Maputo — Mozambique's armed struggle for liberation from Portuguese colonial rule "wasn't an invitation to a dinner party", remarks one of the veterans of that struggle, retired Maj-Gen Joao Facitela Pelembe, in his autobiography launched in Maputo on Thursday.
In Pelembe's wry remark, he was attempting to explain that Mozambicans who joined the struggle for independence had to be psychologically prepared to cope with a prolonged and brutal war, facing a powerful and unscrupulous enemy.
The 174 page book is entitled "I Fought for the Motherland: Memories of a Veteran of the National Liberation Struggle".
Introducing the book at a ceremony attended by President Armando Guebuza and other members of the government, prominent academic Brazao Mazula, former vice-chancellor of Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University, said "these are 174 pages telling the story of 72 years of the author's life", covering growing up under the eyes of the colonial regime, escape to join the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) in Tanzania, politico-military training, experiences in the independence war, participation in the negotiations with Portugal that culminated in the agreement on Mozambican independence, and Pelembe's post-independence work as governor of Inhambane and Gaza provinces.
"This is a dynamic synthesis", said Mazula, "in which the author tells of phenomena with a certain humour, recalling details that help in an understanding of the broader canvas".
The book has its personal side, when Pelembe writes of his enjoyment of football, and of the passion of his life, his wife Maria de Fatima Pelembe, whom he met during the war, on the front that Frelimo opened in Tete province.
Guebuza declared that Pelembe had thrown himself, body and soul, into winning the freedom and independence of Mozambique, fighting on the Niassa, Cabo Delgado and Tete fronts. "He was with the guerrillas and with the population, mobilizing them, and urging them to accept the spirit of sacrifice, of mission, and of patriotism".
The President added that Pelembe's remark that the war was not an invitation to dinner meant "that there were many martyrs, caused by the enemy directly, through the attacks against our bases, or indirectly through the agents infiltrated among us".
Thus Mozambican freedom fighters had to struggle against Portuguese colonial-fascism, either with weapons in their hands, or stoically facing the tortures and ill-treatment of the colonial jails.
At the same time, Guebuza added, they had to convince themselves psychologically that they were worthy heirs of a noble mission begun by the heroes of the resistance to the colonial penetration of Mozambique.
Like many others, Guebuza added, Pelembe had to accept "the fact that we Mozambicans, and nobody else, had to be the heroes of our own liberation from foreign rule".
Pelembe himself explained "I decided to write my memories of the armed struggle against the Portuguese colonial regime with the purpose of transmitting my experience of the struggle, and of informing the Mozambican people about this epic of liberation".
He regretted that so many other Frelimo guerrilla fighters have died before they were able to set down their memories for future generations.
He concluded that memories "should be written with full transparency, and with maximum objectivity".