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MISTY team talk to migrants in Maputo informal settlement

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

Text: Charlotte Allen

Images: William Muchanga

Field team in Maputo: Amélia Macome, Custódio Nhabete and William Muchanga

Informal settlement 'Zambezia' in Maputo

In Maputo, internal migrants often live a precarious existence unless they can count on support from family or other networks. In the densely-populated unplanned suburbs of Maputo, locals and migrants alike suffer from poverty, insanitary conditions and a lack of formal employment. Migrants in particular face problems in accessing secure housing, and internal migrants often resort to building on land considered unsuitable or reserved for other uses.

Bridge built by local residents to give access to their houses

The MISTY field team in Maputo talked to migrants living in an informal settlement known unofficially as ‘Zambezia’, after the province in central Mozambique where many of them come from. Accompanied by the Chefe de Quarteirão [a local resident selected to assist the politico-administrative functions of the bairro], the team spoke to Fernando and Tina*, who both said they have been in Maputo for “a long time”. It is likely that the settlement started after the severe floods in 2000, when the area was under water for several weeks.

A flooded track and the approaching city

Flooding is still a serious problem, with raw sewage in the floodwater as latrines overflow. According to the Chefe: “When it rains, it’s terrible… Three or four days later it’s still bad, though in the houses it’s more or less okay as people try to remove the water. But on the paths, and in some houses too – that’s last year’s rain… There were times when whenever it rained I would weep because I didn’t have a latrine anymore. But now I’ve built a two-storey latrine to avoid this.”

Drain with stagnant water; bathroom built above flood level; yard with stagnant water

Even so, they all said they liked living there, despite the flooding and mosquitoes, and the frequent robberies and assaults. Most of the migrants live side-by-side with extended family members and survive by working long hours as informal traders. Some have been growing rice, watercress and other vegetables in an old allotment next to their homes.

Families produce rice in the neighbourhood

But the formal city is rapidly expanding towards Zambézia neighbourhood and luxury high-rise apartments with sea views have been built nearby; land values are increasing and the settlement will surely be demolished soon to make way for expensive new development. The Chefe is attempting to obtain joint land rights for the residents as by law this would enable them to negotiate with the developers for compensation, albeit on a very unequal footing.

* Names have been changed.

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