O Level Revision : History - Early European Colonial Activities

These  early  Europeans  changed  the  social  and economic relations of Africans. The Arab,  Indian  and  Swahili  merchants  had been in contact with the Shona people before the Europeans. These traders had established trading centers along the Mozambican coast.

    The  arrival of Portuguese traders

    • The major aim of the Portuguese on arrival at the Mozambican coast was to take over total control of trade and displace the Arab and Swahili traders who had come before them.
    • They organised a military take over of the seas along the East African coast so as to control all African traders from the interior.
    • After  bombarding   most   Swahili   commercial centres, the Portuguese managed to control Sofala in 1505 and establish their settlement.
    • They started to cut off all existing Arab/Swahili trading networks and redirecting trade towards routes under their control. This did not improve their trading activities because:

    -     The  Arab/Swahili  traders  maintained  their trading links with the interior by opening up new trading routes. So, the Portuguese could not get much gold and ivory.

    -     Africans  who  had  befriended  Arab/Swahili traders resented intrusion by the Portuguese and assisted Swahili traders to open up new routes, away from Portuguese control.

    -     Africans in the interior preferred goods and beads from Asia, provided by the Arab/Swahili traders rather than European goods.

    -     Many wars in the interior greatly affected trade so the Portuguese got little gold and silver.

    The  Portuguese in the  interior


    • To improve the quantity of trade, the Portuguese pushed into the interior so as to control the actual production of the mineral resources.
    • They made inland settlements for trade and interior markets on the frontiers of the Mutapa State.
    • This    disrupted    the    Swahili    trade    network.

    The Portuguese wanted to establish direct communication with the Mutapa for easy access to resources like gold and ivory.

    • Mutapa rulers wanted guns from the Portuguese, to use to defeat their enemies.
    • The Mutapa rulers also got tax (curva) as permission for the Portuguese to trade in the Mutapa State.
    • By 1530, Sena and Tete had become the major Portuguese bases for trade.
    • The  Portuguese  held  bazaars  at  various  trade centres where they traded with the local people.



    Portuguese attempts to take  over the  Mutapa State


    • The Portuguese sought to control the Mutapa State by reducing the influence of Muslim traders by means of religious conversion.
    • They sent  the  missionary,  Father  Gonzalo  da Silveira, to set up a Christian base at the Mutapa Court at Mt. Fura in 1560.
    • He baptised about 300 people including the ruling Mutapa, but Silveira was killed in 1561. His death/ murder was facilitated by Arab/Swahili traders who felt they were being undermined by the Portuguese.
    • In reaction to Silveira’s death, the Portuguese sent a large army to take over the Mutapa State.

    • The Portuguese soldiers under Francisco Barreto died from tropical diseases such as malaria.
    • In  1574  the  Portuguese  sent  another  military expedition under Vasco Homen.
    • In 1607, Gatsi Rusere, ruler of the Mutapa State faced a rebellion. He sought Portuguese assistance and granted them mining rights in the whole Mutapa Empire.



    Effects of Portuguese penetration


    • In the interior the Portuguese began to influence political decisions. For example, in the 1628 civil war they assisted Mutapa Mavhura to become king after Gatsi Rusere’s death.
    • They then demanded an end to the payment of tribute by the Portuguese to the Mutapa and that the Mutapa pay tribute to the Portuguese governor at Sofala.
    • They controlled trade with Africans directly and set up market places (feiras) and took over Muslim bazaars.
    • They set up fortresses which were however, weak.
    • The Portuguese took direct control of mining.
    • Set up prazos.
    • The Portuguese used forced labour to increase gold supply. The Mutapa people resisted by fleeing from mines and the Portuguese ran short of labour.



    The  credit system


    • It was a method used by the Portuguese to keep the Mutapa people in continuous bondage.
    • The  Portuguese  gave Africans  goods  on  credit. If they failed to pay, they risked losing cattle and being taken into slavery.
    • The Portuguese tried to force Africans to increase the volume of trade, with very little success.
    • The Portuguese benefited from the trade as they got gold and ivory (special items) in exchange for cloth, beads, guns, and spirits which were of no economic value.



