Settling the Southeast African Border
Chapter Four presents a counter-narrative to the previous chapter, drawing on secondary sources to reconstruct official representations of pre-colonial and colonial border-making in southeast Africa. Drawing on the contention that contemporary cartographic demarcations reflect more complex intercessions than is represented in the colonial archive, it examines precolonial power struggles between five dominating lineages in the region. Using the image of a vortex as a metaphor for ensuing waves of political turbulence, it explores the expansionist agendas of Portuguese, British and Boer deployed at various moments in colonial history to consolidate or destabilize local powers. The history of the Mathenjwa clan is presented within the context of this tumultuous landscape, and extensive interview material is used to locate them as an anomalous borderland people, who claim ancestral ties to East Africa and contemporary political and cultural allegiances to Swaziland. The chapter proceeds by explicating the modern history of western Maputaland, its transitional locality in relation to the armed struggles in Mozambique and South Africa, and its absorption into the KwaZulu “Homeland” under the apartheid government. The chapter concludes with a discussion about post-apartheid land politics, and forecasts the expansionist agenda of transboundary conservation as the impetus for a new political vortex.
Keywords: precolonial and colonial history, Mathenjwa clan, political vortex, transboundary conservation