brought in £48 million in 1969, is produced by 550 European plantations and in Mozambique the average land acreage occupied by white settlers is sixty times that of Africans.
It must be said straight away that all the colonising nations made use of forced labour in one form or another to work their mines and estates. But only the free state of the Congo - later the Belgian Congo - the French equatorial territories and the Portuguese colonies used it on a large scale. Moreover the Belgians and the British - and later the French - fairly quickly realised that there was everything to be gained from allowing their labour force to become consumers of local and imported products. They, therefore, began to pursue what was known as the 'full belly policy' whereby the African work force was left open to the law of supply and demand, and allowed to come and go more or less freely, assisted by a network of medical and domestic facilities. Nothing of the kind happened in the Portuguese colonies. Even today, the Portuguese African worker is recruited by force and separated from his ethnic group and his milieu, often for several years at a time. For millions of small farmers and their families the results of this compulsory labour are disastrous. In the absence of all the adult males, rural life has become considerably impoverished.
In 1935 an official report on Nyasaland - now Malawi - stated:
The whole fabric of the old order of society is undermined when 30 to 60 per cent of the able-bodied men are absent at one time. Emigration, which destroys the old, offers nothing to take its place, and the family-community is threatened with complete dissolution.69.
And according to a report by an Inspector-General of the Portuguese Colonies in 1947, forced labour is 'in some ways worse than simple slavery'.
Under slavery, after all, the native is bought as an animal: his owner prefers him to remain as fit as a horse or an ox. Yet here [in Angola] the native is not bought - he is hired from the State, although he is called a free man. And his employer cares little if he sickens or dies, once he is working, because when he sickens or dies his employer will simply ask for another.70.
Whereas the English established a considerable number of aboriginal tenant farmers in their colonies, the Portuguese make use of contratados, as those subjected to forced labour are called. In Angola this type of employment covers more than half of the wage-earning population. The actual wages are paltry and the workers are generally taken far from their homes. The International Labour Organisation Council has investigated this practice and denounced it on several occasions. Compared with that of the contratados the lot of the workers in the industrial sector is enviable indeed; in fact they can be considered as ordinary wage-earners - though like their counterparts in Portugal they do not have the right to strike.
A particularly questionable agreement was that passed between Portugal and South Africa in 1928, whereby 100,000 workers from Mozambique are handed over each year to go and work in the South African mines. In return for this South Africa undertook to make use of the ports of Mozambique for 47.5 per cent of its exports, which assures the Lisbon regime of a substantial income in foreign currency. This agreement is still in force and has been ratified several times since 1928. The depopulation of the southern half of Mozambique is entirely due to this form of legalised slavery.
Exploitation by old-fashioned capitalism
Economically speaking, the colonies are above all a protected market for the metropolis. This means both that their production is closely geared to the latter's need in raw materials, and that they are forced to buy the finished products they need from Portugal, being forbidden to manufacture them on the spot so that they do not compete with the metropolitan industries.
While the economy of the Portuguese colonies was for a long time dominated by agriculture, mining activities now play an important part also. The agriculture is of two kinds - one conducted by small farmers who also indulge in trading on a small scale, and the other, consisting of big plantations, which is in the hands of the state or other large enterprises, foreign or Portuguese.
Portugal's economic hold over its colonies involves on the one hand protectionism and on the other the servicing of foreign monopolies - mainly French, Belgian, British, West German, Japanese and South African - by the Portuguese ruling classes.
There are numerous examples of protectionism. In Mozambique and Angola, for instance, products such as cotton which could be converted on the spot have to be sent to the metropolis and then brought back again in their finished form. Angolan cotton production (71,000 tons in 1969) was expected to reach 80,000 tons, worth £6 million as raw material, for Portugal's textile industry. Mozambique, where there are 310,000 hectares under cotton, produced 122,000 tons, almost all of which was forcibly purchased by Lisbon at prices below world average. The story is the same with Mozambique's 300,000 tons of sugar produced in 1970. Angola and Mozambique have to export a high percentage of their production to Portugal and receive the same percentage of imported products back from Lisbon. There ,are also the restrictions which Lisbon imposes on the few manufacturing industries in the colonies which might compete with the metropolis. Thus the construction of textile manufacturing plants is forbidden in Mozambique.
In fact, Portugal's determination to export her products to the colonies is largely due to the fact that they are all of a particular nature and cannot find an adequate market elsewhere. In 1969, for instance, Portugal's biggest exports, in order of importance, were: products of the cotton industry; cork and articles made of cork; wine; fish preserves; wood, charcoal, resin and tomato juice.71. This list shows clearly that the Portuguese economy is in no state to compete with that of the other more highly developed European countries.
The second feature of the economic relations between Portugal and her colonies is equally indicative of the underdeveloped state of the metropolis. Portugal does not have the facilities to cut Angolan diamonds, refine oil or manufacture finished products from iron. In order to gain some profit from these cheaply extracted raw materials, the state acts simply as an agent for them, taking its percentage before passing them on to the powerful economic empires established elsewhere. And the big business families of Lisbon serve as intermediaries in these deals.
