Machel death: Africa still needs an­swers

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Analysis/worldwide - Love­more Ranga Mataire

ONE of the sem­i­nal speeches ever made by a for­eign Head of State in in­de­pen­dent Zim­babwe was one de­liv­ered by Mozam­bi­can found­ing Pres­i­dent Samora Moises’ Machel.

In his typ­i­cal pan-African revo­lu­tion­ary style, the Mozam­bi­can leader told Zim­bab­weans still tee­ter­ing and grap­pling with the task of build­ing a solid na­tion-state in early 1980 that: “To en­sure na­tional unity, there must be no Shonas in Zim­babwe, there must be no Nde­be­les in Zim­babwe, there must be Zim­bab­weans. Some peo­ple are proud of their trib­al­ism. But we call trib­al­ists re­ac­tionary agents of the en­emy.”

Such was Pres­i­dent Machel’s in­ci­sive grasp of what was at stake and his im­pas­sioned plea for con­ti­nen­tal unity that a dark cloud hung over the African skies when he to­gether with 34 other passengers died in a mys­te­ri­ous plane crash in Mbuzini near Mpumalanga in South Africa just a few kilo­me­tres from Ma­puto, Mozam­bique, 30 years ago.

Pres­i­dent Machel would have been 83 on Septem­ber 29 this year had it not been for that “mys­te­ri­ous” plane crush which the apartheid Margo Com­mis­sion at­trib­uted to pi­lot er­ror.

Most African lead­ers and the whole pro­gres­sive world trashed the com­mis­sion’s find­ings as noth­ing but an at­tempt by the apartheid regime to ab­solve it­self from a clear and ap­par­ent com­plic­ity in the mur­der of one of Africa’s most revered revo­lu­tion­ary icons.

Un­sat­is­fied with the Margo Com­mis­sion, the in­de­pen­dent gov­ern­ment of South Africa re­opened the crash probe in 2008 and squarely ac­cused the then white mi­nor­ity regime of us­ing a de­coy bea­con to cause the crash. The then South African Min­is­ter of Safety and Se­cu­rity Charles Nqakula ini­ti­ated the in­quiry which was en­dorsed by the then Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki. The in­quiry was to be con­ducted by the South African po­lice and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, work­ing with au­thor­i­ties in Mozam­bique.

In 2012, the South African gov­ern­ment ini­ti­ated an­other probe whose re­port is said to be in the hands of the South African Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

South Africa’s Hawks spokesper­son Hang­wani Mu­laudzi was quoted by South Africa’s Mail and Guardian say­ing the re­port was sit­ting with the pres­i­dent.

How­ever, deputy di­rec­tor gen­eral and act­ing spokesper­son in the of­fice of the pres­i­dent, Dr Bongani Ngqu­lunga, de­nied the claims that the re­port was with the pres­i­dent.

“There is no re­port. If there was a re­port, the Hawks would have sent their re­port to the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) for pros­e­cu­tion if there was any wrong do­ing,” Dr Ngqu­lunga told News24.

But Arts and Cul­ture Min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa’s spokesper­son, Lisa Combrinck, main­tained that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what had caused the tragic plane crash was on­go­ing.

She said that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would put to rest on­go­ing sus­pi­cion that the apartheid gov­ern­ment was in­volved in the tragic plane crash.

De­spite all the hag­gling, 30 years on, the crash re­mains one of the great­est mys­ter­ies of the apartheid era with no con­clu­sive data as to the ac­tual cause of the crash on Oc­to­ber 19, 1986. Only nine sur­vived the crash while 34 oth­ers lost their lives to­gether with the Mozam­bi­can found­ing pres­i­dent.

Re­searcher and his­to­rian, Phyl­lis John­son still be­lieves more needs to be un­earthed to es­tab­lish the cause of the plane, which said sud­denly, overnight ex­tin­guished “the in­spi­ra­tional en­ergy Machel gen­er­ated.”

“De­spite of­fi­cial in­quiries in Mozam­bique, South African and the Soviet Union, the coun­tries of own­er­ship of the plane, venue the crash, and na­tion­al­ity of the pi­lots, the full de­tails have not yet emerged,” says John­son.

This is de­spite the fact that, then Mozam­bi­can Pres­i­dent Ar­mando Gue­buza and then South African Thabo Mbeki had pledged to leave no stone un­turned in find­ing out what hap­pened on Oc­to­ber 19, 1986.

A mon­u­ment has since been erected at the site of the crash at Mbuzini where vis­i­tors tes­tify to hear the echo, whis­per­ing through the 35 ver­ti­cal steel pil­lars of the mon­u­ment de­signed by Mozam­bique’s lead­ing ar­chi­tect Jose’ For­jaz.

The mem­ory of Pres­i­dent Machel has not been for­got­ten in the re­gion and beyond. South Africa has led the way in com­mem­o­rat­ing the death of Pres­i­dent Machel at the ac­tual site of the crash to­gether with Mozam­bi­can na­tion­als.

In Zim­babwe, a group call­ing it­self the Com­mit­tee of the Peo­ple’s Char­ter (CPC) hosted a Samora Machel lec­ture re­cently. A com­mit­tee mem­ber of the CPC, Mr David Chi­dende said the lec­ture was held un­der the theme: Peo­ple-toPeo­ple Sol­i­dar­ity in Build­ing Democ­racy.

Mr Chi­dende said the lec­ture was ti­tled: “The for­got­ten war-civil strife in Mozam­bique as we look back at the le­gacy of Samora Machel in the Mak­ing of Democ­racy in Africa.”

“The role that Machel played in the lib­er­a­tion of Africa and hence in the con­sol­i­da­tion of demo­cratic gov­er­nance on the con­ti­nent ne­ces­si­tates in it­self the need to in­tro­spect and learn from this dis­tin­guished leader, not­ing that the strug­gle for sus­tain­able peace and democ­racy on the con­ti­nent is un­fin­ished business and re­mains an on-go­ing process. In the story of Samora Machel, we stand to draw so many lessons, among the out­stand­ing ones be­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of peo­ple-to-peo­ple sol­i­dar­ity in the mak­ing of democ­racy in Africa,” said Mr Chi­dende.

He said even the at­tain­ment of in­de­pen­dence in Zim­babwe was only achieved through the self­less sac­ri­fice of the peo­ple of the re­gion, most no­tably Mozam­bique un­der Pres­i­dent Machel, who pro­vided prac­ti­cal sol­i­dar­ity and di­rect as­sis­tance in the strug­gle for in­de­pen­dence.

Mr Chi­dende said the peo­ple of Zim­babwe re­main in­debted to the peo­ple of Mozam­bique.

“It be­comes all the more im­por­tant that we also of­fer a hand to the peo­ple of Mozam­bique in their hour of need. The 2016 Samora Machel Lec­ture there­fore presents an op­por­tu­nity to let the world know of the real story of Mozam­bique and that we also help to make their plight known. War and civil strife is al­ready re­tard­ing de­vel­op­ment and growth on the con­ti­nent and the civil war in Mozam­bique is a threat to the peace and sta­bil­ity that we have en­joyed in the South­ern African re­gion,” Mr Chi­dende said.

Rev­erend Lu­cas Amosse, pres­i­dent of Synod Coun­cil of the United Coun­cil of the United Church of Christ in Mozam­bique, said Pres­i­dent Machel’s motto “Aluta Con­tinua” made him known in South­ern Africa in par­tic­u­lar, the con­ti­nent and the world in gen­eral for his out­cry for free­dom.

“A charis­matic leader sk­il­ful he in­flu­enced many peo­ple to joint fights against colo­nial­ism, apartheid for lib­er­a­tion. To­day in many cities of Mozam­bique you find peo­ple lis­ten­ing to pi­rated CDs con­tain­ing Samora Machel’s speeches, and after a while they would say: ‘This one was in­deed the real leader and Pres­i­dent; I wish he was here all this we are wit­ness­ing wouldn’t be hap­pen­ing’. The ques­tion I would say is why? This is a ques­tion that we all ask our­selves in Mozam­bique to­day! Why?”

Rev­erend Amosse said Pres­i­dent Machel was a leader of a broad mass lib­er­a­tion move­ment which rep­re­sented the hope of many Mozam­bi­cans that lib­er­a­tion is pos­si­ble and that “you can’t ask a slave with a gun in a hand if he/ she wants free­dom”.

He said Pres­i­dent Machel was po­lit­i­cally ad­vanced and hardly could be un­der­stood but was ap­pre­ci­ated by many poor peo­ple and also dis­liked by few elites mostly be­cause of his pro-poor so­cial poli­cies and the way he use to in­ter­act with the masses and ar­tic­u­late his ideas.

This year’s com­mem­o­ra­tions must never lose sight of the fact of the need for a clo­sure in terms of what caused the plane crash of that fate­ful night. It is clear that even if the Rus­sian crew had made a wrong turn, they still had no chance of sur­viv­ing. There was a strong pres­ence of highly trained spe­cial South African forces in the area who were pre­pared to fin­ish off the task had the de­coy bea­con plan failed.

Four com­mis­sions have to date failed to con­clu­sively point to the ac­tual cause of the plane crash. One was Mozam­bi­can, the other an international tri­par­tite and an­other South African chaired by Judge Ce­cil Margo and one by the Sovi­ets. Like Che Gue­vara or Thomas Sankara, Amil­car Cabral, Pres­i­dent Machel was an in­ter­na­tion­al­ist who self­lessly sup­ported and al­lowed rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies fight­ing white mi­nor­ity regimes in Rhode­sia and South Africa to op­er­ate within Mozam­bique and he surely earned their wrath.

Born on Septem­ber 29, 1933 at Chilem­bene, north of Ma­puto, Pres­i­dent Machel was a nurse by pro­fes­sion who re­fused to en­ter sem­i­nary for higher ed­u­ca­tion. His first-hand ex­pe­ri­ence of the sheer dis­crim­i­na­tion of the Por­tuguese colo­nial regime rad­i­calised him to clan­des­tinely join the Mozam­bique Lib­er­a­tion Front (Fre­limo) after 10 years as a nurse.

The charis­matic leader claimed that his po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness came orig­i­nally not from read­ing Marx­ism but from the ex­pe­ri­ence of his fam­ily espe­cially his par­ents who were forced to grow cot­ton for the Por­tuguese and were dis­placed from their land in the 1950s in favour of Por­tuguese set­tlers.

Thirty years on, Africa still needs an­swers, the peo­ple of Mozam­bique are yearn­ing for an­swers and the peo­ple of Africa surely de­serve clo­sure to one of their il­lus­tri­ous revo­lu­tion­ary icons. As Cde Machel said: “Per­son­al­i­ties and fame pass: the rev­o­lu­tion must re­main.” — Zim­pa­pers Syn­di­ca­tion

The late Pres­i­dent Samora Machel

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