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Chibalo is the concept of debt bondage[citation needed] or forced labour in the Ultramar Português (the Portuguese overseas provinces in Africa and Asia), most notably in Portuguese Angola and Portuguese Mozambique (unlike the other European empires of the 20th century, the Portuguese possessions were not considered colonies, but full-fledged provinces of the Portuguese state).

In 1869 the Portuguese officially abolished slavery, but in effect it continued nonetheless. Chibalo was used to build the infrastructure of the African provinces, as only Portuguese settlers and assimilados received education and were exempt from this forced labour.

Chibalo system[edit]

According to professor Motsomi Marobela:

At the heart of the collapse of agriculture in Southern Africa was an obnoxious colonial tax system - the hut tax. It was the introduction of this tax that created what Marx called “a reserve army of labour” which was barbarously exploited by mining capital. It was such forced labour that worked colonial plantations and mines. Hence according to Seddon (2002),[1] ‘the term chibalo or chibaro was used commonly in central and southern Africa from the late nineteenth century onwards to describe a variety of oppressive forms of labour introduced by the Europeans.’ In Botswana, for example, men who left for South African mines were said to have gone to makgoeng (to the whites) for a period of six months as migrant labour. Part of their small earnings went to pay the tax. But the consequences of such coerced labour migration were profoundly damaging to native economies which were mainly agrarian.[2]

Under the New State regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, chibalo was used in Mozambique to grow cotton. The Niassa Company is an example of the kind of companies that could flourish since they had access to an unpaid labour force. Foreign investment in the Portuguese overseas provinces was outlawed so that Portugal would benefit directly. All males of proper age had to work in the cotton fields, which became useless for food production, leading to hunger and malnourishment.

Chibalo outlasted slavery by nearly a century, having only been abolished in 1961,[3] a mere decade and a half before the end of the five centuries spanning Portuguese Empire. However, it faced strong opposition since the late 19th century from Portuguese colonialists and businessmen, notably Theodorico de Sacadura Botte in the provinces of Marracuene and Magude, in Portuguese Mozambique.[4]


  1. ^ Seddon, D. (2002). L. Zeilig, ed. Popular protest and class struggle in Africa: an historical overview in Class Struggle and Resistance in Africa. Cheltenham: New Clarion Press.
  2. ^ Marobela, Motsomi (2007). "THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF BOTSWANA'S PUBLIC SECTOR MANAGEMENT REFORMS: IMPERIALISM; DIAMOND DEPENDENCE AND VULNERABILITY". Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-06-26.
  3. ^ Bandeira Jerónimo, Miguel. Livros brancos, almas negas: a ´missão civilizadora´ do colonialismo português (1st ed.). Imprensa de Ciencias Sociais.
  4. ^ de Sacadura Botte, Theodorico César de Sande Pacheco. Memórias e Autobiograifa [Memoir and Autobiography].

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