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Chibalo was the system 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 most other European overseas possessions of the 20th century, the Portuguese ones were not considered colonies, but full-fledged provinces of Portugal proper).

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

Chibalo system[edit]

Under the Estado Novo regime of António de Oliveira Salazar, chibalo was used in Mozambique to grow cotton for Portugal, build roads, and serve Portuguese settlers. The system was enforced by physical and sexual violence against black Africans[1] 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. Entire families had to work in the cotton fields, replacing food production, leading to hunger and malnourishment.[2]

Chibalo outlasted slavery,[3] in the Portuguese Empire. Indigenous peoples in Mozambique, however, resisted chibalo throughout the period of Portuguese domination into the independence struggle.[2] It also 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]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Urdang, Stephanie (1989). And Still They Dance: Women, War, and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 0-85345-773-5. Portugal looked at Mozambique and saw little more than a pliable mass of uncivilized people who could provide the cheap labor essential to building Portugal’s weak economy. They imposed a tax on every family as one source of income. But cheap labor was the crux of the system, and forced labor—the dreaded chibalo, as it was widely known—was implemented. Men and women were forcibly recruited for periods of up to two years. Pay was a pittance when it was there at all. Any pretext was used to pull in the laborers, who found themselves ordered to work settler plantations, build roads, work as servants. No food was provided. No clothing. The roads were built primarily by women, who were ordered to bring their own tools and when they did not, dug the hard earth with their fingers at gunpoint. Rape was common. So was the whipping of men and women who did not perform as told, or whose exhaustion made them falter.
  2. ^ a b Urdang, Stephanie (1989). And Still They Dance: Women, War, and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique. New York, NY: Monthly Review Press. ISBN 0-85345-773-5. families were forced to grow cotton and then sell their harvests at far below market value. It was disaster for the peasants, who had to sacrifice crop fields to cotton, and who did not have enough time left over to grow enough food for their families. Hunger and famine became widespread.
  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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