Remembering Samora Machel

18 October 2011

Thousands of South Africans and Mozambicans gathered in Mbuzini in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province on Monday to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Mozambique’s first democratic president, Samora Machel.

Machel and 33 others, including ministers and officials, died when the former president’s aircraft crashed in the Lebombo Mountains in Mbuzini on 19 October 1986.

Plane crash mystery still unsolved

Machel was a leader of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) which toppled the colonial Portuguese government through guerrilla warfare in 1974.

He became the first black president of Mozambique in 1975, and his government accommodated liberation fighters from South Africa and Zimbabwe who were still battling to overthrow the apartheid and Rhodesian governments respectively.

The cause of Machel’s plane crash remains a mystery, but it is believed that South Africa’s apartheid government might have had a hand in causing the accident.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Mozambican President Armando Emilio Guebuza were joined by Machel’s widow, Graca Machel – now wife of Nelson Mandela – Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile at the commemoration at the Samora Machel memorial site in Mbuzini on Monday.

Africa’s liberation heritage ‘must be passed on’

After laying wreaths and conducting a tour of the museum, Zuma addressed the large crowd gathered at the memorial site, saying Africa’s liberation heritage had to be passed on so that children knew where they came from.

“We must tell our children how the heroes of the African continent fought tirelessly, so that they could be able to walk around as free people in the countries of their birth,” Zuma said.

“Issues of heritage define who we are, define our history and our future. Let the stories be told, let the monuments be built, not matter how long it takes us. In that way, the deaths of Comrade Samora Machel and scores of other stalwarts will not have been in vain.”

South Africa has spent over R11-million upgrading the memorial site, which was built in 1999 and now features a museum, amphitheatre, helipad and improved access roads. The Mbuzini Library, which opened near the site in 2006, offers a collection of books in both English and Portuguese, including books about Mozambique and its history.

‘We are paying tribute to a liberator’

Zuma described Machel as an activist for a better life for the people of Africa.

“We are paying tribute to a liberator, whose teachings and influence was not only felt in Mozambique but also in the entire southern African region, the continent and beyond.”

The President said it was time for both nations to reap the benefits of peace and liberation.

“None of us would ever want to go back to a period of conflict and war. A nation that is at peace with itself creates a climate that is conducive to productive economic and social activity, and contributes positively to improvement of the standard of living for its citizens and its neighbours. There is progress in both countries.”

Zuma will attend a ceremony to commemorate the plane crash in Mozambique on Wednesday.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews