'I'll Bury You in the Border!': Women's Land Struggles in Post-War Facazisse (Magude District), Mozambique


Gengenbach, Heidi. 1998. "'I'll Bury You in the Border!': Women's Land Struggles in Post-War Facazisse (Magude District), Mozambique.” Journal of Southern African Studies 4 (1): 7-36.

Author: Heidi Gengenbach


As in many other areas of post-war Mozambique, the locality of Facazisse (in Magude District, Maputo Province) has experienced numerous forms of land conflict in the process of rural resettlement. The most serious tensions have emerged predominantly among female farmers, and surround the fairness of methods of land allocation, resentment of displaced people who refuse to give up borrowed land, and disputes over the proper location of boundaries between cultivated fields. This paper, based on participant-observation and interviews among women in Facazisse, argues that we cannot understand the significance of recent land struggles - either for rural social relations or for Mozambican land law reform - unless we examine them from a gendered cultural and historical perspective, relying on women's explanations of the meaning of changes in local land administration during the colonial and postcolonial periods. Women's oral testimony draws a sharp contrast between 'traditional' land administration (the 'ways of long ago'), when their responsibility for agriculture fostered a sense of 'cultivating community' among them, and gave women practical and ritual control over everyday land management, with the present system in Facazisse, in which the cumulative impact of colonial land alienation, new methods of land division, and wartime land distribution measures have drastically eroded women's authority, autonomy, and land-based kinship. The profound implications of these changes for rural women are already evident in the emergence of xifula witchcraft as a weapon in post-war land conflicts, and women's increasingly restrictive definitions of who does and does not belong to the 'cultivating community'. Women's current land conflicts, in other words, are also struggles over the gendered construction of community and authority in Facazisse, and over the continuing power of historical memory to shape the outcome of those struggles in women's favour.

Topics: Gender, Women, Rights, Land Rights, Security Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Mozambique

Year: 1998

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