Those narrators who refer to the Mozambique civil war (1977 – 1992) describe it as their hardest years. Most of the ones from the Mabalane region had to flee to Maputo. Ucilina, 65, gives the most detailed description: “I went through hell. We would sleep in the bushes; we went to sleep in the lake, in the water.” After three months, plagued by mosquitoes, they decided to go back home but then fled to the coast due to more killings. “We [eventually] managed to escape because my sons went to Maputo and found a plot of land where we could hide from the war.”
Even those living in Marracuene found it hard to survive during the war. Jorgina also fled to the capital and describes the risks she ran to feed her children: “It was very difficult for me to get food for the children [in the city]. I had to risk my own life going to the rural areas to cultivate the fields, and escaping from armed bandits.” She expresses some disappointment that some young people don’t appreciate what the conflict was about: “We fought [the war] so that they could be involved in the organizações,” she says, “but they do not understand [their] importance and value…”
Several narrators describe how the war forced families to flee in different directions, and how the separation has sometimes been permanent: “The war found us, scattered us,” says Boafesta. Many narrators say that this break-up of the family undermines people’s ability to survive and is a significant factor in their poverty.
Boafesta makes a plea for help with rebuilding the herds of cattle that once characterised his district of Mabalane: “There are many things that we lost because of the war. And at this moment in our life what will help us… what gives us hope is cattle… because we want to start again, since the war has ended.”
In general however, although these narrators lack many forms of support and infrastructure to help them break out of poverty, there is a sense of people looking forward: the war is the past. Pedro says fighting poverty is what matters now: “This is another war, and we must be able to win…”