Gendered Labour, Migratory Labour: Reforming Sugar Regimes in Xinavane, Mozambique
Journal of Southern African Studies
Sugar has played a contentious historical role in the development of Mozambique. Following the country’s 16-year civil conflict, the industry has re-emerged as an important sector for investment and national rebuilding. This article explores how the industry’s narratives of technical efficiency and success in increasing production mask dynamics of agricultural labour in the country’s largest sugar estate at Xinavane, southern Mozambique. Based on archival and ethnographic investigation, the paper interrogates the recent transformation of sugar cane production by South African investment and management. The paper identifies gender- and migration-based labour management practices that are not only consistent with a trend toward labour ‘flexibilisation’ within South African agribusiness practice, but also constitute rules and orders that reiterate Portuguese colonial practice. This analysis undermines current ahistorical narratives of the Açucareira de Xinavane – or Xinavane Sugar Mill – that depict the company as a beneficial exemplar of industrial production and technological advance. It suggests that the search of South African agribusiness for cheap labour north of its borders not only reinforces the low social and material valuing of Mozambican rural life and labour, but also reconstitutes labour relations from the country’s colonial past. This paper argues that these insights are critical to an understanding of the country’s post-conflict reconstruction, and its re-emerging linkages with South African capital.
Lazzarini, Alicia H. 2017. "Gendered Labour, Migratory Labour: Reforming Sugar Regimes in Xinavane, Mozambique." Journal of Southern African Studies 43(3): 605-623.