    The  prazo system and  its  effects


    • The Portuguese fenced out large tracts of land in the Zambezi Valley, Sofala and other areas.
    • These large estates were known as ‘prazos’.
    • The Portuguese ‘prazeros’ (settlers) grew crops like tobacco and rice on these farms.
    • The effects of the prazo system:

    -     It displaced Africans from their land where they had settled, and pushed them to poor and arid lands.

    -     The prazeros enslaved locals to work on their farms/estates/ prazos.

    -     The   Portuguese   had   private   armies   (the Chikundas) which terrorised local Africans who resisted forced labour (chibharo).

    -     The prazeros became more powerful than local chiefs and took over the positions of chiefs, receiving tribute from the local people.

    -     They interfered in African politics by being involved in the selection of chiefs.

    -     The   Portuguese   settlers   encouraged   wars between African chiefs and supplied guns to their favourites.

    -     As a result many wars were fought between various African  chiefdoms  and  led  to  great instability south of the Zambezi.

    -     The Mutapa State began to break apart because of these wars.



    Zumbo  and  Masekesa trade


    • By the end of the 17th Century the Mutapa State had collapsed. It was replaced by the Rozvi State.
    • The Rozvi stopped the Portuguese from penetrating the interior so they had to rely on the ‘Vashambadzi’ for trade contacts.
    • In 1710 the Portuguese built Zumbo which was very far from Tete.
    • The Portuguese were heavily taxed and so they got low profits from trade.
    • The Vashambadzi were also affected by civil wars and famine.
    • Some of the Vashambadzi stole their masters’goods and claimed to have been robbed. They got rich and began to oppose the Portuguese at Zumbo.
    • At Masekesa in Manyika, trade with the Portuguese was more organised and they got profit.


    The  gold  trade collapses


    • By the end of the 18th Century, the Portuguese control of trade began to decline.
    • The Rozvi denied the Portuguese entry into the interior.
    • Severe drought and hunger between 1818 and 1822 caused many wars in Southern Africa.
    • Gold trade collapsed and the Portuguese turned to trade in ivory.
    • The  Portuguese   formed   ivory-hunting   armies which could not enter the interior of the region.
    • So there was very little trade occurring.

    The  end  of Portuguese dominance of trade


    • Portuguese  dominance   ended   because   of   the Mfecane disturbances. The trade feiras were destroyed, forcing the Portuguese back to the main towns.
    • Portuguese  merchants   exploited   local   natural resources and helped destroy the independence of powerful African states like the Mutapa State.
    • They also laid foundations of imperialism in this region.
    • Other European gold and ivory hunters such as the Dutch, German, British, French and others began to stream into Africa.
    • By   1900,   the   Portuguese   were   facing   stiff competition from their European counterparts.


    European missionary activities in Southern Africa


    Aims of missionaries

    • To spread Christianity.
    • To pacify the Africans.
    • To end slave trade and slavery.
    • To bring ‘civilisation’ to Africans.
    • To bring European education.
    • To promote equality among all mankind.
    • To lay foundations of imperialism. 

    The  London  Missionary Society (LMS)


    • Became  the  main  group  in  Southern Africa  by 1850.
    • Under Dr. John Philip’s leadership from 1820, the LMS sent out a number of missionaries such as Robert Moffatt.
    • They set up many mission stations in most parts of Southern Africa.
    • The LMS  spearheaded  19th   century  missionary efforts in Zimbabwe.
    • Robert Moffat first made contact with Mzilikazi in the Transvaal in 1829.
    • John  Smith  Moffat  came  to  Zimbabwe,  and  in 1859 the first mission station was built at Inyathi in Matabeleland.
    • Other missionaries who came to Zimbabwe include Helm, Prestage, Francois Coillard, David Carnegie and Robert Laws.
    • In 1870 the LMS built another station at Hope Fountain.
    • Other  mission   stations   included   Empandeni, Chishawasha, Morgenster, Waddilove and St. Augustine.
    • Later the Dutch, Methodists, Anglicans, The Berlin Missionary Society, Catholics and Lutherans followed.
    • By  1890  Catholics  had  built  several  mission stations e.g. Emphandeni in 1884.


