Maputo — Mozambican Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario on Monday declared that the government remains convinced that the country's first President, Samora Machel, was “murdered by the enemy of self-determination” - a clear reference to the now defunct apartheid regime.
Rosario, representing President Filipe Nyusi, was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of Machel's death, held at Mbuzini, in the South African province of Mpumulanga, where the plane carrying Machel back from a summit in the Zambian town of Mbala crashed on 19 October 1986.
Accompanied by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, by Machel's widow Graca and their children, by some of the nine survivors of the crash, and by relatives of the 34 others who died, Rosario laid a wreath at the monument built on the crash site.
The monument consists of 35 steel tubes, one for each of the victims of the crash. They are reddish, symbolising the blood shed at Mbuzini, and the wind blowing through the tubes creates a mournful sound. Parts of the wreckage of the plane, a Soviet manufactured Tupolev 134, have been incorporated into the monument.
The plane was off course when it crashed, and it is widely believed that the apartheid military used a decoy navigational beacon, broadcasting on the same frequency as the Maputo airport beacon, to lure the plane away from its correct flight path.
The evidence is not conclusive, because the apartheid regime shut down the inquiry into the cause of the disaster, rather than investigate the source of the beacon followed by the plane.
At the time, tensions in the region were high, and the apartheid Defence Minister, Magnus Malan, had personally threatened Machel in the days leading up to the crash. The apartheid government set up its own inquiry, headed by judge Cecil Margo. That inquiry predictably blamed the aircraft's Soviet crew, but its conclusions lack all credibility.
“It is our conviction that Samora Machel was murdered by the enemy of self-determination, of peace, of equality between men, of concord and of peaceful coexistence in Mozambique and in the southern African region”, declared Rosario.
“We Mozambicans express our belief that the truth about the barbaric assassination of Samora Machel will one day be known”, he added. “For Mozambique the outcome of the dossier on the death of Samora Machel remains a national priority and a patriotic imperative”.
Shortly after the disaster the Mozambican government set up its own Commission of Inquiry, chaired by the then Transport Minister, Armando Guebuza, who was later to become President. The work of that commission is unfinished, and it has never been wound up.
Rosario thanked the South African government for its efforts to discover the causes of the crash, and reiterated that Mozambique will continue to work “so that the circumstances of the disaster which claimed the lives of our President and of his delegation may be explained”.
He also thanked his South African hosts for the construction of the Mbuzini monument and for declaring it part of South Africa's national heritage, as a reminder “of the sacrifice and of the blood spilled by Mozambican and South African nationalists for independence, peace and equality”.
Rosario stressed “the spirit of solidarity and internationalism” enshrined by Machel, who believed that Mozambican independence “would only be complete, if other peoples in the region and the world were also free and independent”. Hence his support, not only for the ANC in South Africa, or ZANU in Zimbabwe, but also for FRETILIN in East Timor, then under Indonesian occupation.
“Liberation from colonial domination and from apartheid, peace and the progress of our countries are the ideals for which Samora Machel fought, and for which he lost his life”, Rosario continued. The pain of losing him remained fresh, but it was encouraging “to know that the life and work of Samora lives in each of us and in every citizen who loves peace, harmony, prosperity and development. It is up to each of us to keep the flame of this great leader alive”.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Graca Machel recalled that successive South African and Mozambican governments had promised to bring the investigations into the Mbuzini crash to a successful conclusion, but so far these promises had not been kept. “I will only believe it, when there is a result”, she said.