Zambezia was a district of Mozambique Province and a part of the Portuguese East Africa Colony. The Portuguese government-issued separate postage stamps for it starting in 1894. The postal districts of Quelimane and Tete were created from parts of Zambezia in about 1913. Mozambique stamps replaced stamps of Zambezia around 1920. Currently, Zambezia is the second most-populous province of Mozambique, located in the central coastal region south-west of Nampula Province and north-east of Sofala Province. It had a population of 3,85 million as of the 2007 census. The provincial capital is Quelimane on the Bons Sinais River.
Zambezia has a total area of 39,953 square miles (103,478 km2), much of it drained by the Zambezi River. Much of the coast consists of mangrove swamps, and there is considerable forest inland. Agricultural products include rice, maize, cassava, cashews, coconuts, sugarcane, cotton, citrus, and tea. The country’s largest tea estates are at Gurúè. Fishing is especially productive of shrimp, and gemstones are mined at several sites.
Vasco da Gama landed at the site of Quelimane on March 1, 1498, and claimed the area for Portugal. Portuguese activity began in 1505, and in 1544, a settlement was founded at Quelimane. With the Portuguese having established a permanent presence, many moved up the Zambezi into the interior which was for many years the farthest inland European presence (although over time there was much intermarrying, and few residents were of purely Portuguese descent.
Throughout the 16th, 17th, and much of the 18th century, Mozambique was not well developed, as it was used more as a stopping off for ships going to and from India. Until 1752, Portugal’s possessions on East Africa’s coast were administered by Portuguese India in Goa, but this changed when the region was placed under a Captain General who resided in the City of Mozambique.
The Portuguese began to trade slaves (mainly destined to the French Mascarene islands, Mauritius and Reunion). With the loss of Brazil in 1822, and the slave trade being outlawed, Portugal began focusing more on its African possessions. Although the slavery was outlawed in Europe, the Portuguese continued a very lucrative slave trade with the Arabs and Ottomans until 1877.
During the Scramble for Africa in the 1880s, Portugal had to cede much of the territory it claimed in East Africa to Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company and British East Africa Company. Mozambique was awarded to Portugal at the 1885 Berlin conference where the colonial powers divided their respective spheres of influence in Africa. A prerequisite for continued recognition of territorial claims was that effective colonial rule would be established. The Portuguese had little resources available to actually do so and thus large parts of Mozambique were transferred to chartered companies for further development — the Mozambique Company and the Nyassa Company.
In 1894, districts were formed in Mozambique, each with a governor reporting to a high commissioner, who in turn reported to the Cortes — the Portuguese parliament in Lisbon. With the formation of these districts, elements of the colonial administration and judiciary system came to be organized on the district level with the postal administration being one of these.
Zambezia was one of the districts formed in 1894. The district consisted of two rather different parts. The part downstream of the Zambezi River was fertile and very well suited for agricultural development. The part upstream of the Zambezi River was much less fertile and primarily of interest for its strategic location in between the British Rhodesias and Nyasaland and for its potential richness in mineral resources. When Zambezia was formed, only part of the district was under effective Portuguese control — the coastal area with Quelimane as the main settlement and the lands along the banks of the Zambezi River up to the city of Tete
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Portuguese set to work to extend their administrative control over the district, and by 1902, they succeeded in this effort. For the economic development, the Portuguese used the prazo system: land was leased to Portuguese settlers for a number of years giving the settlers exclusive rights over the land. Private companies were granted rights to develop the district. The largest of these was the Zambezi Company — granted its rights in 1892. The Zambezi Company —although not a chartered company like the Mozambique Company and the Nyassa Company — became the largest in Mozambique and was the only one to actually turn a profit. The Zambezia district was split into the Quelimane and Tete districts in 1902.
In modern Mozambique the provinces of Tete and Zambezia are the equivalent of the former district of Zambezia.
The colony of Mozambique was not yet centralized in the mid-1890s and communication between the various Portuguese outposts was difficult. The individual provinces of Mozambique: Inhambane (1895-1914), Lourenço Marques (1895-1920), the city of Quelimane (1913-1922), Tete (1913-1914), and Zambezia (1894-1917) issued their own stamps, as did the Mozambique Company (1891-1942) and the Nyassa Company (1897-1929).
The first stamp bearing the name of Zambezia was a newspaper stamp issued in 1893. The first general use issues for the district had 14 separate denominations depicting King Carlos of Portugal released in 1895. In 1898, another set of King Carlos stamps were issued, using a standard Portuguese colonial design. The common design set featured a portrait of King Carlos, and printed the denomination in black in the upper right corner, and the colony name ZAMBEZIA in a tablet below the portrait.
In 1902 and 1905, stamps were surcharged to reflect new postal rates. A provisional issue also came out to reflect those changed rates.
After the Portuguese revolution in 1910, stamps were overprinted REPUBLICA and various stamps were issued and/or surcharged from 1911-1917.
Zambezia issued stamps until 1917 which were used until 1920 at which time they were superseded by the general issues for Mozambique. When Tete was split off from Zambezia to form a separate provinces in 1920, the stamps of Tete and Quelimane were also replaced by the stamps of Mozambique Colony.
It is interesting to note that Zambezia only issued stamps in the milreis/reis currrency, even when the currency in Mozambique had changed to escudo/centavos in 1912.
Unfortunately, I currently have but a single rather poor-appearing stamp from Zambezia in my collection. Scott #13 was released in 1898, a 2½-reis (very faded) grey typographed stamp with the value and country name in black. Perforated 11½ on unwatermarked paper, the stamp bears the pirtrait of King Carlos.