General issues: Portuguese colony, district 1895-1920
Country name on general issues: Zambezia
Currency: 1 Milreis = 1000 Reis 1895-1920
Population: No statistics available – a rough estimate would suggest the population to have been in the order of 600 000 in 1900
Political history Zambezia
Zambezia 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. Concurrently, 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.
Zambezia was one of the districts formed. The district consisted of two rather different parts. The part downstream of the Zambezi River was fertile and very well suited for agricultural development. The part upstream of the Zambezi River was much less fertile and primarily of interest for its strategic location in between the British Rhodesias and Nyasaland and for its potential richness in mineral resources. When Zambesia was formed, only part of the district was under effective Portuguese control – the coastal area with Quelimane as the main settlement and the lands along the banks of the Zambezi River up to the city of Tete. The Portuguese, however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries set to work to extend their administrative control over the district, and by 1902, they succeeded in this effort. For the economic development, the Portuguese on the one hand, used the ‘prazo’ system: land was leased to Portuguese settlers for a number of years giving the settlers exclusive rights over the land. On the other hand, private companies were granted rights to develop the district. The largest of these was the Zambezi Company – granted its rights in 1892. The Zambezi Company – although not a chartered company like the Mozambique Company and the Nyassa Company – became the largest in Mozambique and was the only one to actually turn a profit. The Zambezia district was split into the Quelimane and Tete districts in 1902.
In modern Mozambique the provinces of Tete and Zambezia are the equivalent of the former district of Zambezia.
Postal history Zambezia
The first stamp issued in the name of Zambezia is a newspaper stamp issued in 1893. The first stamps for general use are issued in 1895 – a set of definitives with the portrait of King Carlos, common to Portugal and the Portuguese colonies. A second set, with the portrait of King Carlos, of a different but equally common design, is issued in 1898. Aside from these definitives, many stamps have been issued with overprints, especially after the fall of the monarchy and the establishment of the republic in Portugal in 1910 – the overprint reading ‘Republica’. Zambezia has issued stamps until 1917, that were used until 1920, when they were superseded by the general issues for Mozambique. It is interesting to note that Zambezia has only issued stamps in the milreis/reis currrency, even when the currency in Mozambique had changed to escudo/centavos in 1912. I have some open questions on the postal history of Zambezia. The Zambezia district was split into the districts of Quelimane and Tete in 1902 – these districts, however, have not issued stamps until 1914. Also: the Zambezia district after 1902 kept on issuing stamps for more than a decade and a half – even after the first issues of Quelimane and Tete had appeared. Apparently, Zambezia stamps were used before and in concurrence with the Quelimane and Tete issues. And then there is the issue of the currency… Resources used have not provided a conclusive answer on what the exact postal arrangements were in this period.