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Refugees and Squatters: Immigration and the Politics of Territory on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Border

David McDermott Hughes
Journal of Southern African Studies
Vol. 25, No. 4 (Dec., 1999), pp. 533-552
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2637640
Page Count: 20
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Refugees and Squatters: Immigration and the Politics of Territory on the Zimbabwe-Mozambique Border
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Abstract

For Mozambicans, border-crossing is neither new nor liberating. Many current analyses of refugees, labour migrants, smugglers, and other `transnational subjects' emphasize their range of options, arguing that they are less and less constrained by porous, politically `soft' international borders. This article argues that, for at least a segment, the Mozambique-Zimbabwe border is hard and constraining, and has been so since the beginning of the twentieth century. Mozambican small-holders do cross it, but emigration strips them of rights and privileges they enjoy in their own country. In Vhimba, a Zimbabwean community on the Mozambican border, headmen have allocated farmland to Mozambican migrants on much less favourable terms than they have to Zimbabwean internal migrants. During Mozambique's recent war, the double standard became especially stark. Headmen and other Zimbabweans associated these destitute refugees with pre-colonial clients, and refugees behaved accordingly. In a fashion modelled loosely on nineteenth century pledging, hosts circumscribed refugees' ability to negotiate their access to land. Specifically, Vhimba's headmen exploited Mozambican migrants as pawns in territorial disputes with the state and with a private land-owner. Along this international boundary, small-holders revived archaic mechanisms of subjugation and retooled them for contemporary purposes.

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