In October 1944, a company which came to be called Arrozal was awarded (by the Rice Propaganda Division) the rice concession for the lower Zambesi valley in colonial Mozambique. This granted the concession-holder, a man called Ruy Pereira de Lima, the right to levy four sacks from every adult woman in the area, paying them one-third of the market value.

The following song two describes one of Ruy’s raids on the village of Pirira, on the north bank of the river, close to the delta. Oral testimony from the village narrates as follows:

“When people used to see a boat coming, they would run away. People would say that because it was a boat, it must be Ruy. This would mean that the sepoys would be coming again like they did that other day. Everyone would run into the bush, taking no food or anything. If there was someone working in his garden, he would come to the village shouting ‘Run away! Run away! Ruy’s coming! Run Away!’ Then everyone would rush off into the grass. A small child would not cry out lest the sepoys hear it. So you had to press the child’s mouth to muffle it. People hid in the bush because of the suffering the women were enduring.”

This poem was sung in chiSena by Fernando Nicolas with women of Piria village, Luabo, 5 August, 1975.

Apa Shitima ya Ruy
A-a-ay
Tawani
A-a-ay
Tawani Machambero!
A-a-ay
Tawani machambero!

Nda mutawe baba-ay
Nda mutawe mama
Nda mutawe baba-ay baba

Nda mutawe baba-ay
Nda mutawe mama
Nda mutawe mudzi mo-ay-ay

Abale mutawe mudzi mo
A baba,
mudzi mwafika chizimo
Baba,
mutawe mwene mo.

A baba, abale, Shitima
A baba, abale, Shitima
A baba, abale, Shitima

A-ay Baba gopa Pirira
A-ay Baba gopa Pirira
A-ay Baba gopa Pirira

Ay-mutawe mutawe
Mutawire mutawe mutawire
Ay-baba, ay mutawire, ay baba.

Ay, mutawe mudzi mo
Say-mutawe mudzi mo
Mutaya nipa zanu zo

Ay-abwera nsupai-ay
Ay-abwera nsupai-ay
Ay-abwera nsupai-ay

Ay, munamangwa lero
Ay, munamangwa lero
Ay, munamangwa lero

Ay-baba-ay
Adapenga nipa lero
Ay-mutawe baba-ay

Mama-ay,
ndisafamba-ay
Munamangwa na ngume
Mama-ay,
mwamala Pirira lero

Mama-ay,
ndava mwapakiswa
Mama-ay,
ndava mwapakiswa
Mama-ay,
ndava mwapakiswa

Ay-ay, pakira mwapakira
Ay-ay, pakira mwapakira
Mwapakiswa pa Shitima.

Apa Shitima ya Ruy
A-a-ay
Tawani
A-a-ay
Tawani Machambero!
A-a-ay
Tawani machambero!

Here comes Ruy’s steamer
A-a-ay
Run away
A-a-ay
Run away, gardeners!
A-a-ay
Run away, gardeners!

You must run, father
You must run, mother
You must run, mother, father

You must run, father
You must run, mother
You must run from that village

Brothers, you must run from that village
Father,
a devil has descended on the village
Father,
you must run from that place

Fathers, brothers, the steamer
Fathers, brothers, the steamer
Fathers, brothers, the steamer

Father, fear for Pirira
Father, fear for Pirira
Father, fear for Pirira

You must run, you must run
Run. You must run. Run.
Father, you must run fast, father

You must run from that village
You must run from that village
Get rid of that kachasu of yours (1)

The cypaes have come (2)
The cypaes have come
The cypaes have come

You’ll be tied up today
You’ll be tied up today
You’ll be tied up today

Father
You who are brewing kachasu today
You must run away father

Mother,
I always have nightmares
You’ll be tied up with rope
Mother,
you Pirira people are finished today

Mother,
I’ve heard you’ve been shipped away (3)
Mother,
I’ve heard you’ve been shipped away
Mother,
I’ve heard you’ve been shipped away

Gone aboard, you’ve gone aboard
Gone aboard, you’ve gone aboard
You’ve been shipped away in the steamer.

Here comes Ruy’s steamer
A-a-ay
Run away
A-a-ay
Run away, gardeners!
A-a-ay
Run away, gardeners!

from Capitalism & Colonialism in Mozambique, 323-24.
Leroy Vail & Landeg White,
University of Minnesota Press (1980)


Footnotes

  1. Kachasu: a spirit distilled from the fruit of the cashew tree. It’s production was illegal.
  2. Cypaes, or Sepoys: the “native” (that is, African) police, employed by the local administrator.
  3. i.e., taken under arrest in Rui’s steamer.