20 October 2016

Mozambique: Southern Africa Remembers Samora Machel - 30 years later

Photo: James Simpson/Wikipedia
Former president of Mozambique, Samora Machel.

The first president of Mozambique - Samora Moises Machel – is a symbol of freedom, not only in his country but the rest of southern Africa.

Machel supported the liberation of the region from colonial rule, even after his own country gained independence in 1975.

Mozambique accommodated a number of liberation fighters from across the region including those from South Africa and Zimbabwe who were still battling to overthrow the apartheid and Rhodesian regimes.

Machel, together with 34 other people, including some of his closest aides and advisors, died when the presidential plane, returning from a summit in Zambia, crashed at Mbuzini in South Africa on 19 October 1986.

The cause of the crash has not been officially determined, although circumstantial evidence points to a false navigational beacon placed by the former apartheid regime in South Africa to draw the plane off course.

The Mozambican government has repeatedly said that it will not rest until the circumstances of the death of the country’s first president have been fully clarified.

Prime Minister Agostinho do Rosário said the truth behind the incident that claimed the life of Machel will one day be revealed.

“ Samora Machel was a national hero for Mozambique. He is an important historic reference for the people of Mozambique, South Africa and the world,” he said during a ceremony held on 17 October at Mbuzini to commemorate the 30 th anniversary of the tragic death of the Mozambican leader.

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa described Machel as a true pan-Africanist who sacrificed the welfare of his own people to accommodate those from other countries who were fighting against the yoke of oppression.

“ He unconditionally welcomed liberation fighters into Mozambique and dedicated his life to the complete emancipation of southern Africa. He continues to inspire us to build a society free of prejudice, racism, patriarchy and exploitation,” Ramaphosa said.

He added that South Africa owed an enormous debt of gratitude to the people of Mozambique for their unconditional moral, political and material support of its liberation movement.

As per tradition, the official ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Machel’s death was held at Mbuzini, the site where the plane crashed on a hillside just inside South African territory.

he memorial at Mbuzini is perched on an isolated hillside and has, embedded in a cement base, 35 vertical steel pillars, one for each person who died. They cast long shadows over the base, and the wind causes a permanent whispering through small incisions in the pillars.

The monument was designed by well-known Mozambican architect, José Forjaz, former Director of the Faculty of Architecture and Physical Planning at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo. Forjaz says the memorial “has a number of meanings – symbolic, aesthetic, and even acoustic…”

The commemorations for the 30 th anniversary celebrations since the death of Machel – a man who was revered by Mozambicans and others far afield for his stand against colonialism – was launched in June by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi during the 41 st anniversary of the country’s independence.

President Nyusi said his government will continue “to renew our commitment to preserve truth and freedom, noble gains of the struggle waged by Mozambicans.”

He said Machel will continue to inspire the whole nation and the rest of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

“ Samora Machel was much more than the founder of a free and independent nation…” he said, adding that “he remains a cornerstone of our pride in being what we are,”

He said even though “30 years after his physical disappearance, his lessons remain” to inspire the country.

“ Machel won admiration and respect for his integrity and moral stature, as well as for his humanism, which surpassed the barriers of borders, race, tribe, gender or religion,” he said.

Machel was the leader of Frelimo, which toppled the colonial Portuguese administration through guerrilla warfare.

Machel became the first president of Mozambique at independence on 25 June 1975, and his government accommodated liberation fighters from South Africa and Zimbabwe who were still battling to overthrow the apartheid and Rhodesian regimes.

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