    Problems faced by missionaries


    • Early   missionary   efforts   were   not   successful because Africans resisted.
    • African chiefs did not want missionaries to have free access to their subjects.
    • They were  suspicious  of  missionary  intentions, fearing that missionary teachings might undermine royal power.
    • Chiefs prevented conversion among their subjects.
    • The  Ndebele   feared   that   missionaries   would undermine    their    centralised    authority.    This frustrated missionaries and some actively supported colonisation later.
    • Missionaries felt  that  their  success  lay  in  the destruction of such states like the Ndebele State which resisted them.
    • Some African   rulers   welcomed   the   Christian missionaries in the hope of material benefits.
    • Other rulers wanted skills, firearms and horses.
    • Very few converts were made because:

    -     Africans resisted Christianity for they had their own religious beliefs which they were anxious to uphold in place of foreign beliefs.

    -     Christianity   despised  African   culture   and beliefs. The missionaries aimed at changing the customs and way of life of Africans for a new civilisation, which was purely European.

    -     Some   missionaries   interfered   in   African politics, e.g. Robert Moffat.

    -     Some believed that people’s progress did not lie in missionary guidance.

    • Missionaries   also   faced   other   challenges,   for example:

    -     diseases such as malaria and typhoid;

    -     language barrier;

    -     transport problems;

    -     resistance  by  Swahili  and  Muslims  (Islam religion).


    Positive/good impact of missionaries

    While Christian missionary activities negatively affected African societies, they left positive developments as well.

    • They helped to abolish slavery in areas like Malawi.
    • They persuaded African rulers to abolish customs like the killing of twins at birth and forced marriage (betrothing and pledging of children.)
    • They promoted African education in the region as they built schools
    • They improved  health  conditions  by  building clinics at their mission centres. These helped cure some of the killer diseases like malaria and small pox which had killed Africans in the past.
    • Missionaries introduced new styles of architecture and new methods of building.
    • They were involved in the printing of books and helped in the writing of vernacular languages.
    • Some mission  stations  became  centres  of  new technology where Africans were taught new skills like manufacturing and repairing guns as well as crafts.
    • Missionaries taught Africans new ways of farming and helped to improve productivity. They built agricultural centres where African peasants were taught new methods of successful agriculture. They also introduced new crops.

    Negative impact (Role of missionaries in colonisation)

    • Missionaries have been blamed for the colonisation and replacement of African moral values and religion with Western ones.
    • They  collaborated  with  colonisation  –  the  flag followed the cross.
    • Some missionaries like Reverend Charles Helm (as false interpreters) persuaded kings like Lobengula into signing away their power.
    • Missionaries are said to have taught Africans not to revenge, thus softened indigenous peoples before conquest.
    • The  presence   of   missionaries   created   bitter divisions between converts and those rejecting Christianity. These divisions lessened the ability to resist colonial domination.
    • They condemned African institutions and values, so missionary teachings undermined the power of chiefs.
    • Missionaries preached against established cultural practices like lobola, denounced polygamy and denied the existence of sorcery and divination. This undermined African confidence and self-dignity.

    You should be able to separate missionary activities in Mashonaland and Matabeleland; Southern Africa and Botswana.


    (a)  Listanysixmissionarygroupswhichoperatedin

    Southern Africa in the 19th   century.            [6]

    (b)  Describe the role played by missionaries in the colonisation of Southern Africa.                [11]

    (c)  To what extent were missionaries responsible for the occupation of Zimbabwe?                [8]