The basic function of the colonies is clearly outlined by the Third Quinquennial Plan drawn up by the Lisbon government for 1968-73.
The metropolis provides a large proportion of the raw materials, foodstuffs, high quality finished articles and manufactured goods. The Overseas Territories and other underdeveloped regions receive a large proportion of the metropolis's industrial exports, in exchange for which they provide basic raw materials and foodstuffs.
The result is an apparently stable economic situation. Angola sells more goods to the metropolis than it buys back, exporting coffee (47 per cent), rough diamonds (16 per cent), maize (15 per cent), sisal (15 per cent), and iron (3 per cent); and importing textiles (16.6 per cent), machines and tools (14 per cent), means of transport (13.8 per cent), chemical products (7.5 per cent), foodstuffs, drink and tobacco (11.1 per cent), and metals (10.2 per cent).72. Unfortunately for Angola, the larger part of the resulting profit margin is appropriated by the colonial administration and a few individuals. Mozambique on the other hand buys more from the metropolis than it sells; but this is all to Portugal's advantage, and in any case the country remains solvent, since it has, a substantial source of revenue in South Africa, as we have already seen.
The Portuguese economic system, in fact, represents one of the most conservative and inertia-ridden forms of capitalism, and this is the reason for the economic under-development both of the metropolis and of its Overseas Territories.
The Portuguese colonies are an important source of currency for Portugal, who maintains her liquidity by means of the following system. For some years now the balance of payments of the metropolis has shown a deficit. The reasons for this lie in the constant war expenditures and the constant debts incurred by Portugal in her dealings with other countries. On the other hand the balance of payments of the whole escudo area still shows a constant surplus, thanks to the colonies, whose balance of payments remains in credit and so restores the situation in favour of the metropolis. Large inflows of foreign capital for investments in Angola and Mozambique constitute an important factor in balancing Lisbon's deficit. The Observer73. stated that the trade surplus generated in 1970, amounting to £20 million, had been the main factor in eliminating the trade deficit for Portugal that year. Thus the Portuguese colonies ensure a constant growth in gold reserves and stocks of currency, enabling Portugal to remain internationally solvent and carry on a war on three different colonial fronts.
This role as a provider of hard currency is so important that the Third Quinquennial Plan makes a point of developing it to the utmost. Thus substantial sums will be allotted for the extension of means of communication and transport. For Mozambique, 'funds which are not destined for the ports and railways essential to international communications will be severely reduced'. Cassinga, in Angola, is expected to provide 5 million tons of iron ore per year. Hence the urgent necessity of improving transport facilities. Prospecting rights in the Cassinga ore deposits have belonged since 1961 to a consortium led by Krupps under the control of the Companhia Mineira de Lobita. Since April 1970 a railway line has linked the port of Nacala in Mozambique with Malawi - a country which, because of President Banda, is currently within the 'sphere of influence' of South Africa.
'Assimilation' in theory and practice
One of the more curious characteristics of Portuguese colonialism as formulated by Dr Salazar is surely the distinction drawn between 'natives' and assimilados. In theory, any native who satisfies a certain number of requirements can become assimilado or 'civilised', and enjoy the same rights as an ordinary Portuguese citizen. The subject is dealt with in an edict passed on 20 May 1954. Article 2 of this edict defines the status of a native
Natives of the provinces of Guinea, Angola and Mozambique comprise individuals of the black race or their descendants born or habitually residing in those territories who do not yet possess the education or the individual and social habits which are a prerequisite for the application of the full public and private rights of Portuguese citizens.
Also to be considered as natives are those individuals born of a native father and mother in a place outside these provinces, where the parents are temporarily residing.
There would certainly be nothing dramatic about being born and remaining a 'native' if this concept - which is only meaningful within the context of the Portuguese colonial system - did not imply a number of serious prejudices.
Let us ask, for a moment, what are the rights enjoyed by a native under the 'civilising mission' of the Portuguese.
Firstly on a political level; there are none. Only Portuguese citizens or assimilados who have obtained Portuguese citizenship are allowed any means of political self-expression, and even they are more restricted than in Portugal itself. Again, in the sphere of labour legislation, the native's rights are non-existent. He can hardly register a complaint when no machinery exists for his protection. The very existence of forced labour is explained by the fact that the natives have practically no means of resisting it. Perhaps then, there may be some collective or individual rights attributed to the African community or its members? Again, the answer is no.
In fact the 'natives' of the Portuguese colonies are neither citizens nor even subjects, but rather the objects of a predetermined policy. Salazar, who held back the process of 'assimilation' as much as possible and was a great theoretician of colonialism, expressed his ideas clearly enough.
