Mozambique Portuguese possession

Portuguese possession






Quick reference

General issues: Portuguese colony, district 1914-1920

Country name on general issues: Tete

Currency: 1 Escudo = 100 Centavos

Population: No statistics available – a rough estimate would suggest the population to have been in the order of 150 000 to 200 000 in 1900

Political history Tete

Postal history Tete

Please click on the image to enlarge

Tete was a district of the Portuguese colony of Mozambique in eastern Africa. The Portuguese had, since the 16th century, established themselves in Mozambique. When Mozambique was awarded to Portugal at the 1885 Berlin conference, where the colonial powers divided their respective spheres of influence in Africa, it was a prerequisite for continued recognition of territorial claims that effective colonial rule would be established. The Portuguese had little resources available to actually do so, and thus, large parts of Mozambique were  transferred to chartered companies for further development – the Mozambique Company and the Nyassa Company. In parallel, the colonial administration was modernized. In 1894, districts were formed, each with a governor reporting to a high commissioner who in turn reported to the Cortes – the Portuguese parliament in Lisbon. With the formation of these districts, elements of the colonial administration and judiciary system came to be organized on district level – the postal administration being one of them.

In 1894, the district of Zambezia was formed. At the time, only parts of Zambezia were under effective control of the Portuguese. When, in 1902, most of Zambesia was ‘pacified’, the Zambesia district was split into the districts of Quelimane and Tete. The Tete district – jutting into the British controlled Rhodesias and Nyasaland – was long contested between the British and the Portuguese. It was awarded to Portugal in 1885, borders being agreed upon in 1891. The capital is also called Tete, which  – located on the Zambezi River – was, before the arrival of the Portuguese, a center of Arab trade with the African kingdoms in the east African hinterland. The Portuguese settled in Tete from 1531 and Tete, until the late 19th century, marked the furthest extent of the Portuguese control inland. At the end of the 19th century, the Portuguese set to work to gain full control over the Tete district, which they achieved in 1902.  The economic development was, in the 1890’s, put in the hands of private companies such as the Zambezia Company – that were mainly interested in the development of the potentially rich mineral resources of the district. The district is one of the least populated in Mozambique.

Currently, Tete is still a province of modern Mozambique. Rich coal deposits have been discovered leading to a mining boom. The deposits are, in coming years, expected to provide as much as 25% of the world’s coal supply.

Postal history Tete

Postal history Tete

1914 – Macau issue overprinted for use in Tete

Tete has issued stamps in 1914. The first set are overprints issued for the new currency that was introduced in Mozambique in 1912. It is interesting to note that, for this overprint, stamps of the 1898 Vasco da Gama issue for all of Portuguese Africa and stamps of Macau and Timor have been used. Later, in 1914, a set of definitives was issued of the Ceres type common to Portugal and the Portuguese colonies.

The stamps of Tete have been used until 1920, when they were superseded by the general issues for Mozambique.[1]I have some open questions on the postal history of Tete. The Tete district was formed in 1902 but did not issue stamps until 1914. Also, the Zambezia district was dissolved in 1902 but kept on issuing stamps for more than a decade and a half after that. Apparently, Zambezia stamps were used before, and in concurrence with, the Tete issues. Resources used have not provided a conclusive answer on what the exact postal arrangements were in this period.


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