chapter  [6]
3 Pages

Portuguese Musketeers on the Zambezi

WithRichard Gray

The next major military operation was the intervention of Diogo Simoes Madeira on behalf of Mutapa Gatsi Rusere against dissident sections led by Matuzianhe in 1609. Small numbers of musketeers, varying in strength from thirty to seventy, co-operating with the Mutapa's armies, were here able to turn the scales in several engagements against much more numerous forces. Rightly, the intervention has been seen as one of the most important steps by which the Portuguese consolidated their position on the Zambezi and laid the foundations of the prazo system, but one questions Axelson's conclusion that 'the Portuguese had proved that whoever employed European firearms could become the masters of south-east Africa'. The fragility of the Portuguese position was dramatically revealed in the revolt of Kapararidze in 1631, when some 300 to 400 Portuguese scattered throughout the Zambezi hinterland were killed, with Tete and Sena reduced to thirteen and twenty Portuguese respectively, and Quelimane besieged at the mouth of the river.