Is the language which we teach superior to their dialects or not? Is the religion spread by the missionaries superior to fetishism or not ? Is it better to construct a civilised nation of international weight and significance, or to remain confined by regionalism, without any stimulus towards development, without means of defence or opportunities for progress? If we reply to these questions in the affirmative, then we are forced to the conclusion that this state of national consciousness which the Portuguese have created amongst such a varied group of peoples represents a benefit for all, which we shall lose altogether if we allow ourselves to retreat from our position.
One is born a native, but one has to deserve the status of a Portuguese. Let us therefore examine the conditions which have to be met by anyone who aspires to this 'state of national consciousness' mentioned by Salazar.
According to article 56 of the edict of 20 May 1954
An individual may lose his status as a native and acquire citizenship if he can prove that he satisfies cumulatively the following five conditions:
1 That he is over eighteen years of age.
2 That he speaks the Portuguese language correctly.
3 That he exercises a profession, art or skill from which he can derive sufficient income for his own subsistence and that of persons of his family or persons dependent upon him, or that he possesses sufficient property to fulfil the same purpose.
4 That he is of good behaviour and has acquired the education and habits which are a prerequisite for the application of the full public and private rights of Portuguese citizens.
5 That he has not been noted as objecting to military service or declared a deserter.
Having fulfilled these conditions an African in the Portuguese colonies 'may lose his status as a native'. In other words these conditions are absolutely essential, but not necessarily sufficient. The final judgement depends on the discretion of the colonial authority. And the latter will select only useful subjects, who will be future allies or functionaries of the regime.
The first clause, concerning age, means above all that citizenship cannot be passed on from father to son. Each person has to merit it, so that the son of a man who is 'Portuguese by adoption' will still be a 'native' all the same. This situation has become fairly common, moreover, since Salazarism restricted the opportunities for acquiring citizenship. Thus it is easy for the regime to control the numbers of assimilados exactly as it wishes, without the process snowballing over the course of generations.
Obviously the second clause, concerning the language, presupposes a sufficient number of primary schools. We have just seen how few schools there were in the Portuguese colonies in 1960. But it is not enough for a young African to have learned to speak Portuguese in one of the elementary schools organised by the Catholic Church. Only the state schools are recognised as being able to teach the language correctly. It goes without saying that the state schools are even fewer in number. Nor is it sufficient to have been through a state school; in the final instance it is left to the administrative authorities to judge whether the aspiring citizen speaks the language correctly or not.
The third clause is reminiscent of the electoral system in nineteenth-century Europe - only a man who has 'possessions', and therefore something to defend, is considered to be a citizen.
The fourth clause brings in the police, who will choose between the good and the bad natives and will only give satisfaction to those who submit to colonial authority without a murmur. This could also explain why there are so few assimilados in the Portuguese Overseas Territories. In Angola, in 1960, there were less than 40,000 out of an African population of nearly 5 million, or less than 1 per cent. In Guinea there have never been more than a few hundred.
What advantages does an African gain from holding Portuguese citizenship? In Portugal itself the regime does not allow any political opposition except for a short period during elections. It was not until 1969 that opposition candidates were allowed access to the electoral lists; previously they were reserved exclusively for the candidates of Dr Salazar's party. The opposition has to print its own voting papers, yet neither the official format of these nor the compulsory typographical style are revealed by the government. Once the elections are over the opposition candidates can be prosecuted for unauthorised political activity. In the colonies, the elections are rigged to an even greater extent.
In terms of everyday life, the status of the assimilado is in reality ho more enviable than that of the native. Admission to the schools is still just as difficult. The assimilado does not have the same rights and privileges as the colonists. Since 1937, for instance, the latter have been entitled to an immediate grant of twenty hectares of land worked by Africans, agricultural tools, cattle and a monthly subsidy.
In 1969, Salazar made the following statement:
As the Overseas Territories progress economically and socially, and as the elites become more numerous and effective on a local level, centrifugal forces may appear which aspire to the fullness of power and seek to monopolise situations, and this represents a danger to the unity of the nation. In Portugal's case, the paths to the highest posts are open, and being made ever more easy of access - though born in Spain, Hadrian can become emperor in Rome.
But in vain do we look for the Africans who have acceded to these high offices as promised. Who are the equivalents, in Portuguese Africa, of Felix Eboue and Felix Houphouet-Boigny, or of a Robert Gardiner who was mentioned as a candidate to take over from U Thant at the UN? There is only the African bishop of the kingdom of the Kongo, so often cited by admirers of the regime - and that was some time ago, to say the least. In fact, in 1960 the people of Angola, Guinea and Mozambique were represented in parliament by Europeans. And, apart from this, when 'assimilation' has succeeded, it has invariably entailed a renunciation of the person's original culture. The assimilados have had to forget their African traditions, and even their own language. Basil Davidson comments that even 'men such as Cabral, Neto and Mondlane, have also had to take themselves through a systematic process of "reafricanisation" before they could hope to make progress'.77.
It is a high price to pay for the privilege of sharing some of the meagre rights of the Portuguese citizen.