Geography Reference
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honor his late father's wish that he never give up the house. “We didn't have electricity,
we didn't have a sewage system, but it was my house. This is the fundamental part.”
Benfica was young for a homeowner, only twenty-one at independence. Many of his
friends, and many of Helena Macuacua's friends, jumped at the chance to live in the
City of Cement—though many also returned to the subúrbios within a few years when
costs proved too much to bear. (It was not unusual for people who had ventured a life in
the City of Cement to return after a month or two.) Many others, like Benfica's father,
had spent their adult lives saving up to build a house of their own in the shantytowns,
and some families had lived on the same plot for decades. A house was the one solid
investment that one could pass on to successive generations. For many people of this
older generation, the City of Cement had been so distant and the lifestyle it required so
unattainable that living there never took shape as an aspiration. A common anxiety that
cropped up in interviews, far from unreasonable, was that the government would not
survive and that the old order would return. Given that the new housing rules dictated
that a family could only have one house, 6 the situation was too uncertain to exchange
the home one had for a home one had not even hoped for.
For all the drama accompanying the nationalization of rental housing in the City of
Cement, the real impact for most shantytown dwellers was the policy's consequences
for shantytown housing. In some neighborhoods of the caniço , as much as 70 percent
of the housing units were rentals (Rita-Ferreira 1967). According to a recent interview
with former housing minister Júlio Carrilho, the nationalizations were never intended to
and Frelimo's characterization of rent as “exploitation of man by man,” began “nation-
alizing” compounds and rental shacks in the subúrbios as well.
This spontaneous, grassroots phenomenon—rare under a government known for its
nationalization, as Carrilho later reflected, addressed a long-held and heartfelt desire:
it was a demand by shantytown dwellers for a meaningful form of citizenship, one in
which the government acknowledged its responsibility for all parts of the city. Within a
week of Machel's speech, the government became the reluctant landlord to a good share
of the shantytown landscape. 7
Frelimo in the first years of its rule regarded the seat of its power with suspicion
regime's beating heart—a place where the Portuguese influence had been most direct,
andwhere,afterindependence,anAfrican“petitbourgeoisie”— assimilados —withtheir
forward to the influence on the city of an influx of people from the countryside, who
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