Although the struggle for majority rule in Zimbabwe and South Africa are more famous, the transition to majority rule in southern Africa actually began in the Portuguese Empire. For centuries the Portuguese had maintained control over Angola in the west and Mozambique in the east, and these states provided a buffer for Rhodesia and South Africa. In 1974 the Portuguese Fascist dictatorship was overthrown, and the new government quickly made it clear that it would be withdrawing from Africa.
The period of the African Liberation Movements is still rather controversial, and many of the books covering it are clearly biased towards one side or the other. Here there is less overt bias than in many books, and it becomes clear that some of it is imposed on the author by the position on the ground. Some areas in both countries were too dangerous for photo journalists to visit, so the pictures are limited to showing areas that could be reached without too much risk. There is also anger at the wasted opportunities in both countries, which in Angola resulted from the lengthy civil war that followed independence, while in Mozambique the lake of development under Portuguese rule is more to blame.
The cover photo is rather misleading, appearing to show a child soldier, one of the more terrible features of some recent African Wars. When you actually find this picture in the book it becomes clear this isn't the case. In the aftermath of Independence there was a great deal of enthusiasm, and many children wanted to play at soldiers. The cover picture actually shows a child parading with a toy gun, and the author makes it clear that the organization involved didn't use child soldiers. For those saying children shouldn't be allowed to play with toy guns, I am about the same age as the child in this photo, and I and most of my friends had fairly impressive arsenals of toy guns.
This is a rather depressing subject. The end of colonial rule was inevitable, but the mass exodus of the white populations, the collapse of large parts of both economies and the long civil wars less so. The author's tone is inevitably affected by witnessing the collapse of the infrastructure in both countries, and in particular in cities with which he was familiar, but he is also clear that much of the blame must go to the two sides in the Cold War, in particular in Angola. He is particularly harsh about the South African intervention in Angola.
This is an excellent selection of photographs tracing the end of the last European Empire in Africa, and the tragic aftermath of independence.
1 - Introduction
2 - Mozambique
3 - Angola
4 - Muceques
5 - MPLA 'Trial'
Author: Wilf Nussey