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Border Markets - RJ Kloppers

Border Markets - RJ Kloppers

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Published by: api-3750042 on Oct 18, 2008
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Roelof Kloppers
Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Pretoria, 0002
Please direct correspondence to: Tembe Elephant Park, Private Bag 356, KwaNgwanase, 3973 or email

Markets along the southern Mozambique/ South Africa border have become places of social contact
and cultural exchange in a space that was alienated by colonialism, warfare and ethnic politics. The
imposed colonial border that fragmented the Mabudu-Tembe chiefdom became infused with cultural
meaning through various process of social engineering and is seen by many as a social boundary
dividing two distinct groups. With the end of war in Mozambique and Apartheid in South Africa the
border has become more open to people in the borderland. An important forum where borderland
residents can legally interact is at border markets. Renewed unity across the border is symbolised by
the goods that flow from one side to the other. Goods that symbolise unity across the border replace
goods that symbolise division. By acting as institutionalised places of congregation and exchange,
border markets serve to eradicate social boundaries along the borderline.

In this article I argue that trade at a market on the Mozambique/ South Africa border encourage the disintegration of social boundaries in a once alienated borderland. The metaphor I use is the disappearance of Dois M Beer, a prominent symbol of colonially imposed fragmentation, from the borderland as a result of trade at the border market. I concur with Hann and Beller Hann (1998:249) that border markets are important and unique social and cultural phenomena along historically militarised borders that have been relaxed in the post-Cold War era. As such, they are more than just economic


occurrences. Border markets fulfil a myriad of social functions as meeting places
between people that have been divorced from each other by the mechanisms of
modern nation-states. In the process social boundaries are erased, reaffirmed and
even newly created. Below I look at the dissolution of social boundaries at a border
market in the Mozambique/ South Africa borderland. First I give a brief description
of the establishment of the southern Mozambique/ South Africa border and the
process by which it became infused as a social boundary. Thereafter I discuss the
border market and the manner in which it eradicates social boundaries.

Information presented in this article is the result of nearly five years of
extended research in the southern Mozambique/ South Africa borderland (2000-
2004). I used a combination of various participatory methodologies, including
participant observation, in-depth interviews and questionnaire surveys.

The French President, the Border and the Beer

Towards the end of the nineteenth century Britain, Portugal and the South African
Republic (Zuid-Afrikaanse Republic) became embroiled in a conflict for control over
the coastal areas south of Delagoa Bay.1President Kruger laid claim to the area since
it would afford his landlocked Republic an avenue to the ocean and thus make it
independent of Britain and Portugal (Dominy 1986:85). The British government
denied the Republic\u2019s claim, arguing that Britain claimed sovereignty over all the
areas south of Delagoa Bay. In turn, Portugal disputed the British claim. As a result,
Britain and Portugal put the manner up for international arbitration. In 1875 French
President, Marshall MacMahon, drew a line on a map in Paris that separated the

1 Present-day Maputo

Portuguese and British spheres of influence in south-east Africa. MacMahon\u2019s
decision became known as the MacMahon Award since he awarded all the areas south
of Delagoa Bay to the 26\u00ba 30' S line to Portugal (Felgate 1982:18).

The new border ran from the Swazi border at the foothills of the Lubombo
Mountains along the Usuthu River to its confluence with the Pongola (Maputo) River
and from there in a straight line to the Indian Ocean. The border cut straight through
the Mabudu-Tembe (Maputo)2 chiefdom, separating it into two halves, one under
Portuguese rule, the other under British rule (Harries 1983:13). As with most
colonially imposed borders in Africa (Asiwaju 1985:1-18), the MacMahon border
paid scant regard to local political and cultural lines of organisation. Bulpin (1969)
remarked of this:

\u2018The effect of the MacMahon Award on the Tonga people themselves would
have been comic if it wasn\u2019t pathetic. Far away in Paris a politician in striped
pants sat down and drew a sharp line straight through their tribal possessions
while they sat drinking lala wine, quarrelling over women and scratching
themselves in the sun. Nobody took the trouble to inform the Tongas of the
profound change in their territorial possessions. Accordingly, when the
Portuguese, after a few years of enertia, started demanding taxes on account of
the Tongas now being their subjects, there was a certain amount of surprise (p.

The Portuguese praised MacMahon and named a square in Lourence Marques after
the French President. A public holiday was also proclaimed that was later even
celebrated by the post-colonial Mozambican government. Some years after the award
the Mozambican Brewery named a beer in honour of the French President, which
became known as Two M (Dois M) beer. The Mozambican Brewery, Cevejas de

Mozambique\u2019s, advertising campaign heralds the beer as a celebration of Mozambican
2 The Mabudu-Tembe is the junior branch of the Tembe-Thonga. In the literature they are also referred
to as the Maputo (Harries 1994:1), Ronga, Maputa (Junod 1962:16),a b a kw aMabudu (Webb and
Wright 1979:157) and Tembe (Torres 1980:460).

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