Galley slaves. Image credit

Galley slaves. Image credit

ZIMSEC O Level History Notes: The Portuguese activities in Zambezi valley: The decline of the Prazo system

  • The lack of industry, commerce,education and religious work in prazo areas led to their eventual decline and the crumbling of the prazo system.
  • Most of the prazeros were not really from Portugal and most of them were of mixed blood being of Portuguese, Goan and African descent.
  • The prazos became centers of corruption and degeneration instead of centers of civilization, religious learning and good living.
  • The prazeros surrounded themselves with slaves, chikundas and were notorious for abusing African women.
  • Prazeros had private prisons where Africans were flogged, tortured and sometimes killed even for minor offences.
  • Prazos became sources of slave labour which was exported to Brazil and Cuba even though slave trade was banned in Portuguese colonies.
  • Finally Portugal took action which ended slavery and the slave trade resulting in the end of the prazo system.
  • In addition natural disasters like locusts and droughts made life very difficult for the prazeros.
  • Civil wars caused by the interference of the prazeros and even amongst themselves greatly impacted on the prazo system and contributed to its eventual fall.
  • Africans were also no longer keen to keep producing gold and other minerals for the Portuguese who did not pay fair prices thus leading to the weakening of the mining economy.
  • By 1678 there were only a few Portuguese at Tete and Dambarare.
  • The rise of Changamire Dombo saw the defeat of the Portoguese.
  • Nyakunembire, Mukombwe’s successor sought help from the Rozvi ruler Changamire Dombo.
  • Changamire Dombo helped Nyakunembire and in 1693 killed all the Protuguese at the feira at Dambarare.
  • The Masapa feira which was also at the center of the Mutapa state was also attacked.
  • The alliance between the Mutapa and Rozvi was short lived as the Changamire abandoned the Mutapa and withdrew his army.
  • Attacks by Africans on the Portuguese in the interior and the defeats by the Changamire marked a change of fortunes for the Portuguese.
  • There a lot of sporadic attacks by the disgruntled Africans.
  • The rise of the Rozvi was a decisive factor in the decline of Portuguese influence in the interior.
  • Many forts such as Tete and Sena were destroyed.
  • The Portuguese retreated to the Zambezi valley.
  • Competitions from other European powers especially the British and the Dutch saw Portuguese influence in the Zambezi Valley decline.
  • By 1855 Portuguese influence was now limited to the lower Zambezi Valley.
  • Portugal had also lost its position as one of the pole powers of Europe and with it the will to protect her colonial interests.
  • Portuguese settlements were also ridden by tropical diseases such as malaria.
  • Slave trade to the Americas also destroyed the prazo system which was based on slave labour since few Africans remained, too few to sustain the prazo economy.

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