Portuguese finally relinquish Cahora-Bassa: the handover of Africa's massive dam sweeps away the last vestiges of Portuguese colonialism and provides Mozambique with its 'second independence'. Report by Tom Nevin.

Author:Nevin, Tom

For a consideration of $950m and a wait of more than 30 years, Mozambique is finally the owner of Cahora-Bassa, the biggest dam in sub-Saharan Africa. The handover effectively ends Portugal's ownership of the project more than three decades after the former colonial power's departure from Mozambique.


The historic transfer at the village of Songo on the Zambezi River dam site in Tete province was made in November 2007 by Portuguese Finance Minister Teixeira dos Santos to Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, witnessed by four African heads of state.

For Mozambican and Portuguese alike, the ceremony was the final break with the colonial era.

The scheme, completed in 1975, is 125km northwest of Tete on the Zambezi River and has been under the majority shareholder ownership of Portugal since 1975 when Mozambique gained independence. Negotiations over the ownership of the dam have been ongoing between the two countries for several decades and under the terms of the deal agreed between them, Mozambique had to confirm its ability to conclude the deal by 31 October. On the day before the deadline Mozambique notified the Portuguese government that the conditions, including the financial ones, were in place to complete the change of the shareholder structure of the dam.

Independence complete

"This is our second independence," Guebuza told thousands of people at a rally marking the dam's handover, saying Mozambique had to proclaim its independence in 1975 without control of its strategic infrastructure. "However, like the struggle for our national liberation that took 12 years, we remained convinced that one day we would win because we knew we were right in our demands. With the conclusion of the technical agreements pertaining to the process of transfer, we want to announce today, 27 November, to the people of Mozambique and to the whole world, from this green and beautiful village of Songo, that Cahora Bassa is ours!

"We are finally able to use the dam to satisfy the energy needs of our country," said Guebuza.

The transfer followed the 30 October 2006 signing of a purchase agreement between the two countries which Guebuza described at the time as marking "the final chapter of the history of foreign domination" in Mozambique.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Mozambican government paid Portugal a total of $950m to buy the 82% controlling stake still held by Lisbon. Maputo paid a 'deposit' of $250m and was granted 14 months to...

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